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Press Conference With Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Presidential Candidate, Before a Meeting With Military and Diplomatic Leaders

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Location: Washington, DC


Press Conference With Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Presidential Candidate, Before a Meeting With Military and Diplomatic Leaders

Copyright ©2008 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500, 1000 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20005 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service at www.fednews.com, please email Carina Nyberg at cnyberg@fednews.com or call 1-202-216-2706.

SEN. CLINTON: Hello, everyone. Thank you very much.

I just -- I want to start out with a -- a brief statement about what happened in Times Square this morning. I am deeply concerned about the detonation of what appears to be an improvised explosive device near the military recruiting office in Times Square. I am grateful that there were no injuries and minimal damage done. And there is an ongoing investigation that I'm sure, given the extraordinary work of the NYPD, along with other supporting law enforcement offices, will reveal additional information.

I am, however, reminded that it is imperative we remain vigilant, as we continue to face threats at home and abroad. And I will, you know, stay committed to making sure that our law enforcement, along with our military, has the tools that they need to protect us. And I am grateful for the quick response and the obvious professionalism of the government and law enforcement officials in New York City.

I am pleased to be surrounded by such a distinguished group of leaders who represent a wealth of experience, both military and diplomatic, across the globe.

As we all know, the next president will inherit a host of urgent challenges. Ending the war in Iraq and winning the war in Afghanistan are the top of the list, along with rebuilding our military and restoring our leadership and moral authority in the world, reaching out to our allies to confront our shared threats from global warming to global terrorism to global epidemics.

I have asked some of the leaders who are supporting me to meet with me to discuss a number of issues that are on the nation's agenda and certainly on my mind. As president, I will draw on the experience of leaders, such as those you see before you, to confront our challenges and to seize our opportunities, to build a safer and more just world.

I'm also grateful that I have my own experience to draw on. I've been fortunate enough to be on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, to have the great privilege of representing our country and more than 80 other countries, including, of course, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East. Just earlier today I had a conversation with King Abdullah of Jordan about the situation that he and other leaders in the Middle East face today.

I'm very appreciative of the confidence that the leaders around this table and others have placed in me, and some may believe that experience doesn't matter or that it even in today's world is liability. But as generals and admirals, ambassadors and other senior leaders charged with protecting our security know, experience doesn't just count for something. Often when lives are on the line and a decision must be made, experience counts for everything.

In this election we need a nominee who can pass the commander-in- chief test, someone ready on day one to defend our country and keep our families safe, and we need a president who passes that test, because the first and most solemn duty of the president of the United States is to protect and defend our nation. And when there's a crisis, when that phone rings, whether it's 3:00 p.m. or 3:00 a.m. in the White House, there is no time for speeches and on-the-job training.

Today, I'm interested in seeking the guidance and relying on the experience and the expertise on a broad range of issues of those who are here with me. And I particularly will be focusing in on the views and opinions that each have concerning Afghanistan, because I believe that Afghanistan remains as it was described to me when I first visited there in 2003 by an American soldier, who said, "Welcome to the forgotten front lines in the war against terrorism."

Well, I regret to say that those front lines are still largely forgotten. You know, last January I made my third visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and when I returned I urged the White House to send a high-level presidential envoy to the region. The White House was not receptive to that idea. In the meantime, al Qaeda and the Taliban have continued their resurgence. Afghanistan and the border region of Pakistan have merged into one of the most dangerous regions in the world and one of the most strategically important to the United States.

Today, I'm announcing a new strategy, one that is both smart and tough, that uses all of the tools in our arsenal to win the war in Afghanistan. We can no longer relegate Afghanistan to the bottom of our priority. First, as president, I will call on our NATO allies and expect them to respond, along with other nations, to increase the international forces in Afghanistan. I will be prepared to contribute additional American troops as part of a stronger, larger NATO effort, consulting field commanders and our allies in deciding how many troops would be necessary. At the same time, I would work with the Afghan government to improve their own army and police force, making this an American priority, asking our international partners to take a larger responsibility for training these forces.

Second, we will gather greater international support for reconstruction, and we'll finally put into place an effective plan to stem the drug trade.

Afghanistan is the source of 90 percent of the world's opium and heroin, as the United Nations reported just this last week. Instead of targeting the poor farmers, we'll target the drug lords, the drug labs, corrupt officials, along with al Qaeda and the Taliban, that are reaping the financial benefits of the drug trade. And we'll bring in the international community to develop the country's agricultural sector.

Third, we'll take new steps to improve Afghanistan's capacity for self-governance, encouraging the international community to invest in education, transportation, roads, water systems and security, sending people with expertise to jump-start these efforts. We'll promote women's rights and -- something I've long advocated -- maternal and infant mortality -- a way of the United State really reaching into the most remote areas of Afghanistan to demonstrate our concern for the people of the country. I would appoint a special envoy to work in partnership with Afghanistan and Pakistan to develop a regional strategy to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda.

While the world will have to continue to help Afghanistan, in the end, it is the government and people of Afghanistan who will have to succeed.

You know, the American eagle, which is the symbol of our presidency, holds arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other. These represent the tools at the disposal of the United States, and those are the ones we'll need to win the war in Afghanistan and to keep our nation safe in the 21st century. Whoever sits behind that Oval Office on January 20th, 2009, needs all the tools available and all the resources at our disposal and all the wisdom we know how to use them effectively.

That is what I'm offering, and that is why I'm so grateful to have some our nation's great leaders with me today. I'd like briefly to introduce them and have them just say a few words of introduction to you.

I want to start with former Ambassador and Secretary Richard Holbrooke.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE (former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations): Thank you, Hillary. I'm honored to be here, and I'm so glad you focused on Afghanistan today. I think it's more important in the long run than Iraq for our national security. It's been neglected and I'm awfully glad you're putting it on the agenda for this campaign today.

SEN. CLINTON: Thank you very much.

I'd like to turn now to Brigadier General John M. Watkins Jr.

BRIGADIER GEN. JOHN M. WATKINS JR. (U.S. Army, retired): Thank you, Senator. Again, I'm absolutely honored to be a supporter.

Those of you who have heard me talk before know that I worked with the senator and her husband in the former administration, so I'm here to support her and everything she stands for. Having been a leader of soldiers, which she will ultimately lead, I think I know something about picking leaders. And I have no doubt in my mind that she will make a great commander in chief. And that's why I support everything that she does and will continue to support her.

SEN. CLINTON: Thank you very much, General Watkins.

I'd like now to turn to former Secretary John Dalton.

JOHN DALTON (former secretary of the Navy): Thank you very much. I'm John Dalton and had the privilege of serving as secretary of the Navy from 1993 to 1998. In the course of that five and a half year period, I had the pleasure of being with Hillary Clinton on a number of occasions and know her to be a very smart, tough, hardworking woman that gets the job done. And she also cares about men and women in uniform, those who've worn the cloth of our nation, and she understands them and will be a great commander in chief.

I've been involved in presidential politics since 1976 and known all of our nominees and I don't know of one that has the qualifications that she does to be commander in chief. She has the support of two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and 28 other admirals and generals that are represented by this group here today. That is unprecedented for a Democratic candidate for president. And I'm proud to support her and pleased and honored to be here.

SEN. CLINTON: Thank you very much, Secretary Dalton.

I want to turn now to Brigadier General Michael Dunn.

BRIGADIER GEN. MICHAEL DUNN (U.S. Army, retired): I'm Brigadier General Mike Dunn. I'm a Army retired physician. I commanded the Walter Reid health care system from 1999 to 2002, when I met Senator Clinton for the first time.

I'm here because our military health system is stretched to its limits. Our doctors and nurses are well beyond burnout. We're running on empty. In my personal experience with Senator Clinton, I know she's got the determination and the capacity to put us back on our feet, and that's why I'm supporting her.

SEN. CLINTON: Thank you very much.

And now Brigadier General Evelyn "Pat" Foote.

BRIGADIER GEN. EVELYN FOOTE (U.S. Army, retired): Thank you.

I have been a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton for over 16 years, and it's a matter of watching a woman with wonderful skills, wonderful intellect, drive and compassion achieve in so many different ways. And as an Army veteran of 30 years, I heartily applaud the effort she is expending in ensuring that our force is everything it should be, active and Reserve, and that our veterans get the care that they need.

I think she will be one heck of a commander in chief but, more than that, a total president for all the people.

SEN. CLINTON: Thank you very much, Pat.

Now I'd like to turn to Major General Roger Blunt.

GEN. BLUNT: Senator, I'm just delighted to be here to offer my support.

I retired in the middle-'80s, and my last command was a Reserve command. Covered about nine states, running up and down the East Coast from Maryland to Florida and back to New York. Combat, combat support service, a number.

But what I found was these Reservists, men and women, were absolutely supported by their employers and by their families. Without that kind of commitment, we could not have had the great roundout of the force structure that we got.

But our Reservists were not prepared for multiple employments, deployments, for multiple tours of duties overseas. And I think these long and repetitive tours were caused by inadequacies, in full-time active military force structure, and poor planning by previous administrations.

I've observed what you've done in the Senate in your Armed Services duties over the last five years. And you have understood the inequities of the burdens placed on Reserve and National Guard troops and their families and employers.

And I was particularly pleased to see you reach across the aisle with Senator Lindsey Graham to ensure that all National Guard members and Reservists have the same access to health care benefits as our active military. And I thank you very much for that.

So I have confidence in your ability because of your intellect, because of your drive, your experience, but particularly because of your leadership. You will be a role model -- (off mike).

SEN. CLINTON: Thank you so much.

Major General George A. Buskirk, Jr.

GEN. BUSKIRK: Thank you, Senator.

I support Senator Clinton's candidacy for president for a number of reasons. But my reason here today is because of her efforts on behalf of military members and veterans of our armed forces.

In my opinion, the next commander in chief needs to demonstrate her leadership for the members of the military and for veterans. And Senator Clinton is the only candidate running for president of the United States who has set forth a specific vision and a platform and a program for the care of these American patriots.

To mention just a handful of her efforts as Senator -- the new G.I. Bill, mandatory funding of VA medical systems, the Support for Injured Servicemembers Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and, as the general just mentioned, extension of TRICARE benefits to members of the National Guard and Reserve. I've spent the bulk of my career as a member of the National Guard and I am the former adjutant general of Indiana.

I'm also an officer of the American Legion. And last year, Senator Clinton, because of some of these efforts, was recognized by our national headquarters as the legislator of the year.

So these are the reasons I am here today. And I consider Senator Clinton to be the only viable candidate to represent the military and the veterans as our next president of the United States.

Thank you.

SEN. CLINTON: (Off mike.)

Ranger Mark Jones.

MR. JONES: Thank you, ma'am. It is a great honor, distinguished honor to be here. And thank you for all that you're doing.

I am a senior non-commissioned officer and I had the distinguished pleasure to serve under General Shelton and which I know for a fact, without a doubt, that 3 a.m. or 3 p.m. phone call means a lot. And I definitely understand what's happening with our soldiers, as far as body armor, our veterans, our TRICARE.

Those are great Americans and they're also my friends. And I really care about everything that they're doing over there.

So, ma'am, my -- it is my honor and my privilege to sit here before you, to give you any support that I can possibly do.

Thank you.

SEN. CLINTON: Thank you. Of course I'm honored to have General Shelton's support. That means a great deal to me as well.

MR. JONES: Yes, ma'am.

SEN. CLINTON: Rear Admiral David Stone.

REAR ADM. DAVID STONE (U.S. Navy, retired): Thank you, Senator.

I'm very proud to be here today to speak on behalf of Senator Clinton and believe passionately she'd be a great president and commander in chief. My background is 32 years in the Navy uniform. I had the pleasure to command the Nimitz Battle Group, to command our Middle East Force in the Persian Gulf and also to command NATO's Standing Naval Force during the Kosovo campaign. I've also served as the assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security. So like so many people here at this table, I've dedicated my life to preserving our freedoms and protecting America.

I've never been involved in a political campaign before, but I reached out to Senator Clinton's campaign because I believe that she's the leader that we need at this critical time in our nation's history. I was inspired by the work that she's done for our veterans. Whether it's working across the aisle with Lindsey Graham for TRICARE benefits for our Guard and National Reserve, whether it's the survivor benefits that she's provided under her leadership, the increase in that, or the traumatic brain injury as a result of the IEDs that are going off in Afghanistan and in Iraq, she's been a champion for our troops.

And there's an old Navy adage that sailors mean more than guns in the rating of a ship, in that it really, at the end of the day, (becomes ?) about your people. And as commander in chief, she'll be there for our troops. She's demonstrated that. And I couldn't be more proud of her for the work that she's led in that regard.

Also, her work on the Senate Armed Services Committee the last five years -- she knows the complex issues that our nation faces today. She's traveled to over 80 countries. These issues are not new to her. Her experience will put in her great stead as she confronts them in the first day in office in the White House.

And finally, our nation is off course today in the area of the moral high ground. As someone who's served in uniform for 32 years and most of that time when I was overseas are in areas where you really depend on the moral high ground for the United States. It's what we're all about. And she's a champion of restoring our image, our values, putting in place policies that will allow us to partner effectively overseas, as well as protect the Constitution here at home.

So it is indeed a privilege to talk about Senator Clinton, and I too am also committed to doing all I can to help her get elected as the next president of the United States.

Thank you.

SEN. CLINTON: (Off mike) -- very much.

Major General Paul Eaton.

MAJOR GEN. PAUL EATON (U.S. Army, retired): Thanks, Senator.

I'm a retired infantry soldier, father to two soldiers. I want somebody steady in the saddle, bright and experienced, to be their commander in chief, and that's why I endorse Senator Clinton to be the president of the United States.

SEN. CLINTON: Thank you.

Lieutenant General Joe Ballard.

GEN. JOE BALLARD (U.S. Army, retired): Thank you very much, Senator.

I'm a 35-year Army veteran. I retired in the year 2000 as chief of the Army Corps of Engineers. It was a very easy decision for me to support the candidacy of the senator. I know a little bit about being a commander and what it takes to be a commander in chief. I started my career in Vietnam and ended the career just at the time we were about to enter the era of terrorism.

As I took a look at the candidates -- and you've heard all of the comments from my distinguished colleagues here. Each and every one has marched to the sound of the gun. They understand what it means to have a strong, staunch supporter in the position of commander in chief. When we weighed the differences and tried to make a conclusion about who would best serve, it was a very easy decision to make. The American people deserve a president that is ready to meet the serious international challenges, that understand the role of the olive branch as well as the role of the arsenal. That is Senator Clinton.

The voters shouldn't have to wonder about whether their president will be ready at 3:00 in the morning when the phone rings. They shouldn't have to worry about whether all of the steps have been necessary and put in place to ensure that that telephone shouldn't have to ring. But if it does, what does it take to mitigate that particular situation? That takes experience. That takes commitment.

It doesn't take learning on the job or a starter manual. You have to have been there. You have to have walked the walk under pressure. Senator Clinton has done that. She has an insider's view -- some folks discount that -- of eight years in the White House. We do not. But she didn't sit there in eight years in the White House doing nothing. She traveled to over 80 different countries. She was very active in the Balkans and in pushing women right issues and a number of other concerns.

So when we talk about a framework of experience and commitment, it's an easy decision. Either you've done it or you haven't. As simple as that. You can't say we're going to change a situation where you don't understand what the "as is" environment already is and how we got there. So that's the difference that I see in the candidate. And experience does matter.

And for those of us in uniform, if you're going to commit to military, you commit it as a last resort, when diplomacy has failed, and you totally commit it. That means we send our soldiers and men and women in uniform into combat, fully trained, fully equipped, and ready to do the nation's bidding. And that's what we are talking about.

And we are talking about a commitment not only to those in uniform, but their families that are back home and support them. And when you take a look at the things that Senator Clinton on the Armed Services Committee over the last five years -- and you've heard my colleagues talk about that -- you know that commitment is in place.

This president, the next president will definitely be ready on day one and prepared to answer the phone regardless of the time, and I am a staunch supporter, as are 35 other men and women in uniform and that have served in supporting Senator Clinton to be the next commander in chief and the next president of the United States.

Thank you.

SEN. CLINTON: Thank you so very much.

And finally, Vice Admiral Joe Sestak, who has continued his service to our country in the Congress of the United States.

REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA): I met Senator Clinton in the White House when I was director for Defense Policy during the Clinton administration, and it was a real pleasure. There was a number of issues we needed to work and we went over to see the senator -- at the time, first lady.

But I honestly believe we have a women's veterans memorial here today in Arlington Cemetery because of the senator. And I always remember Admiral Zumwaltz -- who was part of the decision to use Agent Orange in Vietnam, and his own son passed away, a Marine Corps captain, 10 years later or so from Agent Orange -- him coming to the White House and going over to see Mrs. Clinton to try to get this recognized as a disease, much like your work in Gulf War Syndrome and to have benefits today.

I thought of you when a vet came into our constituency office just six weeks ago, and he had something. We actually literally drove him to the hospital where he now has benefits and he now has an ability to recover. And transition -- so I saw a woman who cared about the men and women, as you said, Mr. Secretary, who wear the cloth of this nation for us.

Ratchet ahead seven, eight years and I'm now a Navy admiral testifying before -- in Congress. The testimony that day had to do with helicopter procurement.

I always remember the senator at the end saying, "Admiral, this question has nothing to do with this hearing, but give me your opinion as a naval officer what it means for an emerging China -- with a navy, that will be a maritime power -- what's it mean for our nation, that is THE maritime power?" That's why I wasn't surprised when I read a Foreign Affairs article in the fall which said the most important bilateral relationship we have in this century is China. This is someone who cares and has a vision.

And then for me in Congress, probably most important -- and it's a small vignette, but I can remember being in -- right after the election, which surprised everyone I got elected, including me -- (laughter) -- went up to New York. I had been asked to speak at -- and the president and you were there -- at a public policy forum, a Walter Shorenstein event -- and we were on our way back and she offered us a ride back. And being low on campaign funds, I said yes. (Laughter.)

But I always remember, as we sat down she said, "Just a moment. I need to make a phone call, if you don't mind." She called, and she hung it up. She says, "You know, there was a precinct, heavily Republican, that I spent a lot of time in, among some others. I just wanted them to know who I was. I didn't just go to the banquets. I went into the firehouses and just met with them." And I thought I should have warned that precinct, and I didn't, so I asked for a recount, and I won it.

Everybody at this table understands you can have the best idea in the world, the best command philosophy in the world, but if you can't work the process, if you don't understand the process, your idea will never mature and be accomplished, for a number of reasons. She cares, she has vision, and she knows and understands from experience how to work the process from day one.

That's the partner I want from the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue from day one, because the United States Ship Washington D.C. is aground. Do I want a captain on the bridge who can tell us where to go? I want somebody to go down to that boiler room and put the piping back together and get us underway to begin to follow a vision.

Take Afghanistan. I was on the ground in Afghanistan just about two months after the war began. Very strange for a naval officer. Short mission. Needed to report back to the head of the Pentagon with an assessment. I saw what needed to be done. Brought my carrier battle group back, did the retaliatory strikes, and went back on the ground 18 months later and saw what hadn't been done, because they forgot that the military, as you said, sir, doesn't solve problems. We can stop them, we can build an edifice, an infrastructure of security within which, as the senator spoke, the other elements of ours and our international power can work -- whether it's the rule of law, just law, or whether it's probably one of the greatest assets we could have, if we could cure it, which is illiterate (women ?) in that part of the world. And that is where we lost our focus and our attention.

I was very disappointed when I heard the senior official in the Pentagon say a few weeks ago: In Iraq we do what we must; in Afghanistan, we do what we can. The better approach to Iraq -- to Afghanistan is what she is talking about.

As Winston Churchill said, it's not enough sometimes to do our best. Sometimes you have to do what's required. And Senator, it's a requirement that you get in this office and start us down this road, because you will make it.

And I can't wait till you get up to our neck of the woods in Pennsylvania.

SEN. CLINTON: I'm looking forward to that very much.

Well, again, I want to thank these very distinguished Americans who have given so much to our country over so many years and have never faltered in their duty and their commitment. So it means a great deal to me personally to have their support.

In a moment we're going to have a closed-door meeting about Afghanistan, but let me see if there are any questions from the press. Andrea?

Q Senator, let me ask a political question, if you don't mind. Since there doesn't seem to be any easy resolutions of Florida and Michigan, would you reconsider and go along with a do-over in Florida even if it meant a caucus in Michigan? As we know, caucuses aren't your favorite thing. Wouldn't that be the fairest way to make sure that without a credential fight at the convention, that these two states are represented and that those delegates, somehow the delegates can be counted?

And maybe you (want ?) to submit your Afghan proposal to the subcommittee (chairmen ?) of the Foreign Relations Committee. (Laughter.)

SEN. CLINTON: Good idea.

I'm going to let the leadership of both states see what they think is the best approach. I think that it would be a grave disservice to the voters of Florida and Michigan to adopt any process that would disenfranchise anyone, and therefore I am still committed to seating their delegations. And I know that they're working with the Democratic Party to determine how best to proceed. But it is striking that we had two elections where the votes in Florida were of great importance. At one point, 7 million Floridians turned out to vote. They clearly believed that their votes would count. And I think there has to be a way to make them count.

If you look at what happened in Florida, the Republican governor, the Republican legislature called the shots, set the time. The Democrats really had no choice. And I don't think they should be punished because of that.

So I'm watching with great interest to see what the leadership in both states puts forth.

Q Senator, are you concerned about the long-term damage that, if this nomination fight continues, that in November, whoever's nominated will have a tougher time?

SEN. CLINTON: Not at all. No. Actually, I think that this is good for the party. And it has brought so many millions of people into this process. There are how many states left to go? Quite a few, including, obviously, the very big state of Pennsylvania. I think this has been for the good of the Democratic Party. And I don't think the voters in the states yet to be heard from would want the process to be short-circuited. So it's going forward.

Q Senator, there's been a lot of talk about the 3 AM phone call. Certainly your husband must have gotten some in his presidency. Can you talk about your role? Did he talk to you immediately about it?

Did you give him advice? Tell us a little bit about that.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I don't talk about the conversations that I had with my husband in the White House, but obviously, I was there for a lot of phone calls at different times of the day and night, and I have a very clear idea of what it takes to be prepared and ready to not only answer the phone, but then to make the decisions that are required depending upon what the crisis is. And, you know, I am very grateful for the vote of confidence that these generals and admirals and former secretaries have given to my candidacy on this most important issue of being commander in chief.

(Cross-talk.)

Q Senator, John McCain is -- (off mike).

SEN. CLINTON: Boy, I'll tell you, we got -- we got, you know, surround sound going on here, don't we? (Laughter.)

STAFF: This will be the last question, folks.

Q (Off mike) -- compared Barack Obama to Ken Starr. How do you think that he's acting like Ken Starr?

SEN. CLINTON: Oh, I'm not going to respond to that.

What's your question?

Q Senator, since we've been talking about fundraisers and land deals with Mr. Rezko and Senator Obama --

SEN. CLINTON: (Laughs.)

Q -- can you explain your fundraiser, Terry McAuliffe, put down $1.4 million in 1999 -- (off mike) -- mortgage on your house in Chappaqua?

SEN. CLINTON: We will give you reams of paper that tell all the information you ever want to know about that.

Q Can you just talk about that (for a minute ?)

SEN. CLINTON: Yeah, go ahead, (Eloise ?).

Q John McCain has said that Senator Obama is inexperienced. Do you agree with that? And would you say he'd be more qualified to be president -- (off mike)?

SEN. CLINTON: Look, I have said that Senator McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign, I will bring a lifetime of experience, and Senator Obama will bring a speech that he gave in 2002. I think that is a significant difference. I think that since we now know Senator McCain will be the nominee for the Republican Party, national security will be front and center in this election. We all know that. And I think it's imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold. And I believe that I've done that. Certainly Senator McCain has done that. And you'll have to ask Senator Obama with respect to his candidacy.

There are certain critical issues that voters always look to in a general election. National security experience, the qualifications to be commander in chief are front and center. They always have been. They always will be. Some days they're -- you know, some elections they're in the forefront, others they're a little bit receded, but with Senator McCain as the Republican nominee, I don't think anyone doubts that this election will, in large measure, be about national security. I will also make it about the economy. I will make it about repairing our relations, which I think are an integral part of national security.

And I am more than prepared -- in fact, eager to take on my good friend Senator McCain. I have the highest respect for Senator McCain. He and I have gone to Iraq together. We have gone to Afghanistan and Pakistan together. He is a distinguished man with a great history of service to our country. I disagree with him on a number of his approaches and proposals, both with respect to national security and the economy. So that will be our discussion. But both of us will be on that stage having crossed that threshold. That is a critical criterion for the next Democratic nominee to be able to meet.

Thank you all very much.


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