Interview With Cynthia McFadden of ABC's Nightline
Secretary of State
QUESTION: I want to ask you, Madam Secretary, about Haiti. One – over a billion dollars appropriated to help the Haitians and the – in the wake of devastation last year. And, in fact, it’s an appropriate question here because this trip to Australia was originally scheduled to happen a year ago.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: None of that billion dollars has been spent.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, but –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me explain. We had money in the pipeline that was going to and has been delivered to Haiti. We expended an enormous amount of money in the immediate relief efforts. So the money that has not yet been released by the Congress was money that was future money. It’s now (inaudible) time, when I would like to see it released and utilized and it will be. But I think there’s been somewhat of a confusion that no money from the United States Government has gone to Haiti. That’s not true. We have spent money, are spending money, and are doing a lot of good, although the need is overwhelming, and you feel so sorry for Haiti, from earthquakes, cholera, hurricanes. These people never catch a break. But we’re deeply involved with the Government of Haiti, with our great NGOs that are serving in Haiti, and we’re doing a lot as we speak in Haiti.
QUESTION: Are you confident that Congress will indeed release the money?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, yes. We will be able to expend the money that has been appropriated for Haiti.
QUESTION: Okay, great, because it sure didn’t read very well when the release was U.S. Government spent zero of the billion dollars.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, yeah. But that’s part of a bigger story.
QUESTION: So someone said that the job of diplomacy was getting somebody to do what they don’t want to do without shooting them.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) That’s a good description.
QUESTION: Is that what your day is like?
SECRETARY CLINTON: My day is – consists of figuring out what people are doing and why and what they would like to do and why they’re not and trying to talk with people and make a case for why doing what would be, from the American perspective, a positive, is in their interest to do. So I do spend a lot of time talking to governments and to influential people in various countries about how to make tough decisions that are really in their interests. And it is fascinating, endlessly so. But there is, of course, a little bit of frustration from time to time.
QUESTION: So was it mere coincidence that you were halfway around the world over the midterm elections?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Actually, it was. And here’s why. I had two dates that bookended that period. One, the East Asia Summit where I had to go and represent President Obama, because he obviously couldn’t leave the country. And the other, the 25th what’s called AUSMIN where Bob Gates and I meet with our counterparts here in Australia. And they were a week apart with the election in the middle. So for me it didn’t make sense to go to Vietnam, turn around and go back to the U.S. and then come back again. And also, there were some really important – other opportunities to go to Cambodia which is a country that is coming out of such a terrible, traumatic experience inflicted by the Khmer Rouge.
The United States has supported the trials and we want them to continue doing the trials; to go to Malaysia, a country whose prime minister gave a really important speech at the UN about a month and a half ago calling for moderates to join a movement against to extremism; to go to Papua New Guinea which has found natural gas and a big Exxon Mobil contract. So there were lots of reasons for me to go between Vietnam and Australia.
QUESTION: So let me tell you, the Democrats --
SECRETARY CLINTON: What happened?
QUESTION: The Democrats really took a licking.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, I’m very, very sorry about that. I think that it’s something that happens in midterm elections as a rule after the inauguration of a new president, the members of Congress of his party lose seats. But I was very sad to see a lot of good people turned out of Congress for doing the right thing.
QUESTION: Well, you lived through it.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I did, 1994.
QUESTION: Lots of headlines of that questioning, wondering whether or not President Obama can pivot the way your husband was able to. What do you think? Can Obama pull a Clinton?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think he can show, clearly, the leadership that the country expects from him and which he’s providing.
QUESTION: What do you think it means when they say can Obama pull a Clinton? What do you think they’re talking about?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think what they’re talking about is when you suffer the losses that both my husband did and that President Obama did in this election, how do you stay your course and your principles and do what you believe is right for the country, but present it and sell it in a way that more people will understand what you’re trying to do. When Bill made -- Bill made a lot of hard decisions for the Congress -- raising taxes to go down with the deficit, getting assault weapons off the streets, and a lot of other things that were very difficult. And people lost their seats in Congress because nobody understood exactly what this would all mean to the average voter.
Similarly, the President inherited a terrible economic situation. I think what he’s done has prevented a depression, even though I’m very worried about the fact that employment is not where it should be and the President is working hard on that. But what he has to do now is figure out ways to advance what he thinks is the right agenda for America working with a Republican House and a narrower majority of Democrats in the Senate. But I’m absolutely confident he can do that.
QUESTION: Your husband moved toward the middle.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that’s -- that is sort of the conventional wisdom, but I don’t think that Bill changed his principles or changed his objectives, or really reversed course in any way. I think what he did was take a very clear-eyed assessment of what was going to be possible with the Congress after the election and moved on every front that he could to get things done and I think that’s what you’ll see President Obama doing.
QUESTION: Are you worried about the Tea Partiers and others who have been elected this time around wanting to pull back internationally, wanting to not support an international agenda?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Cynthia, I don’t know, because I don’t know them. I’m going to get to know them. I’m going to work very hard in a bipartisan way to reach out and consult and I’ve already been calling some of the Republican leaders that I’ll be working with. But I think we will have to wait and see. Now, there are some people who campaigned along the lines of what you’re saying and we can always do a better job at what we’re trying to achieve on behalf of the United States. I’m open to constructive criticism. But there is no way the United States can shrink from our leadership responsibilities, give up on promoting our interests and our values around the world, fight against terrorism, stand up for human rights. The agenda that is so important to who we are as a nation, I think will continue to be supported.
QUESTION: Have you talked to Mr. Boehner?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’ve got a call into him. I haven’t talked to him yet.
QUESTION: You’re going to work with him, though.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely. I know him. I’ve -- I was in the Senate when he was in the Congress.
QUESTION: Two years ago, you wanted to be President.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I did.
QUESTION: Did you end up with a better job do you think?
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, I ended up with a job that I love. I never would have predicted that I would have this job, but I’m very grateful for the chance to serve in this way. I’ve had a wonderful life in the public arena. It’s been beyond anything I could have imagined when I first started all those years ago. And I think that it is clear that at this moment in time the United States has to assert ourselves on the international stage in a way that wins the confidence and the trust of people around the world again and that’s what I’m trying to do.
QUESTION: You know, I said to people when I saw you last in Moscow that you seemed much happier in Moscow than you did in Iowa. (Laughter.) True?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I loved my campaign. I obviously tried very hard to win and that wasn’t what came out of it, but I loved getting out and talking to people and to a certain extent I’m campaigning for America now. I’m doing town halls. I’m meeting people from all walks of life. I’m using my political experience to try to explain America in ways that somebody in a country far from us who’s never been there can understand and realize we have something in common that we need to be working toward.
QUESTION: The enormity of the problems facing America right at this moment --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: I see you all doing this stuff. (Laughter.) It’s like so distracting. Never let them sit behind me, because you’ll go out of your mind. (Laughter.) Okay? This is the last question everybody. The enormity of the problems that this country faces right now and that most Americans go to bed worrying not just whether they have a job, whether they can afford to send their kids to college, whether or not a package is going to arrive from Yemen in the mail and blow up the house --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: I mean, what do you say? How safe are we?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that we have the most dedicated professional hardworking people in our government who every single hour of every day are doing all they know to do to keep America safe. When you think about the interception of those packages, that is the result of years of work, of building relationships with intelligence services in other countries. And we have to be right all the time; the terrorists only have to be right one time. But I’m very proud of the work that is being done in our government. I want Americans not to be governed by fear. Life is uncertain and unpredictable no matter who you are and where you live. We don’t know what’s going to happen to any of us tomorrow. You can step off a curb and get hit by a truck. We can’t live like that. We have to keep being willing to face the future with confidence and optimism.
I am a huge believer in our country, our resilience. We have to work together. We can’t be shouting insults at each other and get anything done. We may have differences of opinion about the best way forward, but we all love our country, we want to see the economy moving and growing again so that people who are willing to work hard and play by the rules have a chance to get a good job and support their family and live the American dream. We want to see America respected and admired around the world. We want to make sure that the dream is there for our children. That’s how we should be looking at the future. Now, part of the problem is we all know too much about what’s going on in the world. I mean, there have been bad things happening all over the world ever since people came out of the caves. That is just human nature. But now we know within a millisecond about something terrible happening halfway around the world. If there’s a kidnapping in California, people in New York won’t let their children go out and play.
I mean, we know so much. And at some point, you cannot allow your fears to determine how you live, whether you’re a person or you’re a country. So we’re going to do the very best we can to keep our country safe. That is the highest priority of this President, of this Administration, but we can’t live every single day looking over our shoulder. We’ve got to get about the business of reshaping the future. That’s what America is about. I run around the world talking to people in countries who can’t get over the past. They can’t move on. They are paralyzed. That’s not us and we need to act like the Americans that are fearless and focused on building a better tomorrow. And we’ll get there.
QUESTION: You said – talk about the future, you said you’re not running for President in 2012 or 2016. (Laughter.) What about 2020? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think I’m going to be the best Secretary of State I can be, Cynthia. (Laughter.) Thank you.