A candid conversation with Hillary Clinton

/ Source: msnbc.com

In an interview with MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on Friday morning, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., spoke candidly about everything from Iraq and healthcare to Mother's Day and her hair style.

You can read a partial transcript of the interview below or click on the video to the right to watch the full interview.

SCARBOROUGH:   Hey, let’s talk about what’s going on in Congress.  It’s been remarkable to see Republicans finally going and talking to the president and saying, “Enough is enough.”  And you’re actually talking about putting—moving and trying to pass a bill, not to deauthorize what happened in 2002, but actually to sunset it; say, “OK, we authorized the use of force in 2002, you’ve had your chance; enough’s enough.”

How’s that moving forward?

CLINTON:  Well, Joe, on both counts I think it is promising that finally Republicans have gone to the president to tell him what the entire country knows, which is he has to change course in Iraq.  And the House last night passed another effort to try to rein the president in by saying, “Look, we’re going to fund the troops for a limited period of time but you’ve got to come back and give us more than you’ve given us up to now.”

You know, I think that we’ll go back and forth on this for a while longer trying to see how much we can get the president onboard to start bringing the troops home while we fund those who remain in Iraq.

What Senator Byrd and I have suggested is, no matter what you thought about the original authorization or the president’s decision to, you know, rush to war before the inspectors were able to tell us whether there was any WMD, it is clear that whatever the mission used to be is either accomplished or over.  You know, Saddam Hussein is gone and the Iraqis have been given a chance, thanks to the sacrifice of our young men and women, to have a better future for themselves, and this is up to them now.  And if there are remaining American interests, then let’s spell them out so there’s no misunderstanding between Congress, the president and the American people as to why if we leave anybody in Iraq we have a vital national security interest there.

SCARBOROUGH:  Senator, I think that you just blew your opponents away in the last debate.  I’m not kissing up to you at all; those who know me know that I certainly don’t do that.  But you had a solid debate performance I guess back in South Carolina about a week and a half ago. 

And one of the issues, obviously, that’s come up is Iraq, but another issue that a lot of people are talking about has to do with health care.  And, obviously, you were on the forefront of that back in 1993.

How big do you think that issue’s going to play in the 2008 election?

CLINTON:  I think it’s going to be one of the most important issues, right up there with Iraq, in terms of our domestic challenges. And I believe finally we’re going to have a sensible debate about it.

You know, with all of the business leaders who I’ve been speaking to and who’ve been publicly announcing their support for reforms in our health care system, trying to get everybody into it, control costs, get better value for the money we already spend, there’s a growing momentum that is bringing a lot of different stakeholders to this debate.

So it’s not going to be just within the political arena.  We’re going to have a lot of support from business and labor and, obviously, doctors and nurses, hospital administrators, people who are on the front lines. 

I really believe, too, that the whole extent of the problems in our health care system are becoming clearer to people.  It’s not only the fact that we’ve got nearly 47 million uninsured people, but so many millions more are essentially uninsured, because even though they have an insurance policy, when they really need it, the insurance company says, “Just kidding,” you know, “We’re not going to give your doctor permission to, you know, perform that procedure.”


SCARBOROUGH:  And that’s hitting everybody.  You know, it’s so funny, Senator—not so funny, it’s unfortunate, but when you hire people these days and when I’ve tried to hire some people to come on and work with me, and so few people want to do that anyway—we have Willie Geist here because he’s been unemployed for so long...


... but it used to be the first question people would ask you had to do with salary.  Now, anybody that has a family, always, the first question they ask me has to do with health care.  We have not had really had this debate over the past several years on issues that matter to me.

Like for instance, I’ve got a child that’s got Asberger’s. I am sure that it was connected to vaccines back in the 1980s, but there are a lot of issues dealing even with child health care that just haven’t been addressed, that obviously impact Republicans, Democrats...

CLINTON:  Absolutely.

You know, Joe, one of the things that I’ve worked on for a long time is how we, number one, figure out what we’re supposed to do to treat kids.  Because, you know, kids are not just miniature adults, you know. 

They have different physical and psychological needs.

You might have seen a big story recently about, you know, drug companies pushing all these drugs onto kids.


CLINTON:  And we don’t do adequate testing.

I passed the first laws back in the Clinton administration and then a while back in the Senate we just reauthorized a requirement that we’ve got to start testing things to see whether they’re safe for kids and what dosage you really need.  You don’t say, “Oh, OK, here’s the adult dosage of, you know, say, 40 milligrams.  Let’s just cut it in half because the kid is about, you know, half the size.”  That’s just not the way to do this.

And the other problem is, we know there are environmental effects; I mean, whether, as you suggest, you know, perhaps a vaccine or some other exposures that interact with the genetic makeup of kids.

This is all a new frontier.  But if you look at what the incentives in our health care system are, it’s really not to, you know, zero in on the prevention and look at the entire, you know, holistic picture.  You know, we are set up to treat people once they’re already sick.  And this is just not sensible anymore.

SCARBOROUGH:  It’s insane.  It’s false economy.  You have a diabetic that cannot get the insurance company to give them money for treatment, and yet the same insurance company will pay when they go back to the hospital to get a leg amputated.  And it is so shortsighted.  We’ve been engaging in false economy for so long and it’s problematic.

You talk about new frontiers.  Obviously, you, running as a female for the presidency, it scares a lot of people like Willie Geist.


Me, I’m hip to it. I’m open-minded, as you know.  I’m a uniter not a divider.


But Courtney Hazlett brought up something interesting. Yesterday, we had Joe Klein on, who said he thought you were doing very well; had a great performance in the debate; said you’ve done a remarkable job as a senator.

And he pointed to the fact that you’ve had the same hairstyle now for six years...


... which means that you’re comfortable, finally, in your own skin. 

Courtney immediately was offended, said it was misogynistic. Of course, Fox News says you’re wearing bright colors and smiling more.  And that’s helping you.


HAZLETT:  That’s increasing your likability too.  Exactly.

SCARBOROUGH:  Increasing your likability, of course, which is the same thing that they always said about me.


Do you think you’re going to have to deal with this throughout the entire campaign?

CLINTON:  I don’t know, Joe.  You know, as I recall, when you went from your congressional career to TV there were a few physical changes.


SCARBOROUGH:  There were.  There were.

CLINTON:  It is funny, though, because when I think about, you know, the ongoing saga of my hair, which, you know, I have people bring up pictures up to me when I’m traveling around the country and ask me to sign it, and I can tell, it’s like an archaeological dig.



CLINTON:  But I’m having a great time.  This is a fabulous campaign.

I’m getting just a tremendous response around the country. But I really think that it’s in large measure because people are so anxious to turn the page, you know?


CLINTON:  I don’t know—it doesn’t matter whether you’re Democrats, Republicans, independents or don’t even care about politics, everybody knows that we’ve got to do better, that we’re off course and we need to have a, kind of, sensible center where people come together, roll up our sleeves and say, “Look, we’re better than this.  We can solve these problems.  Let’s get over this whiff of fatalism, you know, we can’t deal with global climate change, we can’t change our economy over time from being so carbon based, you know, we can’t do these things.”

That is not the way I was raised.  I was raised to believe that if we put our minds to it as Americans we could do anything we decided to do.

And we need both new leadership, but we also need everybody, kind of, pulling together...

SCARBOROUGH:  It’s true.

CLINTON:  ... and saying, “OK, what am I going to do as a small business owner, as a homemaker, as a teacher, as a nurse, as a doctor, whatever our particular role in the society and the economy are?”

And so, that’s what I’m finding as I travel around is this real pent-up desire on the part of people to be, you know, involved in helping to chart the course of the country and to be part of something bigger than themselves. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and you know the thing is, we’ve been through so much in the country and a lot of it not good.  We had the Clinton wars, as you know very well, for eight years.  We’re going to have eight years of the Bush wars.  It doesn’t matter who’s to blame, we’ve been—OK, I’ll take part blame for the Clinton wars; ‘95, ‘96 not my best years—but there’s so much division in this country I really do think people are exhausted and they’re looking for a president that can unite the country.

Take, for instance, gas prices.


You know, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, you look at these gas prices and you’ve got to ask yourself, “Why have we as a country allowed ourselves to be held hostage to some very unstable countries and the people that export oil like Iran?”

Don’t you think that there’s so many issues like gas prices, like alternative fuels that, again, Republicans may have, you know, rolled their eyes about in 1992 or 193, but now it makes a lot of sense for all Americans for us to get smart on an alternative energy policy?

CLINTON:  Well, that’s what I’m finding.

And take gas prices that are up, on average around the country, $3, and going up according to the projections.  And there’s short- term, medium-term and long-term solutions to this, but we just haven’t been organized or led in the right way recently.  And I think that there is this yearning on the part of people.

You know, when I got to the Senate there were many people who were surprised I got there and, kind of, unhappy that I did, and then wondering whether I would work with people across the aisle.  And, you know, I come at this from a very results-oriented perspective.  I think my job being in public life is to help people make the most of their own lives; you know, try to provide the tools that people then can be responsible in using to, you know, have a better future for themselves and their kids.

I work with people who, you know, some folks thought I’d never talk to and we found common ground.  And I think that if I can find common ground with people who were so, you know, vitriolic during the 1990s, who are now saying, “Look, we’ve got to put this aside; this has been a diversion in America’s, you know, forward movement; we can do better; let’s figure out”—we may have some disagreements about the path to take to alternative fuels and create a, you know—I would argue a strategic energy fund like an Apollo Project that really puts our best minds to work on it.

We may have some differences about how to do global climate change or universal health care or try to make college affordable again:  all the things people talk to me about as I travel around, but for goodness sakes, let’s set some goals again as a country.

You know, when I ask people, “What do you think the goals of America are today?” people don’t have any idea.  We don’t know what we’re trying to achieve.  And I think that in a life or in a country you’ve got to have some goals.  And I think that we can do this again.

So I’m actually very excited by what I’m finding as I talk with folks.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, we’re very excited to have you here.

And also, let me just say, people we’ve been talking to this week that have talked about you said—like, for instance, Trent Lott said that he was very surprised that you kept your head down, you worked very hard.  Again, a lot of people that probably said some very nasty things about you in the 1990s, extraordinarily impressed with the type of leadership you’ve provided since you’ve been in the Senate, how you have been a unifying force.  And we want to thank you.

And, of course—who was it?  Was it General McCaffrey that said—General McCaffrey I think said, or maybe it was Joe Klein, who said that he had asked a general, “Is there anybody in the United States Senate that understands the way you think?”  And the general looked at him and he said, “You mean other than Senator Clinton?”


And, again, that has to do with keeping your head down and working hard and being a very unifying force.  And we thank you for being with us.  And I apologize for anything that I’ve ever said that may have been unkind about you or the president, and wasn’t really serious about that whole impeachment thing.  It was really guys who recommended that I do that.


CLINTON:  And, Joe, I apologize to you if I got you in trouble for Mother’s Day.


SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I’m not so concerned about the Mother’s Day thing, but you have outed me about the fact I’ve had more plastic surgery since I’ve been on TV than Michael Jackson.  That’s OK.  I’m going to have to...

CLINTON:  You look great, Joe.  You absolutely look great.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, thank you so much.

CLINTON:  Thanks, everybody.

SCARBOROUGH:  It’s yoga.


Thank you so much, Senator Hillary Clinton.  Greatly appreciate you being with us.

CLINTON:  Bye-bye.