Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sat down with the Newsday editorial board Monday afternoon. Here is a preliminary transcript of the visit. It will be updated as the rest is transcribed.
(Some small sections are incomplete because of audio difficulties.)
Welcome to Long Island, Hillary Clinton
Rita Ciolli, editor of the editorial page: Thank you so much for coming. It's been about eight years since you've been in the building visiting us.
Hillary Clinton: That may be right.
Ciolli: So, we welcome you back.
Clinton: Thank you.
Ciolli: And we have a lot of questions, the editorial board does, the news people have questions.
Ciolli: And what we did this morning at 6 a.m. We put up notice that you were coming and please send us your questions we have been inundated.
Clinton: I'm sure some of them not printable.
Ciolli: Surprisingly, surprisingly, most of them were really on policy issues.
Clinton: Good. That makes me happy, being the old policy wonk that I am.
Lane Filler: We did originally read them with sunglasses on. (Laughter.)
Ciolli: So we're going to get started. We want to start with one of our reader questions and Amanda.
Amanda Fiscina: So, one of the first people to submit this morning was a someone named Nancy from Merrick on Long Island. And she wrote to us that "Like Hillary, like Secretary Clinton, I'm a grandmother. I'm struggling to be able to one day retire and stay in Nassau County. I've worked forever, saved, done all of the right things. I'm single with no pension. And I pay among the highest property taxes in the nation, but I would love to be able to stay where I've grew up." And we would like to ask, what would a presidency of yours do for voters like Nancy?
Clinton: Well, first, let me say to Nancy, and to all of you, that what she has just described is a really serious problem with an increasing number of people affected by it, because the cost of living, she mentioned property taxes are, in many parts of New York and other states as well, making it increasingly difficult for older people to stay in their homes. The cost is just unsustainable. And although property taxes historically have been, and remain, a state and local responsibility, I think we have to take a hard look at what we are doing to everybody, but particularly, to older people. We have done away with defined-benefit pensions, moved to 401(k)s. That has proven to be a very difficult transition for a lot of people.
We have a bifurcated system, if you will, on Social Security. If she's single, but she has grandchildren, maybe she's a widow, maybe she's divorced, but it's really hard to maintain your standard of living in a high-cost place, like many areas in Long Island, Westchester, etc., on what Social Security provides. So if she doesn't have a pension, which most workers now do not, or if they do, they're not predictable because they're no longer defined benefits. Then she is going to rely, when she retires, it sounds like, on Social Security, which is unlikely to provide the kind of monthly benefit that will enable her to maintain a home, pay the property taxes, all the costs of having a home on Long Island. So, the short answer is: We have to look at how we create a more robust retirement safety net and support system for people.
Now that should be true generally, but I am especially conscious, having lived in New York all these years, represented you for eight years, that the burden falls particularly heavily on older women living in high-cost areas. So I want to increase benefits under Social Security. I want to support strongly the new rule that just came out in the Department of Labor so that people who are investing their 401(k)s can count on the investor adviser having their best interests in mind, because we're seeing a lot of the deterioration of 401(k)s and generally try to figure out what we can do to mitigate against high costs of living. Now it's a particular problem in New York. I live in Westchester, which, depending on what survey you look at, has the highest property taxes, or Nassau County, right. . .
There has to be a way to bring down property-tax costs in New York. I am not running for governor. I am not running for county executive. But it just is something that when I was senator, people would ask me all the time, and I would say, "Look I empathize because I'm living the life, and I see what my friends and my neighbors are up against. So that's a question I don't know how we address from the federal level, but I certainly want to keep it on my radar screen.
Randi F. Marshall: On a related note, from a more macro note, it's been more than seven years since the financial collapse, and the data look pretty good. But for some reason people just don't seem to be feeling it. There seems to be some kind of a gap between what people are thinking and feeling and what the data show. Does it reflect, is this a new reality? Does it reflect a more permanent change in the economy that we are never going to get back to where we were, or the feeling that ... or is there a way to close the gap between what the data show and what we are all seem to be, what many of us seem to be feeling?
Clinton: I'd say really, great way of asking the question, because I think you're 100 percent right. I'll give you my thoughts. I mean I haven't done the academic research or the polling to really try to get underneath it, but I've talked to, by this time, thousands of people, and this sense, that despite the improvements in the economy, the overhang from the Great Recession, is still so dominant in people's consciousness.
And the fact is, that even though we've had 73 straight months of job creation, a lot of those jobs are not as good, with as many benefits and the income levels and the promise of advancement that were present prior to the Great Recession. So even though people are going back to work and even though the labor force participation number has ticked up, because there is an increasingly tighter labor market, people are going back and being disappointed or they are rightly saying, I haven't had a raise in 15 years, if you really adjust it for cost of living.
So I think three things: First, I really believe it matters who the president is. It won't surprise you to hear me say that. And what the policies are, because during the '90s, we not only had 23 million new jobs, the longest peacetime expansion, under my husband's administration, but incomes went up for everybody, not just people at the top, middle class, working poor families, and here are the numbers. The median family income went up in those eight years, 17 percent. Right. The median African-American family income went up 33 percent. So people were feeling good. They were feeling more confident. One of the things they were doing, is buying homes -- to have problems down the road, but that was a real sign of confidence and enthusiasm about I can own a home. I can take my family to a better neighborhood. I can do this. I can do that.
So, there was a sense of confidence in the economy, and I think the following eight years were a lot of body blows. Almost immediately, President Bush began to reverse a lot of the policies that we had, slashing taxes on the wealthy, not just once but twice, including once after 9/11. I was advocating against it, speaking out, voting against it. It just seemed to be the height of irresponsibility, but it was very much aligned with the trickle-down economics philosophy that they brought back to the White House.
And then we had the horrors of 9/11 and two wars, for which there was not a single penny raised to fund either one of them -- first time in American history that ever happened -- and then taking their eyes off the regulatory system for the financial markets. You know the rest. So, we had this incredible crash. It could have gotten a lot worse. I frankly don't think President Obama gets the credit he deserves for digging us out of the hole. He had nothing to do with putting us into, in the first place. But that experience was so wrenching. Nine million people lost their jobs. And you multiply that by two, three, four people in families affected. You had 5 million family homes lost, multiply those numbers. You had $13 trillion in family wealth wiped out. So think of the economic and frankly psychological shock that was to the body politic and to individuals.
So despite the fact that we have made progress, we have recovered millions of jobs. There is a slow uptick in incomes. People are nervous, they're apprehensive. I mean they're sort of stuck in the mindset of, things were going well and then it all just got wiped away. And they haven't recovered. And there are still a lot of people who are walking on eggshells. They don't know what's going to happen to them next. So, I've laid out a comprehensive economic program, what I would do to get incomes rising, more economic growth -- try to get the growth to be fairer, try to do what needs to be done on the tax system and the like. And we can go into that if you want to. But I think there has been a perception gap that is based in large measure on if didn't happen to me, I know somebody it did happen to. And I'm just not sure that I can trust this. And so people feel like the economy failed them, the government failed them, the political system failed them. Even though, you're right, the numbers are showing better outcomes and our economy has recovered more strongly than any other advanced economy in the world.
A final thing I'll say about this is, I really think when you've got this perception gap, you can't convince people that their view of their own reality is wrong. You can't say, you know what, hey come on, get over it. We've got 73 straight months of job creation. But a president does have to convey optimism and confidence and create a kind of alternative narrative that slowly over time more people can buy into. And one of the ways I think you have to do that is by acknowledging the sense of frustration and even anger that people have felt, and not acting like get over it, you know, things are better. Just kind of fall in line. But it says you have every right to be fearful.
You have every right to be Nancy asking, what's going to happen to me? Because we have shredded the kind of structural supports -- both socially shredded them, breakup of the family, the sense of mobility away from family, everything that is going on now -- plus economic changes, globalization, technology. I think the wrong incentives for corporations and all add to that. So people are asking, what happens to me and what happens to my kids?
Superstorm Sandy and FEMA
Michael Dobie: Just want to switch gears a little bit. Three years ago our region was battered by superstorm Sandy. We still have a lot of homeowners on Long Island who are fighting with FEMA for reimbursements for their losses. And we've heard from a lot of them this morning. They're stuck in this nightmare of conflicting information, of bad information and advice. This follows the debacle of Katrina, where we should have learned some lessons. What's wrong with FEMA? Is it the mission, the execution, personnel? How would you fix it?
Clinton: That's a really good question, too. I'd say this: I think that the failures associated with both Katrina and superstorm Sandy point out that there are inadequacies in the law and in the way the law is carried out. There are some big gaps in the law about what can be reimbursed at what level, and there is too much bureaucracy and too much regulatory red tape. I think that personnel-wise there have been improvements since Katrina. There has not been the kind of indifference or failure to actually follow up, but that doesn't make somebody who's a homeowner feel any better when they still haven't seen the results.
Here's how I feel about this, because I share the questions that people ask me. And again, I don't have any responsibility, but if I had been the senator at that time, I think my goal would have been to just keep pounding on them until they came up with answers. If there were legal problems, then say, you know, well, we don't have the flood insurance requirements that we used to have. Whatever their legal problems are, I would have just pounded the table until we got something done, because this is true on Long Island. It's true in the city. I don't have as much information about New Jersey, but I know that in New York, there are people who still haven't been able to move back into their homes. There are people who have paid for repairs, and they've never been reimbursed. And the developers are circling.
Filler: Are you suggesting you can out-nag Chuck Schumer?
Clinton: I think we were a good nag team. I think that we had a good one-two punch. But I think, because we went through 9/11, I learned a lot about the gaps in FEMA. There was a big gap that FEMA couldn't pay to repair municipal buildings, and we had to get a special law that Chuck and I worked on -- a special law to be able to get some help for some of that. By the time we got to Katrina, I worked with then-Senator Mary Landrieu, and I told her, I said, Mary, you've got to make, you've got to get all of these gaps closed because you're not going to get the money that you should get to deal with this disaster. And I remember staying up late with her one night on the floor of the Senate, feeding her paper based on our experience. So the whole emergency response piece needs a hard look, because it hasn't been as responsive as quickly as it needed to be with Sandy. And I just think it's something, as president, I hope it's resolved before I get to be president. But I can tell you I will do everything I can to remedy that going forward.
Would a woman be a different president than a man?
Ciolli: A congresswoman who lived in Queens was nominated in 1984 to be vice president, and at that time women just were passionately crazy about what was happening and what they were seeing. People holding their babies up as her motorcade passed by. Now we've gone somewhat away from that, and the reality of a woman becoming president, it seems much more real, and the response from a lot of women is meh, especially from young women. So I want to explore with you, what could you tell young women that their lives will be different as a result of your being president? Specifically and culturally, and does a woman govern differently? Would a woman be a different president than a man?
Clinton: Gee, how much time do we have? [Laughter.] First let me say that I take a little bit of issue with the kind of general coverage about the enthusiasm of my supporters. In fact, Gallup did a poll about a month or so ago and found that my voters were the most enthusiastic, more enthusiastic than Senator Sanders' supporters. A little more enthusiastic than Trump's, but that there was a lot of enthusiasm. And so you ask yourself, OK, so exactly what does that mean? And here's how I think about it. There was a recent, I think it was a Washington Post analysis of all of this, and they actually had put some poll questions into one of the university polling analyses that they apparently have a relationship with, and they were asking about how women see the world. And it won't surprise you, I don't believe, to hear that women who had lived longer, who had encountered discrimination in the workforce, who had encountered the difficulty of balancing family and work, were much more supportive of me than younger women for whom those experiences were in the future still. Hopefully, it will never happen. But if they do, likely, in a 5- to 10- to 15-year time period. So I do think that there is a lot of excitement. I see it at my events. I mean I have people at my events bursting into tears because they're so excited. I have all kinds of, you know, holding up babies to me, we just did that. We were in Port Washington. So I see it. I know it's real. But I know that I've got to do more to better connect to younger women going into the general election, assuming I get the nomination. And I'm very committed to doing that.
I often say, even if you're not supporting me, I'm supporting you, because I believe breaking that highest and hardest glass ceiling for women is an important statement, a historical occurrence that will have ripple effects that will affect how girls and women feel about themselves. The most common thing, I do really well with the women who come to my events. They come to my events because they say I inspire them, and they are excited by it. And when I ask them why, they say because you're convincing me I can do anything that I want to do. Well, that's what I want them to feel. I want them to feel that. And I think I have, both an opportunity and an obligation to do all that I can do after the nomination to reach out and make that clear.
I guess the final thing I would say is that, and again the research I've seen -- some of it public, some of it not -- they like me. They actually are quite admiring of me, but they're excited by something new and something that is a little different and a little revolutionary and promises free college. [Laughter.] And so I have a job, which is a little bit of a downer job in saying, you know, my dad taught me that, if anybody tells you something is free, look at the fine print. And to point out where that disparity is. But I get that. And I am very confident we're going to have a broad coalition. Right now I am about two-and-a-half-million votes ahead of Bernie Sanders. I'm a million votes ahead of Trump. And I have a much broader, inclusive coalition represented in those votes.
Ciolli: But would it be right for young women to say there would be gender parity in your cabinet? Is that an expectation they should have?
Clinton: Sure, absolutely, because I sure would love to reach that.
Filler: So you will at least let one man into your cabinet?
Clinton: I'm still considering that. [Laughter.] Obviously I want to demonstrate what difference it makes to have a woman president. And your other question, which I'm sorry I didn't respond to, I do believe that, based on my experience in the Senate, based on my work as secretary of state, women decision-makers see issues from our own perspective, our own different sets of experiences. And are more open to different kinds of solutions that we then can link to our experience. So I think that there is a difference in governing. And in putting forth an agenda that we think can achieve the kind of progress we're looking for.
Ciolli: Do you have a list of women in your back pocket that you want to bring into your administration?
Filler: Binders? [Laughter.]
Clinton: I know a lot of really qualified women, so I'm not going to get ahead of myself, because I have a long road to go, but yes, of course.
Sam Guzik: There is increasing attention to the ways that race and systemic injustice interact at all levels of society. On Long Island, we see that play out through persistent segregation in housing and in our schools. Local zoning can sometimes be a roadblock to affordable housing; school district boundaries create different outcomes for students who live just blocks away. The question, which we got from Facebook, is, what can the federal government do to reduce segregation that is reinforced by local laws?
Clinton: That's a really, really tough question, because I think the federal government has to get more active in trying to use both carrots and sticks to persuade local jurisdictions to make some of these changes, and we don't have a lot of, as they say, skin in the game, because the federal government has kind of retreated from either affordable housing or public housing, holding it accountable, providing the funding that is needed for it.
So we don't have a lot of leverage in saying to local communities, directly or through the state, do this and we will come up with these kinds of incentives. So I think we have to take a hard look at what are the incentives. But your question really goes to the heart of all this new research that's being done. I'm a big fan of the research led by [Harvard University economics professor] Raj Chetty and his team that shows what a difference it makes in the lives of disadvantaged kids and families to be in a good school that has more opportunities, a good neighborhood that can give the family a chance to really be much more upwardly mobile. And we have gone backwards, there's no doubt about that.
I think our schools, last statistic I saw, were as segregated as they were in 1968. So we are, the federal government has kind of retreated and lost a lot of the tools that maybe we had in the past, to try to change some of the behaviors and get some of the actions taken at the local and state level, and I will look closely at that.
Black Lives Matter movement and the 1994 crime bill
Mark Chiusano: Some activists within the Black Lives Matter movement are using the 1994 crime bill as an example of how Democrats left behind minorities as they moved the party to the center. The controversy continues with protesters reiterating the problems of the crime bill and centrist Democrats, President Bill Clinton included, struggled to satisfy them with explanations. How can you convince the activists within the Black Lives Matter movement that the Democratic Party is responsive to the concerns and demonstrate that mistakes like harsh mandatory minimum sentencing won't happen again?
Clinton: Well I've had many conversations with activists and other concerned citizens and here's what I say: My first speech in this campaign, back a year ago in April, was about criminal justice reform and tackling the problem of mass incarceration, so I am well aware of the consequences of what happened in the last 20-plus years that did result in a significant and disproportionate number of African-American and Latino, primarily men, but also women, being arrested, charged, convicted, incarcerated for offenses that would not have led a white man or women to the same outcome. So that is something that I intend to address.
I am supportive of President Obama's policing commission recommendations, and we're going to, I hope have bipartisan support to do this. But I think it's also important, despite the rejection of the argument, to remind people, particularly young people, who would have been very young, back in those days, that we had a serious lethal crime problem in America. There's a great op-ed in The New York Times today by David Yassky, who was Chuck Schumer's principal legislative assistant, when Schumer was one of the architects and authors of the crime bill, and Yassky talks about what we were up against when my husband became president. You looked at the spiraling crime rate, the murder rate, the violence that was being inflicted, particularly in communities of color and poor communities, to the point that even Al Sharpton has defended the crime bill because he was one of the people coming to the White House to ask that something be done.
Then you've got to put this in a broader context. And there are a lot of things about the crime bill, the 100,000-police force increase, the violence-against-women provisions, the assault weapons ban, which is part of the package, the Brady Bill, which was part of the package. There was a lot that was put into place that contributed to the decline in crime that we are enjoying today, thank goodness, because it's keeping a lot of people alive, uninjured and communities safer. So we have to learn from any kind of policy, what works and what did not work as intended. The federal government has a relatively limited responsibility when it comes to incarceration. Most of that happens at the state and local level.
The federal government, though, can change its relationship with state and local policing and corrections departments by altering what we are doing at the federal level. So when it comes to police, for example, a lot of military equipment was actually sold at a very low cost to a lot of police departments. And I'm not just talking New York City, I'm talking about little tiny police departments that had no more need for, you know, armored vehicles, then I do in my yard. And so what they did was to kind of push out this militarization of the police, which we now have to dial back. And we have to have a national program for retraining and de-escalating and working with the best police departments and the best police officers. And similarly with incarceration, we need to divert more people from the criminal justice system in the first place. And we need to put back in the kind of education and skills training programs we used to have in prisons, which a lot of states just wiped out for budget reasons. And then we have to have more second-chance programs. So I have a very broad set of policies that I want to pursue.
Filler: Do you think it’s fair to say that if we looked back at the 1994 crime bill, and it hadn’t had disparate effects on different populations, in other words, if the biases of judges and police officers and juries hadn’t gotten involved, we’d be looking at that now as a perfectly fine bill? That it’s really just the disparate outcomes that are the problem?
Clinton: I think that’s a very good point. I mean there were so many positive features to the crime bill, but, it did, I think, catalyze a kind of much more wrongly defined mentality about cracking down on crime, and people took it too far. So that, see, it’s very clear to me having now immersed myself in this for more than a year, systemic racism has had a very powerful and egregious impact on the criminal justice system. Now, that was not in the crime bill. But you’re right that mandatory minimums, you know, cracking down on criminals, made it more likely that it would disproportionately affect minorities.
I’ll give you, I’ll just, Lane, I’ll give you a quick, quick example because I made a couple of speeches about this, and I got an email from a young white man who has worked for me in the past. He was emailing me to thank me for the speech and speaking out about systemic racism and about reform and all of that. He said, I want to tell you my story. He said, I’ve never told you this. He said, when I was 16, I had a drug problem and I started breaking into people’s houses and stealing things in order to feed my drug habit. And I was caught. The prosecutor knew my family. So the prosecutor called up my father and said, he’s in trouble and he could go to prison, but we’re going to give him another chance. You better figure out how you’re going to put him in line. So this young man, whom I’ve now known for 20 years, 15, no, 15 years. He’s like 30, I guess, 31. He said, I know that would not have been available to me if I were an African American or Latino kid. And he’s 100 percent right.
Ciolli: But the question is, why does the Black Lives Matter movement have to take to the streets? Why did it take so long to recognize what was happening, and it’s only after it bubbles up from the bottom that people are starting to pay attention?
Clinton: I think cellphones are the answer. Think about it. Cellphones have now reported a lot of activities by police officers that would have never been seen before. You have witnesses now to what is happening on our streets, on our roads, that has really heightened awareness in a way that all the anecdotes could never have done in the absence of that visualization.
Filler: Because we systemically refuse to believe the anecdotes.
Clinton: I think that’s right. But I think it’s also right, that there was always two sides. And even today there are two sides. But at least, we as observers feel like we can draw our own conclusions. So the police are not always wrong, but they’re not always right. And we now can see that. So I called for body cameras. I called for, you know, as much information being available as possible, as quickly as possible, so that citizens can have an idea if somebody says, I was mistreated. And you can see a video, where in fact, he swung first at the police officer. Well, that influences your decision. But if you see the police officer knocking him to the ground for no good cause, that influences your view. So, honestly, there may be more to it than that, but the more I’ve thought about this, we are living in a much more surveilled world, and so it’s not only individual cellphones, it’s we have a lot of cameras. We have cameras that are up on all kinds of public and private buildings and facilities, so people can see what is happening.
And you know, we know eye witness testimony is unreliable. I learned that in law school. I taught criminal law and criminal procedure. And we know that people have to make split-second decisions. Again, the [New York] Times ran this fascinating video series where you could see from different angles the same event. Where a police officer comes up to the back of a car and asks somebody to get out and what happens next. So you can see the difficulty that sometimes police officers face in making split-second decisions. But you could also see that now you had a front-row seat, so to speak, on what was happening. So, I think that that combined with some of the high-profile cases like Ferguson, Trayvon Martin’s case, really has sparked this movement, which I think has done a lot to get everybody to start asking these hard questions of ourselves.
Anne Michaud: Switching gears a little bit, you mentioned earlier your primary opponent’s revolutionary vision, and that really, nothing comes for free. But I think there’s also something to be said for reaching for the stars. And in that context, I wondered if I could ask you what your vision is for the country, and the presidency. If you could tell us why you’re running.
Clinton: Sure. Look, I think I’ve laid out very big, bold, ambitious goals. And I think I have tried to do that in a responsible way by actually telling people what I want to do, how I would do it and how much it would cost, so that I can be held accountable. I think that this campaign is about breaking down all the barriers that stand in the way of people getting ahead and staying ahead. As we talked about earlier, there’s still economic barriers that are dragging Americans down, making them feel that they don’t have the kind of future, or their kids don’t, that they wanted to. There are education barriers, which we were just talking about. Housing barriers, criminal justice barriers. So I am not a one-issue candidate because we are not a one-issue country.
And I am just as passionate as Senator Sanders is about taking on the bad actors. I’ve laid out very specific plans to do that, and when I was your Senator, I was speaking out against that. I went to Nasdaq and spoke out against the risks in the mortgage market in late 2007. I think I might have been one of the earliest elected officials to even notice and talk about it. So I share that. We have that in common. But he has not put forth a jobs plan. He has not really talked about all the other barriers that hold people back, because even if tomorrow we were able to get rid of and punish every bad actor in the financial market, that would not end systemic racism. That would not end discrimination against women or the LGBT community. That would not get us to comprehensive immigration reform. That would not take on the gun lobby.
So what I’m trying to do is to say to people, look, we can, once again, solve our problems. We can work together. And I think the three big tests that anybody should ask of anyone running for president, can you produce results and what is the evidence that you can? Can you keep us safe and maintain America’s leadership in the world? And can you unify us? And I am committed to doing all of those. And I have said it repeatedly, I will go anywhere, meet with anyone, to find common ground. I did it when I was First Lady. I did it as Senator. I did it as Secretary of State. I will also stand my ground on issues that I think are fundamental. But we’ve got to get back into the habit of listening to each other and trying to get good ideas wherever they come on the political spectrum, to marshal the evidence.
I do not like decision-making to take place in an evidence-free zone. I don’t think that is particularly useful. So I want to get back to looking at evidence, understanding what we can learn from what cities and states and the federal government have tried to do. And to really restore people’s confidence that we can run our democracy and make decisions again. And I think that’s a pretty, I think that may be the principal big challenge that the next president faces.
Filler: That’s a very convincing, I think very evidence-based as you say, description. And yet the people that are in love with Bernie Sanders, are in love with the flame and the sizzle and all that. So how do you bring those people back? Do you do it through your vice-presidential selection? How do you get the passion to go along with your policy?
Clinton: Well, remember, I think I do have a lot of enthusiasm.
Filler: Yes. In fact, you’ve said people are crying.
Clinton: And Gallup, they’re pretty reliable. But seriously, I first of all have some experience about this, because you know, I ran a really hard campaign against President Obama all through 2008. And we went all the way to the end, all the way into June. I actually ended up with slightly more votes, but he ended up with more delegates, and I withdrew. I endorsed him. I nominated him at the convention, and I worked very hard to get him elected. It was not easy. I had so many supporters all over the country who were not ready to walk away. They wanted to go to the convention and nominate me. They wanted floor fights over not counting the delegates in Michigan and Florida and some of the, you know, issues that were part of that primary. And I had to spend a lot of hours persuading them not to do that, which I did. In fact, it did go to the convention. I was meeting with my, with hundreds of my delegates who were not ready to just go, you know.
Filler: You’re making my point that it’s hard to get the other guy’s people. How are you going to get the free college crowd this time?
Clinton: No, no. But we got them. I got them. Now I’m not saying everybody who ever supported me voted for President Obama, but the vast majority did. Because I asked them to. And if you go back and look at my nominating speech at the convention in Denver, I made the case for President Obama and was very clear in saying, if you believe as I do in X, Y and Z, then you should support him. So, that’s what I did. So that’s my example. And I think in looking at polling information, most of the people who have supported Senator Sanders, again, I’m not saying all, but most of them will certainly decide to support me against whoever the Republican candidate is. So it’ll take time, but we will get there.
Ciolli: And you think Senator Sanders would act the way you did?
Clinton: I hope so. I think it was a good example to unify the party, to make it clear that our big challenge is to ensure that we have a Democrat in the White House come January of 2017. And I, you know, I have certainly said that I’d rather have him any day than Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, so I hope that we’ll be able to, once this is clear, we’ll be able to move to the general election, and I will be able to count on a unified Democratic party.
Filler: So, New York and Long Island don’t just lead the country in property taxes, that’s not our only calling card. We’re also now the national leader in the rebellion against higher educational standards and teacher accountability. I don’t know how much you’ve been following this, but on Long Island, more than half of students refused to take standardized tests last week. So, do you support tough national standards like Common Core and judging teachers partially based on the test results of their students? And these are two very specific things.
Clinton: Well, I have always supported national standards. I’ve always believed that we need to have some basis on which to determine whether we’re making progress, vis-à-vis other countries, who all have national standards. And I’ve also been involved in the past, not recently, in promoting such an approach. I know Common Core started out as a -- actually non-partisan, not bi-partisan -- a non-partisan effort that was endorsed very much across the political spectrum. Well, you have to ask yourself, what happened? I mean here was this process that seemed to be really on the way of making clear that yes, we have local control, but you parent, you teacher, you elected official in your local district, at your state level, you need to be sure that you are benchmarking to those standards. That’s why we need to have them.
What went wrong? I think the roll-out was disastrous. I think the way they rolled out the Common Core and the expectation you can turn on a dime… They didn’t even have, as I’m told, they didn’t even have the instructional materials ready. They didn’t have any kind of training programs. Remember, a lot of states had developed their own standards, and they’d been teaching to those standards. And they had a full industry that was training teachers to understand what was going to be tested. And then along comes Common Core, and you’re expected to turn on a dime. It was very upsetting to everybody.
Filler: So you wouldn’t say don’t do it, you would say do it right.
Clinton: Do it right. Do it right, and I would say I think we need better and fewer tests that are used for what tests should be used for: first and foremost, as to how to improve the educational outcomes for individual children, for classes of children and for schools of children.
Filler: Should they be used at all to determine whether teachers are being successful?
Clinton: I think given the state of where testing is right now, I don’t think they’re good enough to make that determination.
Filler: But if they were very, very good?
Clinton: Well, that’s a big hypothetical. Right now I have to say, no. I do think it’s fair to say, and the federal government just passed a new education law. And in that education law, I don’t know that a lot of people on Long Island may have been aware of this, it still requires yearly testing from third grade…
Filler: We tell them all the time.
Clinton: …to eighth grade and in high school. And it also continues to require -- which was a demand on behalf of civil rights groups and disability groups -- that it disaggregate data so that there can be a clear picture. Because in the past, we had a lot of schools that, you know, they pushed kids out on test day. They also did terribly with non-English speakers, or kids with disabilities, or whatever, minority group-wise. And so you weren’t really understanding whether or not they were educating all the children. So we have to do a better job of explaining why a common set of standards is really in the interests of the parents who are opting their kids out. Because remember, it is parents who are opting their kids out. And the parents are feeling like, what is this about? This doesn’t have anything to do with educating my child. So, clearly, we haven’t done a very good job of explaining it.
Filler: And the opt-out thing is a little separate from.... Let me ask you this way: The tests are flawed, let’s say, and the roll-out was flawed. And yet, given all that, if your granddaughter was 12 right now, would you tell Chelsea to have her take the test or not take the test?
Clinton: You know, I would probably take the test, but that would be just without any specifics about what was going on, and what had happened during the year, and I mean without all of that. And I think actually in the city, where my granddaughter lives, the opt-out is very much lower. In fact, at least it was last year, I don’t know what it is this year. This whole issue…. Look, here’s how, let me tell you how I think about education, because every kid deserves a good teacher in a good school, regardless of the zip code the kid lives in. And we’ve been having a lot of debates and arguments about education now for more than a decade.
Filler: For more than a century.
Clinton: Well, more than a century, but historically there’s been a big uproar about what works, what doesn’t work, what the expectations should be. How do you teach disadvantaged kids? There’s a lot of turmoil within public education. And I am a stalwart supporter of public education. I think it still remains one of the foundational institutions of our democracy. So I don’t want to see it be discredited, undermined, dismissed in any way. We have got to have early childhood education -- especially starting with low-income, disadvantaged kids -- if we’re going to prepare kids to succeed when they get to elementary school.
Filler: Is that a priority on a federal level?
Clinton: It is.
Filler: It has to happen in every poor community?
Clinton: It’s a big priority for me. And you know, I’ve seen only early results so I don’t want to extrapolate from them, but there seem to be some very positive early results in New York City about universal pre-K. Because it’s not just the sort of academic environment, it’s the social environment. It’s giving kids a chance to learn how to work in groups. It’s giving, you know, kids who needed, maybe more structure, so there seems to be some positives coming out. We’ll follow that closely.
But everything that I’ve seen -- and I’ve worked in this field for a long time, since I was at the Children’s Defense Fund, what I did in Arkansas -- is that quality pre-school programs can help to level the playing field for poor kids, for disadvantaged kids. OK, so then when you get kids in school, we have been having this battle about what works and what doesn’t work, and who gets to make that decision. And, really, this new federal law basically turned a lot of the authority back to local communities. And it did so on a nearly unanimous, bi-partisan basis, because a lot of members of Congress were just getting barraged by people saying, this doesn’t make sense. We can’t figure out what they’re doing from year to year. Because there was so much pressure on districts and teachers, and there were so many fads -- you know, try this, try that, let’s do this now -- that it just became a confusing array of mixed signals.
And there is very solid research about how you help little kids learn to read, help them with numeracy, help them develop the skills to be a student, and we should get back to those basics. We know that if you have a longer school year and a longer school day for disadvantaged kids, it gets better results. If you have more help in the classroom, particularly if the classroom has a lot of kids who are poor kids -- and remember, this is the first year that it’s been recorded, that we have a majority of poor kids in our public schools. They are coming to school with all kinds of issues and problems. We’ve taken nurses out of school. We’ve taken social workers out of school. We have disconnected the school from the larger community, so let me end with this, saying, you know, I think our schools need some more TLC.
What do I mean by that? We’ve got to invest more in good teaching. Yes, we need accountability measures, but let’s connect them to what the teachers are facing. When you are a teacher in a poor school, and you have enormous behavioral problems, when you have kids coming to school hungry, when you have kids who are homeless, you have a tougher job than the kids who show up in Chappaqua where I live. And so, let’s get our heads straight about how we support the most challenged classrooms to do better.
I started a school when I was a senator, I worked with 100 Black Men, we started something called the Eagle Academy. Because there is some evidence that same-sex schools and high schools for poor kids, it's a good choice that should be available to them. I had to fight to get the Department of Education to let us go forward with that, to support charter schools that were public charter schools and wanted to try this. So I’m really evidence-based. I think there are some, we need to experiment even with, if we can do it right, with boarding schools for poor kids. There’s just a lot I’m excited about, if we actually get back to looking at what works.
Filler: A lot of this experimenting you’re talking about sounds like some of the things that different charters had some success with. Is there a big place for charter schools in your vision?
Clinton: For good ones. For good ones.
Filler: OK. Well, no one’s pro-bad schools.
Clinton: Well, I’m going to tell you, that’s not always true. I am for good schools. I was one of the earliest supporters of public charter schools, not for-profit charter schools. I have a problem with them. But public charter schools. Back literally in the ‘80s, you know, I was speaking out about this, and I’ve been to great public schools that educate poor kids, and I’ve been to lousy public schools. And I’ve been to great charter schools that educate poor kids and lousy charter schools. So, what I want to do, again, just like you were talking about Common Core and to set some standards, we need to have a common set of standards by which we judge all the schools, all the public schools -- traditional, charter, magnet, whatever we call them. And I’m very excited about this, because there’s a real role in doing this, if we learn. Remember, the original idea behind charter schools was, let’s loosen some of the restrictions. But then, once they try things, let’s migrate them back into the public schools. And that migration hasn’t been as fruitful as I think it could be.
Larry Striegel: Quick question about national politics. Americans are angry about gridlock in Washington. Given your history with the other party, many people fear four more years of obstruction in Congress. What would you do to avoid that obstruction that has frustrated President Obama?
Clinton: Well, I would do what I’ve done in the past, which has worked -- and I want to draw a distinction here, because it’s an important distinction, and it just kind of came to me some weeks ago. When I’m actually in a job, I work really well with Republicans. In fact, I can give you a long list of quotes about what a great colleague I am and how good it is to work with me. When I’m running for the job, they have nothing good to say about me. I guess that’s understandable.
So even when I was First Lady, you know, after we were not successful in health care, I teamed up with Republicans and Democrats to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program. I care deeply about reforming the foster care and adoption programs. I teamed up with one of the most partisan Republicans in the House, Tom DeLay. And we passed groundbreaking legislation. When I got to the Senate, I worked with practically every Republican I served with. Lindsay Graham and I made it possible for National Guard members to get health insurance when they weren’t deployed -- something that had never been before. I had to work closely with Republicans after 9/11 to get the help we needed.
Striegel: How about Mitch McConnell?
Clinton: I’ll tell you what I did with Mitch McConnell. Look, I was in Washington longer than President Obama was, and I know that relationships are everything. And you can build them even with people who you have serious disagreements with, on 90 percent of the agenda. But you can’t ever stop trying. You have to keep trying. I worked with McConnell when I was in the Senate, but my main work with him was when I was Secretary of State, and here’s what I did: I thought there was an opportunity for an opening to Burma, now known as Myanmar. I knew that it would be controversial and that Senator McConnell was one of the biggest supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi and keeping very tough sanctions on the military junta that ran the country.
I went to see him, and I said, look, Mitch, I think there’s an opportunity for an opening. I want you to be part of supporting me in trying this. I will tell you everything that we’re doing. You will know whether we’re making progress or not. But I need you to help me test this. He said, well, I don’t think it will work. I said, I don’t know if it will work, but let’s give it a try. He took me over, and on his wall he has a hand-written note from Aung San Suu Kyi. He said, I will do what she tells me to do, because I have supported her. I admire her. She’s been a stalwart for the freedom and democracy of her country. I said I feel exactly the same way. So let’s figure out if we can work together on this.
Look where we are now. She’s just essentially taken over as running the country. It would not have happened if we had not made that opening. I went there twice. I took President Obama there once. I kept Senator McConnell informed the whole way. Because I had a relationship with him, I was able to say, look, I will tell you how it works. If it doesn’t work, I will be the first to tell you, but you’ve got to let me try this. And he did. And we did.
Ciolli: We have one last question, and the editorial board will end, and the news people are going to come in and ask you a few questions.
What don't we know about you?
Marshall: My question is a bit of a different variety. You’ve been in public life for quite a long time. You’ve been First Lady, senator, Secretary of State, now as a presidential candidate, what’s something we don’t know about you?
Clinton: Gosh, I think you know everything about me.
Filler: We think we know everything, too.
Marshall: I don’t. Tell me something I don’t know about you.
Clinton: Okay, let me think. You know, I have dogs. Do you know that? I have dogs. I’m a crazy madly-in-love grandmother. You probably know that. I am absolutely dedicated to my friends, my family. They have been my support system. I still have my closest friends from grade school all the way through law school.
Filler: What kind of dogs do you have?
Clinton: I have a toy poodle, and I have a Labradoodle.
Clinton: The toy poodle is Tally and the Labradoodle is Maisie. And we had until last year, a chocolate lab who, short of, just short of his 13th birthday, got really sick. It was terrible. But I guess maybe what I want you to know is that I feel blessed by the incredible friends that I’ve had for my public life, which as you might recall has not always been easy. And they are there for me. They are my best advisers and critics. They are unafraid to say, you know, everything from where did you get that outfit to, you know, hang in there. So I don’t know if you knew that or not, but I’m very lucky.
Ciolli: Would you let the dogs jump on the furniture?
Clinton: Yeah, we do.
Filler: Do they sleep in the bed?
Clinton: No, that we don’t do.
Transcription by Kathleen Diamond