Senator Hillary Clinton.
Special Dossier: Presidential Primaries
Remarks by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
Sen. Hillary Clinton was born and raised in Chicago, Illinios. She graduated from Wellesley College and Yale Law School. After law school, Clinton became a staff attorney for the Children's Defense Fund. She then served on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee considering the impeachment of Richard Nixon. Clinton moved to Arkansas, where she married Bill Clinton in 1975, and worked as an advocate for children. Later she became a partner in the Rose Law Firm in Arkansas and was named one of the hundred most influential lawyers in America in 1988 and 1991. In 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected to his first term as President of the United States, she became First Lady and she held prominent positions in policy matters, especially those involving children and women’s issues. She was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York in 2000 and reelected in 2006 with 67 percent of the vote.
On January 20, 2007, she announced the formation of an exploratory committee
for her bid to enter the 2008 Presidential race.
Clinton recently addressed the
National Jewish Democratic Council's
Washington Policy Conference.
She was introduced by Daphna Ziman, founder of Children Uniting Nations, and Bernard Rapaport, a former insurance executive from Texas. Ziman noted that Clinton "understands the culture in Israel, but also understands the culture on the other side. She knows how to find a common ground." Rapaport said Clinton
"does not need on the job training, she knows the job." He also mentioned Clinton's concern for the poor and her long-time advocacy for children's issues.
Senator Hillary Clinton:
It has been such a long six years.
I was talking earlier and said this election has taken off so quickly. I've never seen anything like it. Everyone wants to participate. All of the states want to be at the front of the line, and I believe it's because America wants to turn the page on the Bush/Cheney administration.
They want to get to the future as fast as we can. If they could just go through time and end the interim that we are having to live through, they would make that choice.
Because after all, what have we seen? We've seen our government become more incompetent, more unqualified, cronies put into positions of power they were not prepared for or capable of carrying out, no-bid contracts, the out-sourcing of our government. There are now more private contactors by a factor of three than there are civilian and military and government employees and workers, and in the process they have tried to turn Washington into an evidence-free zone, where what mattered was ideology and the pure, unadulterated use of power.
We're seeing that now, in the inquiry into the firing of U.S. attorneys who would not pursue a political agenda.
We've seen it repeatedly with government scientists muzzled and information taken off of government websites that didn't fit an ideological profile, and we continue to see the President and the Vice President and their allies calling anyone who disagrees with them unpatriotic.
So this has been a difficult six years. I worry that we don't even know all the damage that's been done.
Cronyism, Corruption, Incompetence and Deception.
Now I kiddingly say to people that I'll walk into the Oval Office well aware of the record of cronyism and corruption and incompetence and deception, and then I'll pick up the rug in the Oval Office and find so much stuff under there I won't know where it came from. This is not like picking up socks from the floor. This will be really hard work trying to reverse the damage that this administration has inflicted on our country. And really the people, particularly the families of America, are paying the price.
The rising health care costs are squeezing so many people. Incomes and wages have been flat while productivity is up and CEO pay is up and corporate profits are up. And as we've heard, the people in the top one tenth of a percent are doing so much better and then if you go down to the top 10 percent, you've got the remaining 90% who have effectively been taking pay cuts while those of us who have been privileged to do well have been doing even better.
We've got 12 million children living in poverty. We have more people going bankrupt than we have college graduates, and we're just not able to focus on these because to this President these people and their problems are basically invisible. He doesn't see them.
So if you're a single mom trying to work and maybe go to college to further your education and get a better job and you don't have child care, you don't have after-school care, you're invisible to this President.
If you're a small business owner facing rising energy costs both at the pumps and in electric utility bills, you're invisible too.
And if you're a soldier who was wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan doing your service to our country and you came back to Walter Reed [Hospital] where you have to fight another battle to get the care you deserve, until recently you were also invisible.
You just can't imagine the stories that I hear every day as a Senator from New York where people come to me asking for my help, and now as a candidate travelling around the country.
There are so many people who can't afford college anymore. That is an issue that, when I mention it, whether its in New Hampshire, Iowa or anywhere else, the crowds, whatever they're composed of, burst into applause because it is so much more difficult for a middle income family to afford to send a child to college then when I went to school, and part of that is because there has been no oversight of the student loan industry. And what we have found is that money that should go to loans for hard working families and students has been siphoned off for other purposes and there's been so many conflicts of interest and now the person overseeing the program in the Department of Education was taking stock from one of the companies.
If you're one of the 90,000 people still living in trailers along the Gulf coast -- the President came, made a speech, went back to Washington, and told Karl Rove he was in charge of Gulf Coast reconstruction. And it's a continuing disgrace that we haven't taken better care of our fellow citizens.
Everyone is visible to us.
There are so many examples like that, and I bet everyone here could put in their own favorite, but we have to, as Democrats, make it abundantly clear that everybody in this country will be visible to us, that we're going to work to enhance the opportunities of the many, not to help the few, because that's why America has worked so well for the last centuries. We've always had this forward movement where believed that their government was not putting roadblocks in their way but was actually on their side as they tried to find a better future for themselves.
Former Supreme Court Justice [Louis] Brandeis once said that democracy is moral before it is political. I think that's really important. I just came across that quote recently. Democracy is moral before it is political. It teaches us a lot.
One of the reasons we're having all this trouble around the world trying to impose democracy in places where it has not exactly taken root or where what we have is people like Hamas coming into power and perverting democracy is because the moral basis for democracy has not been laid. So we have to ask ourselves, "What are our values?"
Justice Brandeis was telling us that democracy is not neutral. We have certain principles and rules by which we operate, but it is based on core values; the belief that the circumstances of your birth should not determine the limits of your potential; that we have an obligation to protect the rights of the least powerful against the designs of the most powerful; that whether your ancestors came here in first class or steerage, or in chains, you have an equal shot at the American dream; that free expression and open debate is fundamental, as is access to education, so that you can be prepared to exercise your rights.
And I know that the NJDC is committed to these core values and you're Democrats because you feel so strongly that we need to implement these values in our policies. I think the American people are ready to return to these ideals. They're ready for leaders who will listen, who will see them, who will work together. And they're ready for America to start living up to our best values again. And I'm certainly ready to do that.
I'm ready to reach out to those who have been left behind, pushed aside, I'm ready to bring people together as I have in the Senate and to roll up our sleeves and begin the work that will improve conditions in America and restore our leadership around the world.
We are the America that we can believe in.
It is the number one mission of the next President. We have to convince ourselves first and foremost that we are the America that we can believe in again. That we will meet the challenges that are now awaiting us. And that once again we will reclaim not just our leadership as a super power, but our leadership as a moral authority in the world. And that is what I intend to do.
And I want to start setting some goals again. As a little girl, I remember we had goals in America. I felt like I was a small part of it. When Russia sent the satellite into space and everyone in America was so concerned, I remember my fifth grade teacher coming into our classroom and telling us that the President wanted us to study math and science. And I was convinced that President Eisenhower had called Mrs. Crouse and told her to tell us that.
And when President Kennedy said we would send a man to the moon and bring him back safely in a decade, I didn't know how it was going to happen, but I was absolutely convinced it would, because, after all, that's who we were. We solved problems. We were the practical visionaries. And we set goals that everybody could participate in meeting.
Provide quality, affordable health care to every American.
So lets set the goal of universal health care coverage, let's once and for all decide we're going to provide quality, affordable health care to every American.
You know the statistics, nearly 47 million uninsured and that means many millions more who are underinsured. They've got insurance all right, but when it comes time for them to get the treatment their doctor has prescribed for them, the insurance company says, "Just kidding, we're not going to actually let you do that."
My office spends countless hours trying to help people with insurance get the health care that their doctors have told them they and their children need. So when a man calls me from Northern New York and tells me that his child has just been diagnosed with a terrible, rare illness and their doctor has told them that the best place in the country to save their child's life is in another state, and their insurance company, which has insured them for years says, "We don't do that, we're not going to pay for that."
So they come to me and I get involved and my staff gets involved and eventually we get them to back down and to agree. Of course, I'm relieved and happy for that family, but I'm thinking to myself, most people don't go to their United States Senator to get the health care that they think they're entitled to under their insurance policy. And it should not take a Senator to make sure that a child can have the best treatment that child deserves to have.
We now that the costs in this system have continued to go up, premiums have risen by 90 percent since 2000, and many people just don't know how they're going to afford insurance for themselves or for their employees. So we not only have to bring everybody into the system, we have to make the system more efficient.
And we have to guarantee better quality, because although we spend more money by far than anyone in the world, we don't get the best results, which absolutely makes no sense to me, because Americans are well-known for getting the best bargain we can get, trying to drive that hard bargain -- not when it comes to health care.
We will take a different path when it comes to scientific research.
So there is an opportunity that we will seize when I become President. We also will take a different path when it comes to scientific research. We've seen the budgets for the National Institutes of Health cut under this President and we've seen ideological opposition to scientific advances like stem cell research.
It is time for us to proceed with stem cell research. We passed it twice in the Congress and we're going to try to override the President's veto, which he has promised. But what we really need is a President who will stand up for science and stand up for scientists and stand up for new research that will give us cures that will help us and our children lead healthier lives.
We have to make some commitments to education.
We also have to make some commitments to education. Education starts in the family and I think all of us in this room believe that. How do we help parents become a child's first teachers? I was so impressed by the
HIPPY program, the Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters back in 1983, that I tracked down Dr. Avima D. Lombard, a professor at Hebrew University, who had pioneered the program, and convinced her to bring it to Arkansas.
Well, now I want as President to provide access to quality preschool for children who need that extra help. We know it will make a difference. We have the many years of research from Head Start. And the Federal Reserve Board of Minneapolis has just done a study asking themselves what one thing could we do that would make our country more competitive in the future. And they looked at all the research and they came back and said invest in preschool education. It has such a payoff for kids being more productive as they go into adulthood.
We need to get serious about energy.
We obviously need to be serious about energy. Something this President and Vice President have not been. We need a new energy policy that really focuses on research and development, and quicker application of technology that's already existing. I want to create an agency comparable to what we did after Sputnik went up. We then created something called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and out if it came the Internet. It was government-funded research, partnering with the great universities in our country, and with private-sector research operations, like in those days Bell Labs and others.
And we created so much positive value that is has really fueled the economy. Most of our economic growth since World War II has been fueled by scientific research. When it comes to energy, we need those minds, having the resources to move us toward alternatives. We need to set some goals like having 20 percent of our electricity from renewal resources by 2020, 25 percent by 2025.
Sen. [John] Kerry and I have introduced legislation together to try to make the federal government a leader in green buildings. The federal government owns 500,000 buildings; they should set the example for how we get more energy-efficient buildings, and by the way, create new markets for building materials and appliances that then the private market can go ahead and utilize as well.
There is so much work to be done here and it goes hand in hand with dealing with global climate change. You've got to do both in order to have a realistic policy.
I will appoint judges who uphold the rule of law and follow precedent.
And let's also make it clear that I will appoint judges who will uphold the rule of law and follow precedent under our
Constitution. Last week's Supreme Court decision was a wake up call. It marked an abrupt and dramatic departure from four decades of Supreme Court rulings upholding the right to choose and protecting women's health.
I hate to tell you, "I told you so," but this was exactly the erosion of Constitutional rights that I warned about when I voted against both Justices Roberts and Alito. And if the court is willing to undermine established precedent when it comes to a woman's right to choose, what are they going to do when they turn their attention to religious liberty, or the separation of church and state?
Now I am a person of faith, and I certainly don't believe that religion should be absent from our daily lives or even from our public square, but I also believe that our founding fathers intended that the First Amendment would make it clear that the government would neither endorse nor oppose any particular faith, because once we allow state-sponsored religion in our public places, then at best we make those who are not religious feel like interlopers, but at worst we begin a slippery slide that will undermine basic rights of conscience and freedom of association.
No one should feel that way in or country. They should not feel excluded, disrespected, or marginalized.
I'm also grateful for the strong spotlight that the Rutgers basketball team and their coach have shown on the degradation and demeaning of women, because that has to stop as well. Its not just about women, many people in our country are marginalized, but at the same time, we've got to stand up and say, "Enough is enough." And if we do that, I think we can begin to heal and patch together a society that has been deliberately divided through political tactics and techniques over the last 15 or so years.
We have our work cut out for us around the world.
Finally, we have our work cut out for us around the world. Many of you you travel, and I assume most of you do, have encountered this. Our reputation is in shreds. People don't trust us any more.
I met a diplomat from an Arab country the other day --one of the countries that we are trying to get to help to manage the situation in Iraq and to deal with the
very threatening presence in Iran. He said, "The problem is, Senator, that to be a great power you must be either feared, respected, or liked, and right now in too many places the United States is none of those." Think about that. That is chilling. That undercuts our capacity to do what we know we must in the world. It is a threatening and dangerous world.
I certainly have been one of those in our party who has continued to say we face real threats and we have to figure out how we're going to manage those. And that begins with our unwavering support for our friend and ally, Israel.
We stand with Israel.
We stand with Israel because it is a beacon of democracy in a neighborhood that is shadowed by radicalism, extremism, despotism, and terrorism. Its very existence is a defiant rebuke to anti-Semitism. And we have shared values. To go back to Brandeis' point, we are founded on a common bond, and our bond and our values are exemplified every day in our vigorous democracies. I don't know if there is a more vigorous democracy than Israel.
I often say as a Senator from New York I represent 19 million people, all of whom have strong opinions, but I think with Israel, you can quadruple or quintuple that. And that is one of the reasons we admire Israel and why we feel so strongly that is has to be protected and supported.
Our commitment to civic engagement, to the rule of law, to open debate, to free expression -- they're not just found in the Knesset. They're found in every coffee shop and on every street corner in Tel Aviv. So, to me, this goes right to that moral basis for democracy.
And as you know, Democrats have always stood with Israel, going back to the very beginning with President Truman's decision.
And, of course, there is another Democratic President I'm very fond of, and I know I'm biased, but I well remember the long days and nights of negotiations and phone calls trying to figure out a way to create an environment in which Israel's security was guaranteed and the Palestinians were given the opportunity to take responsibility for themselves.
We face a more dangerous set of circumstances today.
Obviously today, we face an even more dangerous set of circumstances. If you have any doubt about that, just look to some of Israel's neighbors; what happened in Lebanon with Hezbollah last summer; what's happening with the Palestinians with Hamas' rejectionist attitude and commitment to violence; and the overthrow and extinction of Israel as an independent state; and certainly what is happening in Iran.
This is a country that had its government host a conference in Tehran for the sole purpose of denying the Holocaust, placing its governmental leadership in the same company as the most despicable bigots and historical revisionists. A country whose elected leader has called for Israel to be wiped off the map. A country which we know has a long history of funding terrorism -- from Lebanon to Argentina. A country which has used its influence to be a difficult and dangerous presence in the Middle East, upsetting what balance of power there was.
So let me be clear. We cannot, we should not, and we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. That has to be our starting point. And in dealing with this threat, no option can be taken off the table. I think it's important that we look at all the options that are available to us, some of which have been considerably narrowed because of this administration's policies. If the administration had been smarter about engaging with Iran, Syria and others -- I'm not saying we would be further along or our situation or Israel's dangers would be lessened -- but I am saying that a process of direct engagement with these adversaries is important for several reasons.
Our president says his current policy is, "I don't talk to bad people." I don't that's a very smart policy when it comes to managing the threats we face. I believe it has been a mistake and we have lost valuable time. The best analogy is probably the Cold War, where the Soviet Union had thousands of missiles pointed at us, where they had leaders threaten to bury us, where they ran proxy wars against us and invaded other countries. We never stopped talking to them.
Did that mean we did not defend our values vigorously? No.
Did it mean that we let down our guard and didn't continue to build up our deterrence threat? No.
But what it did mean is that we gained valuable insight, intelligence and information about how to bring leverage on the leadership in the former Soviet Union. And as Presidents, Republican and Democrats alike followed that strategy, we also gave hope to people behind the Iron Curtain that there would be, perhaps, a time when they would be free again.
When it comes to Iran, we don't really even know who makes the decisions. I personally don't believe that
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes the decisions. I think he's the front man. I think he's the puppet. I think he's the guy they trot out to keep everybody in some kind of a turmoil. I think it is the clerical leadership and the Supreme Leader who call the shots. And we do know enough to know that the Revolutionary Guard is under their control, not under the elected secular leadership.
So we are just wasting time instead of trying to figure out how we can bring pressure and leverage on who the real decision makers are.
We also used to have a very strong pro-Democracy and even pro-American element within Iran because it is such a young country. Depending upon who is giving you the statistics, its like 50 to 70 percent below the age of thirty. They are tuned in to our culture, they are on the Internet.
We are failing at public diplomacy. We still haven't gotten it right. We still don't have a vigorous effort to convey American values, to draw the contrasts. We did that all through the Cold War, too -- Radio Free Europe and all the tools at our disposal kept people feeling hopeful, gave heart to the dissidents. They were thrown in prison or otherwise were intimidated or harassed, they always believed America was always there trying to help them. We need to do that again.
And finally, if we do have to take offensive military action against Iran, it would be far better if the rest of the world saw it as a position of last resort, not first resort, because the effects and consequences will be globally felt.
Release kidnapped Israeli soldiers!
We also need to be much more publicly vigorous in insisting that Hezbollah and Hamas immediately and unconditionally release the three kidnapped soldiers that they continue to hold captive. I have visited twice with the very impressive young wife of one of those soldiers, Carnit Goldwasser, and other family members that have come to see me. She is an extraordinary young woman, and I was deeply moved by her resolve to find a way to free her husband, and her love for him.
Last month I joined with one of my colleagues to introduce a resolution officially demanding the return of these soldiers and to express America's vigorous and unwavering support for Israel. It passed by unanimous consent and I will continue to do everything I can to help bring those brave young men back to their families.
Let me conclude by just saying a few words about the war in Iraq. We all know that the President decided to wage a preemptive war before the inspectors from the United Nations finished their work. We now all know that the President was not prepared for the war that he was determined to wage, and we know that he and his team of decision makers have exhibited breathtaking misunderstanding and mismanagement, and that the war has tarnished America's reputation and standing in the world.
The lesson to be drawn here--there are many, but the one I want to mention today--is not that the United States should withdraw from the world or shrink our role in standing up for freedom and democracy. If we do so--if we turn our back on the dangers that we face today--that will not only hurt us in the long run but it will hurt Israel as well.
So we need to do everything that we can to find the right way to end this war. To bring our troops home and to get back to the hard work of trying to manage and deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it were. I have no illusions about how hard this work will be. I've seen first hand the challenges that confront a President, but I believe strongly that we can succeed. I'm going into this campaign with my eyes wide open, I have no illusions about how difficult the tasks ahead of us will be. But, I don't think we have a choice. I don't think we can let this drift and denial continue any longer past the end of this President's term in office.
When I think of the work ahead of us, I think about a wonderful story that my friend, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told me. In 1995, Bill asked her to go to Europe to attend commemorations of the end of World War II, 50th anniversary of its end. She traveled around Europe and she went to the former Czechoslovakia, where as you know she was born.
She went all around the country attending large and small gatherings of people that wanted to mark this milestone. And everywhere she went, she saw people waving American flags. That's not unusual, its actually very welcome. But as she looked more closely she saw that the flags only had 48 stars. These were flags that our American G.I.s handed out when they liberated Czechoslovakia. These were flags that Czechs had carefully safeguarded for 50 years. They had kept them hidden from the Communists. When the tanks rolled into Prague, that was one of the first things these families told Madeleine they carefully protected because they so believed in America. They believed in our values, they believed we were a moral democracy and they wanted to be like us. That's what I want people around the world to feel again about us. And thats, even more importantly, what I want us to feel about our great country.
Thank you all very much.
Question and Answer Session