Former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton joined me for an in-depth conversation about her new book, “What Happened”:
HH: So pleased to welcome Hillary Rodham Clinton to the program. She is and will always remain the first woman in U.S. history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party. She is our 67th Secretary of State. Of course, she is our former First Lady. She’s the author of a wonderful, new book, What Happened, which I want to urge everyone in this audience to get. It is candid. It is engrossing, and it is no-holds barred. Secretary Clinton, thank you for joining me. I very much appreciate it.
HRC: Oh, I’m happy to talk with you, Hugh. Thanks for having me on.
HH: I want to start with a compliment on the book, because it is so candid. And with Page 29, since it’s Thanksgiving week, where you talk about Thanksgiving last year, quoting, “We start our meal with Grace by Bill, and then go around the table so everyone can say what he or she is thankful for during the past year. When it was my turn, I said I was grateful for the honor of running for president, and for my family and friends who supported me.” It’s wonderful. Now a year later, you’ll have Thanksgiving again, and you and I are grandparents, and we can agree they’re always the greatest blessing.
HH: But what, other than families or friends, will you be thankful for in 2017?
HRC: I will be thankful for the opportunity to continue my service on behalf of the causes and values that are important to me. I will be thankful that many people across our country are assuming an active role as being citizens and speaking out and standing up, which is in the best tradition of America. So I will be thankful, as always, for our country, Hugh. I am fundamentally optimistic and confident, and despite what I see as some very big flashing warning lights going off, I believe in our resilience, and I hope that you know, we will have a very happy and successful new year.
HH: Well then, let’s plunge into What Happened. I always make my notes when I read a book closely into three categories – that which surprises, that with which I agree, and that with which I disagree. Let me begin with the most surprising thing. You might be surprised by this. It’s on Page 162. And it’s about your mother, Dorothy Howell. I quote, “At age 8, she was put on a train headed to California. Her parents were getting divorced, so they sent her and her 3 year old sister to live with her paternal grandparents. The little girls made the journey by themselves, and no adults. It took four days. Her grandmother wore long, black Victorian dresses. Her grandfather hardly said a word. Their rules were incredibly strict. When my mother dared go trick or treating one Halloween, the punishment was confinement to her bedroom for a full year, coming out only to go to school.” First of all, that would be child endangerment today, Secretary Clinton. But I follow politics so closely, and have done so since your career began in the public eye. How do I not know that? How does your story not get to me as far as it concerns the upbringing of your mother?
HRC: Well, Hugh, I did talk about it quite often in the campaign. I included it in biographical ads that we ran in the early state primaries, and I think even in a few of the battleground states. But it is something that I didn’t talk about a lot until fairly recently, in part because when my mother was still alive and living with us in Washington, it was really her story, and I didn’t want to breach her privacy. It was such a painful upbringing, and I’m so grateful that she turned into the loving and caring person that she was, and a wonderful mother. So I did start talking about it more as a way to explain why I’ve always been committed to doing everything I could to help kids, because I think often about the loneliness and the sense of abandonment that my mother faced, but I also learned from her that despite being neglected and in effect discarded, you know, she left her grandparents’ home at the age of 14 and went to work as a housekeeper/babysitter in another family. She always told me that because of the kindness of people, the first grade teacher who made sure she had food at lunch, even the family she went to work for, who knew that she wanted to go to high school and made a deal with her, if she got her chores done, she could literally run to high school and come right back. She believed in the kindness of people, even if they weren’t in her own family. And she passed that onto me, and it’s why in the book, as you know, I have a whole chapter called Love And Kindness.
HH: You do. And it’s such a raw moment. It made me think about your campaign. And I began to think about the division in the world of Clinton campaigns between the passion-driven operative, the Carvilles, the Begalas, both of whom are friends and with whom I’ve worked, Peter Daou, with whom I have a testy but friendly relationship, and then the technocrats – Robbie Mook, Jim Margolis, Joel Benenson. You know, you hired a bunch of former Obama people, and I wonder if the technocrats ever let the emotional Hillary Clinton out enough, as this anecdote would have done.
HRC: That’s a great question, and you know, I have high regard for the campaign that we put together, and all of the people who were working in it so hard. But I think it is fair to say that it was hard to break through. Maybe some of that is on my shoulders, and perhaps some because of the campaign as well. But I think a lot of it, Hugh, is that it was really hard in the environment in which this 2016 campaign played out to break through in a lot of ways. You know, I have, I’ve said a few times that this was the first reality TV campaign. My opponent was the first reality TV candidate, and I was, for better or worse, the candidate of reality. And I think it was a shortcoming of the campaign that the work that I’ve done my entire life. The passion I feel for helping people, the record that I have of doing just that never really could break through.
HH: You write in What Happened about navigating “the tension between continuity and change,” and that’s about not disrespecting President Obama or disparaging his accomplishments, while at the same time saying there’s a very dangerous world out there. Do you feel like the former Obama aides may have urged you to tend to caution and thus favor the continuity argument to protect President Obama as opposed to making the case that we’ve got some huge challenges here that have not been addressed?
HRC: Well, again, I think that’s a very astute question on your part. And I think two things. One, I was proud to serve in the Obama administration. I did not agree with everything that President Obama decided, but on balance, I really think he did what had to be done to rescue the economy, which as we all remember, was in desperate straits. He did chart a course in the world that favored diplomacy and negotiation, something that I think is important. But it is true that when you run to succeed a two-term president of your own party, you have a historical headwind blowing against you. And I refer to that in the book, because it’s not just this campaign can be set apart from everything that’s ever happened in our politics. It is a challenge. If you are both the candidate defending a lot of the areas of agreement, but also putting forth an agenda for change, which is what I tried to do, it is often difficult to get the second part of that message through. So I do think it was a problem.
HH: God love…
HH: I was going to say God love Governor Dukakis, but you…George H.W. Bush wasn’t running against Donald Trump as he was when he was doing the third term campaign. Let’s talk a little bit about President Trump. Great political rivalries in American history either fall into the Hamilton-Burr or the Jefferson-Adams category. Your husband and George H.W. Bush ended up in the latter. But I think you and perhaps President Trump are doomed to the former minus the pistols. Agree?
HRC: Well, I don’t know. Tell me a little bit more about what you mean by that in defining those two differences.
HH: Well, Jefferson and Adams ended up as great friends and terrific correspondents, and they put aside their rivalry at the end. Of course, Burr killed Hamilton. That’s why I say without the pistols.
HRC: (laughing) You know, look, I don’t have any personal stake in this presidency. I have a citizen’s stake. I have a concerned person’s stake. And I am, as you might guess, very much worried by the actions and rhetoric of our current president. And so I was cordial with him before we ran against each other. He supported me when I ran for the Senate in New York. And then he began to traffic in all kinds of conspiracies like the birther conspiracy, and you know, then making all kinds of outrageous and untrue attacks on immigrants and others, and really being an equal opportunity insulter. I really did hope, and as I said in my concession speech, which I talk about in the book, I said we all need to give him a chance. And we all need to support our president. We have one president at a time. And I’ve been very disappointed in the way that he has conducted himself.
HH: After this is all done, do you see becoming friendly with him again?
HRC: I don’t know the answer to that question, Hugh. I think that you know, his attacks on so many of the concerns that I’ve always had, I’ll give you just a quick example, I was involved in the bipartisan program called the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Ted Kennedy, Orrin Hatch, I mean real, you know, real Republican-Democratic cooperation at the end of the 90s. My husband signed it into law in a Republican Congress, and George W. Bush continued it. Barack Obama and a Republican Congress continued it. And it takes care of 9 million kids whose families, you know, are too well off, even though they are working families for Medicaid, and they don’t have insurance under an employer that covers the very expensive costs of caring for kids with chronic, congenital, traumatic conditions. Okay, so I don’t think a word has been said by the current president, and certainly the Congress has failed to reauthorize it. So at the end of this year, right around Christmas, 9 million kids and their families are going to start being told they no longer have health insurance for cystic fibrosis, for diabetes, for cancer, whatever it might be. I don’t understand that, Hugh. I don’t get it. And so it’s not just personal with, you know, threats against me and all that stuff that goes on. It’s really a values issue for me, because you know, I do think we’re put on this Earth in large measure to try to help take care of each other. And we can do that in smart ways, and I’ve always tried to be on the smart side of that. But you know, to walk away from caring for kids, I just don’t understand it.
HH: Now let’s go back to What Happened where an agreement area with you and me. I was appalled by Director Comey’s public announcement of the declining to prosecute you. I was appalled, because I am a veteran of the Department of Justice. Prosecutors [HH note: I meant to say “FBI investigators’] don’t make those decisions. If Attorney General Lynch was recused, it ought to have gone to Sally Yates. So when you write you had been “shivved by then-FBI Director James Comey three times over the final five months,” I agree, and I agree with the Rosenstein memo, as you do. First question, have you talked with Director Comey since he had that first press conference?
HRC: No. I don’t believe I’ve ever talked with Director Comey, not for 25 years.
HH: Okay, he is now, you write…okay, you write that “he’s gone from villain to martyr in five seconds flat.” He got a huge book deal. He’s on the speaking circuit all because of his celebrity. Do you believe James Comey’s getting rich off of that celebrity status earned from the manner in which he treated your case?
HRC: Well, what I try to do in the book is to say look, you can keep two thoughts in your mind at the same time. One, I think that he violated protocol as the director of the FBI. He went outside the chain of command. He was taking unprecedented actions both in July and in October. I do not to this day understand everything that motivated him to do so, and I think that the Rosenstein memo, as I put forth in my book, is an accurate description of his violation of process. At the same time, I think he was not fired for that. I think he was fired because he refused requests to stop the Russia investigation. And I am one who thinks that that was not only the real reason he was fired, but that he should have let the American people know if he was going to be talking very freely about me, he should have let people know, voters know, that there was an active counterintelligence investigation going on about the Trump campaign and associates and Russia starting in the summer. He didn’t do that. And then when he was pressed to walk away from it, he took the right position, which is no, we have to continue the investigation. And for that, he was fired. So that’s why I say he goes in my book from villain to martyr. I still don’t fully understand his motivation. Maybe he will explain himself better in the months ahead.
HH: Do you resent at all that he’s become St. James, or the Eliot Ness of the moment?
HRC: I think that that’s mostly around the Russia issue. And there’s a lot of reason for both Democrats and Republicans, for American citizens in general, to want to get to the bottom of what Russia did to us. I think it was an attack by an adversary using cyber means to undermine our democracy. And it’s the first time I can recall that an adversary has attacked us with so few consequences. So I think that’s what is motivating him. And I have had an interesting experience. As you know, I have a chapter called “Those Damn Emails,” and I’ve put in it…
HRC: …all of the explanation from other people about what I did and why it was legal, and what the consequences were and all the rest of it. Not one of the people who thought it was the most important issue since World War II has said a single word of criticism about it, because actually, the facts speak for themselves. So I think the Comey situation now has much more to do with Russia than anything else.
HH: Let me go back, and we’ll come back to “Those Damn Emails.” It’s an amazing chapter, by the way, Secretary Clinton, and I want to get into it. But first, I want to talk to you about journalism for a moment. Page 59-60, “Getting Started,” a chapter about April, 2015. You head off in the famous Maumee, Ohio Chipotle burrito bowl.
HH: You write, “I had a stack of memos to read, and a long list of calls to make. I had also Googled every NPR station from Westchester to Des Moines all set for a long drive.” So you clearly weren’t listening to me on that drive, Madame Secretary.
HRC: (laughing) Well, I will from now on, Hugh, absolutely. (laughing)
HH: But my, the serious point I have to make is did you ever listen to Rush or Mark Levin or my Salem colleagues, Prager, Medved, Gallagher, me to try and figure out what our audience was thinking and talking about?
HRC: I did in the past. Now I will not lump you in the same category as some of the others, simply because I have read your blog, I have followed your writing. I have very occasionally found time to listen to you. And I may not agree with you on your observations all the time, but I have always believed that you were a thoughtful person who is trying to present a point of view that could be both justified and defended. So yes, I understand the anger. I understand the resentment. I understand the very strong feelings that a lot of people in our country have about everything from the economy to race to immigration to national defense. But, and this is probably another one of my shortcomings, you know, I’ve never thought anger was a good strategy for actually getting things done. And I know when you served in the Reagan administration, when you served in government, I’m sure that you know, you were somebody who was trying to figure out what the facts and the evidence was in order to make the best possible decision. So I’m a little allergic to the kind of bombast and craziness that I sometimes hear from others, because I think it has really undermined our ability to work together across partisan lines. I mean, the things that were said about me, the conspiracies that were promoted about me, were just incredibly shocking. I mean, I mentioned them to people, and at first, they looked shocked, and then they laugh a little. And I said you know, it’s really not that funny, because when somebody says something about you like oh, my gosh, you run a child trafficking ring, or some ridiculous accusation, it does tear at the body politic. We can have our differences, and I’ve always thought you were one of the people who was on that side, like okay, I have real differences, I’m going to explain what I think, but even having me on your show today demonstrates that you know, you’re somebody who wants to have, you know, a real discussion about the issues that we face.
HH: I regret, though, that your staff was very protective during the campaign. If you’d sat down with me, we would have talked about, you know, the nuclear triad and the Columbia-class submarines, and we would also have talked about Burma and the Rohingya, and all sorts of things. But they kept you away from, I mean, the thoughtful people on the right, and they are legion. They sealed you off from it. And, moreover, you write in What Happened that you have a, you “tend to treat journalists with caution. I often feel they focus too much on the wrongdoing.” But Madame Secretary, when the first New York Times story came out about the server by Michael Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo, your team, according to Erik Wemple of the Washington Post, came to “beatdowns with clubs.” They really just shattered those guys’ reputations, forced them backwards, and unapologetically so. Did they protect you too much? And did they hit back too hard at legitimate critics and questions?
HRC: Well, let me answer that this way, Hugh. I think, as I say about the book, I did think that I had to be careful in public, and probably I did have my guard up too much. You know, those days are over.
HRC: I am trying to be as candid and open as I can be, because I think there’s a lot at stake. And if my voice can help us get our country back on track where we begin to have, you know, reason-based discussions about our differences again and try to chart a path forward that actually makes sense and can be supported by facts, I want to be part of that debate. So I will take responsibility, because clearly, it is challenging when the press, and not just the press on the right, but the press in general, decide that you know, my emails are the most important story of the campaign. And that clearly was just pounded day after day after day. And you know, I take responsibility for the mistakes I made, but it was a, you know, it was a pretty overblown scandal as far as scandals go. And then when there is a deliberate effort to misinterpret facts, like the whole Uranium One charge, you know, that is something that has been kept alive despite constant debunking similar to the tragedy in Benghazi where you know, I testified at length. I answered every question. There was, I think eight or nine investigations, more than half run by Republicans in the Congress. And they all came to the same conclusion that you know, I had not done anything wrong, and it was, you know, not enough. And it became still a big political drum to beat against me. So I do, you know, I do have mixed feelings, I think it’s fair to say, and I am going to try to do more with people like you, because I think it’s important that we talk to each other. So yes, I’m going to talk to people who I believe are interested in talking. Disagree with me, I disagree with them, whatever it might be, but if we don’t start talking and listening to each other, I am really worried about what happens to our democracy.
HH: I agree with that. On Benghazi, I have one question. On Page 230, you write, “The Republicans swung at me and missed at the 11 hour long Benghazi hearing.” That’s true, by the way, I absolutely 100% agree. My question is do you regret leaving the State Department that night?
HRC: Oh, you know, I was there until 9, 10:00. We had done a number of what are called SVTC’s, you know, satellite conferences. I had talked on the phone. I had talked over satellite with our team in Libya. I had talked with members of our government, Defense and Intel and others, obviously the White House. And you know, we knew that our goal was to find all of our people and get them out of there, and that was ongoing. And so you know, I went home for a few hours of sleep. I talked to the President, bringing him totally up to date, and then obviously, you know, headed back early the next morning.
HH: But do you regret, do you wish you had stayed there all night? Do you think it would have been different had you stayed there?
HRC: I doubt it, Hugh. I doubt it, because that was never the principal charge that the Republicans and others made against me, and those in the administration. So I don’t think that silenced the critics, because there seem to be a calculation that this was an issue that they could make political.
HH: All right, let me turn back to “Those Damn Emails.” It’s such an engrossing chapter. “As hard as it is to believe,” you write, “or explain my emails or the story of 2016, I bet you know more about my private life,” you challenge the reader, “than you do about some of your closest friends.” You write that “carving messages in stone and carrying them around town would have been better.” That’s actually the funniest line in the book, by the way.
HH: But for me, it was never the emails. It was the server. And you obviously admire Mike Morell as much as I do. You quote him, he endorsed you, the former acting director of the CIA. He was on this show in May of 2015, and I asked him about the server. And he said “It wasn’t very good judgment to have it.” And I asked him, and I want to quote this: “As a professional matter, do you believe that at least one or perhaps many foreign intelligence services have everything that went to and from that server?” And Mr. Morell said, “So I think that foreign intelligence services, the good ones, the good ones, have everything on any unclassified network that the government uses, whether it’s a private server or a public one. They’re that good.” So I asked: “So that’s a yes?” And Michael Morell said, “Yup.” I always thought your server was compromised, Madame Secretary. That’s what bothered me about it.
HRC: Well, there was no evidence of that, Hugh, and certainly the FBI, which has quite sophisticated capabilities, worked very, very hard to determine. They concluded that they couldn’t conclude that it had been, and there is no evidence that it had been. And let me just add a few points, because as you read Mike’s comments, you know, he talked about government servers. There is no doubt that our government servers at the time I was serving as secretary of State were compromised. And there is at least insofar as we know no evidence that my private server was. And I think that the Russians, encouraged by then-candidate Trump, were certainly doing everything they could to find anything that would have been on that server. Now why do I say that? Because it is clear that the only server compromised were State Department servers. Now we know that Defense Department and White House and Personnel Management, a lot of government servers were compromised. And you know, I really have no reason to believe that mine ever was. And certainly, given the FBI’s investigation, given the Russians’ absolute desire to get anything they could, there is no evidence whatsoever that my server, which remember, was set up before I chose to use it in part for convenience, I will say, as I have said many times before. And my husband’s office set it up, a former president’s office, and they had the highest level of security. I wish the government had had as high a level of security as there was on the server I used.
HH: And my only response would be the Iranians didn’t know that Stuxnet was there, either, which brings me to high tech. And I’ll ask you first of all, looking back, do you think it was a good idea to use Stuxnet and weaponized cyber stuff?
HRC: Well, let me say two things. One, yeah, the Iranians may not have known that, but the Russians were actively searching for my stuff. So I think there’s a difference, which again, goes to the point that my server wasn’t compromised, and the State Department was. But with respect to where we are on cyberwarfare, and I think this has to be taken seriously, you know, look. We used to fight wars before the 20th Century on land and sea. Then we added the air in the 20th Century. And now, much of what we’re going to be facing will be cyberwarfare. And that was exactly what the Russians did to us. So both our government and our private sector, as well as personal cyberattacks, are going to be the new arena. And I think with respect to Iran, and I can only talk about what’s been publicly disclosed, an effort to try to prevent Iran from being able to produce nuclear weapons was worth every tool in our toolbox. Eventually, we put a lid on their nuclear program through negotiation, which to this day, I think is so much in America’s interest. We have a lot of problems with Iran. I’d rather deal with their aggressiveness and belligerency in other ways while we don’t have to worry right now about them continuing to pursue nuclear weapons. So I think that may have been a well-known incident, but it was certainly not the only one. And we are now facing a very concerted effort by Russia in particular, you know, the Chinese have stolen information going back several years that they use for their own intelligence purposes. The Iranians have done disruption of service attacks. The North Koreans have stolen and publicized information to demonstrate both their capability and political objectives. But it is Russia that has chosen to attack the very heart of our democracy and then weaponized information by the theft of emails, by intruding into our voter registration and electoral system. And for the life of me, if we don’t take this seriously, they’re only going to keep going. This is an ongoing threat. So I think that cyber was going to emerge sooner or later as the next kind of warfare that we are going to be facing, and we are not prepared, and that’s my principal concern.
HH: Let me wrap up by talking with you, Secretary Clinton, about big tech and about race in America. You write a lot about big tech, that you approve of Teddy Roosevelt attacking monopolies. You talk about how you’ve had alarming conversations with leading technologists in Silicon Valley about their economic disruption. I’m worried about their monopoly. I think they’ve got to go after them. But Senator McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, told me on my MSNBC program, he suggested actually weaponizing Google, Twitter and Facebook as a way to retaliate against Russia, asking them to help us retaliate against Russia. What do you think of that idea?
HRC: I am, I am worried about that. And let me back up, Hugh, and say a couple of things about this, because I think this is part of the overall investigation and analysis that we should be doing on not just a bipartisan basis, a non-partisan basis. You know, there is a lot to be proud of with the development of our tech companies. And the dominant roles that they play up until this point, not only in our country, but globally, and being a, you know, a real venue for information. And I am not somebody who regrets that. I think that’s absolutely to the good. Here’s the problem. The algorithms that are used to track you online have become increasingly sophisticated. And it is now clear that our tech companies have an enormous amount of private information about you and me and everybody else who ever goes online. And that information can be used to sell products, which a lot of us might be interested in, but it can also be used to stalk children, to purvey pornography, or in the case of our elections, to provide the channels for weaponizing information for political purposes. I don’t think the tech companies have come clean, yet, about everything they know about what happened on their watch. You know, you remember when people started raising questions back in the spring, you know, the response was oh, maybe there were a few sites, or maybe there was a little bit of this, or yeah, maybe an ad paid for in rubles slipped through. But I think we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t know more about the role that the tech companies played, and then try to figure out how we’re going to handle it.
HH: Amen to that.
HRC: The second point I would make…
HH: Amen to that.
HRC: Yeah, a lot of really smart people, you know, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, a lot of really smart people are sounding an alarm that we’re not hearing. And their alarm is artificial intelligence is not our friend. It can assist us in many ways if it is properly understood and contained. But we are racing headfirst into a new era of artificial intelligence that is going to have dramatic effects on how we live, how we think, how we relate to each other. You know, what are we going to do when we get driverless cars? It sounds like a great idea. And how many millions of people, truck drivers and parcel delivery people and cab drivers and even Uber drivers, what do we do with the millions of people who will no longer have a job? We are totally unprepared for that. What do we do when we are connected to the internet of things and everything we know and everything we say and everything we write is, you know, recorded somewhere? And it can be manipulated against us. So I, you know, one thing I wanted to do if I had been president was to have a kind of blue ribbon commission with people from all kinds of expertise coming together to say what should America’s policy on artificial intelligence be?
HH: Well, I hope you stay focused on that, Madame Secretary.
HRC: We can’t put the genie back in the bottle.
HH: I hope you stay focused on that.
HH: Franklin Foer’s book, World Without Mind, is the scariest book I have read in a long time.
HRC: Isn’t it?
HH: And it’s about big tech. Yeah, it is. It is the scariest book.
HRC: Yes, it is, and you know, he’s a very thoughtful journalist, as you know, Hugh. And what he’s warning us about is what we should be taking seriously. We get all caught up in trivial stuff all the time. And the future is coming right at us, and honest to goodness, I just think everybody listening to you should be demanding that public officials start coming up with some approaches to how we’re going to protect human beings and our lives from this.
HH: I agree with that. Now I’m taking you long, but I have to ask you one question before I let you go, Madame Secretary. What Happened needs to be written, and I mean, it needs to be read by conservatives, especially for the conservation you have with “Mothers of the Movement” about race. Of the 62.9 million people who voted for President Trump, do you have a number in your mind that you think are actually white nationalist racists of that 62.9 million, a real number?
HRC: No, I don’t. I think that, look, I think there has proven to be more white supremacists and white nationalists than I wish there were in our country, as we saw tragically in Charlottesville and other places. And they have made common cause with the President’s agenda out of their own mouth that he is someone that they are counting on to promote it. So I know that there is that. I think most people who support him, support him because you know, they feel like he is speaking their language, that he is expressing their own thoughts and their fears, their concerns about the country and the changes that we’re experiencing. And as I said earlier, you know, making people angry can be a good term, good short term political strategy. But it doesn’t bring another job to a depressed area. And it doesn’t deal with the health care needs that kids and families have, and I could go on. So after you’ve exhausted that kind of feelings, what do we do? How do we come together? And so I think that if you keep your supporters in a frenzy all the time, and you go after black athletes who are expressing peacefully their opinions, whether you agree with them or not, you are feeding the worst impulses that have been part of American history from our very beginning. And I don’t think we’ve made the progress we’ve made over our 240 years by giving into those. We’ve had to work to overcome them. And you know, I am fundamentally someone who believed that the American experiment is the greatest human invention in the history of the world. And I don’t want to see us get derailed because we start giving in to our anger and our fear as opposed to remaining positive and optimistic and confident about the future.
HH: The positive and optimistic, I just don’t think there are that many of them. I don’t think there are 100,000 in any given state. I don’t think there are a half million in the United States. Do you disagree with me? Do you think there are more than a half million, you know, honest-to-God white nationalists running around the United States?
HRC: Probably not, no. But I think there are people who are unfortunately kind of reverting back to rather virulent attitudes about race in part because I think that it’s become “politically acceptable,” no longer politically correct to try to overcome our own feelings that often block us from seeing each other as fellow human beings. So no, the hardcore people, I agree with you, I don’t think that is a very large number. Unfortunately, their views, which used to be quite beyond the mainstream, you know, have a much broader audience now, because you know, of being online and having outlets and media presence that can promote those attitudes.
HH: My very last question, Madame Secretary, thanks for the time. Again, I urge everyone to read What Happened…
HRC: Well you know, Hugh, I’m really enjoying this. I can go for a few more minutes, if you want to.
HH: Oh, perfect. Oh, you bet. That gives me, oh, that takes some pressure off. Then I’m going to ask you about David Plouffe coming to see you three years before the election saying you were too late. How many 2020 candidates have been asking you for help already? And are they, it’s about that time. They’ve got to get going, isn’t it?
HRC: (laughing) Well, I have to say that my message to anybody who is thinking about 2020 is stay focused on 2018. I think it is, it is too soon to start worrying about 2020. And yeah, you’re right. David Plouffe came to see me, but I didn’t really follow up on what he said for quite some time, because you know, it’s such an overwhelming, exhausting experience putting together a campaign, you know, doing the intensive travel, the schedule you have to keep. And it didn’t used to last as long as it does now. You know, my husband announced for presidency in October of 1991. So I think that people can and should wait until we see what happens in the 2018 election.
HH: Who has, has anyone been to see you, yet? I think Kamala Harris may have been to see you. Anyone else?
HRC: Nobody’s actually been to see me. I see Democrats all the time, and nobody has said “Hey, I’m going to run,” or “I’m thinking about running, give me advice now,” because it is too soon. And there may be some private planning going on by some people. I wouldn’t know who. I wouldn’t hazard a guess. But in terms of actually seeking out advice, people have said hey, I want to come talk to you. But I haven’t had those conversations, in large measure, because I’ve said I’m going to focus next year on 2018, and then you know, I’ll be happy to talk.
HH: Madame Secretary, when What Happened was done, I had my long list of notes. There was only one thing I noticed that wasn’t in here, and it was Burma, because early in the campaign, you talked about it a lot. Why is Burma and Myanmar not in What Happened?
HRC: You know, I wrote a lot about it in my prior book, Hard Choices. And so it didn’t ever become an issue in the campaign. There wasn’t much interest on the part of the press or the public in what was happening there. Now, of course, I’m deeply troubled by what’s going on with regard to the Rohingya and the kind of terrible treatment they’re being subjected to. And you know, I have called for the world to take more action, and that includes the neighbors, obviously Bangladesh, India, China and the United States and Europe and others who supported the transition in Burma, otherwise known as Myanmar, that there has to be some concerted, global effort to try to defend the human rights of the Rohingya people.
HH: Okay, a quick couple of political questions. I haven immense respect for Tim Kaine, and President Nixon, for whom I worked out of college, used to say the first rule of picking a vice president is do no harm. And he did you no harm. But I look at an Admiral Stavridis, I look at other people. Do you think you would have won with a different vice presidential candidate?
HRC: Oh, I don’t think so. I’m not sure that that’s how it works anymore. I think it did used to work that way. Obviously, Kennedy choosing Johnson is one recent example of that. But I think that there were so many other factors at work. I think he did help me in Virginia. Certainly how highly regarded he is in Virginia was a big plus for me. But you know, I think I bear the responsibility of, for not succeeding.
HH: All right, let me do let you go by finishing up on talking about the pain in political families of losing. You write, “John Adams, our second commander-in-chief, suffered the indignity of being the first president ever voted out of office, losing to Thomas Jefferson in 1800. But he got a measure of revenge 25 years later when his son, John Quincy, was elected.” Madame Secretary, my reading of this seemed to be the clearest allusion to a potential political future for Chelsea. Have you…
HH: Would you wish a political career on your daughter?
HRC: No. No. And you know, that is not at all what I (laughing) what I intended in that reference. No, I will support my daughter in whatever she decides to do. She’s an absolutely wonderful, world-class human being and a great mom. So no, that wasn’t meant to in any way suggest some future decision by her. But I think, Hugh, it is important to, and you do this, to kind of place what we go through in the present in a historical context. And you know, there’s still so much to be learned from American history – what to do, maybe what not to do. And there have been a few families over time that have had more than one office holder. And I think it’s fascinating to look at the Roosevelts. Look at the Bushes. Look at the Adams. You know, think about what was it in that family constellation that created those public servants. And you know, people then who were totally self-made like a Nixon, a Reagan, my husband. Where did they come from? I just find that something to really ponder and think about. So that was more of what I was talking about.
HH: And probably talk about around the Thanksgiving table tomorrow. Madame Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, thank you for joining me. What Happened is a marvelous book, and I congratulate you on its success, and I hope that you’ll come back and talk again in the future.
HRC: Thank you. I look forward to it, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your listeners, Hugh.
HH: Thank you, Madame Secretary.
End of interview.