Susan Rice has spent 25 years in public service, including a stint as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. — but after feeling targeted in one of the most bruising political fights in memory, Benghazi, she felt it was time to regain control of her narrative. To do so, the former national security adviser just released her memoir: “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For.”
In the days following the deadly assault on the U.S. embassy in Libya in 2012, Rice appeared on a number of Sunday shows. She shared intelligence on the shows that later turned out to be inaccurate, prompting some Republicans to accuse her of lying.
“I was close to President Obama and he was a target,” Rice said. “I’m an African American woman. I don’t take crap off of people. And I’m confident in my own skin… Putting all that together, put it in a political context of the campaign, and maybe I was an attractive target.”
Rice, who had been a front-runner to be the next secretary of state, felt pushed to withdraw. She told “CBS This Morning” co-host Tony Dokoupil that she regrets appearing on the shows.
“I regret it mostly because what happened as a result of that is something I was always taught never to let happen, which is to have other people define me for me,” Rice said.
But the worst consequence, Rice said, was the toll the Benghazi episode took on her then 9-year-old daughter Maris. “She was scared … she was seeing images of men coming out of the walls at her,” Rice said. “We didn’t know what else to characterize these as than hallucinations. We took her to all kinds of doctors … and were left with the conclusion that, in all likelihood, this was a stress reaction … to what I was going through. And we, as parents, I regret, I think, I failed to understand that, you know, a TV in the background that we’re tuning out, a little kid may not.”
“That would make me, as a parent, irate … having that kind of impact on my child,” Dokoupil said.
“You could say I felt the same,” Rice said.
Rice is no stranger to family strife. Her father Emmett was a governor of the Federal Reserve, while her mother Lois rose to a senior job at the College Board. But while they were Washington’s elite by day, they were at each other’s throat by night.
“Screaming and yelling and the throwing of objects got, you know, pretty frightening for me and my baby brother,” Rice said.
But despite her family history, Rice thrived, catapulting to Stanford and Oxford and then the White House. She first served as a member of Bill Clinton’s National Security Council, and later joined the Obama administration.
When asked about the Trump presidency, Rice said that it’s been “far worse than I ever could’ve imagined, far worse.”
“I’m not hopeful about this president or his policies. I’m desperately concerned, to be as frank as I can,” Rice added. “What I’m hopeful about … is America’s capacity to grow and change and to renew itself.”
When asked if she’d want to serve as secretary of state if the next president is a Democrat, Rice said she’d be open to the idea.
She’s also leading part of the American renewal she describes at her own dinner table. Her son Jake is a young Republican, while Maris is a teenage progressive. And while they often disagree, she said, they’re always a family. “What makes us able to hang together … is that we realize that family is so much more important than our political or policy differences,” she said. “And so in the same vein, Americans need to understand that, at the end of the day, we are in this boat together. We get two choices … you get knocked down, [and] you either stay down or you get back up.”
Rice’s book, “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For,” was released on Oct. 8. The book was published by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS.