Exclusive Interview With Sen. Hillary Clinton

"This Week With George Stephanopoulos" aired live from Indianapolis Sunday morning, with an exclusive conversation with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., in preparation for the primary election showdown taking place Tuesday in Indiana and North Carolina between Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. Live audiences were on hand from both Indiana and North Carolina.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to Indianapolis. We are here in the Conrad Hotel with about 200 voters, armed with questions for Sen. Clinton. It is a diverse group. We pulled it together with the help of local colleges, civic and political organizations. It's a mix of Obama supporters, Clinton supporters and undecided voters, including independents and Republicans. We're also joined by a similar, somewhat smaller group in North Carolina, who have gathered at ABC's affiliate in Raleigh, Durham, WTVD.


We asked everyone to bring a question. I've gone through all of the questions. I have a lot of questions of my own as well. And for any who don't know, I worked for President [Bill] Clinton, from 1991 to 1996.

And with that, let me welcome Sen. Clinton.

CLINTON: How are you, George?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I am doing well. Thanks for being here.

CLINTON: Welcome to Indianapolis.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good to be here.


Gas tax has become the defining issue in this primary and in North Carolina. You and Sen. John McCain called for suspending the 18.4 cent federal gas tax. Sen. [Barack] Obama calls it a gimmick. He says it's pandering. He says it won't really bring any help to consumers, and he also said this. ... What's your response? He says you're not being truthful.

CLINTON: Well, No. 1, my proposal is very different from Sen. McCain. Sen. McCain has said take off the gas tax, don't pay for it, throw us further into deficit and debt. That is not what I've proposed. What I've proposed is that the oil companies pay the gas tax instead of consumers and drivers this summer.

Now, why am I proposing this? Well, No. 1, I am absolutely convinced that these record profits of the oil companies are a result of a number of factors beyond supply and demand. I think there has been market manipulation. In fact, Exxon Mobil official testifying under oath before the House of Representatives committee said that if it were just market factors, then the price of oil would be like $50 or $55 a barrel.

We know that there's market manipulation going on. So I would launch an investigation if I were president right now by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. I would also quit buying oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We're 97 percent full. We don't need to keep buying it at these prices, and I would release some.

I would begin to go directly at OPEC. I think it's been 25 years where we've, you know, largely just been at the mercy of the OPEC countries.

But this gas tax issue to me is very real, because I am meeting people across Indiana and North Carolina who drive for a living, who commute long distances, who would save money if the oil companies paid this $8 billion this summer, instead of it coming out of the pockets of consumers.

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