Instead of focusing on Hillary Clinton’s third-place finish in Iowa, her struggling poll numbers, or the typical horse-race questions, CNN’s John Roberts asked the former first lady about a number of issues, including the Iraq war, Social Security, and the principles that she would "stand on in good times and bad times." In his last question, Roberts asked Clinton, "What will be the underpinning of your decisions?" Her answer: "The United States Constitution first and foremost."
The first segment of the Roberts/Clinton interview aired 22 minutes into the 6 am hour of Tuesday’s "American Morning." Roberts first asked Clinton about her choice to go back to the "aggressive style of compare and contrast" that she last used before the Iowa Caucuses. She highlighted the apparent need that the Democratic candidates be compared and contrasted.
Roberts then asked Hillary about the Iraq war. "What have you done to bring a peaceful end to the Iraq war in such a way that U.S. troops will be able to come back home with a reasonable expectation that they won't have to go back?" She focused briefly on how she "worked hard to try to convince other Democrats to stick together," and then went on to outline her plan to withdraw American forces from Iraq.
On the issue of Social Security, Clinton made it clear that she was dead set against privatization. "We might be able to talk about dealing with the long-term challenges of Social Security, but we are not going to ever talk about privatizing." Roberts followed-up by bringing up the fact that she hadn’t come up with a plan for Social Security. Clinton brushed that point aside, and replied that "no one has come up with a plan." She then went on to say that "you cannot get to where we need to go with Social Security unless you focus on fiscal responsibility. And I am the strongest person on fiscal responsibility in this campaign."
The full transcript of the segment from Tuesday’s "American Morning:"
JOHN ROBERTS: We mentioned just a few minutes ago that I had the chance to sit down yesterday with Senator Hillary Clinton for about 10 minutes' time. We talked about the tears that she showed on the campaign trail. We're going to show you that and her reaction to that in just a moment.But we also talked about the issues, the principles upon which she stands, and her campaign strategy now in the crucial fight for New Hampshire.
ROBERTS: Senator, it's good to see you again.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, John. It's good to see you.
ROBERTS: It's always good to see you. In the last couple of days, you've gone back to that aggressive style of compare and contrast that we saw about a month ago, which didn't seem to really play too well for you at that time. Why did you feel the need to go back to that?
CLINTON: Well, I think the debate here in New Hampshire on Saturday night really was a turning point. All of a sudden, moderators were asking tough questions about each of us. And I thought that it was a moment that really helped to define what the election truly should be about going forward. Each of us should be compared and contrasted with the others. This is an election that is going to, we hope, pick the next President of the United States. And so, we've got to start by making sure that our candidates have their records compared and contrasted, their positions, and everything else, because you know, once we have a nominee, we know what the Republicans are going to do. They're not going to stand back and say, we shouldn't raise those questions. So, let's raise the questions, and I thought that, you know, on Saturday night, both Senators Edwards and Obama have some, you know, answers that really bare some further thought.
ROBERTS: What have you done to bring a peaceful end to the Iraq war in such a way that U.S. troops will be able to come back home with a reasonable expectation that they won't have to go back?
CLINTON: I have certainly worked hard to try to convince other Democrats to stick together, in order to withstand the pressure that the president puts on Republicans to stick with him. But, you know, the facts are, we don't have enough votes yet in the Senate. We need more Democrats. So, when I'm President, I am going to start withdrawing the troops. I will withdraw them within 60 days. I'll bring home one to two brigades a month. I'm going to tell the Iraqi government that the blank check that they've had is no longer valid. They're going to have to make their own decisions and take responsibility, and I will be deeply engaged in diplomacy in the region.
ROBERTS: What have you done on Social Security reform that would be an indication of what you'll do as president?
CLINTON: Well, in 2005, when President Bush tried to privatize Social Security, a truly bad idea for America, I was one of the leaders who stood against that.
CLINTON: You know, the president kept pushing and saying, well, let's compromise or let's talk about it. And I was strongly in the forefront of saying, absolutely not. You take privatization of Social Security off the table. We might be able to talk about dealing with the long-term challenges of Social Security, but we are not going to ever talk about privatizing.
ROBERTS: Yet, you have yet to come up with a plan, though.
CLINTON: Well, no one has come up with a plan. People have thrown out ideas. Well, maybe we should do this and maybe we should do that. But the fact is everybody knows, you cannot get to where we need to go with Social Security unless you focus on fiscal responsibility. And I am the strongest person on fiscal responsibility in this campaign. And that you then you get Republicans to work with you. Because again, you know, the fact of our system, and as inconvenient as it is, and it is a lot, we have to get Republicans. Otherwise, we can't get the votes we need. That's why I'm going to follow the model that the Republican president and the Democratic Speaker of the House did in 1983. We're going to get together. We're all going to hold hands. But I'm going to say, no more tax increases on the middle class and keep the benefits very stable for those already on Social Security.
ROBERTS: Let me ask you a question that President Bush posited hypothetically at his last press conference. He said that he would ask the candidates, what are the principles that you will stand on in good times and bad times? What will be the underpinning of your decisions?
CLINTON: The United States Constitution first and foremost. That is the founding document of our government, the rule of law that undergirds our constitution. The understanding that we are a nation with separation of powers and checks and balances. I will also do everything that I can to protect and defend our country and then to fulfill the goals that I have set. We want to get back to having a position of international leadership and moral authority. We want to rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class. We need to reform this government, and we need to do it quickly, because it has become a government for the wealthy and the well-connected, and we need to reclaim the future for our children.