Things haven’t been going well for former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton since she announced her second campaign for president in early April.
Her low-key listening tours in Iowa and New Hampshire have generated little buzz for her campaign. Her poll numbers have steadily dropped amid her decision to delete 33,000 emails from a personal server that included correspondence when she was Secretary of State handling the controversial Benghazi, Libya, incident in which four Americans were killed.
And – in a startling turnabout – Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-described Democratic socialist, has been attracting huge crowds and moving up in the polls against her in Iowa and New Hampshire. Oh, and one other thing: Clinton’s super cautious, arms-length dealings with the news media couldn’t be much worse. While she marched in a Fourth of July parade in Gorham, N.H., on Saturday, reporters following the candidate were kept behind a moving rope line, so they couldn’t hear what she was saying to parade goers.
This would seem like a propitious time to retool her campaign before things continue to deteriorate –to address public concern about her honesty and truthfulness and to break out of a heavily scripted campaign bubble that is preventing her from connecting with voters. As she revealed in an exclusive interview on Tuesday with Brianna Keiler of CNN in Iowa City, Clinton plans to end her listening tours on Sunday and begin delivering major campaign addresses, including one planned for next week on the economy.
Despite the obstacles in her path, the former first lady who with her husband, former President Bill Clinton has survived countless controversies and scandals over the years, was unyielding in accepting any personal responsibility for some of her current political woes.
Here are eight highlights from her interview:
On her reaction to her friend Donald Trump’s attacks on Mexican immigrants.
“I’m very disappointed by those comments and I feel very bad and very disappointed with him and with the Republican Party for not responding immediately and saying, ‘Enough, stop it.’ But they are all in the same general area on immigration. They don’t want to provide a path to citizenship. They range across a spectrum of being either grudgingly welcoming or hostile towards immigrants. And I’m going to talk about comprehensive immigration reform. I’m going to talk about all of the good, law-abiding, productive members of the immigrant community that I personally know, that I have met over the course of my life, that I would like to see have a path to citizenship.”
What about Jeb Bush’s approach to immigration reform – an approach quite different from Trump’s?
“He doesn’t believe in a path to citizenship. If he did at one time he no longer does. As I have said, they are on a spectrum from hostility.
On how Bernie Sanders has been closing in and attracting large crowds.
“Well, first of all, I always said this would be a competitive race…. We are signing up thousands of volunteers – people committed to caucus for us…. One of the things I learned last time [during her unsuccessful campaign in 2008] is it’s organize, organize, organize. You’ve got to get people committed and then they will follow through and then you bring more people.
On whether she would raise taxes on big corporations and wealthy Americans.
“Well, I will be laying out my own economic policies. Again, everybody has to run his or her own campaign. I am going to tell the American people what I propose and how I think it will work and then we’ll let voters make up their minds…. I think we have to grow the economy faster and fairer, so we have to do what will actually work in the short term, the medium term and the long term.”
On why polls show that six in ten Americans don’t think she is honest and trustworthy.
“Well, I think when you are subjected to the kind of constant barrage of attacks that are largely fomented by and coming from the right” it erodes public confidence. “I can only tell you that I was elected twice [to the Senate} in New York against the same kind of onslaught. I was confirmed and served as Secretary of State. And I think it’s understandable that when questions are raised, people may be are thinking about them and wondering about them. But I have every confidence that during the course of this campaign, people are going to know who will fight for them, who will be there when they need them, and that’s the kind of person I am, and that’s what I will do – not only in a campaign but as president.”
But doesn’t she bear some personal responsibility for this widespread negative public perception of her character?
“I can only tell you, Brianna, that this has been a theme that has been used against me and my husband for many, many years. And at the end of the day, I think voters sort it all out. I have great confidence. I trust the American voter. I trust the American voter 100 percent.”
What about the controversy around your use of personal email for official business when you were Secretary of State?
“…Everything I did was permitted. There was no law, there was no regulation – there was nothing that did not give me the full authority to decide how I was going to communicate. Previous secretaries of state had said they did the same thing. And people across the government knew that I used one device. Maybe it was because I am not the most technically capable person and wanted to make it as easy as policy.”
“Now I didn’t have to turn over anything [to the State Department after leaving government]. I chose to turn over 55,000 pages because I wanted to go above and beyond what was expected of me, because I knew the vast majority of everything that was official already was in the State Department system…. So yes, this is being blown up [by Republican investigators into the Benghazi incident] with no basis in law or in fact.
Would she think about shutting down the Clinton Family Foundation if she were elected president because of potential conflicts of interest?
“Let me start by saying I am so proud of the Clinton Foundation. I am proud of the work my husband started and my daughter continued. I am proud of the very small role I played in being there for about a year and a half…. Maybe it’s because my husband knows so many people in the world, and he’s so creative and he’s so smart, but he was able to put together solutions to problems – whether it was HIV AIDS, or childhood obesity in our country or expanding farm productivity in Africa that was hard for others to do…. I have no plans to say or do anything about the Clinton Foundation other than to say how proud I am of it and that I think that for the good of the world its work should continue.”