TODD: But we start with the Democrats and a Hillary Clinton/Bernie Sanders race that has turned out to be much closer than the experts thought especially the Clinton campaign.
In fact, we have some brand new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll numbers out this morning and it does have some good news for the Clinton campaign. Nationally we still have her with a big lead over Bernie Sanders 59 percent-34 percent.
But in Iowa the story has been very different. Three polls out this week alone showing neck and neck race including our own NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls which had Clinton leading by jut 3; Quinnipiac found Sanders actually up by 5 and the "Des Moines Register" had Clinton up by just 2. Bottom line, it's too close to call.
So as they close the race it has become a more aggressive race against Sanders so we begin with Hillary Clinton who joins Clinton campaign against Sanders and so we begin with Hillary Clinton who joins us from Charleston, South Carolina. Good morning—Secretary Clinton.
CLINTON: Good morning, Chuck.
TODD: Let me start with the Iran deal. Yesterday in response to it you immediately said that Iran is still violating U.N. Security Council resolutions with its ballistic missile program which should be met with new sanctions, designations and firm results.
So I guess my question is what do you tell the American public that says you want new sanctions against Iran, they're still violating agreement and yet what did we do? We just handed them $100 billion and we just did a prisoner exchange. Would you have still done that considering your concerns about their missile program?
CLINTON: Absolutely. Look I have said for a long time that I'm very proud of the role that I played in getting us to the point where we could negotiate the agreement that puts a lid on Iran's nuclear weapons program but I've also said that the way we're going to hold them accountable is to have consequences when they do anything that might deviate from the agreement or continue to block the kind of sanctions and mandates the U.N. Security Council has put on, including on missiles.
So I see these as mutually reinforcing, Chuck. I was delighted that the prisoners are on their way home. That's a good sign. We still don't see Bob Levinson coming home, there's more work to be done there. But if the implementation of the agreement which is being done today is to be successful in the way that I expect we're going to watch Iran like the proverbial hawk.
And when it comes to the missile program, they are under U.N. Security Council sanctions and if they are violating it which the evidence seems to suggest they should be held accountable. They need to know that this is a good step forward with respect to the nuclear weapons program but there are other areas of their behavior that we're going to continue to be focused on.
TODD: Do you consider Iran a national security threat to the United States?
CLINTON: Well, certainly we have lowered that threat because of the nuclear agreement but they continue to be destabilize governments in the Middle East. They continue to support proxies and terrorist groups like Hezbollah. They continue to threaten Israel. There are a lot of concerns. But what I've said for some time now is I'd rather have the nuclear weapons program off to one side and work to make sure they abide by the agreement and then turn our attention to some of these other behaviors that are threatening, certainly in the region and therefore cause concern for us.
TODD: All right. Let me move to the campaign. To try to figure out why this race has gotten closer in Iowa, why your lead has shrunk in Iowa, we spoke to a number of voters. I want to play three sound bites from Iowa voters about some potential pause they have regarding your candidacy. I'm going to play it and get you to respond on the other side.
[begin video clip]
JAY HELTON, O'MALLEY SUPPORTER: You get the impression from her that she believes maybe the rules don't apply to her. Or the same rules don't apply to her that apply to everybody else.
NATASHA NEWCOMB, SANDERS SUPPORTER: She's worked really hard and done some amazing things I just feel that Bernie Sanders is kind of—has a little bit more fire lit up in people.
SALLY WILSON, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Well, I hear people talking about questioning her honesty. And I don't necessarily do that but I think that's one thing people are kind of not sure and they've felt that way about Bill Clinton, too. So I think some of that rubs off.
[end video clip]
TODD: Madam Secretary, how do you answer that pause. This is from Democrats—some pause that they have.
CLINTON: Well, first of all, Chuck, I always thought this was going to be close and I can't speak for anybody else but I've worked as hard as I can to build an organization in Iowa, to be out there listening and talking with Iowans as they move toward making the first in the nation decision in the caucus on February 1.
And I've also been very consistent over the course of my public life. If I tell you I'm going to fight for something, I will do my very best to get results. I think that's why I have such strong support and I feel very good about where we are but we're going to just keep working until the very last caucus is decided on February 1.
TODD: You know, another problem you may be having in Iowa is that you don't ideologically fit. This was in the Des Moines Register poll this week. 43 percent of likely Democratic caucus goers identify as socialist. Only 38 percent of likely Democratic caucus goers identified themselves as a capitalist. You, in the last debate, said you were a capitalist. Bernie Sanders calls himself a Democratic socialist. If you don't win Iowa, do you think that's the reason?
CLINTON: Oh, I don't know how people take all this information. But I support a free market economy. I support the competitiveness that has created the greatest economic engine in the history of the world. What I am worried about is that it's not continuing to do what it used to do which is to give the vast majority of Americans the chance to get ahead and stay ahead.
That's why I've got a very vigorous jobs agenda. That's why I put raising incomes at the center of my economic policy and I think what I know will work is to get back the good old-fashioned job opportunities that will help people get ahead through manufacturing, through infrastructure, through clean energy, through the kinds of plans that I've been putting out.
Look, when we have a Democrat in the White House—a Democrat—we do that better economically. We saw that when my husband was president, we've watched President Obama dig us out of the huge ditch that Republican policies put us into, so I'm very confident that I know what will work if we have a—the right commitment as a nation and that's what I want to do as president.
TODD: Let me ask you about whether—going with Chicago—right now, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been under fire for what he may have known about a shooting incident. Do you think he still has the credibility to heal the wounds in Chicago between the African-American community and law enforcement?
CLINTON: Look, like everybody else who watched that video on television I was just outraged by what happened to Laquan McDonald. I was one of the first to call for a complete Department of Justice investigation and, in fact, urged that it include the entire Chicago police department.
This is not a problem that is unique to Chicago, unfortunately, and we've got to do more to deal with the systemic racism and the problems that policing has demonstrated. Mayor Emanuel has said that he is committed to complete and total reform and I think he should be held to that standard.
TODD: But do you think he still has the credibility to do that?
CLINTON: Well, that's going to be up to him and up to the people of Chicago to prove.
TODD: Very quickly, the movie "13 Hours" about the incident in Benghazi. I know there's a lot of chatter about the movie itself. But let me ask you—the controversy involves whether or not everything was done that night to rescue Ambassador Stevens.
Looking back, do you believe everything was done that night that could have been done to save his life?
CLINTON: Based on everything I know and based on a Republican-led intelligence committee investigation, is a Republican-led arms services committee investigation, the answer to that is yes. That people were scrambling trying to figure out what could be done if anything.
And I can't speak to a movie but I know people have raised questions about some of the dramatization. I testified for more than 11 hours, as you know I answered every question I was asked. My real focus, Chuck, is what do we do to make sure that we send Americans into harm's way—military or civilian, diplomats or our soldiers—we take every precaution to the best of our ability in what is an unpredictable and dangerous world to make sure that they can discharge their duties and be safe while doing it.
TODD: All right. Secretary Clinton, I have to leave it there. We look forward to seeing you tonight on stage in Charleston for the Democratic debate.
TODD: That's right here on NBC. Thank you.
CLINTON: Thanks a lot.
TODD: You got it.
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January 17, 2016 Sunday
CBS "Face the Nation" Interview with Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Democratic Presidential Candidate
LENGTH: 1189 words
??????????????????????? Subject: The 2016 Presidential Race
Participants: John Dickerson
DICKERSON: And we start with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in Charleston this morning. Good morning, Secretary Clinton.
After this prisoner exchange, Senator Marco Rubio said—quote—"If you take an American hostage, Barack Obama will cut a deal with you, whether it's Bowe Bergdahl, what he did with the Castro brothers, and now what he's done with Iran."
Your reaction to that?
CLINTON: Well, I think it's just typical political rhetoric, and it overlooks some very basic, important issues.
Number one, we always try to get Americans back who are unjustly held. I certainly did when I was secretary of state. And when I was a senator, I advocated for the Bush administration to do the same for people who have been unlawfully held in foreign countries.
Secondly, the important news here is that the Iranian agreement to put a lid on the nuclear weapons program of Iran is being implemented. The Iranians have so far fulfilled their side of the bargain by destroying centrifuges, by shipping out 98 percent or so of their enriched uranium out of their country, even making one of their plutonium reactors under construction no longer able to be ever used because they have poured cement into it.
So, the real issue here is, if you're committed to making the world safer and to show strong American leadership, you have to engage in patient, persistent diplomacy with people who are not your friends. They are on the other side of a lot of the issues and values that you hold very dear, and that is certainly true for the United States.
DICKERSON: Former FBI agent Robert Levinson is still in Iran. Do you believe that the Iranians know where he is? And, if so, why wasn't he a part of this deal?
CLINTON: Well, I regret deeply that Robert Levinson was not on his way home either. And I hope and expect that the Iranians will continue to be pressed very, very hard to give up any information they have and, if possible, to return Bob Levinson to his home and family.
DICKERSON: Switching to the topic of gun control, you have said Bernie Sanders should vote or support the idea of lifting the immunity block on gun manufacturers. He now says he will support the legislation you have pushed him to. So, hasn't he done what you wanted him to do?
CLINTON: Well, I am pleased that Senator Sanders has flip-flopped on legal immunity for gun makers and sellers. Now I hope he will also join members of Congress to change what's called the Charleston loophole that enabled the killer in Charleston to get the gun that he used to murder nine people at Bible study here in Mother Emanuel Church. That's something else Senator Sanders has supported that we need to change.
So, now I'm calling on him to also flip-flop in the right direction and sign on the legislation to change the Charleston loophole.
DICKERSON: You at once in 1939 when you were first lady supported in testimony in front of the Senate Finance Committee a 25 percent tax on guns. You're not supporting that now or promoting that now.
How have you evolved over the years in terms of your support for the Second Amendment?
CLINTON: Well, I do support the Second Amendment. That has always been understood.
I just believe that, like any amendment to our Constitution, there are reasonable steps that can be taken. We have reasonable restrictions on certain kind of speech or certain forms of assembly. And for goodness sakes, we ought to be smart enough and do so consistent with the Constitution, to have more gun safety measures to try to save some of the 33,000 lives that we lose to gun violence every single year.
This is something that I have spoken out about, that I have advocated for right now. I think there is a consensus in the country on comprehensive background checks, closing the gun show loophole, closing the online and Charleston loopholes, reversing the immunity given to the gun industry, certainly prohibiting would-be terrorists on the no-fly zone from buying guns.
That's kind of the commonsense approach that we should be working to achieve.
DICKERSON: I would like to ask you about these stories out of Flint, Michigan. Lead levels in the water have created an emergency there. Senator Sanders called for Rick Snyder, the governor, to resign. What is your feeling?
CLINTON: Well, John, this is an issue I have been involved in now for a couple of weeks. I am horrified by what has happened in Flint.
I started calling for immediate action, calling for federal intervention. I sent two of my top campaign aides to meet with the mayor of Flint. As you may know, I appeared on a show this past week and demanded that Governor Snyder ask for the help that Michigan needs to deal with the horrible consequences that children and their families are facing in Flint.
And I saw that Governor Snyder turned around within two hours and finally asked for the help that he should have asked for some weeks ago. I don't want to get caught up in the political back and forth here. I want to help the people of Flint.
And I particularly want a comprehensive health analysis of what's happened to these children. Lead is a poison. It destroys your brain. It interferes with your learning and your behavior. Whatever it takes for Michigan and the federal government to come together, through FEMA, through Health and Human Services, the EPA, whatever it takes, we now have to fix the problem and help these kids and especially their health and education development probably for years to come.
DICKERSON: On the topic of health care back at the national level, you—your daughter, Chelsea Clinton, said that Senator Sanders' universal health care plan will dismantle Obamacare, dismantle Children's Health Insurance Program, and a series of other things it would dismantle.
Aren't—isn't she and your campaign not taking into account that those things would be replaced by an actual plan that Senator Sanders has put forward?
CLINTON: Well, I think it's very confusing, because he hasn't put forward a plan.
And the only way we know what it is he's advocating for comes from looking at the nine bills that he's introduced in the House and Senate and Congress. And in those bills, every kind of health care is rolled all up together, and handed over to the states, which bear a financial responsibility to match what the federal government provides in order to administer health care.
So, it's not a traditional kind of single-payer system, as I understand it. It is a state-based system, kind of similar to Medicaid, if you will. And I do think there are very legitimate questions that can be raised, and because we don't have an up-to-date plan from Senator Sanders, all of us trying to figure out what it would mean for everybody to be put into that new system.
DICKERSON: All right.
Well, Senator—excuse me—Secretary Clinton, I know that will be debated this evening when you're on the stage with Senator Sanders.
We thank you for being with us.
CLINTON: Great to talk to you again, John.
Citation: Hillary Clinton: "Interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News "Meet the Press"," January 17, 2016. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=111434.