Interview With Chuck Todd of NBC News

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Grand Hyatt
Bali, Indonesia
November 18, 2011

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thanks for your time.

SECRETARY CLINTON: How are you, Chuck?

QUESTION: You know, hanging in there.


QUESTION: I am impressed with how you handle all this jetlag all the time.

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Life is perpetually jetlagged.

QUESTION: I can only imagine. Let’s start with the news of the day.


QUESTION: Myanmar, Burma. What are the next concrete steps this government can take? When you were there – or do you expect them to have a deliverable for you to say, “Okay, now we might do X”?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, part of why I’m going is to make my own evaluation as to how serious and sincere they are. We are encouraged by some of the steps that they’ve taken, but they have to do more, and we have consistently said that.

QUESTION: What is that “more”?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they have to release all political prisoners. I mean, that just is a condition. They need to begin to look at how they resolve these ethnic conflicts that have driven tens of thousands of Burmese of different ethnicities into refugee status. They have to have a real electoral system with an open door to political parties and free expression. I mean, this is about whether they are on a path to democracy.

We’re sitting here doing this interview in Indonesia. It was only a little over 10 years ago when they looked like they were a long way from the kind of accountability and institutional change that was expected if they were going to make a transition to democracy. And they’ve done remarkably well. I mean, is it perfect? No, but no country’s perfect. And so we hear from Burma, both from the leadership and the opposition, most notably Aung San Suu Kyi, that people see a level of commitment that they would not have expected, and let’s test it.

QUESTION: Talk about Ms. Kyi’s place in history in all of this. Not just there, but as a leader of – as a woman leader around the world.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, she’s someone that I admire so greatly. I’m obviously looking forward to finally meeting her in person. We’ve talked on the phone, we’ve communicated, but I haven’t had the pleasure of sitting down with her, which I will get to do.

QUESTION: Would this happen without her?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I doubt it. I doubt it. I think because she was so steadfast in her support not just for democracy and for freedom, for political participation, but on behalf of her country – I mean, her father was the leader of independence – it was bred in the bone that she herself was what we would call a patriot. And so her willingness to spend so much of her life under house arrest for a principle – for the values that we hold dear – is incredibly inspiring.

QUESTION: On the level with Mandela, Gandhi, something like that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think way up there, and well-deserved of her Nobel Peace Prize. She is somebody who, however, knows and has counseled us and others that if all you do is to say no, that you have a policy of only sticks and no carrots, then the hardliners will decide that this reform can’t succeed, that there won’t be any changes that reciprocate, so let’s try to subvert it. So I think she, others within Burma, including within the government, believe that steps toward them, as they try to do things which we would want to see done, will actually continue the pace of reform.

QUESTION: Let me do a little bit of a global whip-around. Let me start with Syria. A lot of stuff – I know you’ve been on this trip – a lot of things happening in Syria. Can you envision a scenario where it’s not going to take the world community or via the United Nations to have to do something militarily, a la Libya?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I think there could be a civil war with a very determined and well-armed and eventually well-financed opposition that is, if not directed by, certainly influenced by defectors from the army. We’re already seeing that, something that we hate to see because we are in favor of a peaceful --


SECRETARY CLINTON: -- protest and a nonviolent opposition. But the way the Asad regime has responded has provoked people into taking up arms against them. So I think that what the Arab League has done, what Turkey has said, has far more weight on opinion within the government and within the society than those of us who are pretty far away.

QUESTION: So you don’t think we’re going to have a – that the United States is going to be going to the UN, getting a --


QUESTION: This has got to be done with the Arab League and Turkey leading the way --


QUESTION: -- for the world community.

SECRETARY CLINTON: There is no appetite for that kind of action vis-à-vis Syria. Libya was a unique situation. And every place is, I think. But it’s not applicable to Syria. Syria has its own kind of rhythm, and what the Arab League has done is an unmistakable signal to Asad that “You’re done.”

QUESTION: How much patience do you have for the Russians and the Chinese when it comes to next steps on Iran? And how much should the United States sort of wait to try to bring them along on increased sanctions, or essentially find another coalition?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Chuck, I think that later today, we’re going to see in Vienna at the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors a resolution that will be joined by China and Russia, that basically expresses concerns about what’s gone on in Iran according to the IAEA report and talks about consequences that the international community has to consider, and calls on Iran to be responsive. So there still is unity with the international community.

Now when it comes to sanctions, there are more steps that the United States and Europe are probably willing to take than others at this time.

QUESTION: Including the Iran Central Bank?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’re going to be looking at next steps, and there are some pretty serious ones to consider.

QUESTION: Would the United States allow Israel to act alone?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I am not going to go into any kind of speculation. I mean, our policy is pressure and engagement. I think we’ve done a good job bringing the international community to a place that it had never come to before. We think there’s internal disunion within Iran, that the sanctions are actually having an economic effect. We’re going to keep pushing hard on that.

QUESTION: What was it like on that motorcade in Manila? How did you feel that when happened? I mean, was this just something that you sort of brush off or --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, I totally brush off. I mean, I’ve been protested against a few times in my life. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: This anti-Americanism, this rise of anti-Americanism in the Philippines, where did it come from?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, it’s always been there.

QUESTION: You feel like it’s just --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

QUESTION: We’re just seeing more of it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, yeah. Well, it’s always been a small, local, activist minority, and there’s – that’s a historical fact. There’s nothing new about it.

QUESTION: A few domestic semi-political questions: Keystone, this decision. No politics involved at all in this delay? And could we see the State Department approval in the next three to six months?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have experts who are working on this. And they reached a conclusion, after having done all this work and listened to all these different voices on both sides of this debate, that there had to be attention paid to a potential other routing. And so that’s what they are now about the business of doing.

QUESTION: So it isn’t – 2013’s not in stone, that this – somehow we’re going to wait all the way to it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s a largely technical, scientific process. Since I am neither, I can’t really comment on how long it would take to do properly.

QUESTION: Any of these Republican president candidates ready to answer the 3:00 a.m. phone call?

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, I’m out of politics, happy to be out of politics, but I am very proud of the leadership that President Obama has shown. He’s demonstrated unequivocally that he’s ready, willing, and able to do whatever is necessary for our country.

QUESTION: Not confident what you’ve been hearing on the Republican side?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I haven’t been honestly paying a lot of attention. I think --

QUESTION: You’ve been busy; I give you that.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I’ve been a little busy. I’m on a lot of airplanes. I think I’ll just kind of wait till it plays itself out.

QUESTION: Are you going to have any role on the campaign?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. By law, I cannot. I mean, I think there are three of us in the Cabinet – Defense, Treasury, and State – that cannot participate in politics. So I think my biggest contribution is to do the best job I can for our country.

QUESTION: I got to ask about my new colleague.


QUESTION: What did you think when she said, “I want to become a member of the Fourth Estate -- ”


QUESTION: -- “ this side of the line here”?

SECRETARY CLINTON: -- I was a little surprised, but she decided to go for it, and I’m very excited for her.

QUESTION: Well, all right, Madam Secretary.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good to talk to you, Chuck.

QUESTION: Thank you.


PRN: 2011/T55-15