Hillary Clinton Goes 'On the Record'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," March 26, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: A short time ago, we spoke with Democratic candidate for president Senator Hillary Clinton right here in New York City.


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you.

• Video: Watch Part 1 | Part 2


VAN SUSTEREN: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview.

CLINTON: Thank you. I'm happy to.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, this is what I think the viewers — the viewers! This is what I think the voters are thinking about. One is that we have a senator doesn't know the difference between the Shiites and al Qaeda...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... another senator whose memory may be shot — figuratively — and a third one who's been sitting in a pew for 20 years and never heard anything. What do you — how do you answer — how do you reconcile that? And I guess we should peel off Senator McCain since he's not in this horse race at this point.

CLINTON: Well, you know, I think the voters are intensely interested in this election. We've just seen these huge voter registration numbers come out of Pennsylvania. I think voters by now know we're all, you know, in this race, competing as hard as we can, and I'm excited by that. You know, I really feel like this election has such high stakes for everybody that the participation is a reflection of how seriously people are taking the campaigns.

VAN SUSTEREN: But the issue of the Bosnia problem that you've had in the last couple days and the one with Reverend Wright and the hateful speech of his and Senator Obama — if you're trying to tell the voters why yours is less of a problem that his is less of a problem right now, what do you say?

CLINTON: Well, just speaking for myself, obviously, you know, I'm a human being. I made a mistake and owned up to it. But that's not what people talk to me about. When I'm out campaigning, like I have been in Pennsylvania and Indiana — and I'm going to, you know, be in North Carolina and Kentucky, and I'm excited about West Virginia and all the places where I'll be in the next month or two — people want to talk about the economy and health care, and they want to know, What are you going to do to fix our country, to get it back on the right track, to help my family and me?

And that's what I'm really engaged in because, you know, when you've been in a campaign for 14 months, you know, there's all other kinds of distractions. But at the end of the day, this is like a hiring decision. Who will people hire to get this country moving in the direction it should move? And I think, you know, for me, it's making that case that I will be ready on day one to, you know, do what needs to be done.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I guess that — I don't mean to badger you on this particular issue, but when I look at the issues, I get a little confused. Like, take Iraq. There have been at 85 votes, according to my colleague, James Rosen, in the Senate for both you and Senator Obama to vote on having to do with Iraq. He says, Well, I was opposed to the war in the beginning, but when you look at the 85 votes, you agreed on 84 of them. So it seems to me that, you know, the voters have to make a judgment, and so — do you — do you agree totally on Iraq, or where are you different in the sound bites, so that we get it?

CLINTON: Well, Greta, I think that you've put your finger on a very significant issue in this campaign. You know, as we know, Senator Obama has said he was opposed the war. He opposed it in '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '07 and '08. but the fact is, when he came to the Senate, he and I have voted the same, except for one vote. And that means to me that you want to go with someone who has said, Look, I know how to get us out of Iraq. I know the tough decisions we have to make. I've laid out a comprehensive plan for doing just that. And Senator Obama has basically run his whole campaign on a speech he made in 2002. And I think the voters have to assess, which do they believe is more relevant to the tough decisions that our next president is going to be facing?

VAN SUSTEREN: So that's why I go back to badgering you a little bit on the issue, is that how — you know, when you look at the past week — and November is a long way off, or even the summer, when the convention is, is that — is that you've got two senators with a PR flap this week, and his is extended — going back about eight days, is that — is how do you distinguish — how should you tell the voters that yours is not a serious problem and his is a serious problem? What do you say? How do you distinguish them?

CLINTON: Well, what I say is for people to look at my entire record. You know, I have been making positive changes for people for many years. I think the best way you in life tell what someone is going to do is to look and see what they've already done. And with me, you've got someone who has been around the world, been to more than 80 countries, has represented America and America's values in many different settings, someone who did work to help create the Children's Health Insurance Program, to bring health care to our National Guard and reserves, who took on a lot of tough issues, as I have over all these years.

So it's the totality. You know, I think people have to look at who we are, of course, and what we've done, and equally importantly, what we say we'll do and who has the strength and experience to actually deliver those results.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Another issue I'm confused about, and I follow the issue pretty closely, is health care. And I know that you have a program, Senator Obama has a program. But frankly, as much as I've read about both proposals and heard about the — I really do not know the difference. Can you give me sort of the 30 seconds so I really get it? What's the difference between your programs?

CLINTON: I have a program to make health care more affordable, to get the costs down, and to improve the quality and cover everyone. Senator Obama's plan does not cover everyone. He doesn't have as aggressive measures that I do to get costs down. And I think the real crux of the difference is I want to make sure everyone has access to quality affordable health care. He would leave about 15 million people out.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is — where are the other sort of high point differences? Because there really is a lot in common. You're both Democrats. I mean, what are sort of the — you know, for the voters to sort of get, what are sort of the other bullet point differences?

CLINTON: I think there are three big differences. You know, on issues like health care, on what I would do with the economy, particularly on home foreclosures — which I think you have to address, otherwise we're not going to get the housing market back and get this economic challenge that we face met. On a lot of the very specifics about, you know, what our experiences are, what we've already done, what we can put forward as, you know, essentially, our resume — because this is a hiring decision.

You know, people think about elections and they say, Oh, you can vote for somebody on the basis of whether you like their hair or not. Well, yes, you can, but a smarter way to think about it is the American people have to hire a president. And so both on what I've done and what I will do, and on who can best deliver results, I think that there is a significant gap.

And what I've seen in my last 14 months on the campaign trail is that every time people count me out — you know, the pundits say it's over or it should be over — the voters bring me back because they believe, as I do, that this election is not about me, it's about everybody else. It's about whether you're going to have a job, whether you're going to keep your home, whether you're going to have health care, whether you're going to be able to afford college for your children. And that's why people keep coming back to my campaign, because they believe that I will actually get up every day in that White House and work my heart out for all of our people.


VAN SUSTEREN: Don't go away. Senator Hillary Clinton has more to say about Reverend Wright and — get ready for this — whether she talks to Senator Obama on the phone these days. And she'll also talk about her exact strategies to nab the nomination.


VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back to "The Record." Here is Senator Clinton.


VAN SUSTEREN: You know, in the last eight days we have seen — I have seen an enormous amount of e-mails, people — at least the viewers that we have that e-mail me are disturbed by the Reverend Wright. And that is a problem that Senator Obama obviously has to address.

Had this happened earlier in the season, it might have had a different impact. Now, you know, it is close. What is your strategy? Because time is running out, states are running out. Give me your plan or your strategy, how you become the nominee.

CLINTON: Well, this is a really close election. You know, despite what, you know, some might say, it is a very close election in the popular vote and in the delegates. We have 10 contests ahead of us, plus don't forget Florida and Michigan.

You know, I keep beating this drum, we cannot disenfranchise two of the most important states for Democrats, Florida and Michigan. I don't think we can win if we don't win Michigan and Florida. So.

VAN SUSTEREN: You mean, you can't win?

CLINTON: I don't think a Democrat can win.

VAN SUSTEREN: You mean, in November.

CLINTON: In November. And we are essentially saying to the voters — we, the Democratic Party, is saying to the voters, your votes don't count, we are not going to have a re-vote, you are out of luck. I don't think that the nominee of the party will be considered legitimate if we don't figure out how to count those votes for Michigan and Florida.

So we have these 10 contests from Pennsylvania to Puerto Rico. We have Florida and Michigan. So there is a lot to be done. Millions of people are going to be voting in the next three months. And I hope that will include Florida and Michigan.

VAN SUSTEREN: You say you hope it will, but what is the — I mean, right now it looks like Michigan — I don't see any movement that that is happening.

CLINTON: Well, but look at what happened, the Democratic National Committee and I and my campaign said to the leadership of Michigan, we are willing to have a re-vote. I don't know how that would have turned out. I have no prediction.

We wanted to go ahead and let the people actually exercise their franchise, one of the most precious rights we have in our country. Senator Obama said no. He basically turned his back — I mean, here is somebody, you know, who runs a campaign about empowerment and all of that.

Well, hello, what about giving the people in Michigan a chance to have their voices and votes heard? Nobody knows how it would turn out. We know he has got a lot of resources. He could run a very vigorous campaign. But he doesn't want to give the people in Michigan that chance.

Similarly, we have been trying to support what is going on in Florida, because the people there want their voices and votes to be heard. And again, you know, Senator Obama doesn't want to support that.

But Michigan is really the clearest example of getting right up to the brink of doing the right thing and having Senator Obama say, no, I won't do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: And if he says, no, I won't do it, that leaves Michigan and Florida out. And does that leave you out?

CLINTON: No. Not at all, because we are going to make sure those votes get counted, one way or another.


CLINTON: Well, you know, you can always go to the convention. That is what credential fights are for. You know, let's have the Democratic Party go on record against seating the Michigan and Florida delegations three months before the general election? I don't think that will happen. I think they will be seated. So that is where we are headed if we don't get this worked out.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about the pledged delegates right now? Are they likely — do you have any position on them sort of moving over in one direction or the other?

CLINTON: Well, you know, delegates are free to exercise their judgment, all delegates, whether you are from a caucus or you are from a primary or your so-called appointed delegate.

This is a very fluid race. And I see it changing every day. You know, I feel very good about the campaign in Pennsylvania. I have got great support from the governor to the mayors of, you know, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and so many people.

I was thrilled to have Congressman Murtha come out and endorse me this last week. I feel really good about this next big contest. And Pennsylvania is another state where the road to Pennsylvania Avenue leads through the state of Pennsylvania.

So I'm going to run a very vigorous campaign there and get positioned to be able to win in the fall.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you anticipate now? I know a lot can happen between now and April 22nd. But what do you see as the numbers there, any thoughts in Pennsylvania?

CLINTON: I don't make predictions, I just want to do as well as I can. But you see, I think what is important about this, Greta, is that people don't want this to be over. There was some poll today somebody told me about where, you know, 22 percent of people said I should and 22 percent of the people said Obama should quit, and 62 percent said, let it go on.

That is what people are telling me. That is what we have to do. Let the voters have a chance to be heard. Nobody should be, you know, writing obituaries on this race, because it is a long way from being over.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you ever speak to Senator Obama outside of when we see you at debates? I mean, do you two ever say anything, call each other, e-mail each other, or is there no relationship?

CLINTON: Well, I mean, every so often. You know, not frequently, but every so often we have had conversations. You know, we used to — when we were in the Senate, we would see each other much more frequently. And when we were both back voting on all of those budget votes a couple of weeks ago, we had a long conversation.

So when we see each other, we certainly talk.

VAN SUSTEREN: The economy, that is a big word and we all talk about the economy. But what it really boils down to is, you know, does someone have a job to make money? A lot of places in the country, people really worried. Can you give me sort of a 30-second — if I'm a voter out there worried about my job, what are you going to do for me?

CLINTON: Well, let's get back to creating jobs again. You know.


CLINTON: . in the 1990s, we did it. So it is not like we don't know how to do it, we just have, unfortunately, presidential leadership that doesn't know how or doesn't seem to be focused on it. We have got to get back to fiscal responsibility, which helps to create confidence and generate savings which then can be better utilized in the private sector.

We need to invest in clean energy jobs. I think we could create at least 5 million new jobs over the next 10 years in clean, renewable energy, all different kinds. I think we have got to have an infrastructure program to rebuild America.

We have got bridges collapsing, I-95 was closed for a couple of days because of a threatened bridge collapse outside of Philadelphia. We have the levees collapsing. We have all of this pent-up demand to build our country again. And I would love to see us put thousands of people to work doing that.

And I think we have to end President Bush's war on science. You know, we have had climate change and stem cell research and so many important scientific issues politicized. Science is a driver of the economy. We have to end the tax benefits that are still in our tax code that actually give businesses benefits for taking jobs out of America and moving them to a foreign country.

And we have to have a new trade policy that, you know, really says to our trading partners, look, we are not going to let you take advantage of our market anymore. We are going to stand up and say that if you want access to our market, it has to be reciprocal. We have to have strong labor and environmental standards.

We can do all of this, though. And it is so exciting to me because when I look at our country, I know that there isn't any problem we have that we can't solve. We just have to start acting like Americans again. We have to roll up our sleeves. We have to get to work. We have to be ingenious and innovative and we will start creating those jobs again.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, as I listen to you and I listen to the other candidates, I think there is so much work to do. I'm exhausted. You know what I'm saying? I think.


VAN SUSTEREN: Air Force One I would take, OK? I like Air Force One, but what makes you want this job? I mean, like, why do you even want this?

CLINTON: Because I love my country. I mean, when it comes right down to it.

VAN SUSTEREN: But a lot of people love their country.

CLINTON: Yes, but not everybody is in a position like I have been where I have been so blessed, I have had so many opportunities and I have this unique set of experiences on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

I know that being president is the toughest job in the world. And yet, I believe with all of my heart that we can reverse the damage that has been done during the Bush administration. We can get back to build a strong and prosperous middle class and retain our leadership once again in the world.

And I know that on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Congress will respond. You know, it is not always easy. But you can put together the votes you need to make the kind of changes that America expects and deserves.

VAN SUSTEREN: One last question, a question I posed to your husband in New Orleans last week, and I would pose to anyone who is in this position is, it is — you get criticized, is it harder for you when your family gets criticized then when we take swipes at you in the media or people take swipes at you?

Is it worse when a family member gets it?

CLINTON: Oh, it is much worse. It is much worse. Because when you are in the arena, you kind of expect it. You know, you put your armor on every day. You go out there. You say what you believe. You keep going. But you know, it is not even just family, but friends, people who you admire and respect.

I mean, that is always tougher.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thanks, Senator.

CLINTON: Thanks, good to see you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you.

CLINTON: Thank you.


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