Hillary Clinton photo

Interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN

September 17, 2015

BLITZER: When they we're not turning on one another, the Republican hopefuls took turns turn—targeting Hillary Clinton in last night's debate.

In a CNN exclusive, the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, joins us now live.

This is her first live interview from the campaign trail.

Madam Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.

CLINTON: Great to talk to you, Wolf.

I'm in Laconia, New Hampshire.

BLITZER: It's a lovely place. I'm sure you're going to be spending a lot of the time there, Iowa, among other states.

If—you took—you certainly did take a lot of fire from the Republicans at the CNN debate last night. I assume you watched it, especially from the lone female candidate up on the stage, Carly Fiorina.

She said if you want to stump a Democrat, she said, ask them about Hillary Clinton's accomplishments as secretary of State.

If you were on that debate stage with her, what would you say was your number one accomplishment as secretary of State?

CLINTON: You know, Wolf, I didn't get to see all of their debate, but I saw enough of it to know that this is just the usual back and forth political attacks, the kinds of things you say when you're on a debate stage and you really don't have much else to say.

I didn't hear anything from any of them about how they're going to make college more affordable or get down student debt, or get equal pay for equal work for women, what they're going to do to make sure that we deal with the challenges of raising incomes for hardworking people.

So I don't really pay a lot of attention to this kind of rhetoric that heats up the debate stage. They're all trying to vie for more attention from, obviously, the Republican Party. I'm going to let them decide how best to do it.

But if anybody is interested, you know, there's a long list about what I have done and I'm very proud of it. You can read my book, "Hard Choices," read about how I negotiated a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. You can read about how I put together the coalition that led to international sanctions against Iran. You can read about what I did when I was first lady to get the children's health insurance program, or as senator, working across the aisle on issues like getting better health care for our veterans.

You know, this is just the silly season. I am looking forward to eventually debating on that stage whoever they finally nominate once they get around to doing that.

BLITZER: All right, so listen to what Carly Fiorina also said, Madam Secretary, about some controversial videos opposing Planned Parenthood, an organization you support.

Listen to this.

[begin video clip]

CARLY FIORINA, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, to watch these tapes, watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

This is about the character of our nation.

[end video clip]

BLITZER: All right, Planned Parenthood...

CLINTON: You know, of course not...

BLITZER:?—says that video doesn't depict—Madam Secretary, hold on. I just want to explain.

CLINTON: That's right.

BLITZER: Planned Parenthood says the video doesn't depict an aborted fetus. They says—they said that was from a miscarriage, it had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood.

This is an organization, though, you support.

First of all, have you seen those very, very controversial videos?

CLINTON: Well, Wolf, let's—let's break down what's happening here, because I think it's important. I know that there's a move on by some of the Republicans in the Congress to actually shut down the United States government over their demand that we no longer give federal funding to Planned Parenthood to perform the really necessary health services that they do for millions of women.

So let's put aside for a moment here that there is no debate and there should be absolutely no argument that Planned Parenthood does cancer screenings, it helps provide family planning and contraceptive advice, it works to provide, you know, some of the most difficult kinds of counseling when it comes to giving an HIV test, for example.

What this is about is the fact that some of the Planned Parenthood facilities perform abortions, which is legal under the laws of the United States.

I understand that the Republican Party and particularly the candidates we heard from last night, wish that were not the case, wish that abortion were illegal and they could turn the clock back.

So I think we ought to be very clear that Planned Parenthood has served to provide health care, necessary health care for millions of women. And I think it deserves not only our support, but the continuing funding from the federal government so that these women and girls who are seeking the kinds of services that are provided will be able to achieve that.

BLITZER: All right, have you—are you confident that Planned Parenthood, Madam Secretary, or any of its affiliated groups, if you will, haven't violated any federal laws?

CLINTON: Well, Wolf, let me tell you what I know, and that is there is a—a willingness on the part of Planned Parenthood to answer questions. They have been doing so. Some people may not want to hear the answers, but they have certainly put those answers out there into the public arena.

And if the issue—the core issue that some on the stage last night or some in the Congress are trying to promote or trying to raise questions about has to do with the kind of research that is done legally in the United States, then that is an issue that goes far beyond any Planned Parenthood example.

So I—I think it's important to sort out—there's a lot of emotion. There's a lot of accusations that are being hurled about. I think it's important to sort out and try to actually figure out what is going on. If it's the services that they are trying to shut down, like providing family planning or breast cancer screenings, that is just wrong and women deserve to be given support to get those services provided.

If they want to shut down the legal provision of abortion services, then they've got a bigger problem, because, obviously, they—Planned Parenthood does not use federal dollars to do that.

And if they are more focused on the research that is going on, then that's a set of issues that certainly is not only about Planned Parenthood.

So I—I would hope...

BLITZER: But a...

CLINTON:?—that the Republicans, and particularly the Republicans in the House, led by Speaker Boehner, would not put our country and our economy in peril pursuing some kind of emotionally politically charged partisan attack on Planned Parenthood to shut our government down.

BLITZER: All right...

CLINTON: I think that would be a very, very unfortunate decision.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk about another source of criticism you received last night, this one from the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie. He said at the debate, you can't tell the American people the truth. Those are his words about your email, whole controversy. He says you should be prosecuted for having a server in your basement. [laughter]

He says with national security secrets running through it. He says Russians, Chinese, even 18-year-olds could have hacked into your server.

You—you think that was possible, that they hacked into your server?

CLINTON: There's no evidence of that. And, again, this is—you know, this is overheated rhetoric, baseless charges trying to somehow, you know, gain a footing in the debate and in the primary. And it really doesn't deserve any comment.

BLITZER: It took you a long time to say you're sorry about what happened, the mistakes you made in organizing that server to begin with.

Why did it take so long?

CLINTON: Well, you know, I was trying to explain, uh, what had happened and obviously it was clear that I should have used two different email accounts and I said that that was a mistake, I'm sorry, I've taken responsibility.

But I've also, for more than a year now, been asking to testify before the Congressional committee that is investigating the situation in Benghazi, they would not let me appear.

Finally—and I'm very happy about this—I will be appearing, toward the end of October, and I will look forward to answer all their questions.

I'm trying to be as transparent as possible. That's why people are reading the contents of the emails that are being released. It's why I've turned over my server. It's why I will testify.

BLITZER: You've dismissed Donald Trump's campaign as entertainment, suggested, in part, he's not really serious. But the top Republican candidate right now, Donald Trump, and, for that matter, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, they're all political outsiders and your main Democratic opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, he's pulling ahead in some of these polls in New Hampshire and Iowa. He's running as an outsider, as well.

So how do you deal with that?

Why is Bernie Sanders, for example, ahead of you in these polls in New Hampshire and Iowa right now?

CLINTON: Well, I—I've said for a long time, polls are going to go up, they're going to go down. I'm very confident and very comfortable about our strategy. I feel that our campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, all the early states, and now we're moving on to the states that come after, are really coming together well.

I'm excited by the level and intensity of the support that I have. So I always thought this would be a competitive election. I'm looking forward to it. This is an important job. This is the most important job not only in our country, but in the world. And people have to fight hard. They have to make their case and they have to earn the votes of the American voters.

BLITZER: You sat next to Joe Biden when you were the secretary of State for four years. He's been the vice president of the United States now for almost seven years, a heartbeat away from the presidency.

If he does decide to run, will you be able to tell the American people that you're more qualified to be president than he is?

CLINTON: Well, Wolf, I'm not going to comment on a hypothetical and I'm certainly not going to comment on my good friend and former colleague. He has to make up his own mind about what's best for him and his family, as he wrestles with his choice.

But I will tell the American people I believe that my set of experiences, my plans for the future, my vision for what America should be, what I've already told voters I would do on everything from making college affordable to paying down student debt to tackling climate change by making us the clean energy superpower, dealing with substance abuse and addiction, like I did here in New Hampshire today.

I have a very comprehensive agenda that I think address the very issues that Americans are talking to me about. And I know that having been around the presidency, both as the first lady in the '90s and then as a member of President Obama's cabinet, working with other presidents, as a senator and even in private life, I feel very confident that I'm the right person at the right time to lead our country to deal with the growing issues around incomes that are not raising enough money for people to feel they've got a better future, about the kind of jobs we need more of, about how more workers get to share in the productivity by sharing the profits of what they helped produce.

I'm the one out there talking very specifically about what I would do because I want to run a campaign that lays out my agenda, because when I get elected, I'm going to start working on it immediately.

BLITZER: I know—I know your time is limited. A quick question, are you ready to tell Democrats, indeed, the American public today, that you're ready to accept more Democratic presidential debates than already scheduled?

You're under pressure to do so.

CLINTON: Well, Wolf, I have said from the very beginning, I look forward to debating. I look forward to the debate, you know, next month, you know, now just a month away. And I will certainly show up anywhere the Democratic National Committee tells us to show up, because I want us to have a good exchange of ideas and to make sure that Democratic voters first, and then general voters to follow, see exactly what we each stand for and what our positions are.

So, you know, I—I am ready and willing, no matter what they decide to show up and be there.

BLITZER: Are you ready to ask the DNC to authorize more Democratic presidential debates?

CLINTON: That's up to them. They can, you know, they made their decision. But I have made it clear that if they want to do more, I'm happy to do them.

BLITZER: Clearly, you're influential, though, with the DNC. And if you want more debates, I'm sure that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC, would—would go ahead.

Let me ask you one final question before I let you go.

You've praised your husband as a great president.

So let me ask you this.

Would you be a better president than Bill Clinton was as president of the United States? [laughter]

CLINTON: Oh, Wolf, you know, that—that's one of those questions that I cannot and will not answer. I will say this. I think if you look at the last 35 years, actually, if you go back further, I think it's pretty indisputable that having a Democrat in the White House is good for our economy, better for our economy than the alternative.

I think my husband understood that and produced. I think President Obama inherited a—a really big and dangerous mess and has, you know, been able to get us out of that ditch.

So I'm not running for my husband's third term. I'm certainly not running for President Obama's third term. I'm running for my first term.

But I do believe that both of them understood what it would take to try to clean up the messes they inherited from their Republican predecessors and begin to get the economy and the country working again for everybody.

And that's exactly the kind of president I will be, as well.

BLITZER: Madam Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.

Good luck out there on the campaign trail.

We'll look forward to covering you. We'll look forward to covering, obviously, all of those Democratic presidential debates, as well.

Thanks very much for joining us.

CLINTON: Thank you so much, Wolf.

Good to talk to you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Related Images

Hillary Clinton, Interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/312784

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