Hillary Clinton photo

Interview with Jake Tapper of CNN's "State of the Union"

February 07, 2016

TAPPER: Some breaking news now: CNN will host a Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan, on March 6, just two days before that state's primary. Hillary Clinton is actually going to leave the campaign trail here in New Hampshire to visit Flint, Michigan, today. But, first, she's right here... [laughter] ... right next to me, live. Secretary Clinton, thanks so much for being here.

CLINTON: Well, Jake, congratulations on doing the debate in Flint. It's really important we keep the spotlight on this problem. And you're right. I'm leaving here. I'm going to Flint. The mayor asked me to come. They're trying to, you know, really have a lot of support, because we hope that there will be some good news coming out of Congress in the next few days. And it's just — it's an issue that I don't want people to forget about. Because it's not the only Flint in our country.

TAPPER: Right.

CLINTON: There are other places where these kinds of toxins, lead, other sorts of pollutants are really affecting people's lives. And I'm just not going to give up on this.

TAPPER: Can I ask you a question? Just a clarification of what you think needs to be done in term of the people there...


TAPPER: ... who need water and need infrastructure built.


TAPPER: You have called for the citizens of Michigan, the State of Michigan to be billed, but you're also supporting this bill from senators Stabenow and Peters from Michigan that would make it a federal payment.


TAPPER: Do you think that it should be a state issue in terms of the money paying for Flint, or should it be a federal issue?

CLINTON: It should be both and partly because there's a broad set of needs that have to be addressed. Yes, the infrastructure must be repaired and modernized. Yes, we do have to get emergency means in to get water, get the kind of nutritional support. You know, I know something about lead poisoning because of work I've done in the past and —

TAPPER: With the Children's Defense Fund?

CLINTON: Well, and as a senator from New York. We had a lot of, you know, old housing with lead paint in it. A lot of kids suffered from lead poisoning. And part of the challenge is you've got to intervene early. We need comprehensive health screenings. Then we need to figure out how do we get the right nutrition and vitamins. You've got to begin to work to counteract the lead. Then we've got to get the educational, additional help that kids need. This is a big deal, because it's not only about fixing the infrastructure, but it's also about the future. How we're going to take care of these kids going forward. So there's a lot of work to be done. And I think it has to be both the state and a federal responsibility.

TAPPER: You know, what's really so upsetting is as you know, just a little bit of lead can cause permanent damage.

CLINTON: There is no — there is no acceptable level of lead for kids.

TAPPER: Yes. Exactly.


TAPPER: So according to what we know now, the state knew, at least in February — and the federal EPA knew at least in April, and yet it wasn't until months, months later. So obviously, this is a failing on the local level. But do you also think it's a failing by the EPA?

CLINTON: Well, I think it has to be absolutely investigated to figure out what happened. Why wasn't this sounding alarms everywhere? And I don't want to prejudge it. I don't know what the answer to that question is. I'm focused on OK, what do we do now? The damage has been done. How do we mitigate that damage? How do we help alleviate both intellectual and the physical, lasting consequences that children face when they've been poisoned by lead? So I'm trying to look at the future. I know there will be a lot of people focusing on what happened and that's really important, because we do have to, you know, open this inquiry more broadly. You know, I've said that we've got places in our country where we have asthma rates at 500 times higher, killing, you know, young children of color than anybody else because of where they live and what they're exposed to. You know, our children's health should be the highest priority for our country, and so anything I can do, and I'll keep doing it to really beat the drums on this but to ask people hey, let's look everywhere. You know, Flint — we've got to help flint. It's a terrible, horrible set of circumstances.

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

CLINTON: But we also have to be looking at other places to try to make sure that this doesn't happen to other kids.

TAPPER: So I can't help but notice it's also the New Hampshire primaries coming up in two day.

CLINTON: Oh, it is? [laughter]

TAPPER: So just to move to politics for one second. Your family has a long history here. You obviously won here in 2008. Your husband staged his comeback here in 1992. Can you win here? Is it possible that you can win here?

CLINTON: I don't know. I don't know. I'm just going to work as hard as I can. I love the New Hampshire primary. I love it because the interactions you have with voters in every setting is so rewarding, and voters in this state take a first, second, third, fourth look at you. They're constantly evaluating. I have been telling voters across the state, this is the biggest job interview in the world. You've got to really think hard about what the job is, who can be president, who can be commander in chief, and then you have to really judge us. And I don't know what's going to happen. I know I'm behind. I am in very good spirits about that because I love the process.

TAPPER: So you said the other night at the — I forget if it was the debate or the town hall, they all run together in my mind, but you said one of them that nobody can point to an example where you took money from a group...


TAPPER: ... and changed your vote. The Sanders campaign afterwards sent out an excerpt from a book from Elizabeth Warren in which she suggests that you took $140,000.00 from the banking interests, and as a result, according to Warren, not me, changed your vote on the bankruptcy bill.

CLINTON: Right. Right.

TAPPER: Now I want — I would love it if you would address the substance of the allegation. And also the fact that Sanders' campaign sent it out, but Sanders himself backed off from making the charge himself.

CLINTON: Well. that's their — that's their typical, you know, artistic smear. You know, the campaign sends out something, gets people riled up, and then they say oh no, we're running a positive campaign. Enough. OK, I'm glad you raised this, because I really do want to get this record straight once and for all. I worked with Senator Warren with whom I have the highest regard, in 2000 to stop a very bad bankruptcy bill. And then when I got to the Senate in 2001, early on, there was going to be a vote on another bankruptcy bill. I was deluged — now as a senator, not as a first lady lobbying and working against this bill, I was deluged by women's groups and children's groups because the version of the bill that was going to be voted on did not protect child support, did not protect vulnerable women and their children from what would happen to them if their partner, their spouse went into bankruptcy and was able to discharge those obligations. And, you know, literally, people I had worked with for 30 years came and said nobody else will do this. You've got to help us. We've got to change that provision. I took that on. And I went to the floor. And I buttonholed the Democrats and the Republicans who were leading that bill. I said, you can't do this. You've got to change that provision. And they did. But they also put it to me. They said, if we change this provision, you have to vote for the bill. Now, that's what happens sometimes. I didn't like the bill any more than I had liked it before. It still had very bad provision. But I also pushed hard for a deal to protect women and children. So OK, I held my nose. I voted for it. It never became law. When it came back in 2005, I was against it. I didn't actually get to vote against it because Bill was in the hospital with another heart procedure, but I put out a statement on the floor. You can look at what I said in 2001. You can look at what I said in 2005. And so I'm glad to set this record straight. You know, but this kind of attack by innuendo, insinuation is really getting old. You know, hey can't point to anything. They are grabbing at straws to make this case. But let's ask Senator Sanders' campaign, why did he vote to deregulate swaps and derivatives? One of the key reasons for the Lehman brothers being over leveraged, collapsing and helping to bring down the economy. You know, this is a debate that we should be having about what our public records are and where we stand. I have the toughest, most effective campaign plan to take on the entire financial industry. I don't understand why he doesn't join me. Because it goes a lot further than anything he is proposing. We have to look at the shadow banking industry. Everybody knows where I stand on this. So I think we should end with the smear and the insinuation and talk about our respective plans.

TAPPER: A lot of your supporters were very upset this last week when some older male pundits suggested that you are a shouter. Now, I would observe — I would observe that Bernie Sanders doesn't exactly talk in a whisper. But that said, do you think that — do you think that the coverage of you is sexist? Do you think that when male pundits say things like that, they have a different standard for you?

CLINTON: And I don't want to single anybody out, Jake. Look, we are still living with a double standard and I know it. Every woman I know knows it. Whether you're in the media as a woman, or you're in the professions or business or politics. And I don't know anything other to do than to just keep forging through it and just taking the slings and arrows that come with being a woman in the arena. You know, sometimes I talk soft. Sometimes I get passionate and I get a little bit excited. I don't know any man who doesn't do the same thing. And I find it sort of interesting that all of a sudden this is a big discussion about me, once again. I'm so used to this. I'm going to keep making my case. I'm going to keep talking about what I will do as president. I'm going to keep laying out my record. Because I think it's really important that this election be actually about who can do the job that needs to be done starting in January of 2017.

TAPPER: Last question, madam secretary. How has this experience of running for president changed you, if it has?

CLINTON: You know, I think the most amazing learning experience. And having gone through this now twice, I think I am a different person than I was back in '08. I think that the experience I had as secretary of state has given me a perspective and an understanding of a lot of the issues that is deep and gives me the confidence to know that I can do every part of the job. But you run at different points in a country's, you know, thinking. And right now we're at a time when people are on both sides, Republicans, Democrats, right, left, people are really worried that our economy isn't working for them, that our government isn't working for them. And that's causing a lot of the anger and the frustration. I totally get that. I feel it. You know, things have been going on that are just wrong. These Supreme Court decisions against voting rights, Citizens United — those are dramatically altering the balance of power in our country. The great recession, for which there were a number of causes, but you have to look at the failure of the Bush administration to regulate what was going on in the financial and mortgage markets. People deserve to be upset. But what I'm saying — and maybe it's not the most popular theme these days. You know, get angry, vent, but then realize anger is not a plan and venting is not a strategy, and we have work to do. And I'm confident we can do that work. But we're going to have to roll up our sleeves and say OK, we've got to make sure the economy works for everybody, not just those at the top. Here's my plan for jobs and raising incomes. We've got to make sure the Affordable Care Act gets the cost down, but gets coverage to 100 percent. Here's what I can do about that. Let's have a discussion about what you would be thinking if you were conducting a job interview. OK, I've got the experience, I've got the passion. And here's what I'm going to do with it. And that's what I think the country needs, because people are just whipping them up. I mean, on the Republican side, all of this rhetoric, this demagoguery, which plays to the fears and the insecurities that people feel. And I just think that's not who we are. We are the premier problem-solvers of human history. We've got to get back to doing that together.

TAPPER: All right, Madam Secretary. We'll see you on the campaign trail. Good luck on Tuesday.

CLINTON: I'll be there. Thank you.

TAPPER: Thanks so much for stopping by. Appreciate it.

CLINTON: Nice to talk to you.

Hillary Clinton, Interview with Jake Tapper of CNN's "State of the Union" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/312389

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