Transcript: Interview With Hillary Clinton

Full text of Cynthia McFadden's interview with secretary of state for ABC News.

ByABC News
October 14, 2009, 10:07 AM

Oct. 14, 2009 — -- The following is an edited transcript of ABC News' Cynthia McFadden's interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Moscow, Oct. 14, 2009

CYNTHIA McFADDEN: Well, Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for sitting down and talking to us.

HILLARY CLINTON: I'm happy to.

CM: So is the job what you thought it was going to be?

Clinton: You know, I wasn't sure that I had any preconceptions because I never thought I would do the (laughs) job, so I … I had never thought about it. It's an incredibly demanding job, but it's also really rewarding. You get to go and try to deal with very difficult problems that represent our country, it's, uh … um, a great, you know, a great honor. And so, it's … it's unlike anything I've ever done, but I'm finding it to be endlessly interesting and challenging.

CM: So in these nine months has there been one particular, painful, heart-wrenching moment that you look back at and say, oh that … that was a real tough one?

Clinton: Oh, yeah. Going to Goma. You know, going to Eastern Congo and meeting with women who had been so horribly abused and attacked and – not just their body but their souls. It was just heart-wrenching. But there's also a lot of real positive energy that comes from working with my colleagues and knowing that we're trying to make a difference.

CM: What … what issues dominate your schedule?

Clinton: Oh, the … the headline issues. Um, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iran, the Middle East, obviously our relationships with China and Russia, where we are speaking with you today. Um, you know, it's hard to answer that question, Cynthia, because every day is filled with so many, uh … subjects of either immediate or long term interest. I try to think about what we have to do right now, the crisis. Uh, what we have to do that are immediately demanding but not yet in the headlines. And then the long term trends, like climate change and the rest. They're going to have a big impact on our world.

CM: You're also responsible for food policy I know.

Clinton: That's right. You know, people are starving, um … food riots are causing political instability as we've seen in the last, uh … several years. So we're going to get back to trying to help people feed themselves, which I think is a lot better than, you know, just coming in, as we should, with humanitarian aid, let's try to help, you know, particularly, you know, the poor farmers of the world, 70 percent of whom are women, uh … make a better living for themselves and their children.

CM: You said earlier this week that you were going to retire at some point.

Clinton: (Laughs).

CM: That you were not going to run for President.

Clinton: I did say that.

CM: It's making enormous waves throughout the country back home.

Clinton: You think so? Oh, well, I mean, really, I feel like I, uh … I've had the most amazing life in my public service and for the last, um … seventeen years, after since my husband started running for President, I have been, you know, in the spotlight, working hard, and this job is, uh … incredibly, uh … all encompassing. So I think looking forward to maybe taking some time off. You don't think that's a good idea? (Laughs).

CM: It's just a little bit soon, somehow, having trying to keep up with you for the last few days. You don't seem … you don't seem tired. You don't seem daunted. You don't seem as if you were anywhere close to stopping.

Clinton: Well, I'm certainly not in this in this job. I feel like every day, every minute I have to make the most of. And I'm thrilled to be part of this administration, because I think we are making a difference. But that doesn't mean that I'm not looking forward at some point to maybe slowing down a little bit. Uh, having, uh … some time to, you know, just collect myself.

CM: Well, never is a long time. So I want to ask you again. You're never going to run for President again?

Clinton: I have absolutely no interest in running for President again. None. None. I mean, I know that's hard for some people to believe, but, you know, I just … I just don't, I feel like that was a great experience, uh … you know, I gave it all I had, I'm giving this job all I have. I try to live in the present, so it just seems, you know, that, uh … that's not in my future.

CM: So let me ask you about some other persistent rumors.

Clinton: (Laughs). Sure. (Laughs).

CM: We'll get to foreign policy in a minute. That you are frustrated at state, that you're going to step down and go back and run again for your seat for New York.

Clinton: No. I am neither frustrated nor planning anything other than being the best Secretary of State I could be.

CM: Governor of New York?

Clinton: No. (Laughs). No. I … I love the fact that, um, there's so much, uh … curiously about what I might do, but I'm so focused on what I am doing, I … I really can't, uh … imagine why anybody would have time to think about something in the future.

CM: You know, people also are endlessly fascinated with how you came to this position.

Clinton: Right.

CM: And I know you talked about it in general terms, we wondered if you might talk to us a little more specifically. I mean, I was on the campaign trail with you when you were campaigning for President Elect, then, Obama. Uh, well, not President Elect, Candidate Obama. Uh, when did you get the first indication that he might be interested in having you serve the administration?

Clinton: Well, I got no indication until after the election. And I didn't believe the indications that people were trying to (Laughs) tell me about, um … you know, I … I ran hard to get the nomination. I wasn't successful. You know, I'm one of these people like, okay, you wake up in the morning, you make the most out of the day you've got, I wanted to make sure that, uh … uh … Senator Obama because President Obama, so I went to work for him. And worked as hard as I could in the general election. And was thrilled at the idea that I was going back to the Senate to represent New York.

Clinton: I love New York. I mean, I'm … I'm like the adopted child. I just love New York. And so I felt like this was, you know, the best place I could serve and there was a lot to be done and we were going to have a democratic President and a Democratic Congress and that's what I would be doing. And it was, um … you know, about, I don't know, five, six days after the election, um … and my husband and I were out for walk actually in a sort of preserve near where we live in New York. And he had his cell phone in his pocket, I didn't have anything on me. And all of the sudden it started ringing in the middle of this big, uh … nature preserve. And, uh … instead of turning it off, he answered it, and it was President Elect Obama, uh … wanting to talk to him about some people he was considering for, uh … positions. And he said, you know, and I'd like to, you know, also talk to Hillary at some point. Fine, you know, we know a lot of people. So obviously somebody's calling to say, check with this person or what do you think about that person?

CM: So you didn't, at that point, think it meant talk to talk to… talk to you?

Clinton: No. No. I didn't. And then they began these little, you know, tidbits in the paper and, uh … my press, uh … people began to say to me, oh, I think … I said, that is absurd and ridiculous. I mean, these rumors, it's like I'm going to quit and run for Governor. I … I've been so used to this kind of talk all my life, so forget it. Then, uh … when I did talk to the press, and he said he wanted me to come to Chicago, because he wanted to talk to me. And …

CM: So tell me about that phone call. He calls and he says; Hillary …

Clinton: Well, he … he called and … and, uh … he said, uh … you know, I … I really would like to talk to you about some things. And, uh … I'd like you to come to Chicago to … to meet with me. Even then I honestly did not believe it was about me. I did not. I mean, maybe I was in denial, but I did not believe it. And I wasn't really, in any way, at that moment interested in it being about me either.

So it was kind of a … a double, you know, denial. But when I went there and met with him and he began to talk to me, my … my first reaction was, you know, really, there are other people and I … I am happy to be back in the Senate. And the campaign was, you know, enormously exhausting. (Laughs). I think, you know, there's a lot of other ways I could help you. But he's a very persistent, um … and persuasive man. And I did begin to look at it seriously then, and um … I talked to a lot of people.

CM: Now, did he say State Department right away?

Clinton: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. He said, I want you to, uh … be my Secretary of State. And I said, oh, no you don't. (Laughs).

CM: No, did you really say that?

Clinton: I really did. (Laughs). I said, oh, please, there are so many other people who could do this, and do it really well and … and, yeah, I … I had this kind of image in my head, I'd be back in the Senate, I'd get to spend time in my house, I'd visit my friends in the city and upstate, and go back and work on healthcare and all the things that were going to happen.

So I was very taken back and … and somewhat resistant, um … to the idea, because it just seemed so unexpected. I couldn't grasp it.

But, you know, we kept talking, I talked obviously to a lot of other people. Um, and I finally began thinking, look, if I had won, and I had called him and said, look, we have a lot of work to do. We … we, obviously as democrats and … and given how we saw the world, we believed that we had a lot of, you know, make up work to do and try to, you know, get things back in order. Um, and so if I had called him I would have wanted him to say yes. And, you know, I'm pretty old fashioned and it's just who I am. So, at the end of the day, when your President asks you to serve, you say yes if you can.