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An Interview with
Senator Hillary Clinton 
May 9, 2006

 

 

Introduction:

Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady, was elected to the US Senate from New York in 2000, and re-elected in 2006. Although her run for President in the Democratic Primary of 2008 was unsuccessful, she proved a woman could win primary state victories and come vey close to winning the nomination of a major party. In her speech of June 7, 2008, ending her campaign, she was clear that in the future, "It will be unremarkable to think that a woman can be President of the United States. And that is truly remarkable." She added, "To those who are disappointed that we couldn't go all the way - especially young people who put so much into this campaign - it would break my heart if, falling short of my goal, I in any way discouraged any of you from pursuing yours. Always aim high, work hard and care deeply about what you believe in. When you stumble, keep faith. When you get knocked down, get right back up. And never listen to anyone who says you can't or shouldn't go on." She discourages us from thinking "if only" or "what if." Emphatically she adds, "Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward."

" Most of all I hope that we move toward a more peaceful world."- Hillary Clinton

Spencer:

In your book, It Takes a Village, you used a great quote.  “Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.”  Why did you choose this quote?

 

Senator Clinton:

Well, I love this quote because it helped to make the point of my book, which is that individually, we are people who have all kinds of dreams and fears and aspirations and concerns. We can do some things on our own, but a lot of what we need to do, we need to do with other people. If we stick together, whether it’s sticking together in a family, or sticking together in a business or sticking together in a school, you can do so much more than as an individual. You benefit from that.

 

Spencer:

Last year, you told me the dream you have for our country is that we continue to be the great beacon of hope and opportunity society that we’ve always been.  As I see it, if we are to achieve this, we need to build a stronger economy and work on improvements in education, health care, energy, and the military.  My questions today relate to this.

Regarding the economy, my father always says, “We can’t spend more than we make.”  During the Clinton administration, we had a balanced budget.  Now our national debt is eight trillion dollars.  How do we return to living within our means and still make sure there are opportunities for everyone?

 

Senator Clinton:

Well, I agree with your father, because you cannot continue on a course where you spend more than you bring in and where you save nothing, because you are one paycheck away from disaster, you’re one natural disaster away from catastrophe. During the Clinton administration, the reason we were able to get to a balanced budget and a surplus is that we had rules, that you could not spend more than you had.  If you wanted to increase spending or you wanted to cut taxes, you had to pay for it and you couldn’t just do both of those things, as the Bush administration has done, with no responsibility at all.  And we need to get back to that.  The rules that we operated under in the Clinton administration recalled the pay-as-you-go rules and I think that’s good idea for families and business and countries.

 

Spencer:

I agree completely.  Education in America needs help.  We are falling behind other countries in math and science.  Our schools are becoming obsolete.  Many are unhealthy.  Is the Healthy, High- Performance Schools Program getting enough funding?  What can we do to change the trend?

 

Senator Clinton:

No, the Healthy, High-Performance Schools Program, which I sponsored to go into the education bill, has never been an priority for the administration.  Yet, there is a growing body of evidence which shows that the environment obviously impacts on children’s health, and there are many school settings that are unhealthy for children.  Some children go to schools where there’s mold, where there is insulation materials exposed, where there are holes in the ceiling or the floors, where they don’t get enough sunlight coming in.  There’s a lot of evidence that conclusively demonstrates that a child in an unhealthy environment will not perform to the level that he or she should be able to.  You add to that the fact that many children have lead poisoning if they come from homes that are of older housing stock where there still is lead paint.  That lead paint disintegrates into dust.  It gets on the ground and, especially when you’re a toddler, you crawl around, you put your fingers in you your mouth.  Some of our upstate cities that have so much old housing have children with very high levels of lead in their blood, which lowers their IQ, increases their behavioral problems.  We have other children who have other toxins and contaminates and we just need to do a better job in focusing on the environmental impact on children’s health because if we don’t get children off to a healthy start, very often they fall further and further behind in their learning and their behavior and everything else.

 

Spencer:

Despite so much good in our health care system, there is so much we need to fix.  When speaking in Rochester earlier this year, you quoted your predecessor, Senator Moynihan.  He said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but no one is entitled to his own facts.”  How does this important message apply to our current health care situation?

 

Senator Clinton:

Well, that’s a great question because I believe we need to have a health care debate in our country that is based on facts, and we have to try to bring everyone to the table.  We have to bring physicians, nurses and health care providers, the businesses that pay a lot of the bills, the workers, the employees, and government together, and people have to agree on what the problems are.  Because, if you can’t agree on what the problems are, you can’t come up with solutions to those problems. We have so many problems, like having 46 million uninsured people and having all kinds of cost pressures on our health care system that lead to physicians quitting practicing medicine, nurses being overworked and  hospitals shutting down departments and services. If we don’t have a commitment to a debate that is based on facts, not opinion, but facts, we’ll never make any progress in trying to improve our health care system.

 

Spencer:

The Energy Independence 2020 campaign is underway.  Some of my friends now have cars with hybrid engines and solar power and wind farms are appearing in lots of places.  You have proposed a National Institute of Energy.  What would this organization do to help us become energy independent and why is this so important for our country?

 

Senator Clinton:

Well, when you think about what we have to do to become more self-sufficient in energy, we have some of the answers, but nothing is fully developed yet as to how we can transition from being dependent on gas and oil and coal to being dependent on clean alternative energy.  I think this is like what happened when Sputnik went up.  You weren’t around then, but I was 10 years old when Sputnik went up.  President Eisenhower said we have to have a special agency that conducts research so that we surpass the Russians.  It was such a shock that they had gotten into space before us.  So, something was created called DARPA, which stands for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  It funded research in the government.  It funded research in the private business sector and it funded a lot of research at our best universities and colleges.  That’s where the internet was invented.  That’s where microprocessors came from, and then they would be spun off into the private sector. But, the creative innovation came from government funded research.  And I think if we had a National Institute of Energy, it would be like having the Manhattan Project or an Apollo Project.  We would put our best minds to work, we would fund it in the first years with enough money to get everybody working together, because we need to bring the cost of solar down, we need to bring the cost of wind down, we need to accelerate the use of bio-fuels and bio-diesel, we need to move more quickly on hydrogen and hybrids.  There’s a lot of good things that are just there on the brink, but if we don’t make them more efficient and cost effective, we won’t be able to use them to the extent we need to in order to get off our dependence on a carbon based economy.

 

Spencer:

And the Apollo and Manhattan projects were all successes.

 

Senator Clinton:

Yes they were.  And this could be too, if we did it and we had everybody focused the way we were focused after Sputnik  on the space program

 

Spencer:

You are one of the members of congress who are most supportive of our military.  Last September, you received the Military Coalition 2005 Award of Merit.  This February, you were presented with Military Order of the Purple Heart Inspirational Leadership Award.  Our military is important for our strength as a nation.  How do we keep the military strong?  Are we doing enough for the men and women who served our country?

 

Senator Clinton:

Well, I worry about our military because it is an all-volunteer military.  This is unusual in our history and we have never been engaged in a military conflict for as long as we have been now in Afghanistan and Iraq with an all-volunteer military, since the Revolutionary War.  We are really stretching our military very thin.  We’ve deployed some of our forces to Iraq three times.  They leave behind families.  They don’t have to be there.  

It’s even worse for the National Guard and reserve because they have jobs in the civilian world.  They usually train one weekend a month or two weeks during the summer.  Many of them have been to Iraq one, two and three times.  So, I worry that we are breaking our military, particularly our Army, which has borne the brunt of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and we have to do more to support our men and women in uniform, which is why I’ve worked to improve their healthcare and their benefits and make sure they know that we really appreciate them because of that they’re doing for us. 

We also need to send a very clear message to young people that if they volunteer for the military, they’ll be taken care of.  You know, if they do their time in the military, they’ll get education credits, they’ll be given benefits that will get them on the right track for the future.  If anything happens to them, they’ll be taken care of completely in the veteran’s hospital system. We just need to make sure that people know that the country’s behind them.

 

Spencer:

And people don’t always.

 

Senator Clinton:

They don’t always because we’ve had some real problems.  We had wounded soldiers coming home and then having the Army tell them they owed money because they couldn’t turn in all their equipment and some of the reason they couldn’t turn the equipment in is they were injured on the battlefield and they left the equipment on the battlefield.  So we’ve been straightening out that.  I’ve been trying to get better help for them so that nobody is treated like that.

 

Spencer:

Every award is special.  You have received many.  Is there any one award that you are most proud of?

 

Senator Clinton:

I am very grateful for all of the awards and I don’t like to single any of them out because they mean a lot to me and they also mean a lot to the group that gave me the award and I think it’s such a wonderful tribute when a group comes together and says they want to honor me and I try to support what they do, so I don’t want to make anybody feel bad by saying that I think one award is more important than any others.

 

Spencer:

One final question.  Barbara Walters might ask it this way:  Can you finish this sentence?  Most of all, I hope in 2006 –

 

Senator Clinton:

That we move toward a more peaceful world.

 

Spencer:

Definitely.  Thank you so much.

 

Senator Clinton:

Thank you, Spencer.  Thank you so much for coming in again.