Interview on CBC's The Hour With George Stroumboulopoulos

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ottawa, Canada
March 29, 2010

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, good to see you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good to see you, George. Thank you.

QUESTION: How are things?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Things are good. I’m glad to be back in Ottawa, although I’m sorry that I can’t go out skating like I did when I was here 10 years ago.

QUESTION: It’s been a lot (inaudible). We don’t have winter anymore here.


QUESTION: Climate change has been great for us. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: You have to go further north, right?

QUESTION: Yeah, you certainly do. There’s so much ground that we can cover, but I want to start with this. Your first year now --


QUESTION: -- in the Obama Administration – ups and downs, widely recognized, have been pretty tough, certainly in the last little while. How would you characterize the last year?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it’s been a really productive year. I mean, I think that what President Obama and the Administration has done is to begin once again to put our country on the right path, both internationally and domestically. This week, for example, finally, the healthcare bill passes, hard-fought. I know how hard it is, having tried before. And then at the end of the week, a new arms control treaty with Russia.

These things take time. You have to be patient, which both the President and I are, so you just get up every day and you just work away at it. But I’m very gratified by what we’ve accomplished so far.

QUESTION: Depending on who you ask, the healthcare bill is a step forward or not a big enough step forward, because compromises had to happen. Are you happy with what has been accomplished?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I am, and I am because I know how hard it is to make this change. I have envied the Canadian political system which produced your single-payer healthcare program. And I know how hard it was for Canada, but you got it done and you went on from there. And we now really have a commitment to universal care that I think we will be able to implement, help millions of people, and we’ll take stock of it. I mean, you’re never done with these kinds of things. You learn all the time. But it was a very important step.

QUESTION: What do you learn about – I suppose, yourself, because you’ve worked with lots of different political leaders over this years. But this was a guy – Obama – that you campaigned against and it was a hard-fought campaign.


QUESTION: And so you have to find a way to get along and work together. What did you learn about yourself and him in the last year?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That we work really well together.

QUESTION: Were you surprised by that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I was a little bit surprised because I didn’t know what to expect. It’s not that I thought differently. But once I made the decision to become the Secretary of State – which I did because I really feel when your President asks you to serve your country, you should say yes, and I was very surprised that he asked me – but then we began to work together. And it really is a collegial, positive relationship. And so far, I feel very fortunate that I have a chance to be part of setting forth the 21st century progressive agenda for our country at home and abroad.

QUESTION: You were genuinely surprised when the call came?



SECRETARY CLINTON: I was shocked, George. Yeah, I mean, because – I mean, we had campaigned so hard against each other.

QUESTION: You thought you were going to get a real job (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh my gosh. I mean, really – and I thought I was going to go back to being senator from New York, which I loved, because I love New York with that long border with Canada. And I also knew that the people who had supported me and the people who had supported him, it was so emotional between them. I just could not imagine – and in fact, when the story started leaking out that the President was considering me, I just thought they were ridiculous, and I said that to everybody who would listen – “That’s never going to happen.” But he was very persuasive – called me up, said he wanted to talk to me, and offered me the Secretary of State position.

QUESTION: It’s a bit like – because you get to focus on everything that happens around the world too.


QUESTION: This is a busy time.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, it is. Well, the world is so interconnected now – I mean, the global economic crisis that we have been experiencing around the world – you just can’t escape the interdependence that exists in the world today. There’s a lot of good about that, but there’s also a lot of demands that are then placed on a country like the United States.

It’s also true that when you’re looking around, you have to be both dealing with what’s in the headlines – Iran, the bombing in Moscow, the things that happen every day – but you also have to keep your eye on the trend lines, which is what we were doing meeting about the Arctic today. It’s not a crisis that’s all over the front pages, but it is something that you’ve got to manage and get ahead of. So you have to be doing the immediate and the urgent and the long-term and important, all at the same time.

QUESTION: The three things you brought up are all three things I wanted to talk to you about. The big one for Canadians is Arctic sovereignty, and the question is: Does America represent – respect what Canada considers its Arctic region?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we certainly respect the right of all of the Arctic countries, the ones that have the longest coastlines on the Arctic Ocean, the follow the international law in terms of where the boundaries are. There are, among all of us, some questions about where certain things really lie. But that’s why we’re creating this mechanism to be able to work that out together. I mean, there’s no reason for us to have any kind of dissention over this. We ought to be getting ahead of it. We ought to maximize our cooperation. It’ll be good for both of us.

QUESTION: Afghanistan is a big issue around the world, certainly in Canada because of the soldiers, and we know that Canada has pledged that they’re bringing the troops home. The rumor kicking around was that an official ask was going to come from America to ask the Canadians to keep anywhere from five to six hundred soldiers there in a variety of capacities. Is that ask coming?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t know if it is or what form it will be yet, because we’re still assessing the needs we have. But the Canadians have been great allies, and your military forces have been superb. They really have performed well. And we face a common enemy and we’ve had to learn, frankly, together how to deal with this agile, disciplined, ruthless enemy that we confront.

QUESTION: Ever-changing enemy.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Ever-changing, morphing all the time, looking for new ways to inflict harm on people in my country or your country or Europe or elsewhere. We do need noncombat military forces, for example, for training and logistical work. The Canadians and the Americans get along so well. There’s that hockey rink down in Kandahar that, apparently, you guys beat us every night in.

QUESTION: Pretty regularly.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I know, I can’t believe it. I mean, it’s just getting to be a bad, bad story. But – so I don’t know what we might discuss, but we’re very grateful for the service and the sacrifice of the Canadian forces.

QUESTION: How big a deal is it – like, obviously, in terms of just having people there and bodies there helping, that’s important. But how big a deal is it just optically that for the Americans to have Canadians forces there and that if the Canadians do leave, as the prime minister says they will, that just optically that sends a message? How do you feel about that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not so concerned about the optics as I am about the practicalities. I mean, we like working with you and our militaries feel really at ease knowing that the Canadians are with us on this. It means a lot. We’re allies in NATO, we are neighbors and partners on so many things across our border. But it’s also because there’s a similarity in culture. I mean, I’ve talked to a lot of our military leaders. They just feel like they can count on the Canadians, that the Canadians are really good at what they do.

So yeah, it’ll be a loss. But I mean, that’s up for Canada – it’s up to Canada to decide how you deploy your forces. But I’m not going to sit here and say we’re happy about it, because that would not be – I wouldn't be telling you the truth. We would love to have Canada stay in this fight with us. But again, you’ve got your own considerations, and we respect that.

QUESTION: Stick around for more with Secretary Clinton right after this.


QUESTION: We’re back here on The Hour and Secretary Clinton is here. We talked about Canada and Afghanistan. A big part of your job – and it happened even recently again in the news – is the Middle East.


QUESTION: And I’m wondering what went through your head when Americans take the stand that they do, the Vice President in your country is on the ground there, and then the announcement comes of more settlements. And I thought: What went through your head, Madam Secretary?

SECRETARY CLINTON: What is going on? I mean, that was sort of the question. And we’ve made our views known to the Israelis. We’ve been in constant consultation. But it was unfortunate that the Vice President, who was there in a really important goodwill trip, was confronted by that.

But we want to move beyond all of that to get to the point where we can get talks started again between the Israelis and the Palestinians. There is no doubt in my mind that a two-state solution is the only solution; that it’s in the Palestinians’ interests that their aspirations would be recognized by a state of their own, but it’s also in Israel’s security interests. So we’re going to keep working until we help bring about that kind of negotiation.

QUESTION: I suppose that’s the biggest rub is dealing with that issue, because there is – it seems like no matter where you go with it, it’s unwinnable in the press. You have to take care of both interests. The idea of selling them that they have the same goals, that’s a challenge people (inaudible). Each side lobbies you. I mean, what you say publicly versus what’s happening behind the scenes – how often do those two merge? (Laughter.) Because obviously, I’m sure there’s lots of things that run through the Administration’s mind that they just can’t talk about.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s true in any government. I mean --

QUESTION: But specifically this, right?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this is a very complicated conflict that has gone on for a long time. It’s got deep roots going back even longer. But as I said in a speech that I gave last week about this, if you look at where things stand and why we feel so passionately, because Israel is our friend, they’re our ally, we strongly identify and support them in their desire for security in their own land. But they’ve got issues of demography, ideology, and technology they have to contend with.

So our position has been resolving this is in both the Palestinian and the Israeli best interests. But clearly, there is so much history between the two that it’s hard to make that case. You have to be very patient, work at it every single day. There’s no magic moment when people go, “Oh, you know what? They’re right. Let’s just go do this.” It’s hard work, but it’s such important work, and we’re going to keep at it.

QUESTION: Keeping at it for exercise or for actual progress? Do you think you’ll see it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Progress. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

QUESTION: You were talking about – you mentioned security, and what I found really interesting is how you characterized women’s issues has become less of a soft issue, and you’ve made it a security issue.


QUESTION: Publicly, very often.


QUESTION: Things like Iran and nuclear weapons, things like North Korea, the Middle East – all of a sudden, they’re all presented as security issues. Had you found that you weren’t getting traction on women’s issues prior to the change in tone, and have you noticed a difference?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Great question. And my view, George, is that they’ve always been security issues, but people haven’t quite put them into that context. I actually think the case is easier made today, because if you look at where a lot of this conflict that we are confronting comes from, places like Afghanistan or the border area in Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia, places where women are really treated like second-class citizens, where they’re not given their voice, where they don’t have very many rights, there is a direct correlation between societies like that that deny women their opportunities and societies that are breeding grounds for extremism and, unfortunately, terrorism.

So I do think it’s a security issue. And then again, it’s the difference between the headlines and the trend lines. If you look at some of the large societies like China and India, where there is a disproportionate number of boys compared to girls – girls don’t live to their first birthday in the numbers that they should – and what happens? If you have that kind of imbalance where you have too many young men, where you don’t have the opportunity for marriage because there’s these huge discrepancies, that breeds instability.

So there’s a lot that goes into my assessment and conclusion that what I believe in passionately, that women’s rights are human rights, is also a security issue for my country and yours.

QUESTION: Then do you have to make compromises for yourself? Because China – the economic relationship is so important and then the human rights issue, and you’ve even talked about it, in a sense becomes a secondary issue to the economic interests. So you have to make those sorts of compromises. What is that like for you, especially since you made this a big – women’s issues a big part of your career?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, here’s the way I look at it. I don’t look at it as a priority and a lesser priority. I look at it as all priorities. But there are certain moments when one priority comes to the forefront. In the midst of the economic crisis which was throwing people out of jobs, which was destroying people’s life savings, having them lose their homes, lots of the ripple effects that we saw across the world, it was important to keep the human rights matters that we discussed with China on the agenda, but we had to really turn our attention to working our way out of this economic crisis. So it’s not that you ever drop anything. It’s just that at different points in the year you’re going to be emphasizing one or the other. But they have to remain connected because they are connected.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Harper said that when the G-8 meet here, women’s and children’s issues are going to be a priority for them. The big controversy around Canada is does that include contraception and abortion. And there’s not as much clarity on one; there’s no answer on the other. For women’s issues, contraception and abortion – are they priorities to you? How do you feel they fit in?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they are priorities to me because I think that what’s called reproductive health is a priority. And I think we should be beyond arguing about family planning. Rich women in every culture have access to family planning. It’s poor women who don’t. And I’ve always believed if it’s good enough for a woman of education and affluence, then why isn’t it good enough for a women who is struggling to raise the children she already has? So family planning, to me, should be just obvious and available.

Abortion is and remains a really controversial, difficult, profoundly challenging issue to people. But that’s why I am pro-choice. I believe that you should make the choice that is right for you, your family, your conscience. And it’s perfectly fair game to do everything you can to talk somebody into making the choice that you would prefer. So to me, these are really part of the women’s empowerment agenda.

I’ve traveled so extensively in the world. I’ve been to a hospital in Brazil which was one of the starkest examples of what you could see. Half of the hospital was filled with the joy of new babies being born. The other half were filled with women who had had back-alley botched abortions and were fighting for their lives. I’ve been in so many countries where abortion is denied to women except if you’re well-connected and wealthy enough. And at some point, we need to say, look, women have a right to plan their own families, and let’s get beyond this debate.

QUESTION: And so would you talk to the prime – because I know how it works, where you would make your feelings known towards the prime minister saying, listen, this is where we need to go? Because we’re not beyond it in this country because it’s – it keeps coming up.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’re not beyond it in our country. I’m just expressing what I consider to be the position that reflects the reality of most people’s lives. I’m perfectly respectful of people who have religious objections to either family planning or abortion, but their religious objections should not, in my view, determine what women who don’t share the same views can do going forward.

QUESTION: We’ve got to wrap this up. Two quick things here. Iran comes up in the news a lot and then new reports have come out suggesting there’s a new technology of concern at the agency. So I wondered, do you think Iran is moving towards nuclear weapons and do you have a sense that that’s coming at any time soon?

SECRETARY CLINTON: What I believe is that based on all the analysis that has been done by independent observers like the International Atomic Energy Agency – so it’s not coming from the U.S. or from our allies – there are so many questions about Iran’s intentions. And there are certain obvious conclusions. If you were only pursuing nuclear power for peaceful purposes, why would you have secret facilities?

QUESTION: And they found two more, they think, right?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. I mean, answer me that. I mean, it’s just the kind of behavior that argues very strongly that they do have an intent and an ambition to have nuclear weapons. The countries in the region who know Iran the best, who’ve been living next door to them, trading with them, observing them closely for many years, have no doubt in their mind that that’s what Iran is going for.

So that’s why it’s so destabilizing, because if Iran were to achieve nuclear weapons, it would launch an arms race in the Middle East that would be incredibly dangerous and it could very well spark a conflict. And there we are in the region with most of the oil that the world uses – there’s just no good outcome there. And so trying to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons is a high priority of ours.

QUESTION: All right, last thing. Your thoughts on what happened in Moscow with the bombings?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, once again, people chose terrorism, suicide bombers to wreak havoc among just ordinary commuters on the subway on their way to work on a Monday morning. And it is the tactic of terrorism to intimidate for political reasons having to do with power and all the rest of their agenda. I’m not saying there’s a connection between all of these groups, but there certainly is a familiarity, a similarity in how they conduct themselves. And it’s just tragic. I feel very sorry. I expressed my condolences today to the Russian foreign minister.

QUESTION: Good to see you. Thank you for your time.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Nice to see you. Thank you, George.

PRN: 2010/T27-6