Interview With Cynthia McFadden of ABC
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Well, Secretary Clinton, this is your – first of all, thank you for letting us come and talk to you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Of course. I’m so happy to see you again.
QUESTION: This is your last television interview as Secretary of State.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Hard to believe, Cynthia. It feels like the time has just flown by.
QUESTION: In Moscow three years ago, you told me, “I have absolutely no interest in running for president, none.” Two years ago you said the exact same thing in Australia. And yet in the past few days, a PAC called Ready for Hillary has been launched. Can you still say with a straight face that you have – that there’s no way you would consider running for president?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Sitting here right now, that is certainly what I believe. And I am still the Secretary of State, so I’m not in politics. I’m going to be focusing on my philanthropy and my charities, my writing and speaking. So I am looking forward to having something resembling a kind of normal life again.
QUESTION: And yet are we up to maybe?
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) That’s very good, Cynthia. Well, of course, of course I am flattered and honored. I didn’t even know about some of these things that are happening now. But I am really not focused on that at all. I have no plans or intentions. I don’t know how else to say it, but I am going to get back into my life again, see how it feels not having a schedule, waking up and being able to go back to sleep if I choose for a while. I have been working or attending school fulltime since I was 13, and this is going to be new for me. I don’t know how I’m going to react to it, to be honest.
QUESTION: When you conceded defeat in the primary, you made a famous speech in which you said that there were 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: If, in the course of the next couple of years it appears, as it does appear right now, that you might be the person who could actually break through that glass ceiling and become the first female president of this country, would you feel a certain obligation to seize that mantle?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m very conscious of how important it is for us to shatter that glass ceiling in my country, a country that has done so much for so many women and really has set the standard for women’s rights and responsibilities. And I do want to see that glass ceiling shattered. I don’t think it has to be any particular person; it just has to be a convergence of the right candidate and historical forces. So I don’t think one person is the only way to do that. I think there are a lot of people that are in the pipeline and moving to a position where they might be able to as well.
QUESTION: But there’s never been a woman who really had a credible chance, and it looks as if you might just be that person. And I know how seriously you take commitment and obligation and how seriously the women’s issue is to you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right. But I’m not making any commitments or obligations because I do take them seriously. And I did an interview with President Obama the other night, and obviously I know how important this is to the press, to journalists, journalists like yourself, but it’s not what I’m thinking about. It’s not anything that I’m planning or giving the okay to others to plan. I have so many things I’m interested in doing and that’s what I am focused on right now.
QUESTION: Well, it’s good to see you looking so healthy.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, thank you.
QUESTION: It really was a serious health scare.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it was a big surprise to me because I’ve been so healthy for my entire life. I’ve been in a hospital once when I had my daughter and – oh, when I broke my elbow. But other than that, I’ve been very fortunate. So when I got sick and fainted and hit my head, I was so surprised. And I thought, well, I’ll just get up and go to work. And then, thankfully, I had very good medical care and doctors who said no, we better do an MRI and we better do this, we better do that.
I feel very lucky, Cynthia, because I know now how a split second of being beset by a virus and dehydrated, what it can do to you. So I’m getting fully recovered and I will be back to full speed, but I am grateful for the excellent care I got.
QUESTION: So as one woman who wears glasses to another, I’ll tell you what happens if I take mine off. I can’t see my questions.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: If you take yours off right now --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right. Well, that would have been true even before I had a concussion. If I take mine off, I’ve been nearsighted since I was nine but I’ve worn contacts for so many years except at night when I put my glasses on. But I’ll be fine. I’ll go back to contacts.
QUESTION: But this whole seeing double thing, is that true?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have some lingering effects from the concussion, but they will dissipate over the next weeks and I’ll be back to my old myopic self. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Senator Kerry has just been confirmed.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I’m thrilled by that.
QUESTION: Does that feel – do you start to feel --
SECRETARY CLINTON: I do, I do, because obviously we’ve been working with him and his team for him to come in to the State Department. My last day will be Friday afternoon after I finish all of my obligations. I think that he will pick right up where I’ve ended and continue to represent us extremely well around the world.
QUESTION: What do you wish you’d known four years ago that you could pass on to him?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’ve tried to pass on everything I’ve learned. I think there are a couple of big takeaways. One, I don’t see how you do this job without traveling a lot. Condi Rice traveled a million miles and I’ve traveled nearly that and went to more countries than anybody has gone to. Well, and why do we do that? Is it because we’re gluttons for punishment? No. Because the United States has to show up, particularly now when, ironically, people can turn on the news or get online or follow us through some other social media, but nothing substitutes for demonstrating that the United States of America cares enough to be there, to be at that meeting, to represent our values, to go to that event.
I did not realize how critically important it was going to be. And the fact that there’s hardly any part of the world now that can be kind of relegated to second tier, because something can happen anywhere and we’ll know about it instantaneously and it can have, as we’ve seen in Mali, consequences for us and our allies’ security.
QUESTION: I’d just like to ask you one other question about your health. I know that there’s no plans for future public service, but if there were to be, would you feel comfortable making a pledge that you would release whatever records?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, of course. Yeah, that doesn’t bother me. I mean, that’s just something that goes with the territory.
QUESTION: Let’s talk for a moment about Benghazi. It seemed as though you lost your temper at the hearing momentarily the other day.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I believe that we should in public life, whether you’re in the Administration or the Congress, de-politicize crises and work together to figure out what happened, what we can do to prevent it, and then put into place both the institutional changes and the budgetary changes that are necessary. And the majority of the panelists in both the House and the Senate I thought were very constructive, asked sensible questions that deserved answers. But when someone tries to put it into a partisan lens, when they focus not on the fact that we had such a terrible event happening with four dead Americans, but instead what did somebody say on a Sunday morning talk show, that to me is not in keeping with the seriousness of the issue and the obligation we all have as public servants.
QUESTION: But do you regret – “What difference at this point does it make?” It has been so analyzed in the moments since you said it.
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, because I think that asking questions about talking points for a Sunday morning talk show, it’s really missing the point. The Accountability Review Board chaired by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen didn’t pay any attention to that. They looked at what we could have done, what we have to do in order to prevent this in the future. And remember there have only been two of these accountability review boards for the time since 1988 ever made public. All the others have been classified. I believe in transparency. I said let the chips fall where they may, put it all out there. And I don’t want that to be politicized. I want it to serve as a framework for working together between the Administration and the Congress to keep our people safe.
QUESTION: So you stand by what you said?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely.
QUESTION: To Syria. You’ve repeatedly said that President Assad needs to go.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: Starting two years ago.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: And yet 60,000 Syrians are dead and he is still in office.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: What does it take for America to intervene?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we have been very actively involved. Until recently there was no credible opposition coalition, and I cannot stress strongly enough how important that is. You cannot even attempt a political solution if you don’t have a recognized force to counter the Assad regime. It took them off the hook. It gave the Russians and others who are still either supporting them or on the fence the ability to say, well, there’s no opposition. We worked very hard to help stand up such an opposition.
QUESTION: But is there a redline, Secretary Clinton?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the use of chemical weapons, President Obama has said, is a redline. But I think if you look at the Administration’s effort on the political front, on the UN front where we still believe that we need to get Security Council action, on the humanitarian front – the President just announced more than $100 million more in humanitarian aid – we have been very productive players in trying to deal with an extremely complex problem.
QUESTION: Secretary Panetta recently told my colleague Martha Raddatz that Assad had chemical weapons ready to go, locked and loaded, ready to go. The redline used to be when he moved those chemical weapons, and now would the U.S. actually permit him to use them?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no. And President Obama has been very clear about that. And I think it’s also important to look at this conflict which, yes, has horrifically developed and cost the lives of so many thousands of Syrians. But in all of my discussions with many of the countries in the region and beyond, everyone is facing the same dilemma. It is very hard to train and equip opposition fighters. It is very hard to know who is going to emerge from this, and making the wrong bet could have very severe consequences. So there are certain positions and actions we’ve taken, and we’ve also laid down the redline on chemical weapons because that could have far-reaching effects beyond even the street-to-street fighting that is so terrible to watch. And it could also affect other countries.
QUESTION: The Administration has been criticized by some for having what has been referred to as an ad hoc foreign policy, a sort of whack-a-mole foreign policy. What is the Obama doctrine as you understand it in regards to foreign policy?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Reassert American leadership politically and economically in the face of a very severe crisis that we inherited and which called into question American leadership. Look for every way you can to bring together coalitions so that, yes, America will and must lead. It is the indispensible nation, but other countries have to step up and start taking responsibility and they are beginning to do that. We saw that certainly in Libya. We’re seeing it in other places in Africa and beyond.
Make it clear that while we have to deal with the crises we need to take steps back and figure out more clearly what the consequences of actions that we and others are taking. We’ve been subject over the last 30 or 40 years to a lot of actions taken by the United States from the Vietnam war to the war in Iraq that have had unintended consequences that have threatened us. We want to be more thoughtful and careful about the interventions that we make.
And finally, don’t lose the trend lines. While we are focused on the immediate crises and the longer term challenges, there are a lot of forces at work in the world, whether it is a change in technology which has such profound effects on how we exercise all forms of our power, whether it is women and girls, the roles and rights that they have, and the fact that where they do have equality and dignity, you’re likely to have more stable societies and more prosperous economies.
Look at climate change. Don’t put your head in the sand. Understand that it’s going to have profound effects on our resources and so much else.
So I believe that what we’ve done is to pioneer the new diplomacy, taking the best and continuing the traditions of, yes, government-to-government negotiations, whether it’s a trade treaty or a peace treaty, but also expanding our aperture so that we understand that the United States must tell its story better, must connect with young people better, must stand for our values more strongly. And I think by doing that we’ve positioned ourselves for leadership in the 21st century.
QUESTION: So there’s no daylight between the Obama doctrine and the Hillary Clinton doctrine?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’ve been a major part of helping to shape it and to implement it, and I think it will stand the test of time. That doesn’t mean that, just like any administration, you don’t struggle with these difficult issues. You talked about Syria. It’s a really wicked problem, as people say. But we have to take a very large view and put everything into context.
QUESTION: Saturday morning --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: -- what happens?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I hope I get to sleep in. (Laughter.) I’m thinking about that because it will be the first time in many years when I’ve got no office to go to, no schedule to keep, no work to do. That will probably last a few days, and then I will be up and going with my new projects.
QUESTION: Madeleine Albright famously said that reading the paper became a different kind of enterprise when she was no longer Secretary of State.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m sure that’s true, Cynthia. Any kind of news coverage, I feel a sense of responsibility all the time. I’m always referring pieces to my staff: What are we going to do about this? How did this happen? What do you know about this? And now I won’t be doing that, but I’ll still be thinking it.
QUESTION: I know how close you were with your mother.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: What do you think she’d be most proud of?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, one of the great things about my mother is that she really valued people’s character more than what they did. She was proud of me, proud of my husband certainly, but she kept herself engaged in part by really relating to people, all kinds of people. And I’d like to think that she would think I’ve done a good job but that I’ve also kept trying to be a good person. That was her real standard for us and for people that she knew and cared about.
QUESTION: North Korea has nuclear weapons. Iran is moving quickly in that direction. How concerned should Americans be, and how effective has the Obama Administration been in stopping it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think Americans should be concerned and I think that the Obama Administration has made real strides, number one, in bringing together the international community. I faced real skepticism when I started talking to a lot of countries about what we needed to do to try to sanction the Iranian regime in order to get the message across to them that they had to give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons. We were able to overcome those hurdles. We have the toughest sanctions; they’re making an effect.
Similarly with North Korea, we’ve just brought together the international community, including China, in a new set of sanctions concerning the missile program. Nobody is satisfied with what these two countries are attempting to do, but we have to keep a coalition of concerned countries together in the Gulf and the broader region around Iran, which are the ones most at risk if this pursuit continues and succeeds, and in Northeast Asia. Our policy with Iran is prevention. The President has made that very clear. We’ve taken no option off the table and we are pursuing diplomatic efforts, but there’s a timetable to this. You can’t do it just for the sake of doing it. And with respect to North Korea, we’ve made it very clear to the North Koreans and to everybody in the region that if North Korea pursues their missile and nuclear weapon program, we would consider that a threat to the United States and would have to take very tough action.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for talking to us.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Cynthia. Good to talk to you.
QUESTION: As Jefferson looks over our shoulder, who I would only point out was Secretary of State who went on to become President.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’ve heard that. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you.
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