Transcript Maria Elena Salinas interview with Hillary Clinton at River Valley Community College, Claremont, New Hampshire:
MES: Maria Elena Salinas
HRC: Hillary Rodham Clinton
MES: Thank you so much for talking to us. You know, at this stage of the campaign eight years ago people were sure that you were going to win, then Obama came along. So what has changed, or what’s different this time around? Are you the same woman that you were eight years ago?
HRC: Well, I don’t know if any of us are ever the exact same person. I think I’ve learned a lot in the last eight years, certainly four years as Secretary of State. Last time I was running against an extraordinarily charismatic and really impressive candidate who had a vision for the country, and we fought it out ‘till the very end. And then to my surprise, he asked me to be Secretary of State. So a lot has changed. My basic values why I pursue public service, why I think politics is important to pick the government that is going to be on your side. That hasn’t changed. But we’re talking about different issues that I think are important to the people of America.
MES: How are you different this time around?
HRC: I think I’m, I think I learned a lot from that last campaign. I feel more, you know, just more relaxed about it all. It’s just part of the campaign back and forth. All of the criticism and the attacks and everything that come. And I’m very keen on just charting a very straight course to be able to communicate with people. That’s why I started listening on this campaign back in April. And I learned a lot by listening. Because I want to be a President who gets up every day and tries to help people have a better life. That’s to me what a President should do.
MES: Well, you just rolled out your new education program and what it includes is helping kids pay for tuition, particularly the public colleges. And this will cost $350 billion dollars in ten years. Well, as you can expect, the Republican opponents are criticizing you because to pay for it, you’d have to raise taxes. Do you think that this would be approved by a Republican led Congress?
HRC: I do, because I think what I would do is to have rich people pay more to make sure that hard working young people can go to college. And what I would do is to say, we’re going to back to the level of deductions that were permitted when Ronald Reagan was President. And I think this will be an important issue to a lot of students and their families around the country. And I think we can build a big movement that demands more help. Because right now it’s gotten so expensive that so many young people they try to start college, they can’t afford to finish. If they do finish, they have so much debt they can’t afford to get on with their lives. And I think that’s wrong. And that would be particularly important for Hispanic students because Hispanic students are now going to college at a much higher rate. But they still face a lot of financial burdens. And I want to make it possible to afford college and then to refinance to a lower rate of payback the debt that you have.
MES: Exactly. About thirty percent of Latino students are dropping out of college. Mainly because they can’t afford it. As I was promoting this interview on social media one of my followers said, that he decided in 2008 to go back to get a Master’s. And that now he became a slave to his loans. So what can you do for people like that that have to, that graduate and then have to pay $50, $60, $70, a $100,000?
HRC: That’s exactly why I will promote the refinancing of the debt for the gentlemen, and that’s a very colorful phrase, and unfortunately all too true, that the slave to your debt. So many people can’t start a business, they can’t buy a home, they can’t even get married, because they have so much debt. So we will refinance all the debt. We will bring down the cost of the debt. We will forgive the debt after a certain number of years. If you’re in a public service position we will forgive it even sooner, and we will make it possible for you to only pay a percentage of your income. So you don’t have to, if you’re a, you know, a $25,000 teacher you’re not going to have to be paying the same amount of money as a $100,000 lawyer. So we need to get some fairness and some equity. Because for all those kids who start college, I want them to be able to finish. If that’s their dream, I want to help them achieve that.
MES: Now your immigration proposal is very generous and very ambitious. You’re offering citizenship for undocumented immigrants. You’re offering to extend DACA and DAPA. As we know President Obama made promises on immigration that he later realized he could not keep. So how can you guarantee that you can actually implement this very ambitious program?
HRC: Well, I’ve had the same position on immigration for many years, going back to when I was a Senator from New York. I’ve worked closely with the Latino community, certainly in New York, but around the country. I think that a comprehensive path to citizenship to reform our immigration system is the only answer. And we did get a bill through the Senate. And it was a bipartisan bill. And unfortunately then the House of Representatives stopped it. I want to make this a voting issue. I want people when they go to vote for Congress, for the Senate, for President, they’re thinking about, will this support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. Right now none of the leading Republicans support that. And even some who did"
MES: No, on the contrary. But with such negative rhetoric regarding the immigration issues, especially right now coming out of the Republican camp. How can you get that done? I mean if Congress continues to be controlled by Republicans, how is that going to happen?
HRC: Well, one thing I want to do in this campaign is argue very strongly why we need more Democrats in both the House and the Senate. We could flip some of those seats, if people who care about the economy, care about affordable college, care about immigration reform. If people who care about the issues that I think will make us a better stronger, more just country, actually turned out and voted, we would have less of a Republican presence in Washington. So I want to be elected President"
MES: So the answer is get rid of the Republicans? Is that what you’re saying?
HRC: Well, the answer is elect more Democrats. Because when we had a Democratic Senate in 2010 we passed bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform. When it went to the Republican House they wouldn’t even let it come up for a vote. Why? Because they knew it would pass.
MES: So you think it’s impossible to have immigration reform as long as Republicans are controlling Congress?
HRC: No, I think if we have a shorter or a smaller margin between Republicans and Democrats, and if the Latino community turns out in force in this election and puts the Republicans on notice, I think we can get it done.
MES: Now when the children’s border crisis erupted last year you said these children should be sent back to their countries once they find a responsible adult that can take care of them. Why send them back to a place or to the same conditions that let them to leave in the first place, poverty and violence?
HRC: Well, my answer assumed that they would go through the process that everybody is entitled to. And that’s what I am still calling for. There needs to be lawyers, advocates, judges assigned to get these children’s stories told, so that they can understand whether they have somebody here in America who will take them in, which I think some of them do. And we ought to find that out sooner instead of later. And what would happen if they went back. And, of course, we should not send any child back to the kind of harm that could await them. So yes, some would be sent back after a fair hearing. But a lot of them wouldn’t be. And what I’ve been arguing for is let’s get the resources in place, so that we can actually find out what happens to these children. I don’t like them being kept in detention centers. I think that is a very unfortunate decision. And I want to see that, you know, reversed as soon as possible.
MES: I don’t know if you heard by now, probably you have, Jeb Bush is going to make a speech tonight. And in that speech he’s going to blame you partly for the growth of ISIS in the Middle East. According to a preview of his speech, this is what he’s going to say. That you opposed the surge of U.S. troops. You claimed victory for its success and stood by as hard won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away. Do you feel that bear any blame for the growth of ISIS?
HRC: No. And I think that this is a desperate move by Jeb Bush. Because his campaign seems to be stalled. The facts are very different. When his brother was President, his brother signed an agreement with the Iraqis that the American troops would be gone by the end of 2011 unless the Iraqis asked us to stay. So when Barack Obama became President I became Secretary of State, we had an agreement that George W. Bush had signed. And our efforts to persuade the then government of Iraq to let American troops stay for training and intelligence and surveillance, the kinds of jobs that we can do very well, was unsuccessful. But the agreement was signed by George W. Bush, not by Barack Obama.
MES: Did you underestimate the power of ISIS?
HRC: You know, ISIS is a phenomenon and ISIS came out of the terrible turmoil in Syria. I personally had advocated that we do more to help the rebels against Assad because I worried that terrorists would take and occupy territory, and that has come to pass, not only with ISIS but other Al-Qaeda affiliates and terrorist networks. So I think the proximate cause is the chaos inside of Syria. The connections with Iraq and their ability to take over cities and hold cities in Iraq is the responsibility of the failed Iraqi government. We are not trying to help that Iraqi government which is new and has moved away from the failed policies of Maliki the Prime Minister who did not let us keep our troops there. And so part of it is we have to help the Iraqis get better organized in order to take on the threat of ISIS. I view it as a real threat, I view it as something we’ve got to stand up to. But I will not put American troops on the ground to fight ISIS unlike Jeb Bush who seems to imply in his remarks that that’s exactly what he would do.
MES: Let’s talk about a subject that seems that it’s very difficult to go away. And that’s the e-mail scandal. Even though you swore under penalty of perjury that you have turned over all e-mails that are related to any kind of, you know, federal record. Judicial Watch is still claiming that it’s not enough. Do you think that at the least that this has created the perception that you’re hiding something?
HRC: No, because you have to remember Judicial Watch is a partisan group that has been suing Democrats, me in particular, for twenty years. Anything that they can sue over to create partisan advantage, they do. The facts are very clear here. I did turn over all work-related e-mails in an effort to help the State Department make sure that their records were complete. And those are the facts. Now that doesn’t mean I will ever convince these partisans who are, you know, trying to make all sorts of allegations. But I think the American people understand that.
MES: Yeah, but some of the polls show that the majority of Americans want to see an investigation.
HRC: Well, there is an inquiry going on in the House of Representatives over Benghazi. And you know, the polls I’ve seen don’t show that. But indeed from my perspective the facts are very clear. And this has all been done accordance with the rules and the regulations in effect and, you know, I just trust the American people to sort through all of that stuff.
MES: Now some of your recently released e-mails appeared to show that under your watch the State Department helped to open up Mexico’s oil and gas industry which is controlled by State owned Pemex to international companies. Exactly what role did you play in that? And what was the purpose of it?
HRC: Well, the purpose was at the request of the Mexican government for the United States government to enter into an agreement by which the rules would be set for American oil companies to help Pemex do some exploring, upgrade their abilities to get at certain oil that they might not have otherwise been able to find or drill and recover. It was a mutually agreed upon approach. I was privileged to sign it alongside of the Minister in charge of the Pemex work in the Mexican government. But it was something that the Mexican government understood it needed, because they had not been able to keep up with investments and, you know, new equipment and advanced technology. And we were more than happy to work with them within the bounds of what were the laws in Mexico. And I think it was a win-win agreement.
MES: News reports is indicating that at least two of the key players that worked with you on this project are now in the private sector, and that stand to benefit from Mexico’s Pemex’s privatization. Again, do you see that maybe there’s at least the perception of impropriety in this?
HRC: No, because this was a diplomatic engagement. And I don’t keep track of what people who work for me in the State Department do once they leave, once they are out of government service they are independent private people. They can pursue the interests that they might have and their expertise can be put to work on. But in this case this was an agreement that the Mexican government very much wanted. And we did have experts in the State Department who were able to work with the experts in the Mexican government to come up with an agreement that I think is mutually beneficial. Very much in the interest of Pemex and Mexico as you continue to try to, you know, recover the oil that’s within the Mexican territory.
MES: Now talking about Cuba. In the past you have stated that before lifting the embargo Cuba needed to show signs that they’re moving away from repression, and moving toward democratization. Now you support lifting the embargo, and also relations with Cuba. What made you change your mind?
HRC: Well, I didn’t change my mind. What happened is that over the course of a number of years, particularly the years that I was Secretary of State there were many efforts at outreach toward Cuba, working through countries and governments in the region, working through the Vatican, working through Europeans. All of whom were pushing the Cuban government to being to open up. And there was some limited opening around business and around, you know, more of a support for the Cuban people to be able to, you know, make a better living, which was a good sign. There was finally a decision to let a man, an American whom they had held unjustly in my opinion, go. And after a lot of consultation with people who are no friends of the Castro government, as well as people who think that there needs to be change, I recommended to President Obama that we move toward normalizing relations, which I think is first and foremost in the interests of the people in Cuba. I think it’s also in the interests of the hemisphere and our relations with other countries.
MES: Let’s talk about the campaign for a minute. The gap between you and Bernie Sanders has been closing a little bit in recent polls. And he just drew a crowd of 28,000 people in Portland. And there was one headline that said that images of these massive crowds should make you a little jittery. Are they making you a little jittery?
HRC: Not at all, not at all. I learned the very hard way in ’07, ’08 that what matters is organizing on the ground. That you have to translate, you know, the people’s interest in your campaign into caucus goers in Iowa, primary voters in New Hampshire. I feel very comfortable about where I and my campaign are at this point in the process. I’m thrilled that Democrats are bringing out so much energy and enthusiasm, because we’re going to need all of that when I’m the nominee. And going against whoever the Republicans put up.
MES: Now in an interview Mr. Sanders said, that I can’t think of many personalities who have been attacked for more reasons than Hillary Clinton. And he added some it is sexist. Do you believe that they’re sexist attacks against you?
HRC: Oh, of course, absolutely. I think there’s a double standard, it’s in the media, it’s in business, it’s in politics. I certainly believe that. I think the Internet is a very wide open arena for people to engage in racist and, you know, ethnic discriminatory remarks and homophobic and sexist. So I do think that still exists. But if you’re going to be in the arena whether you’re a leading journalist or you’re running for President, you just have to accept that it goes with the territory. And I appreciate the kind words from Bernie, I really do.
MES: There are women running countries all over the world. Do you think that the U.S. still has not gotten to the point where they can elect a woman or where a gender is an issue in a political, in a Presidential campaign?
HRC: I think we’ve come a very long way. And I do expect to be elected President, so we will finally shatter that glass ceiling. You’re right though, other countries have gotten there first. In part I think it’s because our political system is very individualistic. We don’t have a parliamentary system. We don’t have a strong party system the way you do in Mexico. We just don’t have that kind of support for people running. You’re really out there on your own. You have to build your own campaign. You have to raise your own money. And I think it’s a very challenging political goal to achieve. But I think it’s going to be, I think it’s going to be accomplished in 2016.
MES: You described Donald Trump’s comments on Megyn Kelly as outrageous. Why do you believe that despite of these comments against women, against immigrants, against veterans, he still continues to surge in the polls? Why?
HRC: I don’t know, because it’s just totally unacceptable, starting from his announcement speech with the really terrible defamatory statements he made about the Mexican people. I denounced him. I was the first Presidential candidate to do that. I went to the La Raza Convention and repeated my very strong opposition to what he’s saying. I’m bewildered that the Republican Party is continuing to just turn a deaf ear to those kinds of inflammatory remarks. They have to run their party the way they see fit. But I don’t think there’s any place for that kind of language in a political campaign.
MES: Do you take his Presidential bit seriously? Do you think he’s a legitimate candidate?
HRC: Well, that’s for the Republicans to decide. It is something that the people who support Republican candidates are going to have to come to grips with, is that who they want to nominate to run for President of the United States? I will be prepared to run against him, if he’s the candidate, because I think that, you know, the country deserves to have a different choice.
MES: What does it say about the people who support him, he’s number one in the polls amongst Republicans?
HRC: Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know whether they see it as just entertainment that, you know, it’s kind of like being at a comedy show or something. I don’t know why they support him. I can’t believe that the people who are supporting him honestly believe that they would vote for him for President. But again, there are seventeen candidates on the Republican side. And a lot of them are saying things that are maybe not as high profile offensive as what he is saying. But still offensive, the kinds of comments that are being made about women, about all kinds of economic problems, about, you know, students trying to get, you know, loans to go to college who are poor students. I mean you just look at what these Republican candidates have done and what they’ve said, a lot of it to me is really outside the mainstream of America.
MES: Well, there’s a long way for the election, fifteen months. Just a few months for the nominations for the primaries. What do you think you missed the most during this campaign? What’s the most difficult part?
HRC: I miss my granddaughter. I miss my little granddaughter Charlotte. And so I try to schedule myself so that I can always see her at least once a week. And going into see her in New York or she coming out with her parents to see us where we live outside the city. That’s what I miss the most. I really do. I miss sleep. I miss, you know, having a more regular schedule. But at the top of my list is my new ten-month-old granddaughter.
MES: What’s going to be your biggest challenge in these next few months?
HRC: I think the biggest challenge is earning every vote I can earn. Doing everything possible, starting in Iowa, then New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, then all the rest of the states. You know, making my case. You know, I really believe elections should not be about personalities, although I know that’s where they often end up. I think you should have to present an agenda to the country, and first in your party, then to everybody else about what you would do and why you would do it, and what difference it would make in people’s lives. That’s what I’m trying to do. And that’s the kind of President I would be. And I hope that that will earn the support of a majority of Democrats and then of Americans.
MES: Thank you very much for your time.
HRC: Thank you. Great to see you again. Thank you so much.
MES: Good to see you too. My pleasure.