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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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February 8, 2008 4:38 PM

Clinton says America needs a fighter, not a talker

Posted by David Postman

I had a brief interview with Sen. Hillary Clinton today following her Tacoma town hall meeting on health care. I had a chance to ask several questions over about eight minutes. Here's a complete transcript of the interview:

DP: Several questions I’d like to get in. One, I do want to ask a health care question.

HC: Good.

DP: I understand in general the distinction between your plan and Obama’s plan. Can you tell me, do you think there is a philosophical underpinning to that difference that might tell us something else about how the two of you would govern?

HC: I think there may well be. I think it may be philosophical and political. I understand the difficulty of coming forward with a universal health-care plan. Both John Edwards and I bit the bullet, decided to do exactly that and were prepared to forge ahead. And I think Senator Obama decided that it wasn’t a top issue for him, that it wasn’t worth the fight, it wasn’t something he was willing to go to the mat over. And I think that was a very unfortunate decision on his part.

DP: And do you think then, to extrapolate that to something else, is it a matter of what you’re willing to do to fight, or is more of a deeper idea of what government is supposed to do?

HC: I think it may be both, because Senator Obama’s campaign is all about bringing people together. But the question is, for what, and against whom? Because you’re not going to obliterate the differences that exist. You’re not gong to eliminate the health insurance companies and the drug companies. So you have to be prepared to put together a coalition, but be willing to fight for what you believe in.

I think the American people deserve a president who’s a fighter and a doer and champion, not a talker. And from my perspective, standing up and fighting for universal health care is a core Democratic value.

Picture the debate with Senator McCain: He’s going to stand up and say he’s going to have health savings accounts and he’s going to have tax credits and he’s going to cover a lot of people. So if you go into that already having ceded universal health care and basically using, as Barack now is, Republican and health insurance talking points -- bringing back a kind of Harry and Louise attack on health care -- then he’s going to come in and say, ‘Oh no, I’m going to cover more.’ But there’s no real distinction. We’re fighting then over differences that are not going to add up to what we need to accomplish.

I want to stand there and say, ‘No, I’m for universal health care.’ We pay more than anybody in the world. We don’t cover 47 million. We under cover tens of millions more. We don’t get the health results we should. And the only way out of this is to say we are going to have universal health care.

So yes, doctors, nurses, join my cause; hospital administrators, business and labor, you’re paying the costs; we’re going to take on the health insurance industry.

It is the right argument to make on behalf of a Democratic nominee.

DP: After Iowa of course there was a lot of talk about change. Everybody wanted it. Both parties talked about it. What was surprising in a way, given the troubled years of the Bush administration, why wasn’t that where everybody started? And he did, Obama did start with change. But others were slower to come around to that. Shouldn’t we have all, us too, seen that after seven years that would be a selling point?

HC: Well, I just don’t agree. I can only speak for myself. I think number one, having the first woman president is a sea change of enormous proportions. It changes everything about how we view ourselves, how the world views us. Maybe it was so self-eviident it didn’t need to be talked about so much.

Also, everything that I have proposed is a dramatic change from the status quo, which is George W. Bush and the Republicans.

I never saw contradiction between change and experience. I think you have to have the strength and experience to make the changes that we want. And I believe I offer that. I think my agenda for change is bolder than Barack’s on issues like health care. I think it is more rooted in my experience, which gives me an edge in knowing how to bring it about. And I think that it is often viewed as more credible when you talk about foreign policy and what we have to do to deliver results.

I think change is the goal, but experience is the means to achieve the goal

DP: And maybe it wasn’t labeled as such? The word change didn’t come up as much?
Do you think you may have been hurt in this that you are so well known in America that people aren’t shocked that you are a woman running for president? They feel like they’re comfortable with you already, how could this be revolutionary?

HC: Well, you know, I don’t know. That’s an interesting point. I haven’t thought about it. I think certainly having produced positive change for people for 35 years gives me a depth of experience and understanding that I think will be a great advantage in the White House. You know being a woman gives me a whole different perspective. We’ve never had a daughter or a wife or a mother or a sister in the White House. And I’m not sure people fully grasp what a change that might be.

Maybe it is because people are comfortable with me. Every poll shows they think I’d be a good president. They think I’m experienced. They think I’m ready, They think I can be commander in chief. That is a huge hurdle to have overcome for a woman.

It feels like people are kind of sorting all of this out and makings sense of it. And the results Tuesday, in the states that Democrats have to win, suggests to me we are on the right track.

DP: A big change over the last 16 years, really, is the talk of trade, or the lack thereof. None of the candidates come here and talk about trade, where in the last couple of presidential cycles it was the number one thing. Do you think, is there a trade agenda that you have and that should be part of this campaign debat4e? Or have we all kind of agreed on trade?

HC: I think that Democrats and progressives have concluded that we do need to take a look at how we conduct trade, that the debate between free trade and fair trade is kind of a 20th Century debate. We need a 21st Century debate. I talk about smart pro-American trade. I talk about how we need a time out to really look at where we are with trade. I believe we can compete and compete well around the world.

This state produces a lot of exports and we want to not only continue that but expand it. . Bt at the same time, we do have to be much more conscious of the way trade can be used to raise standards of living, raise environmental standards. We can use trade as part of our global warming agenda. There’s a lot we have to re-imagine about trade. It may be that because we are making a transition in trade its not talked about so much because people are having to work through exactly what we mean about it.

DP: Did you say last night that you see a carbon emission policy that China would have to be a party to and could be a party to?

HC: Absolutely. I think it would be a grave error to leave China out. Now China and India may have different requirements and accommodations. But I want a comprehensive global treaty and we need to set goals. Obviously, I have a cap and trade system and have been very thorough in discussing what I would do. But I have also committed to being on the frontlines working with the major greenhouse gas emitting nations around the world to try to hammer out an agreement. It would include China and India, Brazil, South Africa and the rest of the world as well. But 70 percent of the emissions come from the major producers.

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