Interview with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for talking with CNN. I was thinking I’ve been following you around for 20 years reporting on you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Goodness, Jill.
QUESTION: And Elise and I have been on the plane flying around with you for four years, so it’s very nice to be here to talk with you at this turning point in your life.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. And thanks to both of you. I’ve enjoyed having you be part of the flying circus and traverse the globe, and appreciate the attention that CNN pays to international news stories. It makes a big difference.
QUESTION: It’s great to hear that.
QUESTION: Thanks for coming on.
QUESTION: Well, in typical CNN style, let’s begin with the news. Egypt.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: Sixteen people approximately, dead. The head of the army says that the state could actually fall apart, disintegrate. Is he right?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I hope not because I think that would lead to incredible chaos and violence on a scale that would be devastating for Egypt and the region. But there has to be some understanding by the new government that the aspirations that the people were expressing during the revolution in Egypt have to be taken seriously. And it cannot in any way be overlooked that there is a large number of Egyptians who are not satisfied with the direction of the economy and the political reform.
This is not an easy task. I have to jump in and say that we can sit here and talk about it from a distance. It’s very difficult going from a closed regime and essentially one-man rule to a democracy that is trying to be born and learn to walk. But there are some clear lessons. You have to represent all of the people, and the people have to believe that. You have to have the rule of law that applies to everyone, not just to some of the people. You have to have a constitution that respects and recognizes the rights of all people and doesn’t in any way marginalize any group. So I think the messages and the actions coming from the leadership have to be changed in order to give people confidence that they’re on the right path to the kind of future they seek.
QUESTION: Let’s move to Benghazi. There have been a lot of questions. You’ve answered a lot of questions, but there’s one in particular. The signs were there. The British Ambassador had been attacked. The walls of the Embassy had been breached. Why didn’t you connect the dots, ask the question: Wasn’t it too dangerous for Chris Stevens, the ambassador who was one of the most valuable people you had in that region? Why didn’t you ask those questions?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we were certainly aware of the increasing threat environment. I not only was briefed on that, I testified to that effect. And there were constant evaluations going on. But no one – not the Ambassador, security professionals, the intelligence community – ever recommended closing that mission. And the reason they didn’t was because the ongoing threat environment had, up until the spring before our terrible attack in Benghazi, been a result of post-conflict conditions. That is something that we’re familiar with all over the world. Yes, there were some attacks, as you have said, but our evaluation of them and the recommendation by the security professionals was that those were all manageable, because we have a lot of that around the world. I mean, there is a long list of attacks that have been foiled, assassination plots that have been prevented. So this is not some one-off event. This is considered in an atmosphere of a lot of threats and dangers.
And at the end of the day, there was a decision made that this would be evaluated but it would not be closed. And unfortunately, we know what happened.
QUESTION: Quick question on the Middle East peace process. Kerry, the new – who will soon be taking your place, is saying that there should be a new approach. What could he possibly do? I mean, that almost sounds like it’s a criticism of the given policy that you have right now.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I don’t think that’s at all what John Kerry was referring to. First of all, there was just an election in Israel where the makeup of the government is likely to change. Certainly the makeup of the Knesset has changed. What new opportunities does that present? There is constant pressure on the Palestinian Authority. There are continuing threats to Israel’s security from Hamas. There is Syria right on the border that is a very dangerous environment. There is a new regime in Egypt that is constantly being evaluated. So you have to always say to yourself: What can we do and what opportunities are there? And I think if you look at the potential list of changes, it certainly is appropriate for soon-to-be Secretary Kerry to go test that out, to try to figure out is there some other way forward.
And I fully support that. I’m someone who believes strongly that no matter how difficult the road is to try to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians together, you must always try. And if there are new on-ramps and off-ramps and opportunities, use them and see whether you can make even incremental progress, which would be very important to send a message to those Palestinians that still believe in the two-state solution, they are the ones who should be listened to, and send a message to Israelis that their security and stability is paramount and there are ways that they can enhance it by engaging with the Palestinians.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I want to read you the headline of an article in the LA Times today. It said, “Hillary Clinton’s Legacy at State: Splendid but not Spectacular.” (Laughter.) That you were hugely popular in this Administration and around the world, but some of these big-ticket items that we’ve been mentioning, particularly the Middle East, Iran, North Korea, not solved, still intractable, and maybe even worse in some instances. Is that how you see your legacy, hugely popular but didn’t solve these horrible issues?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that could be said about nearly every administration and certainly every Secretary of State, because when you come into office you inherit the world that it is in reality, not the way you wish it would be. And I think we have to go back to my beginning in January of 2009 to remember how poorly perceived the United States was, how badly damaged our reputation was, how our leadership was in question, how the economic crisis had really shaken people’s confidence in our government, our economic system, our country. Part of my job in the very beginning was to get around the world and restore confidence in American leadership, sometimes against some pretty tough odds because there were a lot of people pointing fingers at us, particularly over the financial crisis.
But it was important to stabilize the situation, which I think we did. I know the President was talking about that in an interview we did the other day, that – let’s be realistic here about what the conditions were. We had the war in Iraq that had to be wound down. We had a troop request for 30,000 troops sitting on the President’s desk the first day he walked into office. We had so many serious problems.
QUESTION: You had a full plate.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And I don’t think anybody can argue with what we did to try to set the table. And then what did we do with that? You can go down the list, and whether it’s how we handled the Arab Spring and the work that had to be done in order to try to prevent even more serious challenges, how we put together an international coalition to inflict the toughest sanctions on Iran and North Korea, not that those are solved. But diplomacy is sometimes building on steps one after the other – opening to Burma, pivoting to Asia, working to really strengthen our ties in Europe and Latin America and Africa. I’m very proud of what we’ve done.
But equally so, we began to practice diplomacy in a different way – not that we jettisoned everything that had been done before, but we added new tools in the toolbox. We also expanded the aperture. Let’s look at what technology can do for us. Don’t forget women and girls; they’re half the population, right?
QUESTION: Well, let me ask you about women, Madam Secretary. You broke a lot of glass ceilings. You brought women a lot in leadership to the State Department. You’ve said this is your life cause to end the double standard. You’ve leaving office – four top positions in this Administration in the cabinet, none of them are women. Is that a problem?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think you have to wait to see the entire makeup of the cabinet —
QUESTION: Top four positions though. The top four secretaries that are considered crucial to this Administration, particularly in national security.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not going to pass any judgments. I think that what we have to do is take a look at the broad picture. But clearly, from my perspective, we have to keep providing opportunities for young women to get into that pipeline so that they are ready.
QUESTION: There are no women out there for these top positions?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, no. Obviously, I think there are. But I think there is still a ways to go until we have the kind of critical mass that I want to see. And we made progress in the number of women in the Senate, but it is still abysmally small. There are so many – on the one hand this, on the other hand, that. We make progress, there’s no denying that, but we haven’t firmly institutionalized that progress. And as much as we have done here, I look around the world, and my goodness, there is so much to be done.
QUESTION: Well, there are lot of women leaders around the world. In April, you told Wolf Blitzer for 2016, “That’s not in my future.” But you seem to be – I don’t know – (laughter) – like maybe some wiggle room there. Have you decided?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no. I am so looking forward to Monday, when I have no schedule, no office to go to —
QUESTION: You know the field —
SECRETARY CLINTON: — no responsibilities.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, Madam Secretary, you know the party says the field is clear and open for you until you make your decision. Have you decided that you absolutely will not run?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have absolutely no plans to run.
QUESTION: But look at – (laughter) – you’re not saying – this is not a Shermanesque statement, “I will not run.” We heard this morning all of these people asking you if you can run. There’s a PAC just registered Ready for Hillary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Is there really?
QUESTION: Are you going to tell these people to stand down?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well —
QUESTION: Everyone is waiting for that —
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right now, I am trying to finish my term as Secretary of State. And the President and I had a good laugh the other night because I am out of politics right now. And I don’t know everything I’ll be doing. I’ll be working on behalf of women and girls, I’ll be hopefully writing and speaking. Those are the things that I’m planning to do right now.
QUESTION: Let’s talk about when you said “that Monday morning” – we presume next week.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: Okay, you wake up. (Laughter.) Maybe you stay in your pajamas. What do you do?
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Jill. I don’t know. It’s been my whole life. I mean, I’ve had a job ever since I was 13 years old. When I wasn’t in school, I was working, so —
QUESTION: But is it going to be traumatic? I mean – your Blackberry, are you going to check —
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t know. This is – I think it’s going to take some adjustment. I’ve been talking to colleagues who left the government earlier. And the most common thing they say to me is, “Don’t make any decisions. You have no idea how tired you are.” And I think there’s truth to that. Your viewers know, because they’re interested in these issues, this is a 24/7 job because there’s no part of the world we can ignore. Maybe four years, eight years, twelve years, certainly twenty, thirty, forty years, there were big chunks of the world that were not of direct interest to our security or other matters that we were concerned about.
QUESTION: But how did you get the energy – I mean, are you going to be able to stop? Are you going to be able to stop?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you’ll have to talk to me in a few weeks to see how I’m doing. I think that – I’m really looking forward to it. I know it sounds vague, because I have never done this before in my life. So when I wake up, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to have the luxury of nowhere to go, nothing to do, no frantic call about calling some leader about some impending crisis, I’m actually interested to see how that goes.
QUESTION: Now, what about your health? Because I do have to ask you this. We talked with a couple doctors, and they say that if you have had one blood clot, there is two times the chance that you will have another one. I mean, is this something that you’re going to have to deal with for –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, millions of people do. I mean, it’s very common. It’s not —
QUESTION: Will you take medication?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s what people do when they have blood clots. And then you get evaluated after the blood clot has resolved because, as you say, I experienced this before. But I am lucky because I’ve been very healthy. I feel great. I’ve got enormous amounts of energy that have to be harnessed and focused. So I’m very fortunate, and I’m looking forward to this next chapter in my life, whatever it is.
QUESTION: Before you leave —
QUESTION: Before you leave —
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Yeah, be subtle, but persistent about it.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Before you leave, normally a secretary leaves a gift for the next secretary coming in. Can we – can you tell everybody in the world what you —
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I’m not going to tell you. I’m going to let that be between John and me. John and I have been friends and colleagues for a very long time. And he’s extremely well-prepared, as you know, for this job. And I think he doesn’t need very much gifting, but I’ve got something that might help.
QUESTION: Just one last question about the family. You’ve got President Clinton, international health, you have Chelsea, who studied international health.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: You’re interested in women development, health issues.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So what do you do? Are you – is there a chance that you will all work together?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I hope so. I mean, that’s one of the things we have to really work out, is – I’m very proud of what my husband has done in the last ten years. I mean, his foundation, his entrepreneurial philanthropy with the Clinton Global Initiative, his great work on getting the price of AIDs drugs down so that more people could get treatment, and so much else. And he is also focused on the health of children here in this country through the Healthy Alliance. So he’s doing things that resonate with me as well as with him. And we’re going to look to see how we can join our efforts together.
QUESTION: What about Chelsea?
SECRETARY CLINTON: She’s great.
QUESTION: She says she wants to lead a life of public service.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, she does.
QUESTION: That makes you proud. Is she going to run?
SECRETARY CLINTON: She – no, I don’t know about that.
QUESTION: Family business?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think she is really focused on the philanthropy. She did a great service after Hurricane Sandy. She took a large group, about 1,000 people that were put together through our foundation and through CGI, to go and do a lot of difficult manual work for people who had been just devastated. She and Bill and I, we are – we just have public service in our DNA. That doesn’t have to be political service. It can be what we’re doing now, and what Bill has been doing now. So I think we’ll work all that out. It’s going to be fun to talk it through and figure out what our next adventures might be.
QUESTION: Well, Madam Secretary, thank you very much.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Good luck.
QUESTION: We wish you a lot of good luck.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, thank you.
QUESTION: And a lot of adventures.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think we’ll have some adventures and maybe the two of you can come along again some time.
QUESTION: We’d love that. We’d love that.
QUESTION: It’s a deal.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.