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ABC "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" -Transcript

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ABC "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" -Transcript

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, everyone. The presidential candidates have never lavished so much time, money, and attention on Iowa. So with the caucuses coming up on Thursday, that's where we were on the trail this week - this time with Hillary Clinton.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): (From tape.) It is going to be tough but we can do it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Locked in a dogfight with both John Edwards and Barack Obama -

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): (From tape.) I'm fired up.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: - the former first lady began her final push family in tow: her mom, her daughter and of course -

PRES. BILL CLINTON: (From tape.) I hope I am introducing you, courtesy of your support, to the next president of the United States, Senator Hillary Clinton.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: In these last few days before the caucuses, America's most famous senator is raising the stakes.

SEN. CLINTON: (From tape.) You have an awesome responsibility. The entire country and even the world will be watching.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And playing her trump card: experience.

SEN. CLINTON: (From tape.) I want you to ask yourself, who will be the best president? Who, if something happened that none of us can predict now, would be there able to respond and act on behalf of our country immediately?

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: When I met with Senator Clinton in Aldridge -

SEN. CLINTON: Great to be here.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's when we began.

Peggy Noonan accepts the premise of your question this morning in the "Wall Street Journal," but she goes on to say that's exactly the reason not to pick you. She says, Mrs. Clinton is the most dramatically polarizing, the most instinctively distrusted political figure of my lifetime. Yes, I include Nixon.

SEN. CLINTON: (Laughs.) Well, George, I'm not surprised. Are you? Obviously, I'm running a campaign to try to keep focused on the big issues that the country faces and I think that people in Iowa and around the country are resonating to that. But obviously there are people who disagree with me, they disagree with me ideologically, philosophically, on a partisan basis. That's not a surprise to me or to you. And for those who now think they're against me, I look to New York where a lot of ended up voting for me who never thought they would.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But even our polling here in Iowa shows that this issue of trust is a hurdle for you with Democrats.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, that's not what I see. I trust my touch and my feel more than I trust, with all due respect, the commentary that goes on. And whoever becomes the Democratic nominee will face a very high negative because we know that's what the Republicans are better at, including the person that you quoted from, than anybody else.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: On this issue of experience, Senator Dodd took off on you yesterday. He said your experience as first lady was basically not relevant, you were sitting on the sidelines and he said, that's not experience; that's witnessing experience. How do you respond to Senator Dodd?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I'm a big fan of his.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Despite that?

SEN. CLINTON: Oh, sure. Look, it's a campaign. We're getting down to the very end. I've been around long enough to know that people who are friends before and will be friends afterwards are obviously trying to make a political point. But I think the reality and the evidence is far different. I was intimately involved in so much that went on in the White House, here at home, and around the world.

Just in the last few weeks, the new leaders of the Northern Ireland government, Dr. Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness made a special effort to see me. Why? Because I helped in that process, not just standing by and witnessing but actually getting my hands into it, creating opportunities for people on both side of the sectarian divide to come together. When I went to Beijing, I wasn't a witness. I was a spokesperson and proud to be for the proposition that women's rights are human rights, and that cascaded across the world.

I was entrusted with a lot of missions in both paving the way and in dealing with very specific challenges our country faced. And I believe since I've been in the Senate, especially serving on the Arms Services Committee, I've deepened and broadened my experience.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But how about in the White House? The "New York Times" wrote this week that you did not attend National Security Council meetings, you did not receive the president's daily brief, you didn't have a security clearance, and that calls your experience in the White House into question.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I just disagree with that. I can imagine what the stories would have been had I attended a National Security Council meeting. You were there. I think you can vouch for that. But I had direct access to all of the decision-makers. I was briefed on a range of issues, often provided classified information. And often when I traveled on behalf of our country, I traveled with representatives from the DOD, the CIA, the State Department. I think that my experience is unique having been eight years in the White House, having - yes - been part of making history and also been part of learning how to best present our country's case. And now, seven years on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: President Clinton has said, has suggested that you urged him to intervene in Rwanda in 1994.

PRES. CLINTON: (From tape.) If I had moved then, we might have saved as many as a third of those lives, and I think she clearly would have done that.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that true?

SEN. CLINTON: It is. It is true. And, you know, I believe that our government failed. We obviously didn't have a lot of good options, it moved very quickly, it was a difficult, terrible genocide to try to get our arms around and to do something to try to stem or prevent. It didn't happen. And that is something that the president's apologized for and I think that for me it was one of the most poignant and difficult experiences when I met with Rwandan refugees in Kampala, Uganda, shortly after the genocide ended and I personally apologized to women whose arms had been hacked off, who had seen their husbands and their children murdered before their very eyes and were at the bottom of piles of bodies. And then when I was able to go to Rwanda and be part of expressing our deep regrets because we didn't speak out adequately enough and we certainly didn't take action.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You've called President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan an unreliable ally. Should he step down?

SEN. CLINTON: I'm not calling for him to step down. I'm calling for him, number one, to agree with an independent investigation of Benazir Bhutto's death. I'm calling on him to hold free and fair elections with independent monitors. I believe that it will take a little time to get that ready because Benazir's party will have to choose a successor leader.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So we don't need the elections on the 8th?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think it would be very difficult to have a real election. Nawaz Sharif has said he's not going to compete, the PPP is in disarray with Benazir's assassination. He could be the only person on the ballot. I don't think that's a real election.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Are we getting to the point, as the United States faced back in 1979, where we stood behind a leader who doesn't have the trust of his people for too long?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, that's very possible. We don't know. We know that there is a very strong pro-democracy, anti-Musharraf movement. When you have people demonstrating in the streets who are wearing coats and ties, those are the people we should be standing with, the civil society, the middle-class of Pakistan. But at this point, if Musharraf were to step down, who would take his place? How would that ever be worked out? This is not a country that has a history of peaceful successions. This in an opportunity for President Musharraf to step up and actually fulfill many of the words and promises that he's made to me and to many others over the course of a number of years.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: On the issue of experience, Barack Obama has taken to quoting Bill Clinton in 1992.

SEN. OBAMA: (From tape.) You can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience and mine is rooted in the real lives of real people and it will bring real results if we just have the courage to change. (Applause.) And I believe deeply in those words. But you know what? They're not mine. They were Bill Clinton's in 1992. (Laughter.)

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Is Barack Obama as qualified for the White House now as Bill Clinton was then?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, by the time Bill ran, he was the senior-most serving governor in America and he'd had tough elections every two years and then two more after that. But I'm running on my own qualifications and experience.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So the answer is no?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I'm going to let voters make that decision because ultimately voters are trying to weigh each and every one us. What people know about me is that I've been vetted and I've been tested. I've been on the receiving end of a lot of Republican incoming fire for 16 years and I have much to their dismay survived and thrived. I don't think there's much -

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And he hasn't yet.

SEN. CLINTON: I think I'm talking about what I've been through and I don't think there's much doubt that I'm ready to go the distance. You know, I have all of this support from office holders in so-called red states. Now, they may like me personally, but they're not on suicide missions. They have assessed the field and they have concluded, as Governor Strickland has said, I am the person who can win Ohio, I am the person best ready to run a winning campaign and to be the best president for America.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You want to be judged on your own terms, and of course, you will be in the end, but President Clinton does play a big role in this campaign and a big part of your appeal here. Right?

SEN. CLINTON: Right. Right.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So has he had a hard time in your view adjusting to the role of surrogate?

SEN. CLINTON: Not really. I think he's been actually more excited about it than he thought he would have been. You know he loves being out with people, he loves making a case, and he's been a tremendous asset in this campaign.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And a lot of people wonder what kind of role he will play in the White House. You've spoken about his role as a roving ambassador. Take us inside the White House. Say something happens like the assassination of Benazir Bhutto the other day. President Bush had a teleconference with his national security team. Would President Clinton be on that call in your White House?

SEN. CLINTON: Probably not. I think he would play the role that spouses have always played for presidents, which is a very important role, and I know that firsthand but I also know from history -

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So no National Security Council meetings?

SEN. CLINTON: No. That wouldn't be appropriate. He will not have a formal, official role. But just as presidents rely on wives, husbands, fathers, friends of long years, he will be my close confident and adviser, as I was with him. I doubt that there will be an important issue that I won't talk to him about. I don't think there was an important issue he didn't talk to me about. I don't talk about everything we talked about because obviously I don't think that's appropriate, but I expect to rely on him in a personal way and I expect to ask him to take on some very important assignments.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You had an office in the West Wing. Will he?

SEN. CLINTON: If he wants one. I don't think he wants one. (Laughs.)

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He said it. I asked him about that a few months ago and he said he'll go wherever you want him to go, even in the basement.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, it's kind of getting ahead of ourselves. We haven't even had the first people show up at the caucuses in Iowa. I'm going to rely on him. I would expect that people in my administration will turn to him and rely on him, as we do with many people who have experience. I happen to think using former presidents makes a lot of sense, so I expect to ask him to do many things for our country.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Both Barack Obama and John Edwards this week - you're talking about experience, they're talking about change.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): (From tape.) To get real change, we need a president who will stand up against the big corporations and powerful interests in Washington.

SEN. OBAMA: (From tape.) You can't at once argue that you're the master of a broken system in Washington and then offer yourself as the person to change it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And they both say that someone so intimately involved with a broken system, as they put it, can't bring change.

SEN. CLINTON: I don't think there is this distinction between change and experience. I know that's what they've tried to make this campaign about. It is not an either/or choice. That's a false choice for the people of America. I believe I have the experience to bring change. I think you can look at my record in the Senate, and all of the bipartisan accomplishments that I've been able to achieve working across the aisle. I know how to find common ground. I know how to stand my ground. And I think it does take some experience to know how to bring about change in our system. Some people -

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But John Edwards says -

SEN. CLINTON: - think you can bring change by demanding it and some people think you can -

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's John Edwards, right?

SEN. CLINTON: - bring change by hoping for it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's Barack Obama, right?

SEN. CLINTON: I think you bring change by working really hard for it and that's what I've my entire life.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is the frame you've set out, but their point is you take money from the system as it is right now, you take money from lobbyists. You've heard that argument all through this campaign and because you're so wedded to it, it's just not possible.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think those are artificial distinctions. They take money from people who employ lobbyists, who are married to lobbyists, who are the children of lobbyists. We need public financing. We need a total overhaul of how we fund our campaigns. I'm in total agreement with that. But I think it would be hard to find anybody who has incurred the wrath of the special interests more than I have: the drug companies, the health insurance companies, the oil companies. You just go down the list. I don't think they waste their time or effort targeting someone that they think is already in agreement with them. They know I mean what I say. They know I have a track record of bringing success.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're in the Quad Cities here. "Quad City Times" this morning, "Five days left. Caucus race is tight. Edwards, Obama, 29, 29, Clinton, 28." You are world famous. You have the biggest organization in the Democratic Party. Why is it so close here?

SEN. CLINTON: It's supposed to be close. This is a great contest. We don't have any heir apparent in the Democratic Party. I'm out there fighting for every single caucus-goer. I'm out making my case to everybody that I can reach.

MR. : (From tape.) Go get them. Go get them.

SEN. CLINTON: (From tape.) But with your help.

MR. : (From tape.) Go bring them out of - (unintelligible).

SEN. CLINTON: I think this is what elections are supposed to be about. Caucuses are a different breed, but it still is how your persuade people to come out in a cold night and actually stand up in public and declare their allegiance to you as a candidate. But I feel very encouraged by what I see in the crowds and the kind of reports that I'm getting about the support that I have around the state.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: David Yepsen writes in the "Des Moines Register," there's no third place ticket out of an Iowa for a Democrat this year. He calls third place a dead zone. Is he right?

SEN. CLINTON: I think because it's so close. When I started here, I was in single digits. Nobody expected me to be doing as well as I'm doing in Iowa. I was running against one opponent who has been campaigning here for four years, another opponent from a neighboring state, so I believe that this campaign will be bunched up. I think the history out of Iowa is that a lot of people live to fight another day.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you may not win?

SEN. CLINTON: I'm not expecting anything. I'm just working as hard as I can to make the best case in these closing days and to try to get the folks who say they're for me to actually be able to turn out.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: If you don't win here, how do you recover?

SEN. CLINTON: I don't think it's a question of recovery. I have a campaign that is poised and ready for the long term. We are competing everywhere through February 5th. We have staff in many states. We have built organizations in many states. You know, George, you and I went through an experience in 1992 where Bill Clinton didn't win anything until Georgia. He came in second time and time again in a much less volatile and contested environment.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Much less compressed also.

SEN. CLINTON: A much less compressed environment. So from my perspective, you get up every day and you get out there and you make your case and you reach as many people as possible. That's what I intend to so, so I'm in it for the long run. It's not a very long run. It will be over by February 5th.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, thanks very much.

SEN. CLINTON: Thanks. Great to see you.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democrats.

Now we turn to Republican John McCain who's fighting an (air war ?) with Mitt Romney over New Hampshire.

ADVERTISEMENT: (From tape.) McCain championed a bill to let every illegal immigrant stay in America permanently. He even voted to allow illegal immigrants to collect social security. Mitt Romney said no to drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, no to tuition breaks for illegal immigrants.

ADVERTISEMENT: (From tape.) John McCain reacts to Mitt Romney's negative attacks:

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): (From tape.) You know, I find it ironic Mitt Romney would attack me on the issue of immigration. This is the same Mitt Romney who called my plan, quote, "reasonable."

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And Senator McCain joins us now.

Good morning, Senator.

SEN. CLINTON: Good morning, George. How are you?

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm well. Thank you. You know, you called Mitt Romney's attack ironic, but doesn't it make sense that he would go after the issue that's been your Achilles' heel all through 2007?

SEN. MCCAIN: Oh, sure, but I think it also would be helpful if he also would point out that he supported basically this plan. The fact is that I've never supported amnesty. Secretary Chertoff made it very clear, and I did too, that there's two million people in this country illegally that have to be deported immediately because they've already committed crimes. But I'm flattered that Governor Romney would be attacking me. He's attacking Huckabee in Iowa who's a good man and that shows they're worried and that's been his history of spending a lot of his money attacking his opponents when they get close, so I'm looking forward to doing very well here in New Hampshire.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You're in Concord right now. You've got the endorsement of the "Concord Monitor.

" You also put up an ad the other day that quoted the "Concord Monitor" calling Mitt Romney a phony and he said you crossed the line there. Here's what Mitt Romney said.

GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R- MA): (From tape.) It's an attack ad. It attacks me personally. It's nasty. It's mean spirited. Frankly, it tells you more about Senator McCain than it does about me that he'd run an ad like that.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Your response?

SEN. MCCAIN: Welcome to the arena. I didn't say those words. Those were the "Concord Monitor" - (unintelligible) - leader's words.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But wait a second. You paid for people to see those words calling him a phony. Do you think he's a phony?

SEN. MCCAIN: No, I paid for the ad that put up the words of the respected newspapers here in the state of New Hampshire and I think that's perfectly appropriate. Look, we're not going to get in back and forth with Mitt Romney. We're going on with our campaign. I'm talking about the future. I'm talking about our experience. I'm talking about handling a crisis such as we are experiencing today as far as Pakistan is concerned. So we responded and we're moving on. We're not going to get down into a back and forth because, frankly, the voters in New Hampshire don't like this negative campaigning and they reject his negative ads.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you think he's a phony or you don't?

SEN. MCCAIN: Say that again?

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You think he's a phony or you don't?

SEN. MCCAIN: I'm sorry. The -

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm sorry. Do you think Mitt Romney is a phony or not?

SEN. MCCAIN: (I don't know ?). I think he's a person who's changed his position on many issues and the voters know that and they'll decide that, but that's what I will continue to quote from respected newspapers if necessary, but I'm not - as I said, we're going to move forward with this campaign and we're talking about the issues and I'm happy with the enthusiasm we're seeing and we're moving forward and I'm happy with how we're moving.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You have been getting big crowds the last couple of days. Back in 2000, independent voters in New Hampshire were a big part of your victory, but this year, the polls are showing that more than 60 percent of them are voting in the Democratic primary, most of them going to Barack Obama. How do you get the independents back, especially when so many of them believe that the Iraq war is the number one issue and they want the troops to come home?

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, first of all, George, I think they're kind of one third, one third, one third: one third leading Republican, one third Democrat, one third truly independent. It's still not totally clear where the independent voters will go. They're notorious for making up their minds right at the end, and our campaign is gaining traction. We've got a long way to go and a lot of hard work to do in the next several days, but I think we'll get a good percentage of the independent vote, but I also think that we will win the Republican vote as well. But it certainly is a very large voting bloc and larger voting bloc of independents than there was in 2000.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So I know you're hoping that Mike Huckabee dusts up - Mitt Romney beats him in Iowa. That should give you a clearer path. Has New Hampshire become do or die for you?

SEN. MCCAIN: I think New Hampshire is very important. I'll give you straight talk: it's very, very important. It's the expectation game of course as to, quote, "who wins." Sometimes you can come in not first and still, quote, "win" because of the expectations game, but we have to do very well here in New Hampshire. There's no doubt about that, my friend.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So where are the expectations now?

SEN. MCCAIN: I think our expectations are that we have to do extremely well and that, again, is in the judgment of the media and others who give people their opinion as to how you do. And I think we're going to do fine and it's a great honor. It's a great experience. We're having turn outs at the town hall meetings. We're talking about the issues, Pakistan is on a lot of people's minds, the economy, healthcare, but most of all people want somebody who has the experience and the judgment to lead this country and I've got that record and they're beginning to focus on that because the transcendent challenge of the 21st century is radical Islamic extremism and I believe that I've shown the judgment necessary to lead because I've been involved in every national security issue for the last 20 years that has faced this nation.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I saw the other day that you called President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan scrupulously honest. Does he have your full backing today?

SEN. MCCAIN: When I say full backing, I think that he's important. I think when some other candidates said he should step down, my question is who would take his place. We want him to move forward with the elections to be held and they may have to be delayed. In fact, the major parties may request that it be delayed while they sort out the situation as a result of the tragedy of the loss of Benazir Bhutto, but he has done most of the things (we ?) wanted to do. He's disappointed me terribly on the Wiziristan situation, which has provided a safe haven for Taliban, but some of that has to do with problems within his own military. But I think he's done most of things we want us to do. He can play a key and pivotal role. I want us to urge him to move forward with the democratic process, and I think he may do that.

And by the way, I think we ought to know who the winners and losers are here with this tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto and al Qaeda/Taliban are the ones that win when chaos ensues.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: When your campaign faced financial trouble last fall, you had to borrow money and you filed for federal matching funds. How are you going to go beyond New Hampshire? You're spending basically whatever you have left in New Hampshire right now. How are you going to go beyond? Do you expect to actually take those matching funds or not take them?

SEN. MCCAIN: Actually, we've not filed for matching funds. We've stayed the cap so that if necessary that we can. We bought all the media that's necessary and all we can in New Hampshire. The money is coming in very heavily now and we are buying in South Carolina, Michigan, and even doing a lot of stuff in Iowa. So the money is coming in strongly just like it did in 2000 after we won in New Hampshire. I've never run a campaign on money, and here in New Hampshire and in South Carolina it's the retail politics at work and what wins elections, not money.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you won't necessarily take those federal matching funds?

SEN. MCCAIN: It will be a decision that we make at the right time. Right now, we have very significant contributions in to johnmccain.com - (laughs) - and we're doing fine, George.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you got to close with that solicitation for some money. Senator McCain, thank you very much.

SEN. MCCAIN: Thanks a lot, George.


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