Hillary Clinton photo

Remarks in a "Let the Conversation Begin Webcast"

January 22, 2007

SENATOR CLINTON: Hi, everyone, and welcome to our first online web chat. We've got a lot to talk about tonight. But first I want to thank you for the great response we've been getting since we started the campaign on Saturday.

You know, it's amazing how new technology can bring so many of us together. We've already got a lot of questions to answer. So let's get started. I probably should dispose of the most important question. This is really for my brothers. They are fanatic Chicago Bears fans, so go Bears. What can I say? They said, if you're going to talk to anybody, you gotta well root them on.

I want you to meet Crystal Patterson. Crystal is going to be our campaign blogger. Tonight she is going to be letting me know your questions. So, let the conversation begin. Crystal, what is the first question?

CRYSTAL PATTERSON: The first question is from Barbara in Massachusetts. What can I say to people who say this country isn't ready for a woman president?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, Barbara, I hope you'll tell them, number one, we won't know until we try. Every time we've broken any barriers, that's always required people to take a bit of a leap of faith because it hasn't baseball done before. But I am fully confident that there are many women in our country who are equipped and ready to lead just as has happened in other countries around the world.

But I'm doing this because I believe I would be the best candidate and the best president. I'm not looking for people who say, well, I'm going to vote for her just because she's a woman. But I do think it's important that we try to demonstrate that women are fully capable of serving at the highest level in our government, and obviously, I'm going to be asking people to give me the honor of that.

CRYSTAL PATTERSON: Our next question is from Carolyn in New York. Carolyn asks, where do you stand on the Iraq war? Knowing what you know today, do you regret your vote of endorsement to go into Iraq in the first place? I would love to support you, but these issues are very important to me and many others.

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, they're very important to me as well. There's nothing more important, and you know, ever since I became a Senator from New York, your state and mine, I have worried about 9/11 and terrorism and Afghanistan and Iraq. I have said many times that, if we had known then, when the president came to the Congress to ask for authority to pursue what he said would be an effort to contain Saddam Hussein and put inspectors in to make sure that he didn't have weapons of mass destruction, if we had known everything that we now know, the president would never have asked for such authority, and the Congress would never have voted to give it to him. And I certainly would not have voted to do so.

But all these years later, we are faced with a very dangerous situation, and what I've tried to focus on, starting, you know, shortly after the invasion, when I began pointing out the problem saw and raising questions about the policy that was being pursued from my position on the armed Armed Services Committee, we have to make better decisions now than this President was made in the past. That's why I went again, my third trip to Afghanistan and Iraq last weekend, and I tried to make my own assessment. And when I returned, I reaffirmed my opposition to the President's strategy of escalation, putting March American troops into Baghdad, into Iraq.

Instead, I think we should cap the number of troops, and we should begin to put real conditions on the Iraqi government. I've said, look, I don't want to cut money for American troops. I've been to too many events and places like our military hospital in Germany, where I stopped on the way back, where I met with our wounded servicemen and women. I don't want to do anything that in any way undercuts their ability to protect themselves and to do what they need to do in the combat arenas where they are being placed.

But I do think we should threaten to cut the funding for the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police force and the security for the Iraqi leaders, which we pay for, unless they make some of the decisions that we've been expecting them to make for a number of years. I don't understand why this president has given them such a blank check, and I think we need to make clear there is no open-ended commitment.

We need a phased redeployment of our troops. We need to try to bring them home as safely and as soon as it is possible. But let me add that America does have some remaining very vital security interests. The Al Qaeda in Iraq, they weren't there before, they are there now. They pose a threat not only to our troops in Iraq but to our friends in the region and even to us here at home. We have to make sure we do everything we can to try to prevent them from using their horrendous terrorist tactics against Americans and against other innocent people.

We also need to try to prevent Iran from expanding its influence in Iraq and in the region. And prevent its continuing effort to obtain a nuclear weapon which would be so dangerous not only to the region but also to Israel and our country and really to the stability of the world. So, yes, I would certainly, you know, wish that we didn't have the situation we face now, but I'm going to continue to do what I can to try to be as responsible as possible to get our troops home but also to deal with the dangers that have been unleashed there.

CRYSTAL PATTERSON: Our next question is from Kim in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Senator Clinton, how does New Orleans rank on your list of priorities, and what are your plans for bringing New Orleans and the Gulf Coast back?

SENATOR CLINTON: It ranks very high. I spent many years having a wonderful life in Arkansas, and my husband and I used to go to New Orleans. And so I've walked those streets. I have had many friends who have lived and worked in New Orleans. When I went down to visit after the horrors of Katrina and Rita, I was just heartbroken to see the devastation.

I don't believe that this president and our government have responded as I would want them to. They have not put in the effort, the money, the attention, and focus that the people in New Orleans and in the surrounding parishes and along the Gulf Coast deserve. So this is a high priority for me.

You know, it's really unimaginable that our country would turn its back on the people who suffered so much. These are our fellow Americans. Many of them don't feel they can even go back home, and I meet people all the time who they themselves and their families are still dislocated.

It's tragic that we had such a poorly organized half-hearted response continue to this day to fail the people in the Gulf Coast area. So I'm going to do everything I can, first from my position as Senator, and then, I hope, as your President, to try to make good to the people who have unfortunately been so disappointed and let down.

CRYSTAL PATTERSON: Our next question is from Matty in New York. Matty says, I am a 14-year-old class president from Armonk, New York. I have an interest in politics and one day aspire to be President. My question is what made you so inspirational, and why do you believe you should be President?

SENATOR CLINTON: Matty, you live very near where Bill and I live in Chappaqua. You're just right up the road.

There's no guide book for someone who wants to go into political life. I didn't think I'd ever personally run for office, but I'd always worked in campaigns and believe strongly in doing my part to help our democracy work.

I guess my advice would be do what you love. Do what really makes you happy. For me, when I was growing up, I wanted to help people. I particularly wanted to help children when I was in college and then in law school, I spent a lot of time studying about the best ways to help kids. And then I did, you know, work when I was in law school with children who were abused and neglected and tried to think of ways that I could be of help. And I worked for the Children's Defense Fund.

You know, through that, I really was exposed to a lot of the problems that I frankly didn't see when I was growing up. I had a very nice middle class upbringing in a suburb of Chicago. And I think, if you can get out and learn more about the world and volunteer to help people. I did that through my church when I was growing up. And any way that you can expand your horizons because every one of us is somewhat limited by the family we're born into and the experiences we have and where we go to school. And I think today, more than ever, we need young people like yourself who's really going to learn about the world and understand what you can do to make a contribution.

And I would also just really recommend just study what you're interested in, learn as much as you can, and volunteer in campaigns. You know, you're in Armonk, I hope you'll volunteer in my campaign because you get to see firsthand how our system works. I wish you a lot of luck with your life as you go forward. And just keep dreaming big dreams because we need young people who care a lot about what's going to happen in the future.

CRYSTAL PATTERSON: Our next question is from Debra in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. I am a 55-year-old single female. I've been a hair dresser for 30 years. I cannot afford to think about paying any kind of health coverage. What would you do as president about this serious problem?

SENATOR CLINTON: Debra, I hear about that from so many people, particularly people like yourself who are self-employed, working for small employers who don't offer health insurance. I remain committed to providing quality affordable health care for every American.

Now, some people might say, well, Senator, didn't you try that before, you know, back in 1993 and 1994? And I did. I worked at my husband's request to try to see if we could do what was necessary to create a system that everybody could be part of. And we were not successful, and we made a bunch of mistakes, and I've learned from all of that. And I have the scars to show what we went through.

And back then, I'm not sure that enough people really accepted the fact that what we'd always had was just no longer going to be successful in a new global economy where our businesses are competing with companies and countries that don't have to provide health insurance or where everybody has to offer it so that, you know, everybody's in it together. So I'm determined to work toward this.

But what I've been encouraged about, Debra, is that for the first time in the last several months, people are really focused on this. We've got businesses talking with labor unions, talking, you know, with community people, talking with doctors and nurses and hospitals. And everybody's coming together.

All levels of business, all levels of government. And so I'm very encouraged that we're going to do what Americans do best when we finally roll up our sleeves and say, look, we've got a problem. It's a problem of cost because, as you say, it's too expensive. It's a problem of competition because we are losing jobs in America, because we haven't figured out how to make quality health care affordable and available to everyone. And it's also a question of will. You know, political will. Are we going to roll up our sleeves and do this? And I think we will.

So I'm sure going to be campaigning about it around the country. I'm going to be asking people in these conversations to give me their ideas, what they think would work, and I sure hope that, you know, you're going to be able to have affordable health care. One of my ideas that specifically would affect someone in your age category, which is my age category, is to let people who don't have insurance between 55 and 65 buy into Medicare. That's one idea that we've had floated around that we could look at.

Or buy into the federal employee health benefits plan, which is what takes care of Senators like me. So a lot of good ideas, but I'm determined that we're going to come up with a better system so that I don't have to hear the stories that I hear about people who are really left out, bankrupted, denied medical care when they need it most.

CRYSTAL PATTERSON: Timothy from Honolulu says, "We've always admired the great job Bill and you did in shielding Chelsea from life in a fish bowl, and in the process raising her to be such an intelligent and well poised lady. We were wondering, now that she's an adult accomplished in her own right, do you expect she'll be taking a more active and visible role in your upcoming campaigns than she has in previous campaigns?"

SENATOR CLINTON: One of the things about raising an independent son or daughter, in my case, is you want them to do what's right for them, and that will be up to her. What I appreciate is the fact that being in public life has a lot of great benefits and privileges, but the families of people in public life have, you know, unfortunately been put in that fish bowl, as you say. And what I've tried to do and what I admire about other people, including our president currently in the White House and others, is, you know, we shouldn't be exposing our children and other relatives. That's not, in my view, part of the political process that we really need to do. So I appreciate what you said, and, obviously, I turn to her for advice and support in every way, and I will continue to do so.

CRYSTAL PATTERSON: Michael from New Rochelle, New York, asks, "What are you going to do to specifically battle terrorism and keep the United States safe?"

SENATOR CLINTON: New Rochelle is another neighbor of mine. We're both outside of New York City. As you know living in New Rochelle, we went through such a horrible time after 9/11. Every one of us in the greater New York area knew somebody who was affected. That gives us perhaps a keener awareness of the dangers we face.

Sometimes it can seem like 9/11 was a long time ago or a very long way away. When I travel around the country and talk to people who weren't there, weren't affected. But just this morning, I was at Ground Zero with victims who had been afflicted by the toxic dust that was released because of the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings.

We have people dying. We have people unable to breathe. We have a retired NYPD officer fighting for his life in one of our hospitals right now. His son is going to be my guest at the State of the Union tomorrow night.

So 9/11 and the threat of terrorism is never very far away from my mind. And I intend to do everything I can for us to remain vigilant and prepared. We've made some progress in the last year since 9/11, but not nearly enough. Our system is not as focused on the threats we face as I would like it to be. And I want to continue to advocate for more resources and better funding and more personnel to protect our borders, our ports, our mass transit systems.

We've done a good job on passenger aircraft but not as good a job on all of the materials, the freight that is shipped by air. We need to be vigilant about who's coming in and out of our country. We try to stop terrorism wherever we can beyond our borders by having better cooperation with people around the world. So this is a primary goal of mine, to make sure that we are as well prepared as possible.

I can't sit here tonight and tell you that there will never be another attack although I pray there will not be. But we want to know that we've done everything we can to prevent that from ever happening to anyone again. The scars of 9/11 and the lives of the people that I serve and represent in New York are still present every single day, and it remains, you know, my primary obligation to make sure that we take care of those who were affected and their families and do everything I can to prevent that from happening anywhere in our country again.

CRYSTAL PATTERSON: Linda from Pensacola, Florida, asks, "Do you plan to end our dependence on foreign oil?"

SENATOR CLINTON: Linda, I do. It's probably longer and more wonkish than I can tell you in a brief web chat, but just briefly, let me say that I've put on my web site a lot of the legislation that I've championed and my plans for how we decrease our dependence on foreign oil.

You know, obviously, this is a security issue as well as a jobs issue. Securitywise, we know that, if we don't move away from our dependence on foreign oil, we are literally over the barrel. From people who do not wish us well and not just in the Middle East and not just places like Iran, but Venezuela. And we're also at the mercy of very unstable regimes than other parts of the world.

So I don't think there's a higher security priority, and the previous question about terrorism goes hand in hand because we can better deal with the terrorist threats we face if we are not funding them through all kinds of means where they get money that literally comes out of our pocket because we are so dependent upon the natural resource that they have in abundance. So we also, though, need to look at this as a jobs issue.

We need to create new and good-paying jobs in America. And alternative energy. What I like to call smart energy, home-grown energy, would be a tremendous way of giving a lot of our people a better future, helping them to have a more secure foothold in this very competitive global economy. So I think we've got to do more to look for alternatives. I support all kinds of ethanol. I support looking at the solar and geo thermal and certainly trying to do more on hydrogen, which are longer term goals. I think we have to do more on conservation and energy efficiency.

I'm really impressed with what California has done over 30 years. Because they have imposed conservation and energy efficiency standards, they have kept flat their energy use, and the rest of the country has just, unfortunately, continued to use more and more energy. We've got to do something to make our transportation system more fuel efficient.

And although there are some who think it's, you know, a difficult problem, I would like to see us approach the question of how we can use the great coal reserves we have without polluting the environment and adding to global change. I've asked to take away the subsidies from big oil and put it into a strategic energy fund that would be used comparable to what he did with the Manhattan Project, responding to Sputnik, the Apollo project.

Using the energy fund with a windfall tax on the oil companies taking away their subsidies, to expedite the creative genius of Americans. And I was up at a plant of GE's, their research facility, which is in upstate New York, and I saw what we can do if we use our imagination and our know-how. And I would also very much like to see us form an agency within our government that put all of this on a fast track, that went out to our universities, our colleges, our garages where creative people are thinking about how to make solar and wind and everything else much more commercially applicable. Let's put this on a fast track. There's no reason we can't do it. But the federal government has to make some investments in order for it to happen.

CRYSTAL PATTERSON: Jean from New Jersey has a question, on a lighter note. What's your favorite movie?

SENATOR CLINTON: My favorite movie. I've had favorite movies at different stages in my life. When I was very much younger, The Wizard of Oz was my favorite movie. I just loved imagining myself being there with Dorothy and being part of that great adventure that she had. Probably when I was in college and law school, Casablanca. I watched it I don't know how many times. It always was so much fun. By the time we watched it over and over again, we were actually reciting the dialogue. And I suppose in the last years, Out of Africa. I love Meryl Streep and Robert red Ford. Those are three of my favorite movies.

CRYSTAL PATTERSON: Rachel in Austin, Texas, asks, our relations with the international community have deteriorated over the last several years. What will you do to mend our relationships with the other countries?

SENATOR CLINTON: I think this is the most important task the next president will face, and I intend to tackle it head on. I have been fortunate over the last 15, 16 years to travel widely representing our country, to know many of the leaders that are currently running their countries and those who are coming in to power.

We have to send a clear message that the United States wants to lead the world, but we want to do it through cooperation, building alliances, making more friends than enemies. We cannot kill, occupy, jail all of the bad guys who wish us ill, but we sure can surround them. We can deter them. We can defeat them.

If we have people rooting for us, and what's happened in the last six years tragically, because the world was with us after 9/11. They were there with us. They wished us well. They wanted to be part of the fight against the terrorists. And we have so squandered that good will. And we've got to rebuild it.

And that means starting at the top with a president who will send a message to the rest of the world that we want to work together. We believe in negotiations, and we want to have diplomatic efforts. I don't understand why our current President won't talk to people that he considers bad.

I mean, look, there are a lot of bad actors in the world, but I think it's a sign of strength, not weakness, to engage in a process with these people because, frankly, you can learn something. You know, one of the first rules of warfare is know your enemy, and we're flying blind because we won't sit down and try to figure out what these people really want, who's calling the shots, how we can better deter them.

All during the Cold War, Republican and democratic presidents talked to the leaders in the Soviet union. After Richard Nixon's break through, we talked to the leaders in China. Now it's as though we are over in one point of the world and looking out and pointing fingers and making judgments. So we don't have the good will, and we are not being smart about how we can better solve our problems. So I agree that we've got to have a different approach, and I intend to do that not only through this campaign by talking about it and putting up ideas that I think would make a difference. But as President, going out there and making it clear that we want to solve problems together.

One last point about this because literally I could talk for the rest of this web chat. You know, when President Bush pulled out of Kyoto, I thought that was a mistake. But an even bigger mistake was he refused to go into any other process. If you don't like what was negotiated at Kyoto, well, don't turn your back and pretend that global climate change isn't real because it is, and it is affecting our climate, and it is going to have an increasingly big impact on how people live. So come up with a different process. But don't walk away from the problem. Just because you don't deal with the problem doesn't make the problem go away. So on that and on so many issues, we need to get back into a dialogue with the rest of the world.

CRYSTAL PATTERSON: Alexis from Anondale, Virginia, asks, "What will you do to insure that middle class Americans can afford a college education?"

SENATOR CLINTON: You know, I hear about this problem all the time. College is increasingly expensive. Everybody knows that. And it's very hard, with the cost of everything else going up, for most middle class families to afford to save and pay for college.

You know, that means that, number one, a lot of kids don't go who would be college material because they can't afford to start. A lot of other kids don't finish because they get there and they can't afford to complete their education. And thirdly, a lot of kids go and tough it out, often working, you know, jobs, sometimes more than one job, and they get out, and they have a lot of debt, which really hangs over them, making it very difficult for them to get started with their own lives and families.

So we've got to get the cost of college down. We need much more in the way of college aid. We also need to get back to need based aid because a lot of kids who are really good prospects for college, they may not be the A student, but they're the solid B student, or they're the really hard working C student.

And now we've cut so much of the aid that used to be based on need and shift it over to merit that a lot of these kids aren't having a chance, and I don't think it's smart or fair. We also need to get the cost of college loans down, cut the interest rates. We're trying to do that in the Congress now.

But I believe this is a big problem because, if you actually look at the numbers, we haven't done that much to increase the percentage of our kids who actually graduate from college. And in a competitive global economy like the one we face today, we need to get our best educated kids out there competing. College, you know, you don't have to go to college to be a good person or to get a good job, but increasingly a lot of the jobs are really dependent upon additional education.

So I'm hoping that we'll get the costs down and we'll enable many more people to start and to finish without that huge debt load, which I would like to see much more forgiveness to if we could get kids to graduate and then go into public service jobs, take some of the jobs that we really need to have filled. We should be forgiving their debt as well.

CRYSTAL PATTERSON: Our final question tonight is from Nancy in Wisconsin. Nancy says, "I'm one of the baby boomers who now looks at retirement as an impossible dream. I've worked hard all my life, and I'm discouraged. What can you tell me and others like me that will give us some hope?"

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, Nancy, I understand the discouragement because the cost of living has gone up. A lot of the pensions that used to be guaranteed for people are no longer available. A lot of workers have lost their pensions because of decisions made in the corporate boardrooms, or companies have gone bankrupt and just shed all of their responsibilities to hard working employees like yourself. Social security is there.

It's an absolutely critical part of anyone's planning for retirement, and I will do everything I can to make sure it's protected and that it will be available to you and to others. But we've got to come up with some new ways of helping you save for retirement and making sure that you're not going to be left hanging, either by your employer or by your government through Social Security.

So I'm looking at some ideas about how to help you and other people who are hard working like you make investments in accounts that will be safe and will be on top of social security, that will be there when you need it, when you're ready for retirement. This is a huge issue because pension security, retirement security is something that is really part of the basic bargain that I believe we should have between our government and our people. And it's something I'm going to be focused on during this campaign.

CRYSTAL PATTERSON: Great. Well, that's it for tonight. Thank you, Senator. We'll see you tomorrow night.

SENATOR CLINTON: See you tomorrow night. 7:00. Same place, same time.

And I want to thank everyone who logged on tonight to watch and everyone who submitted a question. I hope you've learned a little bit more about what I'm believing and trying to do and really helped this conversation about our country get started.

Iraq, energy, health care, we've covered a lot of ground, and these are all concerns that are very important to me. So please log back on tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. eastern so we can keep this conversation going. Send me more questions, ask me anything you'd like.

I want everyone to be part of the discussion because we need everyone to be part of the solution. So thank you so much. And I hope see you tomorrow.

Hillary Clinton, Remarks in a "Let the Conversation Begin Webcast" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/297089

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