DALLAS, TEXAS.–“I hate being a front-runner,” Hillary Rodham Clinton tells Judy Woodruff from the “Newshour” on Wednesday.
INTERVIEW OF HILLARY CLINTON
BY JUDY WOODRUFF
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Clinton, thank you very much for talking with us.
MRS. CLINTON: I’m happy to talk with you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We are here in Ohio where you have the 20th debate among the presidential candidates last night, what effect do you think this one is going to have on the campaign?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, one never knows, but I feel very good about it and have had a tremendously positive reaction from people where I have been today, in Cleveland, here, –. I just feel that people are really focusing on what the really big issues are, kind of getting through all the clutter and trying to decide who they want to be their president, who they hope would be the person who turn the economy around and be the next Commander-in-chief and getting our country back on the right track.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well speaking of the economy, this is a state with one of the most difficult economic experiences in the last few years, they have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs.
What exactly would you do as president about the people who are hurting in Ohio that Senator Obama wouldn’t do?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, several things; this is also a state within the top ten of home foreclosures. I think the number of people who are foreclosed on — last year it was 150,000 households, an additional 13,000 in January alone, and I have been to Parma and to Dayton and to Cincinnati, listening to the stories of people who have been in this terrible situation.
So I said we need a moratorium on home foreclosures for 90 days, just like what they would do if a corporation couldn’t pay its bills, you would bring the creditors together, you would work out some kind of payment schedule.
That’s what we need to do for all these homeowners. I also would like to freeze interest rates for five years on the adjustable rates on subprime mortgages, and I have a fund that would help communities deal with the consequences of foreclosure.
So in the very near term, we need to be trying to control the cascading home foreclosure crisis because we can’t get the economy back on track if we can’t get the housing market picked up and people who have paid off their homes, if they are in this housing market are seeing their home values drop.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, on the point about freezing those adjustable rates, I think Senator Obama said then what you are going to do is raise the rates on the non-sub-prime.
MRS. CLINTON: There is no basis for that. We are in a difficult economic position. The federal reserve is desperately cutting interest rates, trying to drive those interest rates down. What are the big costs that people have in their lives? Their home, their energy costs, their health care costs, their education costs — they have just kept escalating and beneath a lot of these subprime mortgage rates are abusive lending practices that we can’t turn the clock back and say don’t do that, don’t inflate the appraisal or mark people’s payments late so you can raise the interest rates.
I mean, people are suffering and if we freeze the adjustable rate mortgages, which a number of economists have agreed with me as a very sound way of trying to stabilize the housing market, the conventional market, which is being effected by the impact of the rising interest rates in the subprime market, will actually destabilize.
So it is funny to me that Senator Obama would be on the right of George Bush on this because after sort over dragging his feet, President Bush has now come out talking about doing something on moratorium, looking at the interest rate. And this, remember, would be voluntary. This is what I do right now and I would certainly do it if I were president, to get everybody to understand if we don’t take these steps we are going to have an even more serious economic recession on our hands.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as you know a loot of the blame for losing these jobs has been focused on NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, you talked about it on the debate last night, you said that you have long opposed it, your critics say, well it really hasn’t been that be long.
Help us understand when did you decide that NAFTA was not a good thing?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, I had my doubts about it way back in the beginning of Bill’s term, but I was working on health care, but David Gergin and others have apparently remembered a lot of the meetings we were in where I raised a lot of questions, but it is hard to argue with the economic success, overall, of the Clinton years, 22.7 million new jobs, family income up $7,000 on average, more people lifted out of poverty than at any time.
So the impact of NAFTA and other trade agreements was not so obvious in the economy, at large, until the Bush administration, because they stopped enforcing trade agreements, they really stopped going to bat to try to keep jobs in this country, they gave more and more tax breaks to people who were not committed to growing jobs and the economy here.
So since I have been in the Senate, have I raised a lot of serious questions and I said look, I have a plan to fix it, we have got to get core labor and environmental standards in the agreement, we have got to get better enforcement mechanisms and we have to end the ability for companies to sue over laws that we passed to protect our workers.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask a political question about Ohio. Your husband, former President, has said that if you don’t win here in Ohio, and in Texas, that you are not going to be able to win the nomination. Is he right about that?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, I’m doing everything I can to win, so that’s my goal and I’m working really hard I feel good about those things, we have great campaigns going and I think that we are going to be successful.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We just had it confirmed this afternoon that Congressmen Louis (ph) from Georgia, long time friend over yours and President Clinton’s, confirmed that he is going to support and will vote for Barack Obama at the convention. Comment?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, he is a dear friend and I respect him so greatly and I understand the incredible pressure that he has been under so he is my friend today just like he was yesterday. He will be my friend tomorrow.
JUDY WOODRUFF: People look at what’s happened in your campaign, Senator Clinton, and they say, what has happened? All of last year you were the front runner, you were the presumed, you were headed for that nomination and then January comes along, boom, Senator Obama starts winning primaries. He has now won eleven in a row. How do you explain what’s happened?
MRS. CLINTON: None of this is surprising to me. You know, last spring when I looked at how the race was shaping up, I knew that it would be a close contest and I assumed it would be with Senator Obama and at that time I said we have got to start thinking about Texas, we have to start thinking ahead.
I think it is great that this has been a close contest. I don’t have any problem with that. I don’t think I’m entitled to anything. I hate being a front runner. I find that to be burdensome, so for me getting out today, talking about what I would do as president, answering people’s questions and putting forth my ideas is energizing because it should be hard.
This is like a job interview. We are asking people to hire one of us to contend to have the toughest job in the world. So it shouldn’t be handed over. It should be the result of a vigorous contest.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You have been talking in the last several days, even weeks maybe, about Senator Obama being long on words, long on rhetoric, but short on substance and on really being able to bring people together to get things done and you even ridiculed him over the weekend, they played a clip of it at the debate last night and yet, you talked about celestial choirs.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Everything is going to be perfect, but when Senator Chris Dodd, presidential candidate, you were running guest him, yesterday endorsed Senator Obama. He said he does believe that Senator Obama does have the experience, he has the judgment and maturity and he said he has been able the touch people in a way that no one else has.
Does Senator Dodd have a point?
MRS. CLINTON: Oh, absolutely. There is no doubt about the power of Senator Obama’s oratory, which is extraordinary, his ability to inspire. That’s incredibly important.
JUDY WOODRUFF: He also said he has the judgment?
MRS. CLINTON: Well —
JUDY WOODRUFF: And maturity.
MRS. CLINTON: That’s up to the voters to determine and, you know, last night in the debate Senator Obama basically said he had been given the responsibility to chair an important subcommittee on the foreign relations committee that oversees Europe and NATO, and it is very important to us because of Afghanistan, because of Kosovo and what happened in Serbia with our embassy being burned and basically he said, you know, I haven’t conducted any business in that committee of any substance because I’ve been running for president.
Four years ago he was in the Senate and I think people have a right to say what is it you are presenting to the American people as evidence and it always goes back to a speech he made back in 2002. And I commend him for the speech. He wasn’t isn’t the Senate. He never had the cast a vote. When asked in 2004 how he would vote, he said he wasn’t sure, he probably would have voted against it and it probably wasn’t the ringing endorsement of the position he took in the speech and he actually complemented George Bush on his conduct in the war in Iraq. By that time I was a critic and going after Bush for what he was doing and of course when he came to the Senate, we exercised exactly the same judgment when you can really compare on how we voted.
So I think voters have a right to say wait a minute, we know about one aspect of this campaign, the speeches and inspiration, where are the solutions, where is the record, where is the positive difference you made in people’s lives and I think Americans are looked for answers and they are looking for a president who will be a champion for them and start solving their problems and I believe I offer that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you aren’t disagreeing that inspiration is a part of leadership?
MRS. CLINTON: And I don’t disagree, and I think I inspire a lot of people. I see them coming, they start crying on the rope line, they flood my events, they are contributing to the tune of a million dollars a day on the internet, I am very proud of the incredible support that I have and the vision I have for America and you know, the dreams that I have that I can help to deliver a better future for people.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And one of the recent debates, this issue came up, and I believe Senator Obama said something to the effect, do you think the people who have been forming (ph) have been duped?
Do you think — are they being naive in supporting him if you are saying he really doesn’t have the record.
MRS. CLINTON: Well, a substantial record
JUDY WOODRUFF: People count.
MRS. CLINTON: People can vote for whoever they want. This is a incredibly free and open process.
You can vote for or against anyone on the basis of whatever you believe or want to believe and I have no argument with that. I think that that’s the way our system works.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You just — and you made a speech this week in Washington where you said we have already seen the tragic result of having a president who had neither the experience nor the wisdom to manage our foreign policy and safeguard our national security and you said we can’t let that happen again.
Are you seriously saying you see that little difference between President Bush and Senator Obama?
MRS. CLINTON: No. I’m saying that people need to take foreign policy and national security seriously. President Bush ran as a compassionate conservative, whatever that meant, and it turned out that he was neither. 911 happened and he then preemptively led us into Iraq and we have seen is consequences of his failed policies because 2000 wasn’t about foreign policy. It wasn’t about national security. People were in a fairly good frame of mind, we had a successful eight years in terms of peaceful prosperity, so they were free to vote on anything they chose and there were lots of articles, you remember, about who you would rather have a beer with and to this day I just regret that that election was not really as full an exploration of all the different aspects of what it means to be the President of the United States in the twentyfirst century.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But you are suggesting that the United States could end up in a similar situation if Senator Obama were in the White House?
MRS. CLINTON: No. I’m suggesting that this election has to be about the full range of responsibilities that end up in the oval office.
I know from my personal experience that people that nearly everything ends up on the President’s desk and people have the ask themselves who do they believe would be the best president and who do they believe as a democrat would be the best nominee to go up against John McCain.
We know, I think it is a pretty fair prediction, that Senator McCain will run primarily on national security. We know that. There isn’t any guess work here. He said he doesn’t know much about the economy, he has said he would leave troops in Iraq for fifty years or hundred years, but he is very confident about his positions and where he believes he would lead the country.
So I think as we go forward in this democratic nominating contest people in our party have to be looking over the horizon and ask themselves who would stand toe to toe with John McCain.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Speaking of Senator McCain, we now see public opinion polls showing almost half of the American people are looking at Iraq and for the first time in a year the numbers are that high, the first time in a year the numbers are that high of people who say we should keep U.S. troops in Iraq until that country is stabilized.
Do you have any concern that that position that you and Senator Obama hold of getting the troops out, could end up being a negative against Senator McCain?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, I think that will be at the core of Senator McCain’s campaign. And I believe my experience in foreign policy, serving on the Senate arm’s service committee, having negotiate opening up borders during war and helping the bring peace and Northern Ireland and so much else I have done, will give me more credibility in making whatever argument we have to make against Senator McCain.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Two other things Senator; you made a notable direct appeal last night towards the end of the debate for people to vote for you because you are a woman. You said being the first woman president would be a sea change and I think you went on the say it would give a real challenge to way things are done and what the rules are.
What would be different about having a female president?
MRS. CLINTON: I don’t think we can adequately imagine the difference it would make. It would be the shattering of the highest and hardest glass ceiling and it would send such a message of hope and opportunity to every little girl, to every young woman. That’s probably the most common thing that people say to me out on the campaign trail. There’s two things, actually, one people say I’m here because of my daughter, or my little girl just learned that we never had a woman president and I want her the know that she can do anything.
It would be a very deep change in how people see themselves and who is able to fulfill this position and I think that —
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you want people to vote for you for that reason?
MRS. CLINTON: No. I have said consistently throughout this campaign and I have asked people not to vote for me solely because I’m a woman. But I am a woman and I think there has been an interesting development in the campaign where somehow we are expected not to talk about that, where as it is a big difference. We have never had a mother or wife or sister or daughter in the Oval Office and I think it would be a very big change.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And more of a new change than to have the first African American president?
MRS. CLINTON: Well, I’m speaking for myself. I think that from my perspective, more than half our population is female and so it would have a direct effect on more than half of our population.
JUDY WOODRUFF: By what they would see?
MRS. CLINTON: By what they would see, by what they would feel, by what they would believe about themselves.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One last thing; Senator Obama seemed to be going out of his way last night to defer to you. I have had several people comment on this, it was almost as if he was trying to pull the democratic party together, mindful of keeping you in the fold, not alienating you, depending on what happened. Did you have that same sense last night that he seemed to defer?
MRS. CLINTON: No. I was too involved in it. I couldn’t comment on what it looked like. I was just, you know, very focused on what we were doing up there, but obviously we both believe that we will have a unified democratic party, we will have a very successful campaign and we will win the White House. We have said that over and over again and I think both of us will be committed to doing that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Your husband said yesterday you will win Ohio. Will you win Ohio and will you win Texas?
MRS. CLINTON: You know, Judy, I don’t make predictions. I just get up every day and do the work and what I have found is that more and more people seem to be taking a hard look at those of us and concluding that they will support me and we will see how it turns out on Tuesday when people actually get to vote.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Clinton, thank you very much for talking with us.
MRS. CLINTON: Good to talk to you. Thanks.
(End of Interview)