EXCLUSIVE: Rice Defends Rumsfeld

Rice supports former defense secretary's controversial appointment to Stanford.

ByABC News
February 12, 2009, 12:28 PM

JERUSALEM, Oct. 15, 2007— -- Condoleezza Rice often clashed with Donald Rumsfeld when he was secretary of defense. But now Rice is sticking up for him in a battle with students and professors at her former university.

Rumsfeld was appointed last month as a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, a think tank on the Stanford University campus. The appointment prompted campus protests and demands from students and faculty that the appointment be rescinded. In one typical response, an English professor called the appointment "sad, ridiculous and contemptible."

"I know Don Rumsfeld. He is going to be a challenging presence because he will ask tough questions," Rice told ABC. "And I hope people will ask tough questions of him. But that's the way these things should go. That's what universities ought to the about, be about open exchange of ideas"

Many professors at Stanford -- where Rice served as provost from 1993 to 1999 -- disagree. A petition started by art history professor Pamela Lee to "strongly object" to Rumsfeld's appointment has been signed by 3,800 members of the Stanford community, including more than 300 members of the faculty.

The petition reads: "We view the appointment as fundamentally incompatible with the ethical values of truthfulness, tolerance, disinterested inquiry, respect for national and international laws, and care for the opinions, property and lives to which Stanford is inalienably committed."

Rice, who said she hopes to return eventually to Stanford after she leaves the State Department, has a different view.

"Universities ought to be places where all views are welcomed," Rice told ABC News. "Stanford has always been a place that has been able to tolerate many different views."