Sen. Clinton on Texas Monthly Talks

The full transcript of Evan Smith’s 25-minute TEXAS MONTHLY TALKS interview with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, taped on February 22, 2008.

Evan Smith: Senator Clinton, good morning.

Hillary Rodham Clinton: Good morning.

ES: Thank you very much for being here.

HRC: I’m happy to be here.

ES: Let me begin by asking you something about last night’s debate and the very eloquent and emotional comments you made at the end when you said, no matter what happens we’re going to be fine, and the American people will be fine. After the debate the pundits seemed to gravitate to that comment. And many of them characterize it as a valedictory. They thought that you were trying to telegraph something about how you saw the rest of this campaign going, that maybe you saw an end coming. I wonder if you would talk a bit about that.

HRC: Well, what I was saying had nothing to do with the campaign so much as the future of our country. Obviously, for me as I’ve said many times before, politics isn’t a game, it’s not about who’s up or who’s down or the horse race. It’s what’s going to happen to the people who are really looking to those of us who are leaders as to whether or not they’re going to have better lives, whether they’re going to feel like they have a president again who’s listening to them and seeing them. And what I was really referring to is that people with the education and the, you know, affluence that Barack and I have are doing this because we love our country. But it’s fair to say that elections end and we’re still going to have our law degrees from Harvard and Yale, and we’re still going to have families and friends that support us. And that’s not the case for everybody in this country right now, that feel somehow as though the deck is stacked against them. That they’re not being given the chances that you’re supposed to have as part of the American birthright. And that bothers me.

ES: So when people took this as somehow about you, in fact it was about the American people.

HRC: Well yes, it wasn’t about me at all. It was a reference to the ways that we can get very, you know, in a sense divided in what the future looks like. Some people feel like they don’t need a president; they’re doing fine. They don’t worry about losing their healthcare or sending their kid to college. That sure is not what I’m hearing as I travel across the country. And you know, running for president is such an intimate experience on one level. I mean, the public sees all of the trappings and interviews and appearances and big crowds. But what stays with me are those sort of personal moments where I’m talking to somebody about her losing her home and she bursts into tears, or, you know, a little kid is kind of thrust forward to me and a mother says he has a congenital heart defect and I don’t know where I’m going to get the healthcare he needs. I mean, I see this as operating on two levels simultaneously. And very often the press covers the public side of it. And that’s not what gets me up in the morning. It’s really these stories, these very personal encounters that I have. And I feel a sense of responsibility that I’m out here, I’m asking people for their votes. You know, what am I going to do for them? That’s really what it comes down to.

ES: You’ve traveled around Texas a lot over these last couple of days and weeks as you’ve prepared for the primary.

HRC: Yeah. Yeah.

ES: And you’ve met a lot of new people but also reconnected with people because you have roots that go back 35 or more years in the state.

HRC: Right.

ES: Would you talk about your original time in this state? It was during the McGovern Campaign, was it not?

HRC: It was. It was. You know Evan, it was my very first job in politics. I was hired by the Democratic National Committee to come down to Texas starting in August to register voters.

ES: Right.

HRC: And I traveled all through south Texas. I lived for the first, you know, about two months or so in Austin, spent a lot of time in San Antonio, ended up living in San Antonio. And I just had the greatest time. I made friends that have been my friends for a lifetime.

ES: Right.

HRC: A lot of people supporting me. You know, Raul Yzaguirre who started up La Raza, is somebody who’s been a friend of mine going back all of those years. Obviously Roy Spence and Gary Mauro became close, close friends. And I just felt such a sense of, you know, coming back to a place that meant a lot to me when I was young and being here these last weeks.

ES: When you think about the conversations you’ve had with people around the state …

HRC: Right.

ES: … tell me the two or three big issues on the minds of Texans specifically. They may be the same issues on the minds of Americans, but tell us what you’re hearing from Texans as the things that matter.

HRC: Well, you know I was in San Antonio going door-to-door with some friends from back in 1972 and I met a soldier who was about to go on his fifth deployment.

ES: Right.

HRC: And he had a medical challenge that was being worked out. And he said look, I’m a soldier, I’m a professional. But going over five times? I mean, this has got to end. I hear a lot about Iraq. I was down in Brownsville the other night and, a big rally we had down there, and a woman grabbed me and said, my husband is over there, please bring him home. Probably since I’ve been here in the last week or two I’ve heard that from

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