Meet the Press Interview
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Secretary of State
May 2, 2010
Editor's Note: This interview was taped on April 30, 2010 and broadcast on May 2.
QUESTION: Welcome back. Thanks for being here.
QUESTION: Thanks very much. There’s a lot of important issues to talk about with certainly in the headlines this weekend is this oil spill off the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi. And it becomes a bigger issue, and even a national security issue, as it applies to climate change, which is an issue that you’ve dealt with. How will the Administration approach this particularly given the President’s interest in offshore drilling? Does that have to stop now?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, David, I think that the President has ordered the departments that deal with this – Homeland Security, Interior, Environmental Protection, Defense – to all immediately not only do everything possible to mitigate the effects of this spill, but to try to come up with recommendations going forward. The first order of business, however, is to try to get this spill under control, which has been, as you know, very difficult, and to prevent further damage to the coastline along Louisiana to the fishing waters, to the wildlife.
I think it does raise questions which the President has said have to be answered. He put forth a very comprehensive approach that included the potential of drilling off of our own shore. That is a national security concern because we have to do better to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. But it has to be done safely. It can’t be done at the risk of having to spend billions of dollars cleaning up these spills.
So as with so much in these difficult areas, it’s going to require a balancing act.
QUESTION: Another area that has become a domestic political debate over immigration has also taken on some international ramifications. Mexico, because of the law – the stringent law against – the anti-immigration law passed in Arizona, has issued a pretty unusual alert to its own citizens traveling to Arizona. I’ll put it up on the screen. This is the alert – a travel alert over Arizona immigration law. This is how the USA Today reported it on Wednesday: “The country warned that the state’s adoption of a strict immigration enforcement law has created ‘a negative political environment from migrant communities and for all Mexican visitors.’ ‘It must be assumed that every Mexican citizen may be harassed and questioned without further cause at any time,’ according to the foreign ministry.”
The president, President Calderon, with whom you will meet soon, has talked about criminalizing – this law criminalizes a largely social and economic phenomenon of migration. This is a pretty big shot across the bow to America here.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is. And I think if you look at it, again, you have a lot of unanswered questions. This law, which is clearly a result of the frustration that people in Arizona and their elected officials feel about the difficulty of enforcing the law along our border and preventing the continued immigration of people who are not documented, but on the other hand, it is written so broadly that if you were visiting in Arizona and you had an accent and you were a citizen from my state of New York, you could be subjected to the kind of inquiry this law permits.
QUESTION: Do you think it invites profiling, racial profiling?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, because clearly, as I understand the way the law is being explained, if you’re a legal resident, you still have to carry papers. Well, how is a law enforcement official supposed to know? So, again, we have to try to balance the very legitimate concerns that Americans – not just people in Arizona but across the country have about safe and secure borders, about trying to have comprehensive immigration reform, with a law that I think does what a state doesn't have the authority to do, try to impose their own immigration law that is really the province of the federal government.
QUESTION: That is important. Do you think this law will not stand up legally?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t want to offer a legal opinion. I think I’ll leave that to the Justice Department. But I know the Attorney General of Arizona has raised questions about the legality. And you’re right; we have a visit from President Calderon coming up, a state visit. He’s a very important partner to us on trying to stop illegal activity along our border – the importation of drugs, of arms, of human beings – all of the crime that that’s associated with. And we believe that he has really done the best he can under very difficult circumstances to get this under control. We don’t want to make his life any harder either. We want to try to support him in what has been a courageous campaign against the drug traffickers.
QUESTION: Let me move on to some other issues that are obviously on your plate, which is a big plate of issues. Let’s talk about Afghanistan. A big offensive is being planned for Kandahar. A very important visit by President Karzai is coming up after a period of turbulence between the U.S. and Karzai which I know the Administration has tried to tamp down. And yet, it’s the nature of the insurgency that our fighting men and women are dealing with. And the Pentagon issued a report that was reported on by the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. Let me put it up on the screen. It says the report presented a sobering new assessment Wednesday of the Taliban-led insurgency in the country, saying that its abilities are expanding and its operations are increasing in sophistication despite major offenses by U.S. forces in the militant heartland, like Marjah. The new report offers a grim take on the likely difficulty of establishing lasting security, especially in southern Afghanistan, where the insurgency enjoys broad support. The conclusions raise the prospect that the insurgency in the south may never be completely vanquished, but instead must be contained to prevent it from threatening the government of President Hamid Karzai.
A narrow question here: Are you resigned to the fact that the Taliban, the insurgency, will have to be a part of this government in the future?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. And let me start by putting the recent report from the Pentagon into context. It was a look-back. It goes from last October through March. When we were devising the strategy that the President announced at West Point in early December, it was during the August, September, October, November period, and there was no doubt that the Taliban had the initiative, that there was a very serious threat to not only our forces, obviously, on the ground, but to the stability and security of Afghanistan.
QUESTION: But you hear all this talk and Karzai wants some kind of reconciliation with the Taliban as well.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, but, David, I think that we have to sort of sort out what we mean by that. We talk about reconciliation and reintegration. They may sound the same, but they’re somewhat different concepts. Reintegration refers to the foot soldiers on the field who are coming in increasing numbers and saying, look, we’re fighting because we get paid, we’re fighting because we were volunteered to fight because the Taliban came to our village and intimidated our elders. So there seems to be an ongoing movement of people sort of out of the battlefield. And General McChrystal and his commanders on the ground are seeing that and kind of organizing and running that.
The larger question about reconciliation – I don’t know any conflict in recent times that didn’t have some political resolution associated with it. People either got tired of fighting and decided they would engage in a peace process; they were defeated enough so that they were willing to lay down their arms. What President Karzai is saying – and we agree with this direction – is that you’ve got to look to see who is reconcilable. Not everybody will be. We don’t expect Mullah Omar to show up and say, oh yeah, I’m giving up on my association with al-Qaida, et cetera. But we do think that there are leaders within the Taliban – in fact, there are some already – who have come over to the other side.
Now, if they do so, they have to renounce al-Qaida, they have to renounce violence, they have to give up their arms, and they have to be willing to abide by the Afghan constitution.
QUESTION: Another adversary, of course, gets us to Iran and the fact that President Ahmadinejad from Iran will be coming to New York to the UN for a nonproliferation meeting.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: You’re moving down a path of sanctions. We understand what that is. Do you feel like he’s going to try to show up here the early part of next week and steal the show?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t know what he’s showing up for, because the purpose of the Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference is to reiterate the commitment of the international community to the three goals: disarmament, nonproliferation, the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. So the vast majority of countries are coming to see what progress we can make. And this is a very high priority for President Obama. It’s why he pressed so hard for the START treaty, which he signed with President Medvedev in Prague. It’s why we convened a Nuclear Security Summit to highlight the threat posed by nuclear terrorism. It’s why we have begun to work out deals with India and others for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, which countries are entitled to under the nonproliferation regime.
If Iran is coming to say we’re willing to abide by the Nonproliferation Treaty, that would be very welcome news. I have a feeling that’s not what they’re coming to do. I think they’re coming to try to divert attention and confuse the issue. And there is no confusion. They have violated the terms of the NPT. They have been held under all kinds of restrictions and obligations that they have not complied with by the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, by the UN Security Council. So we’re not going to permit Iran to try to change the story from their failure to comply and in any way upset the efforts we are in the midst of, which is to get the international community to adopt a strong Security Council resolution that further isolates them and imposes consequences for their behavior.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I’d like to spend a couple minutes on some other global hotspots which you’re dealing with.
The first one is actually with America’s strong ally. In the UK, in Great Britain, very interesting election going on. You’ve got three candidates, a resurgent third party in the Social Democrats, televised debates. You know something about those.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I do.
QUESTION: And as you watch what’s going on there, do you think there’s a movement that could spread? Do you see a third party becoming viable in the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let’s see whether it’s viable in the UK. I don’t know the answer to that. We’ve had in my lifetime, and certainly long before, viable third-party candidates. We had Ross Perot, John Anderson just within my voting history. I think there’s always room in democracy for people to bring their views to the forefront. But I think one of the real strengths of our system has been our two-party approach, where each party may frustrate some of its own members because they do have a broad cross-section of voters and opinions.
But look, I’m going to be as interested as anybody to see what happens in the election in Great Britain.
QUESTION: Final one has to do with the election in Sudan, where you have Bashir as the victor, and yet this is Sudan, is a sponsor of state terror, according to the State Department, and this is someone who is boasting about the results and keeping the United States at bay. Nicholas Kristof wrote this in The New York Times: “Until he reached the White House, President Obama repeatedly insisted the U.S. apply more pressure on Sudan so as to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur and elsewhere. Yet as president, Mr. Obama and his aides have caved, leaving Sudan gloating at American weakness. President Bashir, al-Bashir of Sudan, a man wanted for crimes against humanity in Darfur, has been celebrating. His regime called itself the National Congress Party, or NCP, and he was quoted in Sudan as telling a rally in the Blue Nile region: ‘Every America – even America is becoming an NCP member, no one is against our will.’
“Memo to Mr. Obama, when a man who has been charged with crimes against humanity tells the world that America is in his pocket, it’s time to review your policy.”
What do you say?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would say that, number one, I can’t take anything seriously that Bashir says. He is an indicted war criminal. The United States is very committed to seeing him brought to justice. But let’s look at what’s happening in Sudan, because I have the greatest respect, of course, for Nick Kristof and others who share my deep dismay at events in Sudan.
But here’s what we’re trying to do. When we came into office, Bashir threw out the groups, the nongovernmental organizations, who were providing most of the aid in the camps in Darfur, which could have been a disastrous humanitarian crisis. We were able to get a lot of the help back in and we’re beginning to see some slight progress in Darfur. I don’t want to overstate it because it is still a deplorable situation. But we are working to try to get the people back to their homes, out of the camps.
At the same time, you had this election going on. It was, by any measure, a flawed election. There were many, many things wrong with it. But there hadn’t been an election in many years, and so part of our goal was to try to empower opposition parties, empower people to go out and vote. Thousands and thousands did. The result, I think, was pretty much foreordained that Bashir would come out the winner, and that’s unfortunate. We are turning all of our attention to trying to help the South and to mitigate against the attitudes of the North. I can’t sit here and say that we are satisfied, because I’m certainly not satisfied with where we are and what we’re doing, but it is an immensely complicated arena.
Now, the United States could back off and say we won’t deal with these people, we’re not going to have anything to do with them, Bashir is a war criminal. I don’t think that will improve the situation. So along with our partners – the UK, Norway, neighboring countries – we are trying to manage what is a very explosive problem.
QUESTION: Just a couple minutes left. I want to ask you about another big thrust of your time as Secretary of State, and that is forging – well, I should say a realization that there are limits to what government can accomplish around the world. You have spent a lot of time working with the private sector to achieve certain commercial goals, also to achieve goals like the empowerment of women. You’ve got an announcement this weekend having to do with the China Expo and the U.S. role in the China Expo, as well as efforts to empower women around the world in developing countries through the help of the private sector.
Why is this really the route of the future for the government?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you for asking me that, because that is exactly what I believe, that diplomacy today is not just government-to-government. Part of what I had to do when I became Secretary of State was to rebuild America’s image, standing, and leadership in the world. And certainly, President Obama is our greatest advocate at that. But you can’t just do that by the government saying things or even by our President making incredibly important speeches. You have to begin to engage the people in other countries. And in order to do that effectively, I want more people-to-people contacts, I want more private sector partnerships with our public sector and with people around the world.
Let me give two quick examples. You mentioned the Shanghai Expo. There’ll probably be 70 million-plus people who go through that Expo. When I became Secretary of State, there was no money raised because we don’t put public money into a project like that. So with the help of a lot of very dedicated corporate sponsors, we now will be a player in that Expo.
Now, what does that mean? Well, when those 70 million Chinese – mostly Chinese but people from elsewhere in the world go through, they’re going to learn something about America. They’re going to learn something about our values, about our products, about how we live. I think that helps to build the kind of understanding and connection that is at the root of good relations.
And on women’s issues, we just had a great announcement through the combined efforts of a number of corporate sponsors, foundations like the Rockefeller Foundation, we’re going to be working to help empower women doing what they do best and to try to up their education levels, their health levels.
Why does this matter? Because it’s the United States doing it. And it’s not just the United States Government. It’s the people of the United States.
QUESTION: Before you go, a question about whether you think it’s realistic that you will stay on as Secretary of State for the balance of the first term.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, I intend to. Yeah, I intend to.
QUESTION: You do intend to?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. But I mean, people have been asking me this. And in the interest of full disclosure, it is an exhausting job. But I enjoy it. I have a great time doing it. I feel like we’re making a difference around the world, that I’m a big believer in setting goals, having a vision of where we’re trying to get, but then trying to translate that into what we do today and what we do tomorrow. And we’ve made a lot of progress. We face incredibly difficult problems.
QUESTION: So you think you’ll stay for the whole first term?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think so. I think so. I mean, look, ask me next month and the month after that, but that certainly is my intention.
QUESTION: And yet you don’t care to be on the Supreme Court?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, never. I mean, I’m glad you (inaudible).
QUESTION: You’re a lawyer with all that background.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am – I do not and have never wanted to be a judge, ever. I mean, that has never been anything that I even let cross my mind, because it’s just not my personality.
QUESTION: Do you think the President should pick another women – woman this time?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think he should pick a very well-qualified, people-savvy, young person to be on the Court to really help to shape the jurisprudence going forward. I think that it’s not a surprise that there’s a real division on the Court, and a lot of decisions that have great ramifications for the people of our country that I would like to see someone put on the Court who can really try to shift the direction of the current Court.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you, as always.
SECRETARY CLINTON: You’re welcome.
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[This is a mobile copy of Interview With David Gregory of NBC's Meet the Press]
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