4th grader presses Rice on waterboarding.

condiSpeaking to students at Stanford University last month, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended the Bush administration’s interrogation policies, saying that they did not constitute torture and were legal “by definition” because President Bush authorized them. Rice was put on the defensive on the issue again today while visiting an elementary school in Washington, DC. During a Q & A session with students, a 4th grader named Misha Lerner asked Rice about “the things President Obama’s administration was saying about the methods the Bush administration had used to get information from detainees”:

“Let me just say that President Bush was very clear that he wanted to do everything he could to protect the country. After September 11, we wanted to protect the country,” she said. “But he was also very clear that we would do nothing, nothing, that was against the law or against our obligations internationally. So the president was only willing to authorize policies that were legal in order to protect the country.”

She added: “I hope you understand that it was a very difficult time. We were all so terrified of another attack on the country. September 11 was the worst day of my life in government, watching 3,000 Americans die. . . . Even under those most difficult circumstances, the president was not prepared to do something illegal, and I hope people understand that we were trying to protect the country.”

According to Misha’s mother, he originally planned to ask a tougher question — “If you would work for Obama’s administration, would you push for torture?” — but he was asked to change it. “They wanted him to soften it and take out the word ‘torture.’ But the essence of it was the same,” Inna Lerner said.