Interview
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Hotel Adlon
Berlin, Germany
November 9, 2009


QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you for joining us.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Charlie.

QUESTION: It is a historic time in this historic city. Where were you when you heard the news that the Berlin Wall had come down?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I was in Arkansas, and Bill and I were living in the Governor’s Mansion in Arkansas. And I remember watching the news coverage, which at that time was pretty – much more limited than it is today, over and over again, in talking with not only my husband, but lots of friends, about what this meant, because I’m a child of the Cold War. I remember those duck-and-cover drills that we did in school to protect ourselves against the communist threat. I studied international relations in college. I had a big interest in it in law school. And the Cold War was the defining structure of how we saw ourselves and how we managed our affairs. It was an amazing moment. But that whole year was like that. I mean, the activities that swept the world, not just in Europe, but predominantly in Europe, that led to that moment, that iconic moment when the wall was literally ripped apart by people, was so moving to me.

QUESTION: What’s the significance, and what are the lessons we need to appreciate?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think there are so many. But among them is that freedom can never been denied as long as free people elsewhere continue to speak up and speak out about the right of all people to be free, as long as the Transatlantic Alliance that was forged after World War II that ran the Berlin airlift that kept this city and its people fed and warm, as long as free people are willing to invest in defense and to take measures that are necessary in a still dangerous world, but that ultimately, freedom resides in the hearts of people.

And what we saw in Bratislava and Bucharest and Budapest and then sweeping across started in the Gdansk shipyards. It was fueled by ship workers who had had enough. They were tired of being denied their rights as workers and as human beings. It was encouraged by a pope who came from Poland and who knew the importance of human dignity and the freedom that people should be able to exercise.

And so on that night in November, 20 years ago, it was a swelling up that had taken years. It was like a tsunami. The earthquake had happened and the ripple effects were occurring and then it just washed over. And the wall came down, and there was this great sense of relief and gratitude at the sacrifice of so many who had come before, and of the leadership that stayed the course, that didn’t go too far and provoke a military conflict, but who made it very clear by resolve and commitment on a bipartisan basis, starting with Harry Truman, all the way through George H.W. Bush, that we stood with the people of Berlin, of Germany, and of Europe.

QUESTION: What are the walls that we have to tear down today?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have new walls, the walls of the 21st century. They may not be the visible of the concrete and the barbed wire, as we saw here in Berlin, but they are equally confining and defining. They are walls of ignorance and extremism. They’re walls of oppression and impoverishment. They are not necessarily walls constructed by ideology, but they are walls that exist in the mindsets of those who would try to turn the clock back on human progress, deny women their rights, use tools like suicide bombing and terrorism to try to assert themselves.

And we have to, in the West, along with our friends and allies throughout the rest of the world, understand that this is our challenge of the 21st century. We can’t walk away from it. We have to be smart about how we address it. But it is what calls us to action today.

QUESTION: All right. Let me talk about two examples. You met with Chancellor Merkel.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.

QUESTION: Is Germany on board with respect to Afghanistan?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think Germany is committed to the effort in Afghanistan. They’re waiting, like the rest of the world is, the United States, and through President Obama, to announce our intentions and our way forward. But they have a deep understanding of why this is important for NATO, why this is important for the larger international community. And I think that given the right measures of accountability that we need to be seeking from President Karzai and his government, we’re going to see a commitment not just from Germany, but from many of our NATO allies.

QUESTION: Might they make up whatever the gap is between what General McChrystal is seeking and what the United States is prepared to provide in terms of troops?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we have to wait for the President’s announcement, but we will be, as we have been, consulting very deeply with our allies and talking about what we want to see from them in order to have this integrated military and civilian strategy. Because remember, it’s not just about troops on the ground; it’s about making sure that the people in Afghanistan see the results of this effort, that they have more faith in their own government as an entity that can deliver for them. And so there needs to be a lot more civilian and financial support as well as military and troop support. But in my conversations with a lot of our allies, not only in NATO, but beyond, there is an openness and a readiness to participate.

QUESTION: To look at it in a new direction?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely.

QUESTION: When you look at that question of Afghanistan, and those who say, can we win, can we stop the Taliban, is your answer yes?

SECRETARY CLINTON: My answer is yes. But right now, we’ve been somewhat in a holding pattern because of the Afghan elections. It’s hard to make a new policy until we know who is in the new government and until we have some very clear discussions about what is expected from them. This is not just a one-sided contract here.

But I also think that the momentum as described by General McChrystal and others that the Taliban seems to have acquired can definitely be broken. There is no evidence whatsoever that the vast majority of the people of Afghanistan want to see a return to the Taliban. In poll after poll, in anecdotal evidence as well, they remember of the brutality and oppressiveness, the perversion of religion that was used as a basis for the grabbing and holding of power that they experienced under the Taliban.

QUESTION: Beyond that, is a Taliban in control in Afghanistan a threat to the United States?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I believe it is. I believe it is a threat, because I believe that it once again provides a safe haven. Because what we have seen is that al-Qaida is now part of a syndicate of terror. It inspires, it directs, it trains, equips, funds other groups within this syndicate.

QUESTION: From Asia to Africa?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. And to many of us, the principal objective is still to defeat, capture, kill the al-Qaida leadership. We do think that is important. It’s not a marginal issue; it’s a core issue for us. But we also realize that there are many aspects to this threat from extremism that have to be addressed. It is imperative that there not be safe haven for al-Qaida and its syndicate, its allies in Afghan –

QUESTION: And that’s what the Taliban would deliver, if they were in control?

SECRETARY CLINTON: They would. In parts of Afghanistan, it’s not – if they couldn’t take over the entire country because of resistance from the Afghans themselves and allies like us, they would certainly establish a beachhead and would have a broader area of operation.

QUESTION: So what do you say to mothers and fathers – as you know, the question – who are saying, are you asking me to send my son or my daughter to Afghanistan where I am essentially fighting for a corrupt or a fraudulent government?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, but you’re not. You’re fighting for the United States. You are fighting to protect our homeland and our people. We often don’t get to choose the battlefield that we’re on. We have to adjust to whatever the circumstances are that we find. And much of what President Obama and the rest of us in this Administration have been working on for the last eight months is that given the failures of the last eight years to capture and kill the al-Qaida leadership, to try to stabilize Afghanistan, we have to recommit ourselves, because we do think it’s in our interest, we do think it’s in our security interest. And I feel very strongly that the young men and women who are stationed in Afghanistan are really doing what has to be done on the front lines of the war against terrorism.

QUESTION: And they understand and believe in the mission?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. And – well, and it’s important that the entire American public understand and believe in the mission, because in a democracy we have to support those that we send to the battlefield.

QUESTION: Do you believe at this point that the American public understands the mission, or are they waiting for the President now to redefine the mission --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that --

QUESTION: -- and the strategy?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, and I think that they are waiting for the results of this review. Back in March when the President made his speech about what we were going to do going forward, he ordered new troops into Afghanistan, he saw a change of commander, which is unusual, in order to better fulfill our mission. And he said we will be revisiting this after the Afghan elections. It’s just taken longer to get the elections over than we had thought. So he will be clearly defining the purpose of our mission, how it’s going to be reconstituted.

QUESTION: What’s taking so long, and what’s the debate inside?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have to say that I think we went through eight years where, at least it appeared on the outside, that there wasn’t enough time taken, there wasn’t enough thought given as to what we were trying to achieve and how we would achieve it. There were a lot of midcourse corrections. Witness the surge in Iraq. And part of what the President is trying to do with his national security team is to go and seek out information that is of direct relevance, evaluate that information, make sure that we are putting forth the best thought in order to fulfill the mission that he’s going to set.

I think it’s unfortunate, Charlie, that we live in a time when people expect instantaneous reaction: Oh, huge crisis, get out in front of the cameras and talk about it even when you don’t have all the facts because the facts are hard to gather. And I think that what the President is determined to do is to feel as positively focused and comfortable as possible.

QUESTION: Fair enough. But is he – are you looking for the answer to some question? And if so, what is that question and what is the debate about that question?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that the question really is how best to define the mission so that we and our allies, our publics, and the world understand what we’re trying to achieve. The mission was, frankly, confused. There was a lot of talk during the prior administration that came pretty close to nation building, transforming Afghanistan. There was a lot of confusion about what that meant and how to do it.

We wanted to be sure that we strip down and focus on what is most important. I mean, we fight wars to protect America, our values, our interests, our allies. We fight wars so that we can achieve an endpoint that we think is in furtherance of that. So if we’re going to fight this war, then everybody better be very clear what it is that we’re trying to do. Would we like to see education levels in Afghanistan improve? Absolutely. Is that directly in our national security interest? Probably not.

So we want to help, but we want to keep focused on what is clearly in our national security interest – to dismantle, disrupt, and defeat al-Qaida and its extremist allies. Well, then let’s define those extremist allies more carefully. Let’s not just paint with a broad brush. Is some poor young man who has no economic prospects who is basically volunteered to the Taliban by his village so that the village is not attacked by the Taliban, is he our extremist foe, or is he someone who can be persuaded to leave the Taliban and once again reenter society?

These are questions that go to the operational aspects. I mean, it’s easy to paint the big picture – we’re there and good for us. How does that translate into what we do on the ground? How does that actually affect troop decisions and deployment decisions and expenditures of civilian dollars? So I think that this review, which has been more thorough and more debated than what we’re told ever happened previously, gives us a platform on which the President can stand.

QUESTION: But it has to be a certain element of government, because if the strategy is within 10 areas, say, to take and hold and build, which is the operative idea, is it not? So to give protection to the civilians, that’s the only way you’ll have an effective counterinsurgency strategy.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right, but let’s think about counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency is protecting population centers.

QUESTION: Right.

SECRETARY CLINTON: So --

QUESTION: And they have to be a part of that themselves.

SECRETARY CLINTON: They have to be a part of that themselves, but it may mean that you don’t deploy in some areas where there is not very much in population to speak of, but instead you only do counterterrorism in those areas. So you try to concentrate your troops where we can give the maximum stability.

And when we talk about governing, it’s not just what happens in Kabul. It’s what happens on the ground in local districts. If you look at a map of Afghanistan and you really evaluate, well, which districts are under government control, meaning the central government in Kabul, what are under local government control, what are contested, what are under Taliban control – I mean, there is a varied picture here. And part of what we want to do is to convince the people of Afghanistan that it’s not just clear, hold, and build; it’s also transition. We don’t want to stay a day longer than we must in order to transition over to forces and security that is in the hands of the Afghans themselves.

QUESTION: More and more of the evidence you see indicates that that is possible, because you’re sitting in these national security meetings – there have been some 20 of them with national security leaders – that it’s possible to achieve these objectives, that the Afghans themselves have the capacity to do that.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they have some of the capacity. And part of our challenge will be to provide as much of the rest of capacity. We know they are fiercely loyal to their family, village, area. We know that they are not afraid to fight. We know that there is a great appetite for better governance and for some services that can improve their living standards. So we know that the people of Afghanistan are seeking something more, but what they seek may not be what we would ideally want.

And part of our discussion has been to really sort this out. What is it we can do in a period of time that is reasonable that will give the people of Afghanistan the capacity to defend themselves? I mean, the most common refrain we hear as people go around and visit in various parts of Afghanistan, particularly in the south where the Pashtun population is, is we want your help, we want you to protect us and give us the security we need until we can do it ourselves, as soon as possible, and then we want you to leave. That’s a pretty good summary of what we want too.

QUESTION: Yeah, and you have to convince them this is not an occupation.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Of course not. I mean, we have no interest in their territory, we have no interest in staying there. But we do have an interest in making sure that it doesn’t become a breeding ground or a staging ground for terrorism.

QUESTION: You were recently in Pakistan.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.

QUESTION: You are convinced the Pakistans now understand that the Taliban is their enemy as much as their long-held opposition to India, and they’re prepared to do something?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they’re certainly evidencing that. This very forceful response, first in Swat, now in South Waziristan, illustrates a commitment to take on the Pakistani Taliban. I think in my conversations with both the civilian government leaders as well as the military intelligence leaders, there is an awareness that the Taliban is not just about somebody else’s fight, it is a direct attack on the authority of the Pakistani Government.

When you have extremists attacking your general army headquarters, your intelligence offices, who go right at the Islamic University in Islamabad, this is not some foreign plot. These are people, homegrown, who want to overthrow various aspects of the Pakistani Government and control territory within the boundaries of Pakistan. So there’s no doubt in my mind that they see this as a direct threat.

QUESTION: And they’re prepared to go even as far as North Waziristan?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t want to speak for themselves; they’ve got their hands full right now in South Waziristan. But they understand too that you can’t just play Whack-A-Mole. You can’t just knock down the Taliban somewhere and expect you’re done, because they have unfortunately created this syndicate, this network of interconnected terrorist groups. And so the Pakistanis have to be vigilant. But the people of Pakistan are much more in favor of what the army is doing than at any point in the past.

QUESTION: You raised the question at the press conference about Usama bin Ladin. Did you get any information as to where he is and why they have not been able to reach him?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I did raise that question because I was very willing to hear all the questions and the concerns from the people and the Government of Pakistan. And there are reasons for their concerns. I mean, we haven’t always been the most consistent or understanding partner and ally over the course of our relationship. And we do bear some of the responsibility, frankly, for helping to create the very terrorists that we’re now all threatened by.

So after listening and responding and doing what I could to dispel some of the myths and the stereotyping that goes on, I said, but Americans have questions too. We find it hard to believe that nobody knows where the al-Qaida leadership is. And I think that there is no evidence that anybody in the government at the top levels knows. But what we’re trying to encourage is their awareness and acceptance of the fact that the al-Qaida leadership is arrayed against them as well and still poses a direct threat to us. I mean, we have had the arrest just recently of Zazi, someone who trained in an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan.

So we’re going to keep pressing. This is the highest priority to us, and we are encouraged and supportive of what Pakistan is doing against their enemies. We want more help against our common enemy.

QUESTION: And they’ve been successful against some of the Pakistani Taliban leaders.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.

QUESTION: Let me move to Iran for a second – or for longer than a second. (Laughter.)
Where does that stand now? Because I interviewed Mohamed ElBaradei on Friday, and he said that the Iranians are reluctant to take the deal because they’re reluctant to give up their nuclear material. And he suggested that perhaps Turkey might be a more amenable repository for that rather than Russia. Are you involved in this idea or not?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Well, we’re very involved in it, and let me just put it in context. When this idea was first jointly proposed, it was in response to the Iranians’ request to the International Atomic Energy Agency for assistance in refueling their Tehran research reactor, which, so far as we know, is not at all connected to their other enrichment program or any program that would lead to weaponization.

QUESTION: In fact, medical purposes, they say.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Medical isotopes. And we happen to believe that’s true. So when the Iranians made that request, the United States and Russia together made a joint response. And we said that we would be willing to take out the 1,200 or so kilograms of known low-enriched uranium, have it reprocessed, and then have it returned to fuel the research reactor. The Iranians accepted that in principle and continued to be very favorably disposed toward it at the first meeting on October 1st.

QUESTION: And of course, not only of their representative, but also the president, Ahmadinejad?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.

QUESTION: The president specifically.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right. And so it appeared as though there would be a meeting of the minds which would be immensely reassuring to the world that if Iran were willing to do this, it would demonstrate good faith on their part, it would open the door to further talks about their nuclear program. And then I think we have seen a lot of confusion and debate within the Iranian leadership, in some measure fueled by their internal discussions arising out of the election from the opposition they faced, some of it is personality driven. We understand all of that.

QUESTION: But it’s coming from all sides. I mean, it’s coming from the Ayatollah on one side and also Larijani on another side, and then even from people who are part of the reform movement.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we also believe a lot of it is jockeying, and some of it has got more to do with Ahmadinejad than it does with us or with this proposal. Nevertheless, it is our very firm conviction – and there has been absolute unity among the so-called P-5+1, which, of course, includes both Russia and China, that we expect a favorable response from Iran.

QUESTION: Soon.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Soon, yes. I mean, we understand the internal political dynamics, and we’ve been, I think, patient in helping them to see that we’re serious. There are certain safeguards that could be agreed to that they would get their uranium back once it had been enriched. But they have to take this step as a confidence-building measure with the international community, and I hope that they will do so.

QUESTION: And if they don’t?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we actually come to it.

QUESTION: Well, and the first action is you go to the United Nations for sanctions. Has anything changed that will make the Russians, at that point, more amenable to supporting sanctions? Because many argue that if the Russians support sanctions, so will the Chinese.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’ve been encouraged by the comments from President Medvedev just recently again over the weekend in an interview with Der Spiegel here in Germany, where he has talked about perhaps there will be a need for sanctions. And I hope that if it comes to that, which we still would like to avoid by this cooperative arrangement, that we will have everyone on board. And there has already been an agreement entered into by the P-5+1, including Russia and China, that we were on a dual track: We were on one track which was negotiations, diplomacy, agreements like that affecting the Tehran research reactor; but in the absence of progress there, we were on a second track which would look to assert more pressure and impose more sanctions. Whether that’s going to be necessary or what the content would be and where they would be sought – there is not anything magical about the UN, there can be other ways of imposing sanctions. So we are in the process of exploring that with others.

QUESTION: Is the Atlantic alliance going to help?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Are they going to be prepared to enforce?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’ve seen an increase in actions by many of the nations of Europe, because they understand that this is a threat to them. When the President made his decision about changing the missile defense architecture, it was in response to a better understanding that our technical and defense experts had that Iran was further advanced in short- and medium-range missiles or long-term missiles. Those short- and medium-range missiles can hit every part of Europe. So I think the Europeans understand that this is a very important step for them to try to help us and others to assert pressure against Iran.

QUESTION: Secretary Gates has said that a military option probably would only delay for a year or two.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, no one wants to go to that. I mean, we’ve always said that every option is on the table. Our goal is to prevent or dissuade Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. And we’ve made it clear that they have a right to nuclear power that is civil and peacefully used.

QUESTION: Mohamed ElBaradei said that they don’t trust us, that the level of trust there – and we obviously have reason not to trust them – you assume, I assume, that there are other facilities that also we may not have discovered so far or they have not acknowledged so far.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we don’t have any evidence of that, but obviously we’re always vigilant and looking for anything that might suggest another concealed, undisclosed facility. I’m not in any way downplaying the lack of trust. I mean, we have 30 years of mistrust, misunderstanding, and misaligned objectives. I mean, the Iranians not only worry us because of their nuclear program, they worry us because of their support for terrorism, their support for the military wing of Hezbollah, their support for Hamas, their interference in the internal affairs of their neighbors, trying to destabilize Gulf countries and other countries throughout the greater region.

So Iran has given us many reasons to worry about their motivation and their action. But I think what President Obama has tried to do since becoming President is to create a new dynamic where – look, we don’t have to trust or love each other to understand that it is in our interest to try to stabilize the world. It is not in Iran’s interest to have a nuclear arms race in the Gulf, where they would be less secure than they are today. It is not in Iran’s interest, to the Iranian people’s interest, to be subjected to very onerous sanctions.

So the President has reached out and has really gone the extra mile to try to engage with the Iranians. If they cannot overcome their mistrust and their internal political dynamics, then we have to do what we think is in our best interests.

QUESTION: They’ll have to deal with the consequences?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, yeah, of course. I mean, that’s the way the world works.

QUESTION: Is there anything that we can do to say to them, “We understand your fear. We understand your paranoia. We’ve asked you what is your – what can we do to convince you that nuclear weapons are not in your interest?”

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, those are certainly the messages that the President has publicly stated. As you know, he’s had private messages sent to the supreme leader. He has charged the rest of the Administration to convey that message. And I think it was significant when this Administration said we accept your right under appropriate safeguards to have civil nuclear power. We are not going to be demonizing you and calling you names. We’d much rather have a civil diplomatic relationship that could lead to negotiations that would lower the temperature and try to diminish the mistrust. But it takes two to do that. And certainly, the way the Iranian Government handled the elections, the response to legitimate opposition, has been very disconcerting because it demonstrates they don’t trust their own people. It’s not only that they trust us, they don’t trust many Iranians.

So when you get to that level --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s right. And so you get to that level of mistrust all the way around you. How do you break through that is what we’re looking for. But it may or may not be possible. That’s pretty much up to the Iranians.

QUESTION: Someone wrote about this particular place that we are sitting, that there was a moment in history in which it split the right way --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- as to whether at that moment in Iran after that election, when there are more than a million people on the street --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.

QUESTION: -- it went the other way.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.

QUESTION: That that was not something --

SECRETARY CLINTON: But I don’t think that’s the end of the story, Charlie. I don’t think that’s the end of the story at all. I think that that’s part of what we see going on. If this were a confident leadership, they would accept the Tehran research reactor deal.

QUESTION: Right.

SECRETARY CLINTON: They would not be worried about it. This is not a confident leadership because of the pressures that are coming from within Iran as well as from outside.

QUESTION: So whatever happened in that election and the aftermath has not been capped and will continue to --

SECRETARY CLINTON: There’s – I don’t think we’re, by any means, at the end of that story.

QUESTION: All right. China. You leave here, you go to Singapore.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.

QUESTION: Then you go with the President. You go to the Philippines and then you go with the --

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) That’s right.

QUESTION: When will you be back in the United States?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good question. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: And how much packing do you have to do?

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s unbelievable.

QUESTION: It’s some kind of a trip. And how do you survive all that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, goodness. Well --

QUESTION: And yet some of that is First Lady. But I mean, this is --

SECRETARY CLINTON: This is pretty intense.

QUESTION: Exactly.

SECRETARY CLINTON: This is by far the most demanding schedule, both of travel and intense work at home that one can imagine. And part of it was we felt like we had a lot of fence mending and important diplomatic engagements to do around the world, coming as we did after the last administration.

QUESTION: Okay. But let me say – and that’s a good point before we go to China. So what’s the message of the Obama Administration and from the Secretary of State about the United States and its foreign policy intentions today?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That we are back engaging --

QUESTION: Back as?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Back as fully engaged. We’re not leaving any part of the world unattended to, because that was one of the most common complaints I heard. When I chose to go to Asia for my first trip, it was because there was this sense that the United States was departing from the Pacific, a place that we had been intimately involved in for much of the 20th century, and at a time when there’s a lot of questions about how the Pacific Asian region will be organized and what role the United States will play.

So first and foremost, that we are engaged; we’re not just focused on the one or two most pressing trouble spots that we have to deal with; that we are working to bring people together to create more partnerships. We went from a bipolar world that ended when the wall came down here in Berlin, and we want a multi-partner world where we can make common cause on transnational challenges like climate change or H1N1 influenza, and where we can bring partners to the table on some of the difficult security challenges.

Look at what we achieved with North Korea. We got China and Russia, along with Japan and South Korea, working with us to impose the toughest sanctions ever. Now, why then is North Korea beginning to say they want to talk, they want to talk, is because they see a united front against them.

So we really believe that engagement is not an end in itself, but it’s the door you walk through to get to the table, to get into the negotiations that can possibly lead to improving conditions regionally and globally. And I’m very committed to doing that, but it is an intensely personal relationship-building endeavor.

QUESTION: You’ve also, as a hallmark, said we want to listen --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and so has the President, but you have in your political career.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.

QUESTION: So what are you hearing? What is the role they see, whether it’s Europe --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.

QUESTION: -- or whether it’s China --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- or whether it’s the Middle East? Because some people say there will be no peace in the Middle East without the United States there doing something. But on the other hand, you’ve got to have people who are willing --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.

QUESTION: -- to accept that role.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you ask a complex question that raises a lot of interconnected issues. First, when I’m listening, what I’m hearing is that people know the United States cannot solve all the problems of the world. But they know that without the United States, the chances of solving any of the problems are pretty remote. So they want us to be engaged, to be leading, both by example and through engagement. They also believe that the United States cannot leave the field on any of these problems. And as complicated and as difficult as they might be, we have to be there, we have to be working.

Now, we may be more engaged or less engaged depending upon our assessment. We may leave the parties to themselves for periods of time and stand on the sidelines, or we may be intensely working with them. That’s a calibration. But the overall fact is the United States must be present. And you would think in a world that has moved toward virtual reality that that might mean something other than what it meant two centuries ago, but in fact, it means we have to be there, that we have to show up.

When I went to the ASEAN meeting with our --

QUESTION: In Washington?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, in Thailand.

QUESTION: In Thailand.

SECRETARY CLINTON: In the Southeast Asian region. It meant so much to them that I sat there and we talked about everything from the environmental conditions in the lower Mekong Delta to what we were going to do about Burma. And we are rebuilding that, which I think is essential. But equally important is to set out our own objectives and the strategies designed to achieve those objectives.

Now, a lot of that takes patience. And part of what we’re facing, Charlie, is the United States, unfortunately, has lost leverage in the world because of the global economic crisis and because of the steps that this Administration had to take to try to prevent, frankly, a worldwide depression, which means increasing our debt, going into the biggest deficits we’ve seen since World War II. That undermines some of the capacity we need to have to influence events.

QUESTION: Explain that to me, because I was going to ask you about that.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah.

QUESTION: What’s been the impact of the global economic crisis? You were suggesting that our leverage is less?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I am suggesting that.

QUESTION: Because our economic power is less, or because they look at us as creating a crisis that had great detriment to them?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think both. I think both. I mean, what we have done by moving from the creditor nation that my husband’s policies helped to create to the debtor nation that we inherited from the Bush Administration, made even worse by the lapses in regulation and the failure of oversight that led to the global economic recession, has raised questions in people’s minds. Because one thing the world believed about the United States is that we knew how to run an economy, we knew how to produce wealth, we knew how to create economic opportunity and consumption that was unmatched in the history of the world.

QUESTION: And they had bought into the idea of markets and capitalism and all of that behavior.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right. And I give the President and his economic team a lot of credit for navigating us through the worst of this crisis and beginning not only the recovery economically, but the recovery of confidence. But the fact is when we do have that recovery and we can all look at it, touch it, and feel it and feel better about ourselves and the world, we’re going to be hugely in debt. And we’re going to have deficits that will impinge upon our ability to make decisions and will also affect our capacity to deal with other countries because we are in debt to them.

QUESTION: So (inaudible) may very well say that this is not the best place for us to buy debt?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there’s all kinds of countries that have that kind of potential. So we’re operating on multiple levels at once. We have to rebuild our own economy. We have to – once we get through this crisis – begin to restore fiscal responsibility and sovereignty. At the same time, we have to engage the rest of the world. We have to buy time with the rest of the world. And I think we’re managing that about as well as we could, given the hand that we’re playing.

QUESTION: Do you think we have the political will to deal with the deficit?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are going to have to. I don’t think it’s going to be a question. But what the President’s trying to do is to tee up some changes that will be to the benefit of us economically over the long term. Dealing with healthcare costs is part of dealing with the deficit and dealing with increasing competitiveness around the world, for example.

QUESTION: So you go to China and you sit down with – you and the President sit down with Hu Jintao, the president of China, and he says to you, “Madame Secretary, how do you see us? How do you see China over the next 50 years, and how do you see this relationship? And you were the dominant country, but we feel pretty good about where our economy is going and we want to play a role.”

SECRETARY CLINTON: And well they should. I think that there’s no doubt, at least in my mind, that China has earned the right to play a role, and the rise of China is inevitable. The Chinese are focused on improving the standard of living of their people, on playing a leadership role, not only regionally but globally. And we are working to make sure that there’s a peaceful rise, that there is a good understanding between the United States and China. What we’ve called for was a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship.

Secretary Geithner and I, on our side, chair our Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which met for the first time at the end of July, where we’re talking about a broad array of economic and strategic issues, because we want to have an in-depth relationship with China.

QUESTION: What’s an example of it? I know with the climate change the deal we want to make with respect to climate change and emission standards and all of that.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right, right..

QUESTION: And they are really moving forward, clearly, on some areas of that. What’s the strategic possibility – strategic in terms of the United States and China?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.

QUESTION: What can they do together?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we can do a lot together. If the United States and China work together as we have in the G-20 process, we can help to stabilize the economic situation in the world and begin a recovery and a return to growth. It would not be possible if there were just one or the other; it had to be in tandem and then to work with the other members of the G-20.

When it comes to climate change and clean energy, China’s making a big bet on clean energy technology. That’s important bet for them to make.

QUESTION: A bigger bet than we are so far?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’d like to see us begin to do more on that.

QUESTION: Solar?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, but you can’t fault China for seeing a market opportunity, as well as an environmental necessity, so that they are moving.

And I think they’re moving, in large measure, because they see that this is beneficial to them, but also because they want to be part of the world leadership in dealing with these transnational problems. They know that they will have on their doorstep the effects of erratic climate developments --

QUESTION: Right.

SECRETARY CLINTON: -- that they will have to deal with. They know that they can’t just turn a blind eye to North Korea’s provocative behavior, that it’s very destabilizing, and it isn’t to be left to others. So they’ve been playing a much more involved role in trying to corral the North Koreans.

QUESTION: Doing everything you wanted them to do with respect to North Korea?

SECRETARY CLINTON: They have been extremely helpful with respect to North Korea.

QUESTION: Africa, especially Darfur; are they doing everything you want them to do there?

SECRETARY CLINTON: They are more understanding of the long-term consequences to their position in Sudan than they were before. What I mean by that is the Chinese have natural resource interest in Sudan. Darfur is destabilizing. The North-South situation could become violent and lead to conflict again. That would put at risk Chinese investments.

So I think that they are looking in a broader way than they perhaps have about their responsibility. It’s not just we’ve got to find resources to --

QUESTION: Right.

SECRETARY CLINTON: -- feed the engine of the economy to produce 8 percent growth, because we have so many hundreds of millions of people still living below poverty.

QUESTION: Yes, right.

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s okay, we do have to do that, but we have to be conscious and aware of the larger strategic interests that we have to be part of.

QUESTION: How about Iran, though? Where are they in helping?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.

QUESTION: Because they have an energy contract with Iran.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, they do. Well, they signed on to the agreement that I and the other foreign ministers signed in New York during the United Nations General Assembly about the two-track approach to Iran. The foreign minister with whom I work closely, Minister Yang --

QUESTION: Right.

SECRETARY CLINTON: -- was at the table. So they know that this is complicated. What would be the worst nightmare for Chinese energy needs? If war broke out in --

QUESTION: Sure.

SECRETARY CLINTON: -- the larger Gulf or the Middle East. That would be devastating to them. So, they know they have --

QUESTION: Supply go down, price go up.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely. And whether the supply, which was more limited, could even get delivered would be a question.

So, I think that they are, as they play a larger role in the world, seeing the complexities that we all are facing, and being much more open to listening.

QUESTION: A Chinese official said to me, “If the United States would find a source of oil for us outside of Iran, we may very well be more amenable.”

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right. Well, look, energy fuels all of us. And we don’t happen to get any oil from Iran, but if we were dependent upon Iran, we’d have to be scrambling to figure out what we were going to do in order to enforce the international community’s expectations on Iran.

So, we know that China has to be aware of their own energy needs, which is why their move toward clean energy and alternative forms of energy is so important over the long --

QUESTION: What do you say to them when they say, “Madame Secretary, I’m worried about protectionist sentiment in your Congress. I’ve seen examples of it, and a trade war would be terrible?”

SECRETARY CLINTON: We agree that a trade war would be terrible. But this is not just a one-way street. We have concerns about some of the actions that the Chinese Government --

QUESTION:
And are they responsive and understanding?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I mean, everybody works from their own --

QUESTION: Special interest.

SECRETARY CLINTON: -- national interest and their own economic interest. And that’s – I mean, who would expect anything different?

But I think the conversation is much more candid and open and very clear on our part as to how we don’t want to see walls of protection. But we also need more guarantees for intellectual property in China. We watch some of the problems with exporting natural resources out of China, which they don’t permit. So there is a lot to be discussed on both sides.

QUESTION: Let me move to this job that you hold, as we have a few more minutes left here.

Number one, how does what you have done before – you know, Churchill is famous for saying, “Everything I have done has prepared me for this moment,” when he went to 10 Downing during World War II. How does being First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, a senator from New York, and a presidential candidate --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.

QUESTION: -- with substantial political support influence, make you a Secretary of State, for better?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that a lot of my experience, which was rooted in not only travel, but working on international issues, being involved with many of the leaders, some of whom are still there, others of whom are still influential --

QUESTION: And that makes a difference in what way?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it makes a difference, because I come as a known commodity. I think it accelerates the relationship to a point where we can move into the business side of what we are trying to do together.

I also know a lot of the players. I understand what their needs are. It is not take it or leave it. It’s like, okay, how can we work toward as much of a win-win as possible? I don’t think we’re in a zero-sum game. I believe that’s kind of ancient history, given how the world works today.

It has also been quite helpful for me to have been in political life, because even in societies that we view as lacking in democratic politics, there is always politics. Maybe it’s small-P politics. Maybe you have to rise through the party. Maybe you have to fend off opposition from those who don’t agree with your policies. You have to be at least aware of public opinion, because even in closed societies, public opinion can rise up and cause demands on you that you have to manage.

So, I understand that. I mean, I know what it’s like to have to either put together a coalition or deal with the consequences of the public either being for you or against you. And I’ve said on numerous occasions, “Look, I come to this job not as a diplomat or as an academic, but as a political person. And that’s why I know why this is difficult for you.”

And I have been really impressed by how quickly that creates a bond with some of the leaders. In some of the countries that I have visited, where we’re asking the leadership to make some very hard choices that we think are in their interests, but certainly in our interest, being able to talk about our political background – I mean it’s well known that Senator Kerry and I kind of were tag-teamed in dealing with President Karzai --

QUESTION: Yes.

SECRETARY CLINTON: -- in the lead up to his decision to accept a second round. And I was talking about --

QUESTION: Well, tell me what you mean by “tag team.” I mean, you realized he was there.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.

QUESTION: You realized that he had some problems with certain people. And you realized it was better to deal with the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in Pakistan at the time?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: In Afghanistan, I’m sorry.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right, right.

QUESTION: Okay.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it was – first of all, the fact that John was there was so fortuitous.

QUESTION: Right.

SECRETARY CLINTON: We couldn’t have ever scripted it. But he was there at exactly the right time. And he and I talked about – he got fully briefed by Ambassador Holbrooke about sort of the state of play. And he and I talked about how we made a political argument to Karzai.

You can come in and say, “Look, it’s the right thing to do. The international community expects you to do it. You must respond.”

QUESTION: Yes, yes. But --

SECRETARY CLINTON: But --

QUESTION: But.

SECRETARY CLINTON: -- if you come in and you say, “Look, I’ve won and lost elections. I know what this feels like.”

QUESTION: Right.

SECRETARY CLINTON: “I understand how upset you are that you feel like you won and all the votes, regardless of whether they were specifically fraudulent or not, based on the sampling that the UN committee did, are going to be thrown out, and how that makes you feel,” and all the rest of it.

And so John could walk through the garden with him, and talk about how he felt when he felt bad about the outcome in Ohio. And I talked to him about what happened in 2000, and I talked to him about the experiences that I had had in politics.

QUESTION: 2008, yes.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, exactly. So it helped. It really did help, Charlie.

QUESTION: Yes.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Because it was a visceral connection. And it wasn’t something abstract. It was, “We know. We know how it feels. We know what you’re going through inside, and how unfair you think it is. But there comes a time when a leader of a democracy must support the institution. This is an institution that you must respect.” Just like in 2000, the Supreme Court made a decision I would not have made in the Gore v. Bush case.

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

SECRETARY CLINTON: But you accept that and you go on. And you therefore strengthen democracy, and frankly, you strengthen your hand politically.

QUESTION: Is part of this, or what you just said to me, part of the way you thought about losing the presidency, about losing the nomination and moving on?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Is that the way you had to deal with it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Of course. I am a true believer in the American political system. And I think that it’s rooted in who I am and how I was raised and my sense of patriotism and all these wonderful, old-fashioned, but very important values that I hold.

So, I did the best I could. I fought as hard as I could. I made my share of mistakes. I did better in some areas than I thought I would. I was very gratified by the support that I had. But it came to an end. And I wanted to support, at that time, Senator Obama, because he and I were much more in line on our world view and what we wanted to see happen domestically than the other party was. And so I threw myself in to helping his elect him.

And nobody was more surprised than I, when after the election, he called and asked me to consider taking this position.

QUESTION: Is that the first time he mentioned it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely.

QUESTION: He had never thought about it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, he --

QUESTION: I know he thought – because he now says that he had been thinking about it for a while.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, yes, yes.

QUESTION: He saw in you qualities that he wanted as the Secretary of State. And he looked at all the other possibilities, and he said --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. Well, it --

QUESTION: But he didn’t bring it up to you until after the election?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Not at all. And when I --

QUESTION: Not the nomination, but the election.

SECRETARY CLINTON: The election, absolutely. I mean, first of all, it wouldn’t have been appropriate, and I would have been incredulous.

QUESTION: Well, there are some people who thought he promised it to him, (inaudible) --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s -- I don’t know anything about that. But what I do know is that after the election, when stories started coming out, I thought that it was absurd, unbelievable.

QUESTION: Why? Why?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, for a million reasons. But I also --

QUESTION: Just give me one.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well --

QUESTION: Why was it absurd? Because, I mean, he had read Team Of Rivals.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, yes, yes.

QUESTION: He believed in this idea --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Well I --

QUESTION: -- that may have been overblown.

SECRETARY CLINTON: But I think I was very much happy about going back to representing New York.

QUESTION: And playing a part in healthcare reform, the passion of your life.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely, the passion of my life. And I am thrilled by what happened in the House and --

QUESTION: And you think it will pass in the Senate? And the President will sign it before 2010, do you think?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let’s hope. And we’re going to work for it.

QUESTION: Right.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I call – as soon as the vote was final in the House, I called the President and I called the Speaker. I mean, I was thrilled at what has been such a long journey. And now the attention turns to the Senate.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. So now you’re Secretary today, and I’ll ask you --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Why did – you decided to accept it because?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Because when your President asks you to serve your country, I think you should say yes, if you can. And I also thought that my --

QUESTION: But you had moments in which you said, “I’m not sure this is my best interest,” or --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well --

QUESTION: -- “B, I’m the best person,” whatever you might have thought.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I said all of that.

QUESTION: (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) No perks. I kept saying, “Well, how about so-and-so? Don’t you think so-and-so -- ”

QUESTION: Did you? Yeah, exactly, and I have a great life, Mister, and I’m going to be the -- ”

SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely. And I --

QUESTION: -- “become the Senate majority leader, perhaps?”

SECRETARY CLINTON: “I want to return to the Senate, and I want to catch up on my sleep.”

QUESTION: Yeah.

SECRETARY CLINTON: All of those things, but I also thought --

QUESTION: Well, you were wrong about that.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I was very wrong about that, that – if the shoe had been on the other foot, and I had been asking him, I would have hoped that he would have said yes.

And so, how could I be standoffish and say, “Well, I would rather be a senator,” and, “I want my life back,” and all these things that were certainly going through my mind?

QUESTION: Someone watching the campaign, the Democratic campaign, might have said there was some space between how you view the world and he views the world, you being more hawkish, more something.

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, look. I am very pleased at the relationship that the President and I have.

QUESTION: What are you pleased about?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That it is very – it’s very collegial. It is personally very positive. We see each other all the time and we work very well together. And I think that we probably have people in both of our camps who were surprised by that and somewhat skeptical. But both of us understood what it is we had to do and do together, given the array of problems we face.

So, I am – look, I’m very, very committed to doing everything I can on behalf of my country, and the President, and the agenda we set forth.

QUESTION: There’s no sharp disagreements between the way you two see the world?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, if there are, I wouldn’t tell you. (Laughter.) No, but we have – no, (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) There are some, but in the end, it’s his --

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s – look, he’s the President. But what I really appreciate --

QUESTION: It’s his call.

SECRETARY CLINTON: -- is we have a very robust process, where everybody is heard, and there is quite a good back-and-forth testing assumptions, coming up with ideas, and on a couple of occasions, I was kind of in a somewhat solitary position vis-à-vis rest of the NSC.

QUESTION: Well, just give me one example of that.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I can’t. But --

QUESTION: Oh, just one.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Someday, Charlie. Someday. In about 10 years, we’ll do this interview. But I went to the President and said, “This is really what I would like you to think about, and here are the reasons for it.” And on one very important matter, he agreed with me.

And so it’s not just that you have discussions between the two of us, which we do, where we look at things from different angles, where we try to come up with an approach. But it’s the larger team. Sometimes both the President and I are pushing the people on our teams to think differently and more creatively.

QUESTION: All right. You have said you’ll never run for president again.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I said that. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Any other things you’ve said you will never do again?

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Oh, well, I – yes, I’m sure there are, but at the moment I can’t think of them.

QUESTION: Thank you for this time.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.

QUESTION: It’s a pleasure to have this opportunity to talk to you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good to see you. Thanks, Charlie.

QUESTION: From Berlin, Germany, a conversation with the Secretary of State. This is, as we record this, November 9, 20 years after the wall came tearing down with momentous consequences, as the Secretary said, for Europe, for Russia, for the United States, and for the world.

Thank you for joining us. See you next time. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.

QUESTION: It’s always a joy.

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) It’s always fun.




PRN: 2009/T15-4

[This is a mobile copy of Interview on the Charlie Rose Show]