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Susan Rice Calls Trump ‘Erratic and Untruthful,’ and Recounts Benghazi Fallout

October 22, 2019, 12:51 AM UTC

Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice described President Trump as her biggest foreign policy concern, ahead of territorial aggression by China and Russia, or conflict between India and Pakistan.

“We have a Commander-in-Chief who’s erratic, untruthful, and unpredictable. That’s not what you need in an American President,” said Rice, who spoke on Monday at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C.

The barb by Rice, who served as U.S. National Security Advisor and Ambassador to the United Nations during the Obama Administration, came days after a Twitter spat between her and the President over policy in Syria.

In the Twitter exchange, which Trump initiated by describing Rice as a “disaster,” she shot back by asking the President why he had earlier given her a hug and whispered that critics had been unfair in their criticism over her handling of a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

In describing the Benghazi episode to Fortune‘s Nina Easton, she recounted the time her mother had warned her “I smell a rat” before Rice made a series of ill-fated Sunday morning TV show appearances. Rice included the story in her new book Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For.

According to Rice, her mother was alarmed that senior officials including then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn’t also make the Sunday-morning shows, leaving Rice as the face of the Benghazi episode.

“What did I learn? Listen to your mother,” said Rice, adding that the incident led her to withdraw her name as one of two candidates President Obama was considering to succeed Clinton as Secretary of State.

Rice also recounted the intense personal toll the Benghazi controversy took on her family. Her daughter, who was nine years old, began to experience stress-related hallucinations as a result of the constant and acerbic TV coverage.

“The pernicious politics of personal destruction that is so common in Washington now is not cost free,” she said, adding that her daughter is now a happy 17-year-old.

In the Fortune interview, Rice also discussed the “violent, ugly” strife between her highly-accomplished parents. As a child, she had to physically intervene to put a stop to their fights. While the situation was traumatic and led to a bitter divorce and custody battle, Rice says she learned mediation skills as a mediator.

Despite their ugly divorce, Rice holds both her parents in high regard. Her African-American mother, she noted, was not only instrumental in promoting Pell grants for education, but also sat on 11 corporate boards.

The Fortune interview also contained lighter notes, including Rice’s declaration that she is better tennis player than President Obama.

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