Transcript: Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and Sec. of Defense Robert Gates Speak to Cynthia McFadden

The two discuss the possibility of Clinton becoming the next Sec. of Defense.

ByABC News
November 9, 2010, 8:40 AM

Nov. 9, 2010— -- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, perhaps the most political odd-couple on Earth, have a rare and powerful alliance. They both sat down with ABC News' Cynthia McFadden on a flight to Melbourne, Australia, individually and then again for the only joint television interview the two have ever granted abroad. The following is a transcript of their conversation, edited for clarity:

CYNTHIA McFADDEN: I want to ask you, Madame Secretary, about Haiti. Over a billion dollars appropriated to help the Haitians in the wake of the devastation last year, and in fact it's an appropriate question here because this trip to Australia was originally scheduled to happen a year ago.


McFADDEN: None of that billion dollars has been spent.

CLINTON: Well but, let me . . .


CLINTON: Well, let me explain. We had money in the pipeline that was going to and has been delivered to Haiti. We expended an enormous amount of money in the ah immediate relief efforts. So the money that has not yet been released by the congress was money that was future money. It's now past time when I would like to see it released and utilized, and it will be.

But I think there's been somewhat of a confusion that no money from the United States government has gone to Haiti. That's not true. We have spent ah money, our spending money, and ah are doing a lot of good, although the need is overwhelming. And you feel so sorry for Haiti, from you know earthquakes, cholera, hurricanes. These people never catch a break, but we're deeply involved with um the government of Haiti, with our our great NGOs that are serving in Haiti, and we're doing a lot as we speak in Haiti.

McFADDEN: Are you confident that congress will indeed release the money?

CLINTON: Oh yes, I mean we, you know, we will be able to expend the money that has been appropriated for Haiti.

McFADDEN: Okay, great, because it sure didn't read very well when the release was "US government spends zero of billion dollars."

CLINTON: Yeah, yeah. But that's part of a bigger story.

McFADDEN: So someone said that the job of diplomacy was getting somebody to do what they don't want to do without shooting them.

CLINTON: [laughter] That's a good description!

McFADDEN: Is that what your day is like?

CLINTON: My day consists of figuring out what people are doing and why, and what they would like to do and why they're not, and trying to talk with people and make a case for why doing what would be ah from the American perspective a positive is in their interest to do. So I do spend a lot of time talking to governments and to influential people in various countries about how to make tough decisions that are really in their interests. And it is, it is fascinating, endlessly so. But there is, of course, a little bit of frustration from time to time.

McFADDEN: So was it mere coincidence that you were half way around the world during the midterm elections?

CLINTON: Actually it was, and here's why. I had two dates that bookended that period; one, the East Asia Summit where I had to go and represent President Obama, because he obviously couldn't leave the country; and the other, the 25th what's called AUSMIN where Bob Gates and I meet with our counterparts here in Australia. They were a week apart with the election in the middle. So for me it didn't make sense to go to Vietnam, turn around, go back to the U.S. and then come back again.

And also there were some really important other opportunities to go to Cambodia, which is a country that is coming out of such a a terrible, traumatic experience inflicted by the Khmer Rouge, the United States has supported the trials and we want them to continue doing the trials; to go to Malaysia, a country whose prime minister gave a really important speech at the U.N. about a month and a half ago, calling for moderates to join a movement against extremism; to go to Papua New Guinea, which has found natural gas and a big Exxon Mobil contract. So there were lots of reasons for me to go between Vietnam and Australia.