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Remarks by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Presidential Candidate, at the Livestrong Presidential Cancer Forum


Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa


SEN. CLINTON: Yes. You know -- (cheers, applause continue) -- Chris, there's no denying that we've made progress since 1971. But what really bothers me is that we are on the brink of so many medical breakthroughs right now, and instead of pushing forward with the resources and the focus that is needed, the current administration has literally called a halt to the war against cancer.

You know, between 1993 and 2001, we doubled the budgets for the National Institutes of Health and increased dramatically the funding going to the National Cancer Institute. Now we're kind of in a stalemate. We need to get back to unleash the genius of our researchers, our physicians. (Applause.) We need to get more people into clinical trials. We need to speed up the approval of drugs from the Food and Drug Administration.

And I'm convinced we can do that, and not only because of what I want to do as president but because of the strong advocacy community. I don't know how many people in this arena are cancer survivors themselves, but I am sure many are. And I also know that every one of us have lost people that we loved dearly -- my mother-in-law, my best friend. I was with a friend yesterday suffering from a brain tumor. We all know the toll that this disease takes on people emotionally, physically and financially. So let's get ourselves focused and prepared and organized to win the war against cancer in the 21st century. (Applause.)

MR. MATTHEWS: So a President Clinton, President Hillary Clinton, will declare a national war on cancer?

SEN. CLINTON: Yes. (Cheers, applause.)


MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you.

SEN. CLINTON: Yes. Thank you.

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you.


So not to repeat what you said, Chris, but I'm going to read a quote of yours from two days ago at an event in Massachusetts. Quote, "I want to be a president who gets back to setting big goals for our country." So just to repeat, this would be a big goal -- defeating cancer.

SEN. CLINTON: That's right. That's right. (Cheers, applause.)


SEN. CLINTON: And you know, one of my other big goals is quality affordable health care for every single American -- (applause) -- because that goes hand in hand with the war against cancer. If -- if people can't get access to the preventive services they need, if they can't get the incredible advances in medical care that we're pioneering in our country, it won't matter; we will still be losing people unnecessarily to cancer.

So the big goal of the war against cancer has to be fit into the absolute, essential big goal of quality affordable health care, universal health care for every single American. You cannot do one without the other. (Applause.) And we need to do both, and I intend to.

MR. MATTHEWS: Senator Clinton, would the day that America bans smoking in public places be a good day for America?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, personally, I think so. (Applause.) And that's what a lot of local communities and states are starting to do, Chris.

You know, when some of the cities -- a big city like New York City -- said we're going to ban smoking in retail establishments because of the impact on the smoker and, we now know, because of the impact of secondhand smoke, everybody said: Oh, that's the end of, you know, the bars and restaurants in New York City.

We are now having more business than ever before, because a lot of people who stayed away from going out are now going out again, because they feel like they can enjoy their time outside. (Applause.)

So I think -- I think more and more cities and states are taking this on. And I think that's all to the good, because -- what is it, Lance -- a third of all cancers are caused by smoking. And it is indisputable that secondhand smoking now causes not only cancer but other diseases. I had a friend die of lung cancer who never smoked a day in her life, and I bet every one of us would have an example like that.

So the more that we can limit smoking, especially because most people start smoking between 13 and 15, and 70 percent of smokers want to quit -- so in my health care plan, I would also help pay to have smokers quit by paying for the programs that work. Because that is a lot cheaper than paying for end stage lung cancer. And I think the more we can do to prevent it in the first place, the better off we'll be.

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, could -- to follow up on Lance's first question, could a big goal of your administration be a national ban, for the reason that -- you're an attorney of course. And you know in the '64 Civil Rights Bill, the federal government assumed the right to say no more discrimination on race in places of public accommodation -- restaurants, hotels, et cetera. Can you do that at the federal government -- outlaw smoking in public places nationally? And would you support something like that?

SEN. CLINTON: You know, Chris, I think the way that we're proceeding is probably the smarter way right now, which is locality, community, state. And the reason for that is that a lot of it depends upon local laws and regulations like zoning.


SEN. CLINTON: You know, the federal government has never gotten into that.

But what I do think we can do is a much more aggressive outreach. That's why I favor the FDA being able to regulate advertising about nicotine and tobacco products. And we're going to push through, I hope, a bill to get that done.

So we'll have a lot of different forces moving all at the same time to really limit it -- increase the excise tax; increase the cost of cigarettes. We'll eventually get there. We're lowering the rate of smoking now, and I think over the next decade, we'll really push it way down.

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you.


MR. ARMSTRONG: My question was just with regards to the FDA. So you would be in favor of the FDA regulating tobacco.


MR. ARMSTRONG: A deadly drug.

SEN. CLINTON: It is. It is. (Applause.) It's an addictive, deadly substance, and we need to regulate it.

MR. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question. This is from Joseph Early (sp). It's from Albany, New York, where you once were a special guest of the Hardball College Tour.

SEN. CLINTON: (Laughs.) I was.

MR. MATTHEWS: And he wrote this question directly to you, Senator, quote, and these are -- so many of these, by the way, if you read them like I did this weekend, are devastating stories of cancer survival, in some cases; in some cases, just devastation. Here's one.

"My wife lost her battle to lung cancer December 16th, 2006.

When are the Republicans and Democrats in both houses going to stop butting heads and go to work for the American people? We are spending billions of dollars on a war that could have waited or could not have happened at all, the way money could be going to cancer research and research of other diseases. If elected, what are you going to do about this problem? I know it's a big one. It's a question of priorities, but what do you think?"

SEN. CLINTON: Well, Chris, I think that it's in America's interests to invest in cancer research and better prevention and detection and treatment for a lot of reasons, not only because I believe we have a moral obligation to do that, to try to give people the best quality of life and a real chance at surviving, but also because this is an economic opportunity for our country.

We need to stay ahead of the rest of the world, and investing in health care research is an edge we have over everybody. Let's not lose it. That's why I favor stem cell research. That's why I think we need to be pushing a lot of the boundaries of what we're going to be investing in when it comes to health care, because we never know what we might discover.

And we have to change our priorities. We've got to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home and redeploy that money as well as our young men and women on something like the war against cancer. (Applause.)

MR. MATTHEWS: You know, former governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, once asked I thought a great question about priorities, and it's almost cosmic. He said how come when something like a war comes along, magically there's money -- the government borrows it, they put aside other things -- there's always -- when there's an S&L crisis, as you recall -- there's $100 billion available. But whenever an issue like health comes along -- oh, we got to look at the budget, we got to be careful here. Why is there a different standard for the war on cancer than there is for these other causes? (Cheers, applause).


MR. MATTHEWS: It's a philosophical question.


MR. MATTHEWS: But why can't you be as total in your commitment to one cause as we seem to be in solving the S&L crisis or fighting in Iraq?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, it will be a priority when I'm president, and it will be exactly where we put our resources -- (applause) -- that along with the entire health care agenda, which has so much interconnection. I mean, if we just focus on one disease even as complex as cancer, we may miss something that will actually help us cure cancer. So we have to have a broad investment in health care research, in science, and do everything we can to end the war that has been waged by this administration against science.

We've got to set new priorities in America, and, you know, for me -- (applause) --

MR. MATTHEWS: I'm sorry. That is an amazing statement.


MR. MATTHEWS: What is the "war against science" by this -- who's leading it?

SEN. CLINTON: The president of the United States has been leading an assault on science and research, and it -- (cheers, applause) -- it's not only in their budget priorities.

I mean, think about it. The two priorities of this president have been the war in Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthy -- neither of which he's paid for -- while he has cut the budgets for the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute. At the same time, he has prevented a very strong majority in the Congress and the country from proceeding in an ethical way with stem cell research -- which I think holds out promise for certain forms of cancer -- and has muzzled government scientists, closed down government websites, refused to allow this country to continue in our governmental capacity this inquiry and this freedom of thought that has made this a great country for so many years.

So we have a lot of cleaning up to do when we finally say goodbye to the Bush-Cheney administration. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about -- do you think we should require tests in school for young girls for cervical cancer? Should that be a requirement?


MR. MATTHEWS: It's a big issue in Texas, I know.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, the HPV vaccine, which was 20 years in the making, holds out the promise of saving young women's lives from cervical cancer. Five hundred thousand women around the world die every year, I believe. And from everything I know, it has been thoroughly tested. And obviously you have to be thoughtful in giving such a vaccine to your young daughter, but the -- but again, the scientific evidence seems very strong in favor of it.

MR. MATTHEWS: It's a hundred percent effective.

SEN. CLINTON: That's right.

MR. MATTHEWS: Why not require it?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think some states are, and some school districts are. But it is new, and I understand why some people are a little bit hesitant. But I think it would save lives, and isn't that what we're interested in? Aren't we interested in trying to figure out how we can help save lives?

At the same time, we have to recognize that genetics, behavior and the environment are the three triggers that I think in some form or another cause cancer. We're not doing enough on environmental research. (Applause.) We don't know what it is that we get exposed to as children or as adults that could possibly cause cancer.

This is an exciting opportunity. That's why I'm so committed to making this a big goal, Lance, because we are this close to finding cures, to finding new vaccines. We're saving lives that 10 years ago would have been lost. We could save so many more, and we could prevent so much cancer if we were committed to this.

MR. ARMSTRONG: I have a question.

MR. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you -- you want to --

MR. ARMSTRONG: Sure. You mentioned clinical trials.

Thank you, Chris. (Laughter.)

SEN. CLINTON: (Chuckles.)

MR. MATTHEWS: I'm following your lead, sir. You're out front.

MR. ARMSTRONG: I mean, I know this is his job, but come on! I'm the token cancer survivor up here.

MR. MATTHEWS: Exactly.

MR. ARMSTRONG: Let me ask a question. (Laughter, applause.)

SEN. CLINTON: (Laughs.)

MR. ARMSTRONG: You mentioned briefly clinical trials, and the numbers today will tell us that in childhood cancers, for 60, approximately -- maybe even 80 percent of children go on a clinical trial, and the cure rates have absolutely shot through the roof.

Compare that to adults. It's less than 5 percent, and the cure rates are where they are, holding steady.

Many people get to sort of late-stage disease and want to go on a clinical trial but run into the roadblock of FDA approval and just not being able to get these drugs. Would you get -- would you -- what should I say? Would you allow them, basically, to have access to that care?

SEN. CLINTON: Lance, I think we have to do much more to promote more clinical trials, number one; number two, to help people pay or to get permission to get into clinical trials. So I'm against the Bush administration's effort to cut back on what we did with Medicare during the Clinton administration to let more people into clinical trials.

And thirdly, when it comes to so-called experimental therapies, I think we've got to strike a different balance, because if you're in end-stage cancer or any other disease that possibly could be affected positively by having access to an experimental therapy, I think we have to balance speed and safety. I think we've got to give people informed consent but let more people make this decision for themselves.

And therefore, I would look to strike a somewhat different balance, so that people who are in that very desperate last stage -- and my office tries to help a lot of people like that. You know, someone will call and -- "Is there any experimental drug? Is there any kind of clinical trial?" Or "I've heard about a drug from a doctor, but he can't get it for me."

So there are ways that we can set up a better system to cut through the red tape and cut through the bureaucracy. We need more resources going into the FDA, another agency that has been politicized and starved of resources by this administration. We need to get back to having the gold standard of drug approval. And we need to have enough resources, enough trained personnel, so that we can manage more clinical trials and use more experimental drugs, with full informed consent, because a lot of them, as you know, have very poisonous consequences, but at certain points in someone's cancer treatment, that may be the only hope they have. And we need to give that hope to more people. (Applause.)

MR. MATTHEWS: Your opponents -- John Edwards is going to be out here. He's been beating the drum on the fact that Democrats shouldn't be taking money from health industry people or anybody in the lobbying community. (Applause.) You -- when you ran for the Senate, you took in about a million dollars in campaign contributions, all federally registered, publicly known, from the health industry -- doctors, nurses, pharmaceuticals. In this last campaign, for your reelection, you took in about a million-two (dollars).

You -- are you insistent that doesn't interfere or doesn't influence your thinking on health care?

SEN. CLINTON: Absolutely. Probably nobody has been more criticized or attacked about health care than I have. And I wear that as somewhat of a badge of honor, because I thought we tried to do the right thing in 1993 and 1994. (Applause.) And I intend to do -- I intend to do everything I possibly can to be the president who signs into law national health care, quality affordable health care.

But I think it's important that we understand that the people at the bedside are the doctors and the nurses, the hospitals and the pharmaceutical companies making these lifesaving therapies. You know, we need to control and manage any special interests, and I think it's important that we do that. And I certainly feel that my record shows that I've been very effective in that.

One of the fights that I'm in right now is how we create a pathway for approval of the new drugs, the biologics, you know, because there are new breakthroughs in these biologics, which are large molecule compositions. And they're very new, and they're very difficult. And we had to -- I had to fight the pharmaceutical companies all the way to get a bill that has any chance of passing the Congress. But we're going to get a bill that I believe can pass the Congress, and that will open up lifesaving remedies for generic biologics.

So I believe in working with everybody and being influenced by nobody. I mean, that's sort of my attitude. (Applause.)

MR. MATTHEWS: Michael Moore in his movie "Sicko" says that you were very good on health care back when you were first lady, fighting for health care reform, but because you've taken so much money from the pharmaceuticals --

SEN. CLINTON: (Chuckles.)

MR. MATTHEWS: -- you laugh, but this is his charge.

SEN. CLINTON: I know it is. I know it is.

MR. MATTHEWS: And a lot of people have seen that movie. And he says you've been corrupted by this money you've gotten from these industry people. And you say money doesn't talk. And most people out here would say money talks. If somebody gives you money as a campaign contribution, they have a purpose: to influence your vote. You say it doesn't work.

x x work.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, Chris, I mean first of all, I was partly responsible for the biggest expansion of health care since Medicare and Medicaid, with the Children's Health Insurance Program, passed in 1997. (Applause.) And I am very proud of that.

I also took on the pharmaceutical companies as first lady to force them to test drugs that were going to be used for children, because up until I got involved, they were just giving drugs without any testing, and that was not good for our kids. I've also been at the front of the line in trying to make sure that we get drugs faster approval, get the FDA the support that it needs.

So I think that the idea that we need a national health care system is great and I'm all for it, and I'm going to make sure that it happens. But I think that you've got to look at what we've been fighting for. Right now, 10 years after the success of the Children's Health Insurance Program, we're fighting a veto by President Bush. Now, why on Earth he would veto the Children's Health Insurance Program's expansion, that has meant so much to the children in Iowa and the children across the country, is beyond me. I don't understand it --

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, he's afraid of what you want to do, something really big, isn't he?

SEN. CLINTON: No fooling! (Laughs.)

MR. MATTHEWS: Yeah. (Laughs.) (Applause.)

SEN. CLINTON: I think I rest my case, Chris. (Laughs.) (Applause.)

MR. ARMSTRONG: As we come up on the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I know that at our foundation, at the Lance Armstrong Foundation, we gave a grant to get cancer patients and cancer survivors out of New Orleans to resume treatment or continue treatment. Many of them showed up either in Houston or northern Louisiana or other parts of the country, walked into the doctor's office and said, "I have cancer."

And the doctor said, "Well, what kind of cancer do you have?" Of course, these people are from poorer communities and really had no idea what type of cancer they had. They said, "I don't know."

The doctor said, "Well, what were you treated with?"

"I don't know."

"Was it chemotherapy?"

"I don't know." They didn't know anything. Their medical records were floating out in the delta.

What is your impression of and would you support electronic medical records?

SEN. CLINTON Well, Lance, I've been working on this for four and a half years, actually joined up with some Republicans. We passed our bill -- I was the lead sponsor of it with former Senator Bill Frist -- passed it through the Senate at the end of 2006. It died in the House. We're back with it because if we don't have electronic medical records, we cannot provide the health care and the quality that people deserve.

And I had the same experience you did. I went down to Houston to see a lot of folks who were evacuated from New Orleans. And they couldn't tell you what drugs they were taking or what their treatment regimen was. And the only people who could be helped immediately were people who had shopped for prescriptions at drugstores that had electronic medical records and you could get into the system; but everybody else, it was gone. And, you know, they only could say, "I took a pink pill in the morning and a blue pill in the afternoon."

Electronic medical records will save us nearly $80 billion a year and they will give us a seamless health care system, so that if you live in Cedar Rapids but you're visiting in Los Angeles and you're in an emergency room, they'll be able to access your records. So I think -- and I'm going to give you a copy of my plan to fight cancer. It is one of my nine points. Because it will have a bigger impact on cancer treatment than nearly anything else.

I had a woman come to my office in New York City -- one of my constituents. She'd had breast cancer 15 years ago and unfortunately had a recurrence. And her physician had since gone out of business, and the records had been stored at the hospital where she had been treated. They could not find her records anywhere. I mean, they were searching through mountains of paper.

And we are living in the 21st century. You can go get money out of a machine. You can go on the Internet and buy something from Mongolia. You should be able to have your own personal, confidential, privacy-assured, electronic medical record now.

MR. MATTHEWS: Let's take a video question that just came in. Let's look right. This is a person who wanted to send us a message by video.

Q I'm a 41-year-old, non-smoking woman who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer six months after giving birth. As the mother of a now 11-month-old baby girl who wants to live to see her grow up, I know that my best hope lies in a remission that's long enough for new drugs and procedures to come online. How will you accelerate the process and get me and the millions of Americans like me the medicine we need to survive?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I'm really grateful that you would take your time to have that video shot, and I wish you the very, very best as you struggle with this treatment.

What I want to do is to create a much stronger clinical trial regimen that will, under appropriate safeguards, give people like this young woman the chance to have access to experimental therapies. Because she deserves that chance, and we can also learn something from it.

(End of available audio.)


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