QUESTION: But first, here she is, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Welcome back to Meet the Press.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, David. It’s great to be here with you.
QUESTION: Glad to have you. And you’re here for the full hour, so we have a lot to get to.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with your preview into it, there’s a lot to talk about in the world today.
QUESTION: Absolutely. So let’s get right to it and talk about some of the hotspots around the globe that you’re dealing with. First up is North Korea, and it got tense this week. Here was the big headline: Clinton and North Korea engage in tense exchange. It actually began on Monday during an interview that you gave to ABC. Let’s watch a portion of that:
“Well, what we’ve seen is this constant demand for attention. And maybe it’s the mother in me or the experience that I’ve had with small children and unruly teenagers and people who are demanding attention. Don’t give it to them. They don’t deserve it. They are acting out in a way to send a message that is not a message we’re interested in receiving.”
QUESTION: Now, the North Korean reaction was rather personal, and The Washington Post wrote about it on Friday. We’ll put that up on the screen:
“The war of words between North Korea and the United States escalated with North Korea’s foreign ministry lashing out at Secretary of State Clinton in unusually personal terms for ‘vulgar remarks’ that is said demonstrated, ‘She is by no means intelligent. We cannot but regard Mrs. Clinton as a funny lady. Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl.’”
What were they thinking?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, David, I think what’s important here is the clear message that we’re sending to North Korea, and it’s one that is now unanimous. The Security Council Resolution 1874 made official that North Korea must change their behavior, and we have to get back to moving toward verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.
Now, as you know and as you’ve reported, they’ve engaged in a lot of provocative actions in the last months. But what we, China, Russia, South Korea, Japan, and literally the unanimous international community have said is it’s not going to work this time. We’re imposing the most stringent sanctions we ever have. We have great cooperation from the world community. China and we are working closely together to enforce these sanctions. We still want North Korea to come back to the negotiating table, to be part of an international effort that will lead to denuclearization. But we’re not going to reward them for doing what they said they would do in 2005 and ‘6. We’re not going to reward them for half measures. They now know what we and the world community expect.
QUESTION: But it’s interesting. If the posture of this Administration was more engagement, even negotiations with our adversaries, it struck me this week that this was a ratcheting up of the rhetoric against North Korea.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we want to make clear to North Korea that their behavior is not going to be rewarded. In the past, they believed that they have acted out, done things which really went against the norms of the international community, and somehow then were rewarded. Those days are over. We believe that the Six-Party Talk framework, which had everybody included, is the appropriate way to engage with North Korea.
QUESTION: They say – if I can just stop you, they say we’re not playing in that group anymore.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s what they say. And I think they are very isolated. Now, I saw that when I was at the ASEAN meeting, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. I was in the same room with a representative from North Korea, who launched a broadside attack on the United States, blaming us for literally everything that has ever gone wrong in North Korea, going back decades. I listened. Everyone else just didn’t even look at him. I was struck by the body language. They don’t have any friends left, and what we’ve seen even Burma saying that they’re going to enforce the resolution of sanctions.
And when the North Korean representative finished, I just very calmly said North Korea knows what it must do and what we are expecting from it. I talked with my counterparts from Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, at length during the time I was in Thailand. We are all on the same page and we are all committed to the same goal.
QUESTION: Can we say at this point, since it’s so difficult to deal with North Korea going back to President Clinton, who said that he would stop them from getting a nuclear bomb, after these missile tests, after the belief that they have seven or eight nuclear bombs, that an effort to keep them from going nuclear has failed?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I don’t think so, because their program is still at the beginning stages, and there are several important factors here that has led to the unanimity of the international community. It’s not only that North Korea has, against the international norms, IAEA and other requirements, proceeded with this effort, but they also are a proliferator. We know that for a fact. So it’s not only the threat they pose to their neighbors and eventually beyond, but the fact that they’re trying to arm others.
And then there is the reaction in the region. I mean, if you’re sitting in South Korea and Japan, who are two of our strongest allies, with whom we have very clear defense responsibilities, and you see North Korea proceeding, then you’re going to be thinking, well, what do I need to do to protect myself? So it is destabilizing for Northeast Asia, which is why I think you’ll see a continuing pressure, which we think will eventually result in some changes in their behavior.
QUESTION: Is North Korea a threat to the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, at this time, our military experts and others say that in real terms, what they could do to us, that’s unlikely. We have missile defenses that we can deploy. But they are a threat to our friends and allies, particularly Japan and South Korea, so therefore they trigger a response from us to protect our allies and to make clear to the North Koreans that they cannot behave in this way.
And I want to just underscore that China has been extremely positive and productive in respect to North Korea. The big issue in previous times was, well, how do we get China to really be working to change North Korean behavior? I will be starting, along with Secretary Geithner, an intensive two days with Chinese high-level representatives tomorrow and Tuesday. But on North Korea, we have been extremely gratified by their forward-leaning commitment to sanctions and the private messages that they have conveyed to the North Koreans.
QUESTION: Finally on this, two U.S. captives, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two journalists in captivity now, is there a feeling that some of the tough talk that you had with the North Koreans this week, this sort of exchange of insults, does it make their situation more dangerous?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We believe that this is on a separate track. This is an issue that should be resolved by the North Koreans granting amnesty and allowing these two young women to come home as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: Are you making progress?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are certainly pursuing every lead we have. The messages that we’ve received from the young women, both through our protecting power, the Swedish ambassador, and through the messages and phone calls they’ve had with their families, are that they’re being treated well, that they have been given the supplies that they need. But obviously, they want to resolve this, as we do, and we work on it literally every day.
QUESTION: Let me turn to another hotspot, and that is Iran. A big headline this week again with your words: “Clinton’s ‘Defense Umbrella’ Stirs Tensions.” The headline goes on: “Suggests U.S. Will Have to Protect Allies from Nuclear-Armed Iran.” You were in Bangkok on Wednesday, and this is what you said that got this started:
“We want Iran to calculate what I think is a fair assessment that if the United States extends a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to support the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it’s unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer, because they won’t be able to intimidate and dominate, as they apparently believe they can once they have a nuclear weapon.”
Did you mean to suggest that the U.S. is considering a nuclear umbrella that would say to nations in the Arab world that an attack on you, just like NATO or Japan, is an attack on the United States, and the United States would retaliate?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s clear that we’re trying to affect the internal calculus of the Iranian regime. The Iranian Government, which is facing its own challenges of legitimacy from its people, has to know that its pursuit of nuclear weapons, something that our country along with our allies stand strongly against – we believe as a matter of policy it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons, the G-8 came out with a very strong statement to that effect coming from Italy – so we are united in our continuing commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
What we want to do is to send a message to whoever is making these decisions that if you’re pursuing nuclear weapons for the purpose of intimidating, of projecting your power, we’re not going to let that happen. First, we’re going to do everything we can to prevent you from ever getting a nuclear weapon, but your pursuit is futile because we will never let Iran – nuclear-armed, not nuclear-armed – it is something that we view with great concern, and that’s why we’re doing everything we can to prevent that from ever happening.
QUESTION: All right, but let’s be specific. Are you talking about a nuclear umbrella?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are not talking in specifics, David, because that would come later, if at all. My view is you hope for the best, you plan for the worst. Our hope is – that’s why we’re engaged in the President’s policy of engagement toward Iran – is that Iran will understand why it is in their interest to go along with the consensus of the international community, which very clearly says you have rights and responsibilities; you have a right to pursue the peaceful use of civil nuclear power, you do not have a right to obtain a nuclear weapon, you do not have the right to have the full enrichment and reprocessing cycle under your control. But there’s a lot that we can do with Iran if Iran accepts what is the international consensus.
QUESTION: One of the big challenges here is preventing Israel from acting first: If they feel there’s an existential threat, would they strike out at Iran to take out a nuclear program? And there’s been various positions taken within the Administration about that. Vice President Biden just a couple of weeks ago said this on ABC:
“We cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination, if they make a determination, that they are existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country.”
In the meantime, Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said:
“Well, I have been for some time concerned that any strike on Iran by Israel, I worry about it being very destabilizing, not just in and of itself, but the unintended consequences of a strike like that.”
Where do you fall on the spectrum of Administration views about the impact of a strike by Israel?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me say that I personally don’t see the contradiction here. The Vice President was stating a fact: Israel is a sovereign nation; any sovereign nation facing what it considers to be an existential threat, as successive Israeli governments have characterized the possibility of Iran having a nuclear weapon would mean to them, is not going to listen to other nations, I mean, if they believe that they are acting in the furtherance of their survival.
However, as Admiral Mullen said, we continue to believe that very intensive diplomacy, bringing the international community together, making clear to the Iranians what the costs of their pursuit of nuclear weapons might be, is the preferable route.
So clearly, we have a long, durable relationship with Israel. We believe strongly that Israel’s security must be protected. But we also believe that pursuing this path with Iran that we’re on right now, that frankly we’re bringing more and more people to see it our way – I thought the G-8 statement was quite remarkable in that sense – is the better approach for us to take. So we will continue to work with all of our allies, and most particularly Israel, to determine the best way forward to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state.
QUESTION: Defense Secretary Gates is on his way to Israel this week. Is the message to the Israelis: you’ve got to hang tight here?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, also General Jones will be there. We have a full panoply of a lot of our national security team that will be meeting with comparable Israeli officials. And our message is as it has been: The United States stands with you, the United States believes that Israel has a right to security. We believe, however, that this approach we’re taking holds out the promise of realizing our common objective. And we want to brief the Israelis, we want to listen to the Israelis, and we want to enlist the support of all of our allies and friends in moving forward on this policy.
QUESTION: Is Iran an illegitimate regime?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s really for the people of Iran to decide. I have been moved by the – just the cries for freedom and a clear appeal to the Iranian Government that this really significant country with a people that go back millennia, that has such a great culture and history, deserves better than what they’re getting.
QUESTION: But if the United States decides to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program, as has been the stated policy of the willingness to engage, are you not betraying this democratic movement trying to overthrow that regime?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t think so, David, because you can go back in history, and not very long back, where we have negotiated with many governments who we did not believe represented the will of their people. Look at all the negotiations that went on with the Soviet Union. Look at the breakthrough and subsequent negotiations with communist China. That’s what you do in diplomacy. You don’t get to choose the people. That’s up to the internal dynamics within a society.
But clearly, we would hope better for the Iranian people. We would hope that there is more openness, that peaceful demonstrations are respected, that press freedom is respected. Yet we also know that whoever is in charge in Iran is going to be making decisions that will affect the security of the region and the world.
QUESTION: Let me talk about another difficult area, and that’s Russia, where there has been attempt by the President to say we’re going to reset this relationship. Vice President Biden, who was just traveling in the region, talked to The Wall Street Journal and his comments raised some eyebrows. This is what he said:
“The reality is the Russians are where they are. They have a shrinking population base. They have a withering economy. They have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years. They’re in a situation where the world is changing before them, and they’re clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable.”
Is he speaking for the President, and is the message essentially that the U.S. now has the upper hand when it’s dealing with Russia?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, and I don’t think that’s at all what the Vice President meant. I mean, remember, the Vice President was the first person in the Administration in an important speech which he gave in Munich, Germany shortly after President Obama’s inauguration, that we wanted to reset our relationship with Russia. And we know that that’s not easily done. It takes time. It takes trust building. And we want what the President called for during his recent Moscow summit. We want a strong, peaceful, and prosperous Russia.
Now, there is an enormous amount of work to be done between the United States and Russia. We’re working on reducing our nuclear arsenal. We’re going to work on reducing fissile material to make sure it doesn't fall into the wrong hands. We’re working to combat the threat of violent extremism. Russia has been very helpful in our United Nations efforts vis-à-vis North Korea. The Russians joined the G-8 statement in Italy talking about the need for Iran to come to the table either in a multilateral forum like the P-5+1 that we’re a part of or bilaterally with us. And so there is an enormous amount of hard work being done, and we view Russia as a great power.
Now, every country faces challenges. We have our challenges. Russia has their challenges. And there are certain issues that Russia has to deal with on its own. And we want to make clear that as we reset our relationship, we are very clearly not saying that Russia can have a 21st century sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. That is an attitude and a policy we reject. We also are making it very clear that any nation in Eastern Europe that used to be part of the Soviet Union has a right now as a free, sovereign, and independent nation to choose whatever alliance they wish to join. So if Ukraine and Georgia someday are eligible for and desire to join NATO, that should be up to them.
So I think that what we’re seeing here is the beginning of the resetting of that relationship, which I have been deeply involved in. I will be co-chairing a presidential commission along with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We’ll be following up on what our two presidents said in Moscow. And the Russians know that we have continuing questions about some of their policies, and they have continuing questions about some of ours.
QUESTION: Before we get to a break, I want to get to another hotspot, and that, of course, is Afghanistan. And the headline coming out this week: “U.S. Deaths Hit a Record High in Afghanistan.” The total of 31 so far in July makes for the deadliest month of the war. Is – given that the President is surging up forces, 17,000 additional troops going to Afghanistan, is this a war of necessity for this President, or has it become his war of choice?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think the President has been very firm in stating that the policy that was followed in Afghanistan was not working. He said it throughout the campaign. He made that clear upon becoming President. And we know that the threat to the United States, and in fact, those who plotted and carried out the horrific attack on 9/11 against our country, have not yet been brought to justice, killed, or captured. So the President’s goal is to dismantle and destroy and eventually defeat al-Qaida.
QUESTION: And yet, if I can just stop you, the real focus now is fighting the Taliban, which is an insurgent movement. And Thomas Friedman wrote this on Wednesday. I’d like you to respond to it:
“America has just adopted Afghanistan as our new baby. The troop surge that President Obama ordered in Afghanistan early in his tenure has taken this mission from a limited intervention, with limited results, to a full nation-building project that will take a long time to succeed—if ever. We came to Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaida, now we’re in a long war with the Taliban. Is that really a good use of American power?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, David, we had an intensive strategic review upon taking office, and we not only brought the entire United States Government together, but we reached out to friends and allies, people with stakes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And as you know, the result of that strategic review was to conclude that al-Qaida is supported by and uses its extremist allies, like elements within the Taliban and other violent extremist groups in the region as well as worldwide, to extend its reach, to be proxies for a lot of its attacks on Jakarta, Indonesia and elsewhere. So that in order to really go after al-Qaida, to uproot it and destroy it, we had to take on those who are giving the al-Qaida leadership safe haven.
Now, as you know, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is permeable. There are movements back and forth across it. I think our new strategy, which has been endorsed by a very large number of nations, some of whom don’t agree with us on a lot of other things, is aimed at achieving our primary goal.
And we also learned from Iraq, which were hard lessons, that in order to have our military intervention be effective when they go in and try to clear areas of the extremists, we have to follow in to build up the capacity of the local community to defend itself and to be able to realize the benefits of those changes.
This is a new strategy. It’s just beginning. I think the President believed that it was not only the right strategy, but facing what he faced, to withdraw our presence or to keep it on the low-level, limited effectiveness that had been demonstrated, would have sent a message to al-Qaida and their allies that the United States was willing to leave the field to them.
And in addition, importantly, we’ve seen the Pakistani Government and military really step up, which had not happened to the extent it has now. So the Taliban, which is, as I believe strongly, part of a kind of terrorist syndicate with al-Qaida at the center, is now under tremendous pressure. And I think that’s in America’s national interest.
Now, I have to add, nobody is more saddened than the President and I by the loss of life of our young men and women, and no one is more impatient than we are to see the results of this sacrifice bear fruit. We have the most extraordinary military in the world. They have leadership now we think is totally on point in terms of what we are attempting to accomplish. And I think that we’ll see benefits come from that.
QUESTION: All right. We’re going to leave it there for the moment and we’re going to take a short break here and we’ll have much more with Secretary of State Clinton, including a question that keeps popping up around the world: “Will we ever get to see you as president of the United States? “Well, that’s not – ” All coming up on Meet the Press.
QUESTION: And we’re back with the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. How is your elbow?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, it’s getting better. It’s about 80 percent of the way back. There are certain moves that I can make, but there are others that are still kind of painful. But I’m doing my physical therapy. That’s what everybody told me I had to do, and --
QUESTION: Because handshaking is a little hard?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I tried to --
QUESTION: It’s hard for a diplomat.
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is. I tried to do the handshaking when I was in India and Thailand, and my arm was really sore at the end, so I’m either putting out my left hand – or I love the Thais. I was going around like this to everybody. That helped me out a lot.
QUESTION: It’s just doing that in Germany that’s confusing. That’s just a little hard.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. Well, probably it has to be culturally appropriate.
QUESTION: Let’s take a step back and look at the larger vision for the President’s foreign policy. This is what the President said during his inaugural address, which was something of a mission statement. Let’s watch:
“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
And yet, isn’t the problem, six months, in that there may be a willingness to change the tone, there may be more engagement, but nobody is unclenching their fist yet?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, David, that’s not the way I read it at all. I think six months in, look at what we’ve done. We have begun to fulfill our obligation to withdraw from Iraq so that now when I meet with Prime Minister Maliki and ten members of his government and about 12 of ours, we’re talking about educational exchanges, we’re talking about agriculture. We have a very clear policy on nonproliferation which the President has stated, and we’re back in the business of trying to move the world in a very careful but consistent way toward lowering the threat of nuclear weapons. We’ve already talked about bringing the world together, which we have, around a joint response to North Korea and increasingly to Iran. We are sending a message to governments and peoples alike, as the President did in his very important Cairo speech, as he just did in Ghana, that we want government, and particularly democracies, that deliver for people. I mean, I could go on and on.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are really back.
QUESTION: But --
SECRETARY CLINTON: And that was my message when I went to Asia: The United States is back and we’re ready to lead.
QUESTION: What did you mean by that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, what I meant was that in many parts of the world, the priorities that were pursued the last eight years did not seem to include them. So just going, for example, to Asia, as I did on my first trip, as I just did, was viewed as a very positive statement of participation. We’re building on some of the good work that’s been done in a bipartisan way with India, starting with my husband, and in fact, in this case, continuing with President Bush with India. So that we have now announced the most comprehensive engagement we’ve ever had with that country.
QUESTION: But if you look at it, the Bush Administration policy in Asia and now the Obama Administration policy in Asia is not that different. You too are distracted by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. So I don’t see what’s really changed.
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, see, I disagree with that. I mean, part of what we have done is to organize ourselves so that we can concentrate on many important issues at the same time. I know that, for example, people have raised questions about why I pushed so hard to have special envoys appointed. It’s because I think it would be diplomatic malpractice not to have people of stature and experience handling some of our most difficult problems on a day-to-day basis. I’m the chief diplomat, I’m responsible at the end for advising the President, for executing the policy that we agree upon, but it is to our advantage to have George Mitchell in the Middle East today, to have Richard Holbrooke in Afghanistan, to have retired General Scott Gration coming back from probably his sixth or seventh trip to Sudan, having Todd Stern leading our efforts on climate change. I could not possibly have given the attention that we need in the in-depth way that is required to all of this.
And I think the feeling on the part of much of the world was that the prior administration, for understandable reasons, focused so much on some of the specific issues, like Iraq, et cetera, that really grabbed it and required a lot of attention, that much of the rest of the world felt that they were kind of second tier. When I went to the ASEAN meeting, it hadn’t been for some time that we’d had a Secretary of State pay continuing attention. We announced an exciting new relationship with the lower Mekong countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand. We are working everywhere we can to make clear that the United States cannot solve all the problems of the world alone, but the world cannot solve them without the United States.
QUESTION: You raised your role in the Administration. Here was a recent headline that got a lot of attention, not surprisingly, in the Los Angeles Times: “Clinton seems overshadowed by her boss, some analysts say.” You responded with a pretty sharp retort, saying, “I broke my elbow, not my larynx.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right.
QUESTION: But seriously, has at times this been a struggle?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Not at all. I mean, maybe because I understand the functioning of the United States Government. The President is the president, and the President is responsible for setting policy. Now, we have a great relationship. I see him usually several times a week, at least once one-on-one. And I’m ready to offer my advice. We have an incredibly candid and open exchange. In fact, the whole team does. And I really welcome that.
QUESTION: This is kind of interesting – I mean, the whole team of rivals idea. Do you have a close working relationship? Are you the voice on foreign policy, the advisor in his ear on foreign policy?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am the chief advisor on foreign policy. But the President makes the decisions. I have a picture of former Secretary of State Seward in my office. He was a New York senator who went on to serve President Lincoln, which is part of what created this concept of team of rivals. He became one of Lincoln’s closest and strongest advisors. Why? Because he understood, as I do, that the election is over, the President has to lead our country both internationally and domestically. I saw this when my husband was president. At the end of the day, it is the President who has to set and articulate policy. I’m privileged to be in a position where I am the chief advisor, I’m the chief diplomat, I’m the chief executor of the policy that the President pursues. But I know very well that a team that works together is going to do a better job for America.
And one thing I would add is I’ve read a lot of diplomatic history and I know that very often there become sort of warring camps. It’s the Defense Department versus the State Department, or the National Security Council versus the State Department. And in fact, we’ve had administrations where there was just open warfare. You don’t see any of that in this Administration. And in fact, I’ve had some of my predecessors say with some amount of surprise this Administration has no light between it.
QUESTION: Well, to that point, what has President Obama proved to you as president that you didn’t believe about him as a candidate?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I always had a very high respect for him as a colleague. We served in the Senate together. Now, during a campaign you’re going to magnify differences. You’re trying to convince people to vote for you and vote against the other candidate. So I always had a very healthy respect for his intelligence, for his world view, for his understanding of the complexity that we face in the 21st century.
Now having worked with him for six months, what I see is his decisiveness, his discipline, his approach to difficult problems. We have a really good process in the NSC that intensely examines problems, brings people to the table, goes outside the usual circle, tries to tee up decisions for what’s called the Principals Committee, which I and the Vice President and the Secretaries of Defense and our CIA and our DNI and everybody sit around a table in the Situation Room. We take the work that comes from the Deputies Committee that’s gone through this very rigorous process, and we hash it out and we do not always agree and we take positions.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And at the end, though, we reach a consensus. Either we are at a point where we feel that we know the best thing to suggest to the President, or we suggest a minority and a majority point of view. And then we meet with the President, and the President hears us out. Oftentimes, he’ll put somebody on the spot and he’ll say, “Well, David, what do you really think?” Or he’ll go and say, “I didn’t hear from you yet.” And at the end of the day, the President makes the decision, and I’ve been very impressed by that.
QUESTION: But during the campaign, you questioned both his experience and his toughness. Are those issues that you don’t feel as strongly anymore?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I don’t feel them at all. I mean, I think that those were appropriate issues to raise in the campaign. I have no problem with having raised those because he hadn’t yet been on the national scene. But look, I’m here to say as somebody who’s spent an enormous amount of time and effort running against him I think his performance in office has been incredible.
QUESTION: You are Secretary of State. You are not – I should say your portfolio does not include domestic matters, domestic political debates. And yet, healthcare is obviously a huge debate right now in this country and for this Administration, and this is what you said when you ended your run for the presidency June 7th, 2008. Let’s watch:
“We all want a healthcare system that is universal, high quality, and affordable, so that parents don’t have to choose between care for themselves or their children or be stuck in dead end jobs simply to keep their insurance. This isn’t just an issue for me. It is a passion and a cause, and it is a fight I will continue until every single American is insured, no exceptions and no excuses.”
You’ve always been passionate about this. You’re not involved in the current debate. But why is it so hard, do you think?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, David, it’s hard because the system that we’ve seen grow up almost organically since World War II is so dysfunctional. And unfortunately, the incentives are often not in the right places to reward doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals for their outcomes, to really drive quality.
And I applaud the President for taking it on right off the bat. There are many problems we’re dealing with in our country, and certainly he could have said, okay, fine, we’ll get to that when we get to it. But he’s waded right into it. And I am somewhat encouraged by what I see happening in the Congress. I’ve been there. I know how hard this is.
QUESTION: Is it different than ’93?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, it is. It’s different in several ways. It’s different because I think everybody is now convinced there’s a problem. Back in ’93, we had to keep making the case over and over again. Well, now we know costs will continue to rise. For everybody who has insurance, there is no safe haven. Their costs will go up. We lose insurance for 14,000 people a day. We know that our system, left unchecked, is going to bankrupt not just families and businesses, but our country. So it is a central concern of President Obama and our Administration.
QUESTION: And yet, you wrote in your memoire, Living History, something that was very interesting. You wrote this:
“Ultimately, we could never convince the vast majority of Americans who have health insurance that they wouldn't have to give up benefits and medical choices to help the minority of Americans without coverage, nor could we persuade them that reform would protect them from losing insurance and would make their medical care more affordable in the future.”
And that’s exactly the issue that President Obama is dealing with now. Do you think he’s doing a better job of getting over that hurdle?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think he’s making a very strong case. And what’s important here is that people are always for change in general, and then they begin to worry about the particulars. As our process moves forward, we have legislation in both houses, we’ve had the committee I used to serve on, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, so-called Health Committee, pass out a comprehensive bill. We’re seeing action in the House.
Then people will begin to see the particulars, and the legislative process will begin to try to smooth out the rough edges and create the reassurances that people need. But what is so promising for me is that when I wrote that about our experience in the early ‘90s, there were still a lot of routes that people thought we could go down. Well, we’ll try managed care, we’ll get more HMOs, we’ll be able to controls costs for the people who have insurance. I’m talking now not about those who are uninsured, which I think is both a moral and an economic imperative, but the people without it – with it and who are wondering what’s this going to mean for me.
I think people now realize, “I could be uninsured.” The chances that business will continue to pay for insurance over the next 5, 10, 15 years are diminishing. I think, if I remember correctly, in ’93 and ’94, 61 percent of small businesses provided some kind of health insurance for their employees. It’s down to 38 percent. So now everybody’s worrying. And I think that gives the President a very strong case to make.
QUESTION: Has he sought out your counsel on this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We talk about everything. I have a rule that I don’t ever talk about what I talk about with presidents, whether it’s my husband when he was president or now with President Obama, but --
QUESTION: Even domestic issues, you’ll offer some advice?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m available to the President to talk about anything. Now, obviously, we have a pretty big portfolio that we have to deal with on the international stage.
QUESTION: Bottom line: Do you think healthcare will pass this time?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I do. I think that the time has come. I think this President is committed to it. I think the leadership in Congress understands we have to do something. And I think we’ll get it done.
QUESTION: Let me ask you about another big issue in the news this week, because Henry Louis Gates is also a friend of yours in addition to being a friend of this President’s. Professor Gates arrested, of course – you see the picture there – in his Cambridge home. The President talked about it at a press conference and then showed up unannounced in the briefing room to address it further.
What role do you think he plays or should play in sensitive matters like this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think the President did an excellent job in addressing it on Friday when he went to the press room. And I think his point is very clear. He said, look, maybe I should have chosen different words, but he’s going to have a beer with Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley, and I think that’s leadership by example. And I really commend him for that.
QUESTION: But you know, it’s interesting because issues of race obviously played out in the course of the campaign. And I wonder, do you think the President has a special responsibility and plays a special role in terms of race relations for the country?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, if something constructive can come out of this latest incident, it will be that people around the country are talking about the continuing challenges we face. Obviously, the fact that the President exemplifies the progress that has been made over generations, the sacrifices of so many who came before, is a powerful statement in and of itself. His experience added to that, I think, is important for the country to see and to digest.
But the President has said many times he’s the President of all the people in the United States. He’s the President who wants to bring people together to solve problems and to make progress together.
QUESTION: All right. We’re going to take another short break here and continue in our remaining minutes with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after this brief station break.
QUESTION: We’re back. Our remaining moments with the Secretary of State. I want to ask you about something that you deal with all over the world, and that’s the topic of women and leadership. Here was a moment from Delhi University in India during your trip when you were asked a question:
“QUESTION: Madame, today and even day before yesterday in one of your speeches, you hinted that the progress of women and the growth of women is directly linked with the progress and growth of any and every country. India has had a woman prime minister as early as in the third decade of its post-independence era, while America has been deprived of – if I can say so – of the same privilege.”
“SECRETARY CLINTON: You can say so to me.” (Laughter.)
What’s it going to take for a woman to be president?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’ll take the right woman who can make the case and win the votes and get elected. And I am certainly hoping that happens in my lifetime.
But what was so interesting about that exchange, David, is that I have now, as you said in the beginning, traveled more than 100,000 miles. I’ve been in, I think, 30 countries. I’ve done a lot of town halls because I believe it’s not just diplomacy between government officials, it’s diplomacy between people, so I’ve gone out of my way to do town halls, to do events that have significance to the countries in which I’m visiting.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked about women and leadership, women in elected office, the role of women in development. This is a subject that is on the minds of people, literally, around the world.
QUESTION: You say “the right woman.” You know, supporters of yours I’ve talked to over time say, “You know what? We’re so disappointed, because if she couldn't do it, who can?” I mean, all the establishment support, all the money, married to a former president, all of these things that you had established, and yet you couldn't do it. It’s very daunting to a lot of people.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, look, I’m not going to pretend that running for president as a woman is not daunting. It is daunting. And it is probably a path that doesn't appeal to a lot of women even in elective office because it is so difficult. But I am convinced – and I don’t know if she’s in elective office right now or if she’s preparing to run for office – but there is a woman who I am hoping will be ale to achieve that. Now, obviously, that’s up to individual women who have to make this decision for themselves.
QUESTION: This was Governor Sarah Palin, who is stepping down as governor of Alaska, and what she said when she was named to the ticket with John McCain last year:
“It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America, but it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.”
Now, you probably don’t agree with her politically, but do you believe that Governor Palin represents a woman’s chance to become president?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m out of politics. That’s one of the things about being Secretary of State. And I would wish her well in her private life as she leaves office.
QUESTION: Does she have what it takes?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s up to the voters to determine. It’s up to the voters to determine with respect to anyone. I mean, putting together a presidential campaign is an extremely complicated enterprise. So I’m just going to leave it at that, and I will be an interested observer. I do want to see a woman elected president. I hope it’s a Democratic woman who represents the kind of approach that I happen to favor.
QUESTION: So no endorsement for Governor Palin at this stage? Okay.
The question again that comes up around the world is what you experienced during an interview on Wednesday in Thailand. Let’s roll that:
“QUESTION: Will we ever get to see you as president of the United States?
“SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s not anything I’m at all thinking about. I’ve got a very demanding and exciting job right now, and I’m not somebody who looks ahead. I don’t know, but I doubt very much that anything like that will ever – ever be part of my life.”
“QUESTION: So it’s wait and see?
“SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, no, no.
“QUESTION: Never say never.
“SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am saying no, because I have a very committed attitude toward the job I’m doing now, and so that’s not anything that is at all on my radar screen.”
So, you know, I guess we don’t have to worry about a free press in Thailand. They kept coming at you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That was a great – it was a great show. It’s one of the things that I’ve been doing around the world, these interview shows. But the answer is no. I don’t know how many more --
QUESTION: But you didn’t say never.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I say no, never, not at all. I don’t know what else to say.
QUESTION: Are you saying you wouldn't entertain another run?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have absolutely no belief in my mind that that is going to happen, that I have any interest in it happening. As I said, I am so focused on what I’m doing. And I think that the interest in sort of the political dynamics is obviously fascinating, not just here but around the world.
But you know the more common question that I’m asked, which I don’t think gets enough attention because it’s so important in these emerging democracies, is how could I have run against President Obama all those months, and as hard as I did, and now work with him and work for him. And a lot of countries can’t believe that two former competitors could now have made common cause on behalf of our country. Now, I think that’s the story. And that to me is a message that we’re trying to send to the rest of the world that this is the way a democracy works.
QUESTION: Do you still think about the campaign?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Not really. I sometimes see people who worked so hard for me and who are very committed to electing a woman president someday, and obviously, that provokes emotions in me. But no, I’ve moved on. I think it’s important to move on. I’m not somebody – I tell countries all the time don’t get mired in the past, so I’m going to set an example and not do it either.
QUESTION: Any regrets?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, none at all. I gave it all I had.
QUESTION: Before you go, I want you to react to the ambition of a young woman. This is a young Hillary Rodham writing in sixth grade about ambition:
“When I grow up, I want to have had the best education I could have possibly obtained. If I obtain this, I will probably be able to get a very good job. I want to be either a teacher or a nuclear physics scientist.”
Now, I have to ask you, has this whole thing, being the senator from New York, running for the presidency, is this all about setting yourself up to be a nuclear physics scientist?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, unfortunately, David, I learned early on that that was not in the cards for me, so I had to settle for being in public life, which has been a great reward in and of itself.
QUESTION: Is this the story – how the story is playing out is what you expected?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have to say I was looking at that. I think I wrote that in sixth grade. I think it’s just a lesson to everybody you don’t know where life may lead you and what your opportunities could be. I did believe, and my mother and father impressed on me, the need to get a good education, and I think my family’s support and values and the education that I received set me up to be able to take advantage of a lot of these extraordinary opportunities I’ve been given. I mean, I’m sitting here as a very lucky person, someone who’s had a chance to serve the country that I have loved my entire life, that I believe is an exemplar of what is best in human affairs, that I care deeply about our future. So how lucky can you be? I got to serve in the White House when my husband was president working on issues I care about. I got to represent the greatest state in the country for eight years. And now I get to work with a new president who is so determined to make a better future. I have no complaints at all.
QUESTION: We’re going to leave it there. Secretary Clinton, thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: Good luck in your important work.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, David.
QUESTION: We’re going to continue our discussion, because an hour was not enough time, with Secretary Clinton online and ask her a few questions that our viewers have submitted via email and Twitter. It’s in our Meet the Press Take Two Web Extra up this afternoon our website, plus look for updates from me throughout the week. It’s all at mtp.msnbc.com.
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