MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday: She's logged 100,000 miles traveling
around the globe as secretary of State, pushing President Obama's foreign
policy goals as his top diplomat. This week in Asia she confronted U.S.
adversaries, trading barbs with the North Koreans...
SEC'Y HILLARY CLINTON: There is no place to go for North Korea. They have
no friends left.
MR. GREGORY: ...and warning Iran against its nuclear ambitions.
SEC'Y CLINTON: If the United States extends a defense umbrella over the
region, they won't be able to intimidate and dominate as they apparently
believe they can once they have a nuclear weapon.
MR. GREGORY: From the wars abroad in Afghanistan and Iraq to the battle
at home over health care, what influence is she having on her former
political rival, now the president of the United States? Our exclusive
guest for the full hour, the former first lady of the United States,
Democratic senator from the state of New York and candidate for the
Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, Secretary of State Hillary
MR. DAVID GREGORY: But first, here she is, the Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton. Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
SEC'Y CLINTON: Thank you, David. It's great to be here with you.
MR. GREGORY: Glad to have you. And you're here for the full hour, so we
have a lot to get to.
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, with your preview into it, there's a lot to talk
about in the world today.
MR. GREGORY: Absolutely. So let's get right to it and talk about some of
the hot spots around the globe that you're dealing with. First up is
North Korea, and 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.
SEC'Y CLINTON: 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
MR. GREGORY: 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 it
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?
SEC'Y 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 in the world community expect.
MR. GREGORY: 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
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, we want to make clear to North Korea that their
behavior is not going to be rewarded. In the past they believe 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.
MR. GREGORY: But they say--if I can just stop you, they say we're not
playing in that group anymore.
SEC'Y 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.
MR. GREGORY: 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?
SEC'Y 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.
MR. GREGORY: Is North Korea a threat to the United States?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, at this time, you know, 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.
MR. GREGORY: 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?
SEC'Y 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.
MR. GREGORY: Are you making progress?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, we have--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.
MR. GREGORY: Let me turn to another hot spot, and that is Iran. A big
headline this week, again, with your words: "Clinton's `Defense Umbrella'
Stirs Tensions." The headlines 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.
SEC'Y CLINTON: 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.
MR. GREGORY: 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?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, I think it's clear that we're trying to affect the
internal calculus of the Iranian regime. You know, the Iranian
government, which is facing its own challenges of legitimacy from its
people, has to know that 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
MR. GREGORY: All right, but let's be specific. Are you talking about a
SEC'Y CLINTON: We, we are, we are not talking in specifics, David,
because, you know, that would come later, if at all. You know, 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.
MR. GREGORY: 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." Meantime, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs,
said, well, “I have been for some time concerned about 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 the administration views about the impact
of a strike by Israel?
SEC'Y 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, you know, 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, 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 weapon state.
MR. GREGORY: Defense Secretary Gates is on his way to Israel this week.
Is the message to the Israelis, "You got to hang tight here"?
SEC'Y 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 stand 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
MR. GREGORY: Is Iran an illegitimate regime?
SEC'Y CLINTON: You know, that's really for the people of Iran to decide.
I have been moved by the, just the cries for freedom and, and the 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.
MR. GREGORY: 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?
SEC'Y CLINTON: I don't think so, David, because you can go back in
history--and not, you know, 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.
MR. GREGORY: Let me talk about another difficult area, and that's Russia,
where there has been an 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?
SEC'Y 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-a-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 Plus One that we're 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. You know, 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, you know, an, 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, I think that, you know, 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 Sergei Lavrov. We'll be following up on what our two presidents
said in Moscow. And the Russians know that, you know, we have continuing
questions about some of their policies, and they have continuing
questions about some of ours.
MR. GREGORY: Before we get to a break I want to get to another hot spot,
and that, of course, is Afghanistan. And the headline coming out this
week: "U.S. Deaths Hit A Record High In Afghanistan: The Toll of 31 So
Far in July Makes For the Deadliest Month of the War." Is--with--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?
SEC'Y 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
MR. GREGORY: 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: "American 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-Qaeda, now we're in a long war
with the Taliban. Is that really a good use of American power?"
SEC'Y 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-Qaeda 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-Qaeda, to uproot it and
destroy it, we had to take on those who were giving the al-Qaeda
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-Qaeda 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-Qaeda at the center...
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
SEC'Y CLINTON: ...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, and I think that we'll see benefits come from that.
MR. GREGORY: All right, we're going to leave it there for a moment. 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
Unidentified Woman #1: Will we ever get to see you as president of the
SEC'Y CLINTON: Wow, that's not...
MR. GREGORY: All coming up on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. GREGORY: More of our conversation with Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton after this brief commercial break.
MR. GREGORY: And we're back with the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
How is your elbow?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Oh, it's getting better. It's about 80 percent of the way
back. You know, there are certain moves that I can make, but there are
others that are, are still kind of painful. But I'm doing my physical
therapy. That's what everybody told me I had to do. And...
MR. GREGORY: Just hand shaking is a little hard.
SEC'Y CLINTON: Yes. I try to...
MR. GREGORY: Which is hard for a diplomat.
SEC'Y CLINTON: It is. I tried to do the hand shaking 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.
MR. GREGORY: Yes.
SEC'Y CLINTON: You know, I was going around like this to everybody.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
SEC'Y CLINTON: That, that helped me out a lot.
MR. GREGORY: It's doing that in Germany that's confusing. That's just a
SEC'Y CLINTON: Yeah. Well, probably it has to be culturally appropriate.
MR. GREGORY: 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
(Videotape, January 20, 2009)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: 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
MR. GREGORY: 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's unclenching their fist yet?
SEC'Y 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 10 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, 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.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEC'Y CLINTON: We are really back.
MR. GREGORY: But is...
SEC'Y CLINTON: And that was my message when I went to Asia: The United
States is back and we're ready to lead.
MR. GREGORY: But what did you mean by that?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, what I meant was that in, 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 we have now
announced the most comprehensive engagement we've ever had with that
MR. GREGORY: But, but if, if you look at it, the Bush administration
policy in Asia and now the Obama administration policy in Asia is not
that different. You, you, too, are distracted by wars in Afghanistan and
SEC'Y CLINTON: I, I--no, I--see, I disagree...
MR. GREGORY: So, so I don't see what's really changed.
SEC'Y CLINTON: 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.
MR. GREGORY: Hm.
SEC'Y CLINTON: 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, etc., that really grabbed it and
required a lot of attention, that much of the rest of the world felt, you
know, that they were kind of second tier. When I went to the ASEAN
meeting, it hadn't been for sometime that we'd had a secretary of State
pay continuing attention. We announced a, an exciting new relationship
with the lower Mekong countries--Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand. We
are working everywhere we can to make clear that, you know, the United
States cannot solve all the problems of the world alone, but the world
cannot solve them without the United States.
MR. GREGORY: But you raised the--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."
SEC'Y CLINTON: That's right.
MR. GREGORY: But seriously, has, at times, this been a struggle?
SEC'Y 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, an
incredibly candid and open exchange. In fact, the whole team does. And I
really welcome that.
MR. GREGORY: But 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 adviser in his ear on foreign policy?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, I, I am the chief adviser on foreign policy, but the
president makes the decisions. You know, 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 advisers. 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 adviser, 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, you know, I've read a lot of diplomatic history, and I know
that very often there become sort of warring camps, you know. It's the
Defense Department vs. the State Department, or the National Security
Council vs. the State Department. And in fact, we've had administrations
where there was just open warfare.
MR. GREGORY: Hm.
SEC'Y CLINTON: You don't see any of that in this administration. And in
fact, I've had some of my predecessors say with, you know, some amount of
surprise, this administration has no light between it.
MR. GREGORY: Well, and to that point, what has President Obama proved to
you as president that you didn't believe about him as a candidate?
SEC'Y 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, 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 Principle's 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.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEC'Y 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?"
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEC'Y CLINTON: 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.
MR. GREGORY: But you--but during the--during the campaign you questioned
both his experience and his toughness. Are those issues that you don't
feel as strongly anymore?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Oh, I don't feel them at all. I mean, I think that, you
know, those were appropriate issues to raise in the campaign. I, 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 spent an
enormous amount of time and effort running against him, I think his
performance in office has been incredible.
MR. GREGORY: You are secretary of State. You are not--I should say, your
portfolio does not include domestic matters, domestic political debates.
And yet health care 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.
(Videotape, June 7, 2008)
SEC'Y CLINTON: 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.
MR. GREGORY: You've always been passionate about this. You're not
involved in the current debate. But why is it so hard, do you think?
SEC'Y 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. You know, there are many problems we're dealing with in our
country, and certainly he could have said, "OK, 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. You know, I've been
there. I know how hard this is.
MR. GREGORY: Is it different than '93?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Oh, it is. It's different in several ways. It's different
because I think everybody's 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.
MR. GREGORY: And yet you wrote in your memoir, "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 getting over that hurdle?
SEC'Y 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
use to serve on, the Health, Education, Labor and Pension, so-called HELP
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, you know, 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 control
costs for the people who have insurance." I'm talking now...
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
SEC'Y CLINTON: ...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, you know, "I could be uninsured." The, the chances
that businesses will continue to pay for insurance over the next five,
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.
MR. GREGORY: Has he sought out your counsel on this?
SEC'Y CLINTON: You know, we talk about everything. You know, I have a
rule that I don't ever talk about what I talk about with presidents,
whether it's my husband...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEC'Y CLINTON: ...when he was president, or now with President Obama.
But, you know...
MR. GREGORY: But even domestic issues, you'll offer some thoughts.
SEC'Y CLINTON: I, I'm available to the president to talk about anything.
Now, obviously, we have a pretty big, you know, portfolio...
MR. GREGORY: Right. Portfolio, yeah.
SEC'Y CLINTON: ...that we have to deal with on the international stage.
MR. GREGORY: Right. Bottom, bottom line, do you think health care will
pass this time?
SEC'Y 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, I think we'll get, we'll get
MR. GREGORY: 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, in the briefing room to address it further. What role do you think
he plays or should play in sensitive matters like this?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, I think the president did an excellent job in
addressing it on Friday when he went to the press room. And, 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, you know, leadership by example.
And I really commend him for that.
MR. GREGORY: 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, a special responsibility and plays a special
role in terms of race relations for the country?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, if something constructive can come out of this
latest incident, it will be that people around the country are, are
talking about the continuing challenges we face. You know, 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, 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, you know, wants to, you know, bring
people together to solve problems and to make progress together.
MR. GREGORY: 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.
MR. GREGORY: And we're back, our remaining moments with the secretary of
I want to ask you about something that you deal with all over the world,
and that's the topic of women in leadership. Here was a moment from Delhi
University in India during your trip when you were asked a question.
Unidentified Woman #2: Madam, 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--if
I, if I can say so--of the same privilege.
SEC'Y CLINTON: You can say so to me.
Woman #2: And, and on...
MR. GREGORY: What's it going to take for a woman to be president?
SEC'Y 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, you know, 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 in 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.
MR. GREGORY: 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.
SEC'Y 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, you
know, 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 able to
achieve that. Now, obviously, that's up to individual women...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEC'Y CLINTON: ...who have to make this decision for themselves.
MR. GREGORY: 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.
(Videotape, August 29, 2008)
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK): 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.
MR. GREGORY: Now, you probably don't agree with her politically, but do
you believe that Governor Palin represents a woman's chance to become
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, I'm not--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 the office.
MR. GREGORY: Does she have what it takes?
SEC'Y CLINTON: That's up to the voters to determine. It's up to the
voters to determine with respect to anyone.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
SEC'Y CLINTON: 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...
MR. GREGORY: So no endorsement for Governor Palin at this stage?
SEC'Y CLINTON: ...of, kind of approach that I happen to favor.
MR. GREGORY: OK. The question, again, that comes up around the world is
what you experienced during an interview on Wednesday in Thailand. Let's
Woman #1: Will we ever get to see you as president of the United States?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Wow. 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. You know, I don't know, but I doubt very much that anything
like that will ever, ever be part of my life.
Woman #1: So it's wait and see.
SEC'Y CLINTON: No, no, no, no. I...
Unidentified Man: Never say never.
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, I am saying no...
Woman #1: For now.
SEC'Y CLINTON: ...because I have a very committed attitude toward the job
that I'm doing now.
Woman #1: Now.
SEC'Y CLINTON: And so that's not anything that is at all on my radar
MR. GREGORY: So, you know, I guess we don't have to worry about a free
press in Thailand. Right? They kept coming at you.
SEC'Y 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.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
SEC'Y CLINTON: But the answer is no. I don't know how many more...
MR. GREGORY: Right. But you didn't, but you didn't say never.
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, you know, I say no, never, you know, not at all. I
don't know what, what else to say.
MR. GREGORY: Are you saying you wouldn't entertain another run?
SEC'Y CLINTON: I have absolutely no belief in my mind that that is going
to happen, that I have any interest in it happening. You know, as I said,
I, I am so focused on what I'm doing. And, you know, I think that the
interest in sort of the political dynamics is, you know, 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?
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEC'Y CLINTON: 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
MR. GREGORY: Do you still think about the campaign?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Not really. I sometimes, you know, see people who worked
so hard for me and who are very committed to electing a woman president
someday, and obviously, you know, that provokes emotions in me. But no,
I've moved on. I think it's important to move on. I, 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.
MR. GREGORY: Any regrets?
SEC'Y CLINTON: No, none at all. I gave it all I had.
MR. GREGORY: 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
SEC'Y CLINTON: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: "When I grow up, I want to have had the best education I
could have possible 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 physic scientist?
SEC'Y CLINTON: Well, unfortunately, David, I learned early on that that
was not in the cards for me. So, you know, I had to settle for being in
public life, which has been a great reward in and of itself.
MR. GREGORY: Is this the story--how the story is playing out is what you
SEC'Y CLINTON: I have to say, you know, I was looking at that. I don't--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've 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.
MR. GREGORY: We're going to leave it there. Secretary Clinton, thank you.
SEC'Y CLINTON: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: Good luck in your important work.
SEC'Y CLINTON: Thank you, David.
MR. GREGORY: We are 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 e-mail and Twitter. It's in
our MEET THE PRESS Take Two Web extra, up this afternoon on our Web site.
Plus, look for updates from me throughout the week. It's all at
mtp.msnbc.com. And we'll be right back.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: Watch CNBC Monday evening at 9 for a special program,
"Meeting of the Minds: The Future of Health Care," hosted by Maria
Bartiromo. Some of the biggest names in the industry and government
discuss America's healthcare crisis. That's CNBC's "Meeting of the
Minds," premiering Monday at 9 PM Eastern on CNBC.
That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET