Interview With Andrea Mitchell of NBC News

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Istanbul Congress Center
Istanbul, Turkey
April 1, 2012

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you have said that there will be serious consequences if Assad does not stop killing his people, but this is the moment of truth. The time for excuses is over. But short of military intervention, what is going to stop this man?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andrea, I see it as a progression that is too slow and it’s very painful to watch the terrible killing continue by the Assad regime. But out of this meeting today, we have agreed on not only more sanctions, but a means of enforcing them. We now have a sanctions committee. That was quite an accomplishment because this group consists of a lot of countries that are really the mainstays of the Syrian economy. We have more humanitarian aid going in. We have an accountability project underway to catalog all of the atrocities that have been done. And we are increasing the various forms of assistance for the Syrian opposition.

In addition, we are supporting Kofi Annan’s process, but we wanted to have a timeline because we don’t want to give Assad the excuse of being able to negotiate with no end.

QUESTION: Isn’t he playing Kofi Annan for time? He says he’s accepting the ceasefire, and more killings take place.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are worried about that, but we know Kofi Annan will be reporting to the Security Council tomorrow. I want to hear firsthand from him. But we do want to support him by making it clear that he does have a timeline that has to be respected.

QUESTION: What about Saudi Arabia and the others who are calling for lethal aid – for weapons to the rebels – and also now creating a multimillion dollar fund which, we are told by conference participants, will be an inducement; they will give the money to the rebel soldiers and that will be an inducement to try to get more defections from Assad’s army. Is that going to work?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s a significant step by a number of nations that are trying to support the opposition in one of the numerous ways that we are all helping. We’re looking at technical assistance, communications assistance. I met with a group of the Syrian National Council opposition, including a young woman who just got out of Homs and told us in wrenching terms what it was like being under bombardment by the Assad regime. And she made it clear communications is a huge problem. The United States has a lot of expertise in that.

QUESTION: You’re providing gear now?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are going to be working to provide that, and we know that that will be able to get into Syria, which will permit better communications inside Syria and between Syria and supporters outside.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, Iran. You seem very skeptical that they are serious about diplomacy. As these talks are going to resume in two weeks, do you really think that they are serious, or are they also playing for time and secretly working on their suspected weapons program while these negotiations then drag on?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s what we’re going to find out. We did welcome their outreach to return to the P5+1 negotiations.

QUESTION: The group of Western allies?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right, the group of – the five permanent members of the Security Council, including the European Union and Germany, but also including China and Russia. And in this arena, China and Russia have been quite productive. They too are quite concerned about Iran continuing a nuclear program and acquiring nuclear weapons. I think President Obama’s policy is absolutely clear. It’s prevention, not containment. We’re going to do everything we can. But we want to pursue a diplomatic resolution. I think that’s the sensible approach to take.

QUESTION: Many women during this period and – or campaign feel that their basic rights are under attack. Women really feel besieged on all sides. They call me, they write to me, you see it yourself. And I was at the Women in the World Conference when you said this: “They want to control how we act. They even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and our own bodies. Yes, it is hard to believe that even here at home, we have to stand up for women’s rights and we have to reject efforts to marginalize any one of us because America has to set an example for the entire world.”


QUESTION: What is happening in this political campaign?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I see it now from the perspective of having traveled so extensively, and we know that where women are marginalized, where they’re demeaned, where their rights are denied, there is the likelihood you will have less democracy, more poverty, greater extremism. The United States is the model. There’s been no place better to be a woman than in 21st century America. So we cannot allow any voices to be given credibility that would undermine the advances that women have made in our country. And I wanted to point out that it’s not only about American women, which of course is our first and foremost concern, but it’s about the example we set, the message we send to women around the world.

QUESTION: When Meryl Streep introduced you at that same conference, she said of you, “It is not a simple job to be a role model; it’s an enormous burden. But that’s what we ask of her.” Are you willing to take that on?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think of myself that way, but I know that I am considered that in the eyes of many people, and it’s a great honor. It is a burden.

QUESTION: The most popular woman in the world for 10 years in a row.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that – it is a great honor, but it also carries with it a lot of responsibility, which I take very seriously. I feel such a great privilege representing my country, and in the role of Secretary of State, dealing with all of the front burner issues like the two we just talked about, Syria and Iran, but also continuing to advocate for the long-term changes like the fulfillment of women’s rights as unfinished business in this century, which is good for America and good for the world.

QUESTION: There is a lot of unfinished business. You deserve a rest after this journey's over.


QUESTION: Everyone knows that, and a lot of thanks, but there will come a time and there is a growing expectation that you will run for president and complete the goals that you have for men and women?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Andrea, that is --

QUESTION: Why not?

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s very flattering, but I’m not at all planning to do that. I have no desire or intention. I want to do the best job I can as the Secretary of State for this President. I want to then take some time to get reconnected to the stuff that makes life worth living – family, friends, the sort of activities that I enjoy. And I’ll do some writing and some speaking and I’m sure I’ll be continuing to advocate on these issues.

QUESTION: And then? Rush Limbaugh, in this campaign, did he go beyond anything that we have previously experienced in the way he attacked a civilian, a young woman who had just spoken up?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I try very hard to stay out of the politics, so let me put the campaign and the implications to one side. That is for others to comment on.

QUESTION: As a woman’s leader?

SECRETARY CLINTON: But as a woman and as someone who can vaguely remember being a young woman --

QUESTION: And as a mother.

SECRETARY CLINTON: -- and as a mother of a young woman of that age and generation, I thought the response was very encouraging – the response from the public, the response in particular from women cutting across all kinds of categories, the response from advertisers. So I’ll let that speak for itself. We as a nation have every right – and in fact, I welcome it – to engage in the kind of debate and dialogue that is at the root of who we are as Americans. But let’s not turn it into personal attacks and insults. We’re beyond that. We’re better than that. And people in the public eye have a particular responsibility to avoid it.

QUESTION: Chelsea was on a panel with Sandra Fluke at the 92nd Street Y and she said, “Rush Limbaugh attacked you when you were 30. He attacked me when I was 13.”

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) I read that she said that. Well, I think we need to call people out when they go over the line. They’re entitled to their opinion, but no one is entitled to engage in that kind of verbal assault. Let’s keep it on the issues. If you disagree on the issues, let’s have a vigorous debate – hopefully evidence-based. I would like that to be part of the debate. But that’s fair game. But whether it comes from the right, the left, up, down, wherever it comes from, let’s all ask for a return to civility and the kind of debate that really enables citizens to make better decisions.

STAFF: Andrea, last question.

QUESTION: Madame, Secretary --

STAFF: Sorry.

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) You broke her chain of concentration.

QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to thank you very much for the interview.


QUESTION: Thank you for being with us today.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Always good to see you, Andrea. You are an inspiration, believe me.

QUESTION: Hardly, but thank you for saying that.

PRN: 2012/500