Hillary Clinton photo

Interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News' "This Week"

December 06, 2015

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we'll hear more on that from the president tonight. Let's get more on it now from Secretary Hillary Clinton, back on THIS WEEK for the first time this presidential campaign.

And a reminder for everyone watching, I worked for President Clinton, made charitable contributions in the past to the Clinton Foundation.

Welcome back.

CLINTON: Thanks, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it time to declare war on ISIS?

CLINTON: Look, we are definitely in conflict with ISIS and I think we need a new update of military authorization. The AUMF, which was passed after the attack on 9/11, should be brought up to...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why not declare war?

CLINTON: Well, declare war is a very legal term, as you know so well. I think what we want to do is make sure we have every tool at our disposal to, number one, destroy there would-be caliphate in Syria and in Ra—in Iraq.

Number two, do everything we can to dismantle this very effective virtual jihadist network that they are using on the Internet.

And number three, do whatever is necessary to protect us here at home.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What are you concerned about in the declaration of war?

CLINTON: Well, I think that the legal experts say that if we—there are a lot who say that we already have the authority we need to go after ISIS or any international terrorist network, including al Qaeda and anybody else in the AUMF.

I think it is important, though, for the Congress to vote on behalf of the American people and to make sure that we are updating it to take into account the new authorities that that risks.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You put—you've also been reluctant to say we're fighting radical Islam. And I wonder why not.

Isn't it a mistake not to say it plain, that the violence is being pushed by radical elements in that faith?

CLINTON: Well, that's a different thing. Radical elements who use a dangerous and distorted view of Islam to promote their jihadist ambitions, I'm fine with that. I say it all the time and I go after Islamic, too.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what's the problem with radical Islam?

CLINTON: Well, the problem is that that sounds like we are declaring war against a religion. And that, to me, is, number one, wrong but...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Even though the qualifier radical is there?

CLINTON: No, because, look, that—you know enough about religion, you've studied it. And there are radicals, people who believe all kinds of things in every religion in the world.

I don't want to do that because, number one, it doesn't do justice to the vast numbers of Muslims in our own country and around the world who are peaceful people.

Number two, it helps to create this clash of civilizations that is actually a recruiting tool for ISIS and other radical jihadists who use this as a way of saying we're in a war against the West. You must join us. If you are a Muslim, you must join us.

No. If you're a law-abiding, peace-loving Muslim, you need to be with us against those who are distorting Islam.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you say today that we're winning the fight against ISIS?

CLINTON: I could say today that we have a new set of threats. You know, if—if you go back and look where we were with al Qaeda in 9/11, there's no doubt bin Laden and his lieutenants were planning to carry out additional attacks, if they possibly could. And they did in places like Madrid and London, etc.

So we have dealt with that threat. It doesn't go away. We haven't eliminated it, but we've dealt with it.

Now, we have to turn our attention to the very sophisticated propagation of this new threat from ISIS.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So we're not winning that battle yet?

CLINTON: Well, we're not winning but it's too soon to say that we are doing everything we need to do. And I've outlined very clearly—


CLINTON:—we have to fight them in the air. We have to fight them on ground and we have to fight on the Internet. And we have to do everything we can with our friends and partners around the world to protect ourselves.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If you were in the Oval Office tonight, would you be announcing a new strategy?

CLINTON: Well, I think what—that's what we'll hear from the president, an intensification of the existing strategy and I think there's some additional steps we have to take.

If you look at the story about this woman and maybe the man, too, who got radicalized, self-radicalized, we're going to need help from Facebook and from YouTube and from Twitter. They cannot permit the recruitment and the actual direction of attacks or the celebration of violence by this sophisticated Internet user.

They're going to have to help us take down these announcements and these appeals—[crosstalk]—they get up.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about Apple? No more encryption?

CLINTON: This is something I've said for a long time, George. I have to believe that the best minds in the private sector, in the public sector could come together to help us deal with this evolving threat. And you know, I know what the argument is from our friends in the industry. I respect that. Nobody wants to be feeling like their privacy is invaded.

But I also know what the argument is on the other side from law enforcement and security professionals. So, please, let's get together and try to figure out the best way forward.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Some of your potential rivals on the Republican side say we have to do more overseas as well. Ted Cruz says we have to carpet bomb ISIS.

CLINTON: Well, that's an easy thing to say, you know. He's never had any responsibility for trying to figure out who the bad guys are and who innocent civilians are. Clearly we have to have a much more robust air campaign against ISIS targets, against the oil infrastructure, against their leadership. I think you'll hear that from the president. And part of what I have been arguing for, for quite some time now, is that we've got to do a better job of getting back the Sunnis on the ground, along with the Kurds, who can be the fighters who will actually take back territory with air cover and with targeted attacks on ISIS infrastructure. We still are going to have to have people fighting.

Now I do not believe those should be American combat troops—[crosstalk]

STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely not; is that an absolute—

CLINTON: Where I sit right now, I think it would make things worse not better; I do believe we have to up our special ops numbers. The 50 that have been authorized need to get there. And then we need to take stock of what else we need. I think the more than 3,000 Americans that we have on the ground in Iraq, who are advising, assisting and enabling the Iraqi military have to be given the flexibility and support they need.

And I believe strongly we should perhaps ask some of our current and retired military officers, who dealt with the Sunni sheikhs in Anbar and elsewhere to once again reconstitute the fighting force that they put into the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

And that was one of my biggest complaints about Maliki, because what he did was to basically not only destroy the military because of his sectarianism but also he went after those Sunni leaders in Anbar and we know from reporting that some of them are supportive of ISIS, some of the former Ba'ath military officers under Saddam Hussein.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, some of your Republican rivals have also criticized you for focusing on gun control after the San Bernardino attacks. Marco Rubio points out that France has some of the strictest gun control in the world. That didn't stop the Paris attacks.

California has some of the strictest gun control laws here. It didn't stop those attacks, either.

So what law would have stopped this?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, what happened in San Bernardino was a terrorist act. Nobody is arguing with that. The law enforcement, FBI have come to that conclusion. And let's not forget, though, a week before we had an American assault on Planned Parenthood and some weeks before that we had an assault at a community college.

So I don't see these two as in anyway contradictory. We have to up our game against terrorists abroad and at home and we have to take account of the fact that our gun laws and the easy access to those guns by people who shouldn't get them, mentally ill people, fugitives, felons and the Congress continuing to refuse to prohibit people on the no-fly list from getting guns, which include a lot of domestic and international terrorists, these are two parts of the same approach that I'm taking to make us safe.

And, yes, the NRA's position always is, you know, if you can't stop everything, why try to stop anything? That's not the way law works. I mean, we have laws that are going to govern our speed limits on roads, knowing some people are going to violate it or people are going to drive drunk. But we still have laws. We need to have comprehensive background checks. We need to close the gun show loophole, close the online loophole, go after what's call the Charleston loophole and end the liability for gun sellers.

STEPHANOPOULOS: On this no-fly list, the critics of that vote say that you know, you look back at this; it's indiscriminate and they go back 10 years and say 2,000 people on the watch list actually did buy guns; government hasn't found any of them committing a crime with a gun.

CLINTON: Well, again, that's like proving the negative. We have a list; if you are on that list and you believe you should not be on that list, we have a process to actually raise your objections about being on that list.

You get on the list because there is some credible evidence you belong on the list. Now obviously, that—

STEPHANOPOULOS: Some mistakes sometimes.

CLINTON:—some mistakes, of course. That's why there's a process for people to be able to raise their concerns about being on the list and then to have a process that could even lead to a legal action to remove yourself from the list.

But I, for one, am a lot—I took the shuttle from New York. I'm a lot happier having a list that keeps people off planes that there's any question about their intent or their potential behavior.

So I'm not—I can't take anybody seriously who's going to begin to chip away at the no-fly list.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Donald Trump and yesterday Jerry Falwell Jr. say the answer is for more good people to have guns. Mr. Falwell urged his students at Liberty University to actually arm themselves, get concealed carry permits.

Your response?

CLINTON: Well, he also went on—and don't forget he said this, George. He said, that way, we can take out the Muslims.

He said that, OK?

This is the kind of deplorable, not only hateful response to a legitimate security issue but it is giving aid and comfort to ISIS and other radical jihadists.

With respect to the gun issue, it' s legal to buy guns in America if you are eligible to buy a gun, you can go buy a gun and hundreds of thousands of people apparently are in the aftermath of what happened in San Bernardino.

I just want people to understand some of the threats we now face, whether it's the guy in Charleston, who should have never have been given a gun but the universal background check was not fast enough, didn't find the fact he was prohibited, went into the church and killed nine innocent people, we should be able to approach both of these with some sense of, you know, unity about how we prevent terrorist attacks and how we prevent the wrong people from getting a hold of guns.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We have to take a quick break. Stand by. Much more from Secretary Clinton later. Another live exclusive, one of the men by the taker on from a Florida governor, Jeb Bush.

[commercial break]

[begin video clip]

JEB BUSH: I think you're looking at the next Republican nominee. And here's—and here's what I promised to you, should I win this nomination I will take it to Hillary Clinton and I will whoop her.

[end video clip]

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jeb Bush there. Hillary Clinton here right now.

And as he's hoping, he's going to come up live in just a little bit hoping to take you on in the general election if you get the nomination.

I want to get into some of the issues that may come up in a general election. One of the things you're seeing Republicans really take aim at is your spending and investment programs.


STEPHANOPOULOS: On the show right here, proposed about $1 trillion...

CLINTON: Over 10 years.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Over 10 years in spending proposals that a lot of questions on whether you can actually pay for it by focusing tax increases only on the top 3 percent. Here's a Washington Post editorial. They say there is simply no way that the federal government can meet its current fiscal commitments plus the increased demands of an aging population and provide the new forms of middle class relief and business tax relief Mrs. Clinton promises while tapping only the top 3 percent of earners. Your response?

CLINTON: Well, I just respectfully disagree. And that's why I've laid out very specific plans about the kind of investments that I think Middle Class families particularly need that we have to have to, you know, grow our economy. And I've been very specific about how I will pay for each of those. And that is part of the, you know, underlying principle of presenting the...[crosstalk]

But I think it's a little bit amusing that the Republican National Committee would go after me, since all of their candidates and their party philosophy is massive spending cuts and massive tax decreases for those at the very top with no thought to how to pay for it or the trillions of dollars it would add to the national debt, you know.

I do come from the Clinton school of economics. And when my husband ended, we had a balanced budget and a surplus. Then President Obama inherited the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. I don't think he gets the credit he deserves for digging us out.

So, we're standing. And now we've got to start moving into the future again. It is going to take good fiscal responsibility, that's what I'm promising. But I'm also promising that the wealthy are going to start paying more of their fair share and help to fund some of the investments that I'm paying for.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They're also saying no tax increases at all anyone earning under $250,000. Is that a rock solid "read my lips" promise?

CLINTON: Well, it certainly is my goal. And I've laid it out in this campaign. And it's something that President Obama promised. It's something my husband certainly tried to achieve, because I want Americans to know that I get it, that a lot of the losses that they experienced because of the great recession are still really pulling them down.

You know, $13 trillion in family wealth was destroyed by the great recession. People lost their homes, their 401(k)s and IRAs, their college funds. So, we've got to rebuild the middle class. If we expect to have broad based prosperity, that doesn't come from...

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, it's your goal, but what if you can't get the revenue in other ways. What if the spending comes in more than it is. Will you then raise taxes?

CLINTON: You know, George, I'm going to tell you what I'm going to do. And I'm going to continue to stick with what I'm going to do. $100 billion a year in these new investments all paid for I think is a responsible approach to getting our economy creating good jobs again.

You know, I have an infrastructure plan that's on top of what the congress just passed.

So, I'm going to go out there and I'm going to defend what I'm doing. And I'm also really going to defend the Middle Class, because a lot of these proposals would have a very bad effect. Either it would raise taxes on the Middle Class or it would undermine the kind of growth and structure that we need for the Middle Class to take off again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Another challenge you could face in this campaign, a majority of Americans question your honesty. Some GOP rivals and family members of the Benghazi victims are saying you lied to them in that hearing.

They point to emails that you sent the night of the attack, one to your daughter, Chelsea Clinton, saying—I'm going to have to put my glasses on here to actually read this. "We were silent...two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an al Qaeda-like group." Another one to the Egyptian prime minister, "we know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack, not a protest."

But the family members, as you know, say you told them it was by a filmmaker, you'd go after the filmmaker. Here's what they said.

[begin video clip]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She lied. She absolutely lied. Her daughter was able to be told differently that it was not the video, it was something else. Now if her daughter could be told, why can't I?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Either she was lying to the prime minister, or she was lying to me and to the American public. [end video clip]

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you tell them it was not the film? And what's your response?


You know, look I understand the continuing grief at the loss that parents experienced with the loss of these four brave Americans. And I did testify, as you know, for 11 hours. And I answered all of these questions.

Now, I can't—I can't help it the people think there has to be something else there. I said very clearly there had been a terrorist group that had taken responsibility on Facebook between the time that I—you know, when I talked to my daughter, that was the latest information. We were giving it credibility. And then we learned the next day it wasn't true. In fact, they retracted it.

This was a fast moving series of events in the fog of war. And I think most Americans understand.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about more generally. Do you think there's something you can do to get a majority of Americans to believe you're trustworthy?

CLINTON: Well, you know, obviously I don't like hearing that, George. But I think people who have worked with me, people who voted for me twice in New York, people who I've had a very long relationship with and working on their behalf are going to know what I do and when I say I will do it I will move everything I can to get it done.

And I believe the American people who are looking for somebody who is a fighter, who will stand up there, just as I did, tell you what I will do, tell you I will do everything to make it happen. And I think my values have been consistent over the years. And the results that I've gotten are ones that I'm going to take to the American public.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Immigration going to be a big issue in this campaign?

In the past, you've said that undocumented immigrants would not be covered by your health care proposals. Here's an exchange we had in 2007.

[begin video clip]

STEPHANOPOULOS: Would illegal immigrants be covered under your plan?

CLINTON: Illegal immigrants would not be covered. No. They would not be covered. I will continue to have a safety net, which I think is in the best traditions of our country and also for public health reasons absolutely necessary.

But we did not cover them in '93, '94 and my plan does not cover them now.

[end video clip]

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now you say that undocumented immigrants should be able to buy into the exchanges. So why the shift?

CLINTON: Well, because number one the kind of plan that was passed in the Affordable Care Act gives you a market-based way of getting into the insurance market. So, if you can afford to buy a policy, you can. You don't get, however, any of the subsidies that American citizens get.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Martin O'Malley says they should. Why not?

CLINTON: Well, I disagree with him. I think part of comprehensive immigration reform should be looking at all of these issues. But as things stand right now, under the Affordable Care Act, if you have the money and you are undocumented, you can buy into it, but without the subsidies. That's why it's important we continue to support community health centers, we continue to support our hospitals because those are often the places that undocumented people and poor people go.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And what's the reason for not going further?

CLINTON: Because I don't think legally you can. I mean, that is not something that we can legally support. The law is very clear about that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Donald Trump. Last few days he's opened up—you're laughing again.

CLINTON: I'm sorry. I can't help it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He's opening up a new line of attack on you. Here it is.

CLINTON: Oh, dear. A new one, huh?

[begin video clip]

TRUMP: She'll do a couple of minutes in Iowa, meaning a short period of time, and then she goes home and you don't see her for five, six days, she goes home, she goes to sleep. I'm telling you. She...[laughter]...she doesn't have the strength, she doesn't have the stamina.

[end video clip]

CLINTON: Oh, goodness gracious. [laughter] You know...

STEPHANOPOULOS: I guess you don't agree.

CLINTON: Well, who can agree with anything he says that is, you know, subject to one second of fact checking?

Look, if he gets the nomination, I will be more than happy to campaign against him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is he the one you want to run against?

CLINTON: I don't really think about it that way. I don't have any influence over who they nominate over there and, in fact, he's not the only one saying things that are deeply distressing. A lot of the others are kind of Trump 2, you know?

Oh, whatever Trump says, maybe we won't go quite as far, but we'll get as close as we can.

So the Republicans, in their presidential nominating process, have a lot to answer for.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you explain why he's doing so well?

CLINTON: I don't know, because he's a—he's a reality TV star. I mean tens of millions of people have watched him for more than a decade on TV and he is part of the celebrity and he will stay whatever he wants to say and if he's held account, that—it's not true, he just brushes it off and he goes on. And I think that, you know, there's a certain attractiveness to people that here's a guy who says exactly what he believes, untrue as it may be, inflammatory as it certainly is.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, you said you're getting better at learning from your critics. They tell you things that your friends won't.

So what have you learned from your critics in this campaign?

CLINTON: You know, I've said for a long time, George, that I try—I try to take criticism seriously but not personally. And by that I mean, look, if somebody says, hey, you know, you didn't do—or she didn't do a good job answering this or, you know, I don't think that that, you know, adds up, whatever they might say, I will take that seriously.

But I really try not to take it personally and I think that's a big distinction that you have to begin to draw when you're in the public arena. You know, one of my favorite Americans, Eleanor Roosevelt, said for any woman in the public arena, you have to grow skin as thick as a rhinoceros and, you know, I try to put lotion on it, but I have...[laughter]...I've had to grow a lot of thick skin over the years.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks for joining us today.

CLINTON: Thanks, George.

Hillary Clinton, Interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News' "This Week" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/312806

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