Transcript

Hillary Clinton speaks to the L.A. Times editorial board about war, women and her ability to navigate partisan obstructionism

The following is a transcript of Hillary Clinton’s phone interview with the Los Angeles Times' editorial board on May 4, 2016.

Nicholas Goldberg: Welcome. I’m Nick Goldberg, I’m the editor of the editorial pages. We have a lot of questions for you. I’m hoping you can keep your answers kind of short so we go around the room and we can get everyone’s questions in. We’re on the record. I assume that’s OK with you?

Hillary Clinton: Yes it is. Of course.

Goldberg: We have some people here from our newsroom. The rest are from our opinion pages. I was told you would give us a short one or two-minute introduction and then we can lay into you with questions.

Clinton: I appreciate the chance to talk about a lot of the questions that are on your mind.  All I really want to say is that I'm excited about running for president. I believe we’ve got a real chance in this election to lay out an agenda that will, if verified by the voters, move the country forward, create positive results for Americans in their lives, knock down barriers that are holding them back, protect our country, maintain American leadership around the word and unify our nation. I’m more than happy to answer your questions, and we’ll try to get as many in as possible.

Goldberg: Great, thank you very much. Obviously you have many, many supporters, you have many, many admirers, but it’s also true, and it’s been true for a long time, that your negatives are high and not just among Republicans. Polls show there are large numbers of people, including Democrats, who say they don’t trust you, who think you’re not honest and straightforward. Some people use phrases like "secretive" and "slippery." Some people say you don’t have core values. You have always elicited strong feelings, including strongly negative ones, since you first arrived on the political scene in 1992. My question to you is, why do so many people seem to feel that way, and why are they wrong?

Clinton: Well, look, I don’t like to hear that. That’s obviously very concerning to me. But I would make a couple of points. First of all, when I’m actually doing a job on behalf of people, people who elected me as in the case of the voters of New York — or in the country when I was secretary of State — I actually have quite high approval ratings. I think that demonstrates that when I’m not competing for a job, when there’s no political or partisan imperative to try to tear me down and attack me from all directions, people actually approve of what I stand for and what I do.

And in fact I have a long history of working with Republicans when we’re actually in the Senate or in the arena of secretary of State — even first lady — when I found common ground. And what I have learned is that doing the job is the best antidote to any of these concerns. Because I know I’ve been the object of an enormous amount of negative attacks and arguments against me. When I ran for Senate the first time in New York there was a lot of that. I was elected with 55% of the vote. I served the people of New York. Then I was elected again with 67% of the vote. You saw just in this primary that the voters of New York really put forth a very big margin for me in the primary. Because they know me. They know what I’ve done and what I stand for.

I know I have work to do to assuage these attacks, or this kind of negative attitude toward me. But I think I’ve been very consistent in my public life. I have stood up for people who needed a champion. I’ve tried to level the odds where people feel they’re left out or left behind, going back to my first job at the Children’s Defense Fund as a lawyer. What I have learned is that I will be, for whatever combination of reasons, a recipient of a lot of incoming negativity.

And the best response is to keep fighting for the people who need somebody on their side. It’s what I’m doing in this election. It’s why I’ve got 3 million more votes than Bernie Sanders and 2 million-plus more votes than Donald Trump despite all the negative ads that have been run against me by all kinds of organizations and individuals.

Jon Healey: Hi, this is Jon Healey. I’m one of the editorial writers. One of your main criticisms of Bernie Sanders is that he’s promised more than he can deliver. But do you think any of those major promises he’s made are simply bad policy?

Clinton: Well, I think the goals he has set forth are ones that I share. We have got to get to universal healthcare coverage. The way I think we do is building on the Affordable Care Act, improving it. Making sure we go from 90% coverage, where we are now, to 100%. He and I both agree that we have got to rein in excesses on Wall Street and in the financial markets. I’ve actually put forth a more comprehensive to do that that goes beyond the banks — that are now covered by Dodd-Frank — to the so-called shadow banking industry.

We both agree college has to be affordable. He’s put forth a plan and I have my own, which I think is likely to be more effective and achievable. But we share a lot of the same goals. I have bold progressive goals, as he does. I think that my experience in getting results for people, and the way that I have laid out the plans and what they would cost and how we would go about getting them, really gives a firm foundation for what we can achieve under my presidency.

Goldberg: I have a follow-up to that. The heart of the anti-Bernie Sanders argument is that he is an uncompromising ideologue and you are a pragmatic incrementalist who’s going to able to get things done. But the reality is that President Obama was also a compromiser who found himself stymied, unable to move his agenda forward because of Republican recalcitrance  or perhaps because of his failure to play the game right. What makes you think that you’re going to be able to break through the dysfunction and the polarization and the hostility that we hear so much about? How are you going to do it?

Clinton: Well, I will do it because I have done it. Even when I was first lady. When we weren’t successful with comprehensive healthcare reform, I went to work and put together a bipartisan coalition to pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which insures 8 million kids.

I wanted to reform the adoption and foster care system, and I worked with one of the most partisan, uncompromising Republicans then in the House — Tom DeLay — because I knew he had had foster kids. So I reached out to him. We worked together. We passed a very important set of reforms.

In the Senate, I spent more time there. I was there 8 years. I spent a lot of time getting to know and working with the senators on the other side of the aisle. And I know it’s not easy.  But I know there is no substitute for that daily effort to build relationships, to try to find common ground — even if it’s just a small sliver that you can begin to build progress on. I probably worked with, if not all, practically all of the Republicans that I served with. If you go back you can find a lot of nice comments that they’ve made about me — that I’m a good colleague, that I’m good to work with, that I’m willing to really bear down and learn a subject and produce results. And as president that’s exactly what I would do again.

Now I hope that I will have the benefit of a new Democratic majority in the Senate. I think that is very possible. I will certainly, from the top of the ticket, do everything I can, as I now am, to run coordinated campaigns, to raise money for other Democrats to really help achieve that. And I even think there are some House seats that we can target.

It would, obviously it would make my agenda more achievable more quickly if we did have a Democratic Senate and a greater number of Democrats in the House.

But I will add that this election may very well help to realign the Republican Party. If you recall, after the last presidential election, when President Obama was re-elected, the Republican National Committee did a big study about what can they do to try to be more electable in election years. Practically all they advice that they were given they have unfortunately ignored because of the kind of primary that has been run, won, and because of the presumptive nominee who has emerged.

It is clear to me, that, if they lose again, which I believe they will, they are going to have to take a hard look. And some of these issues which they have been recalcitrant over — perhaps comprehensive immigration reform, for example — will be much more possible because they will realize they’ve been playing a losing hand when it comes to presidential elections.

So it’s a combination of the work, the relationship building, the politics, the makeup of the Congress. I think that we will have a real opportunity after this next election.

Healey: So, if I may follow on that are you suggesting you would not use executive power unilaterally to the extent that President Obama has, or before him President Bush? There’s some thinking that we’re on a trend here towards increasing power in the White House.  Or do think that’s been a favorable trend and you would continue in that direction?

Clinton: Well, I think that’s a hard question to answer absolutely yes or no. Because I think it depends upon what the issues are and what the level of willingness is to actually do the job that the Republican Party feels in their own assessment. So my view is that it’s always preferable to have legislative solutions. But given the hand that Republican Party has been playing for the last eight years, it has been difficult to get a lot of important issues addressed. And it is something that I would very much favor, working with Congress closely… to try to diminish the role, the importance, even the necessity of executive action. But I will have to make that judgment when I see whether or not we’re going to go back to regular order, as we say in the Congress, or whether we’re going to continue to have ideological and partisan standoffs that I think people on both sides of the aisle are ready to get past.

Carla Hall: If you become the first woman president, that alone would  be extraordinary. Obviously you would bring to that an enormous amount of leadership experience that’s non-gender specific. But what are the experiences as a woman that have shaped you that you think might affect the kind of president you would be?

Clinton:  Well, I think we all bring our experiences to any elected office that we might hold, and as a woman I have the experience of being a daughter, a wife, a sister, a mother, a grandmother, and I place great store in those. One of the reasons why I am such an advocate for women’s rights here at home and around the world is, obviously, I am a woman. I have experienced or have certainly had firsthand connections with people who have been left out, left behind, discriminated against, and it’s part of what motivates me. And when I went to Beijing in 1995 and spoke out on behalf of women’s rights and human rights, it was a very personal appeal for me.  Because I could not imagine what it must have been like for countless generations of women and girls to be treated as expendable, to be oppressed, to be denied education and healthcare, to have no role in their societies or their economies. And here at home I was a young lawyer in a lot of interesting and challenging settings. I saw firsthand how very often gender was used as a tool to discriminate against women.

I grew up in a period where there were schools I couldn’t go to, scholarships I couldn’t apply for, jobs I wasn’t welcome at. So I have a lived experience as a woman coming of age in our country after World War II who both saw what was limiting about that status, but also saw and participated in a lot of the changes that have made a very big difference. And I think there is still work to be done. We still have problems with equal pay. We still have problems balancing family and work. And I really applaud Gov. Brown and the Legislature for the steps  that they’ve made in extending paid family leave. I know what it’s like to be at home with a sick baby and a babysitter who calls in sick as well, and I’m supposed to be in court at 9 o’clock in the morning and I’m just frantic, trying to scramble around to get some sort of help.  So I know these kind of issues from inside and out. And I think bringing that experience to the White House, bringing it to the world stage will be a big net plus for our country

Christina Bellantoni: This Christina Bellantoni, I’m the assistant managing editor for politics and I covered your 2008 campaign very closely. And I would say that you’re running a slightly different campaign, more speaking about your experience as women than you did then. And I am curious specifically, how do you run as a woman against Donald Trump, given the type of things that he’s said, your response to him talking about the "woman’s card" last week. How do you anticipate this moving forward, particularly given that he seems to have no bounds when discussing women.

Clinton: Well, as I’ve said several times in response to questions about him and his latest insult, I really am not going to respond to whatever he says about me. I’ll let the voters and others take whatever positions they wish to when it comes to his bombarding me. But I am going to stand up against his broad-brush demeaning comments about women, about immigrants, about people with disabilities, about Muslims. It’s a long list, and I’m not going to let him get away with it. He’s going to be at least required to respond. And when he questioned my qualifications to be president, which I personally found quite amusing, I knew that the subtext was questioning women’s qualifications in general, and I responded. And the response to my response has been overwhelming. The whole idea of “playing the woman’s card” which he charged that I was doing, and by extension, other women were doing, has just a lit a fire under so many women across the country. And I think it’s because they see in his attacks on me or on Megyn Kelly or Carly Fiorina or whoever else he’s attacking at the moment, really a much broader attack on them. And I think we’re going to be pushing back and drawing the contrast whenever he does that because it’s just absolutely beyond the pale, and he’s not going to get away with it going forward.

Mike McGough: I am in Washington, Mike McGough. When Sen. Sanders  was in to see us a little while ago, he said two things that I’d like you to comment on. One was, he said that he thought that he was a truer heir to President Obama when it came to being restrained about military intervention, a truer heir than you are. And he followed that up by saying he thought that if you were elected, as opposed to his being elected, you would be more prone as president to involve this country in military action abroad. I’d like you to respond to that directly, but also maybe to take a couple of minutes to sketch out what you think your differences with Sanders and with Obama are on this question, which is really quite relevant now. We’ve had a buildup of advisers in Iraq. We have the ongoing war with ISIS. And I think it would be nice to have a sense of  how you see your position as different from theirs.

Clinton:  Well, first, I always believe that military force should be the choice of last resort, not the first choice at all. And I, as secretary of State, advocated for what I call smart power. And part of that was to elevate the role of diplomacy and development  after what had been the eight prior years of much heavier emphasis on military solutions to all of the challenges that we faced. And I was very honored and flattered and surprised when President-elect Obama asked me to serve as his secretary of State, showing that he trusted my judgment, and that during that hard-fought campaign, he and I realized that on a lot of issues we were actually pretty close together. And I think any fair assessment of where we were during the four years I served as secretary of State would support that.

Now does that mean I always agreed with the president? Of course not. If you’re  going to be a useful advisor, you’re going to express your opinions, put forth the argument, the evidence, in favor of whatever opinion you present. But these decisions are made by the president. So when it came to whether or not to go after Bin Laden, I was in that small group asked to advise the president, and I came to the conclusion that the intelligence was good enough to act on, and I told the president that I thought he should order an action. Others disagreed. At the end of the day, it was president’s decision. When it came to Libya, it was a very complicated situation where our European allies and our Arab partners were asking for our help. As secretary of State I did the due diligence about what the situation was and what people were prepared to contribute, and presented that to the president, who made the decision.

And by the way, Sen. Sanders actually voted for the resolution in the Senate to take action, to go to the United Nations to get U.N. Security Council support, all of which we did. So I think that the one issue where we disagree, which goes back to the early Bush administration, was on Iraq. And any time you ask Sen. Sanders any question about foreign policy, what’s your plan to defeat ISIS, his response is, “I voted against the Iraq authorization.” And I think that what we have to be looking for is where we go next. And how we defeat ISIS, how we untangle the dangerous mess in Syria, how we deal with a very aggressive, belligerent Russia, how we protect our allies and those whom we have an obligation to protect under mutual defense treaties in Asia, and so much more. And I think my experience and my judgment on a lot of the big issues really puts me in a position to walk into the Oval Office on the first day and to not only be president but commander in chief.

McGough: Just to follow up, would you say that Sanders is right when he says  you can phrase it either way  that you would more willing to use military force than he would. I’m not asking whether it would be appropriate in a particular sense, but is your disposition to be more willing to use military force than his as you see it. Because for a lot of voters, this would be a voting issue.

Clinton: Well it’s a totally hypothetical issue. He’s never had any experience or any authority to make any of these hard decisions. I can’t sit here and tell you what he would have done in the Situation Room about Bin Laden. I can’t tell you what he would have done, other than the vote he made in the Senate, about Libya. I don’t know whether he would have supported a pivot to Asia. I can’t answer those questions. He has to answer those questions. I can just lay out my record. I can refer to my book “Hard Choices,” where I go into great detail. I can tell people about negotiating a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. I can talk about getting the blind dissident out of China against great concerns by the Chinese. I can talk about the role that we played in Latin America and Africa, to try to support democracy, to try provide targeted development. I have a record. I have a record that people can look at and can draw their own conclusions. I can’t compare myself, and wouldn’t, with him. He has to speak for himself. But a lot of what he says, if you read the New York Daily News’ long interview, is problematic, and I think people should not just look at the sound bites and the slogans, but where there has been a comparable grilling about foreign policy and domestic policy, as we both were in that setting, it’s worth taking a read.

Mariel Garza: Secretary, this is Mariel Garza, I’m an editorial writer here. There are some folks who believe that welfare reform of the 1990s was a disaster for poor people. Poverty rates are much higher than they were back then and have been rising since 2000. You seem to lay some of the blame at the feet of states with Republican governors and the fact that time limits are particularly punitive. And you’ve said that we have to take a hard look at it. I’m wondering what that means. What exactly are you going to do to reverse any of the negative effects of welfare reform in light of the fact that our poverty rates are still growing, as is the economic disparity in this country?

Clinton: Well, look. I think you’ve got to [at] the end where I want to begin. You’ve got to put welfare reform into the context of the broader economic issues that are confronting us. I don’t think it’s really appropriate to take one thing out of the '90s and say “Well, what about this?” When if you look at the data from the '90s, incomes went up for everybody. And obviously employment was high, 23 million new jobs.  The median family income went up 17%. The median family income for African American families went up 33%. So I would argue that the economic policies and the approaches that were taken — especially aiming at distressed communities very productive partnerships to create more jobs that people coming out of welfare would be able to take, looking at some of the tax incentives through the new market tax credits or empowerment zones, the whole package — really provided a much stronger foundation for economic growth, for income growth, and for lifting more people out of poverty than at any time in recent history. So I would say let’s start by looking at where we ended up after the Clinton administration. And I would argue that the ideas behind welfare reform, which included support for education and child care, which included continuing efforts to create and fill jobs and training programs to enable that, were really left on the sidelines. The Bush administration and Republican governors just did not continue with the same focus and commitment that had been there before.

In addition, the great source in inequality is because of two factors.

One, most Americans haven’t had a raise in 15 years. And it is unfortunately the case that the Great Recession, which I do largely put at the feet of the Bush administration, wiped out $13 trillion of family wealth, falling particularly hard on African American and Latino families, who lost homes, lost savings, 5 million homes were lost, 9 million jobs were lost. And we are only able now to dig out, and I have said many times, I don’t think President Obama gets the credit he deserves for pulling us out of the ditch that the Republicans dropped us in, with all of the really serious adverse economic consequences.

Now having said all that, I think that the recession made it very clear that the five-year time limit in the welfare bill was much too restrictive, and there has to be a trigger mechanism, when unemployment grows, when something as drastic as a recession of that magnitude strikes. I think we’ve really got to look for more ways to set the boundaries around states, that they cannot be really as mean-spirited in many ways as they have. They really went against the spirit and in many cases the letter of the law when it came to educational opportunities. So I want to parse through it. I know there have to be some changes made to it. But a lot of what has happened, and the increase in poverty, and the increase in inequality that we have seen is something that we have to address on a much broader scale, and we have to look at all the different factors that are contributing to it. It’s one of the reasons I support raising the minimum wage, it’s one of the reasons why I support job programs, for infrastructure, advanced manufacturing, clean renewable energy jobs, more support for small businesses.  I have a whole package of changes that I want to see, and these changes in welfare reform are among them.

Garza: Just one quick follow-up. So would changing the block-grant structure be on the table for you?

Clinton: Well, I think it should be on the table. I don’t know if we can make the case and get it done.  Clearly what we started out with when welfare reform was undertaken was a block grant or a state grant program that set very, very low standards in some states compared with others and really made it almost penalizing for people. And I think that unfortunately we’ve kind of reversed to the mean, if you will. And too many states are feeling absolutely no pressure of any kind to try to lift those standards and provide more support. And so I’m going to look at what I think will work and make a strong case for what I think will work and figure out what the politics would be to get it done.

Davan Maharaj: Secretary Clinton, this is Davan Maharaj, I’m the editor of the L.A. Times. I want to talk to you about the opioid crisis ravaging the country. It’s something you raised in the New Hampshire primaries. And there’s very little secret that the drug manufacturers are making billions of dollars on this. How would a Clinton administration regulate Big Pharma or the pharmaceutical industry to get a hold of this crisis.

Clinton: I’m really glad you asked me because probably this is the subject that surprised me the most when I started campaigning. On the very, very first day when I went to Iowa more than a year ago, and you know I had thought a lot about the economy, education, my first speech was on criminal justice reform and mass incarceration, I had a lot of ideas that I was working through. And this issue about the opioid epidemic, the heroin epidemic which is really flowing from it, was on everybody’s minds, I mean from Iowa to New Hampshire and all places beyond. I just came from West Virginia where we had a big meeting about it in Charleston, West Virginia, because West Virginia now has the highest per capita overdose rate in the country. So I put forth a plan about what I think we should be doing and the kind of financial support I’d like the federal government to give to states and localities to deal with it, changing a lot of the criminal justice implications so that we get more people into treatment, more people into recovery. Obviously, we’re equipped to use the antidote Narcan and reverse overdoses and the like. But, you put your finger on one of the biggest problems we face. We have to change the mindsets of physicians who continue to prescribe opioid painkillers in quantities that are far beyond what most outside experts say is defensible.

When I was in West Virginia yesterday, one of the saddest stories on the panel we did was a father who talked about his daughter, who had gotten addicted to opioids because she was an athlete, and I hear this story so much — a high school athlete gets injured, has surgery, gets the painkillers, gets addicted, and on and on. She finally got sober, she’d been sober for six months, and then she was running, she ripped something again, she was in the hospital, she had another procedure. And on her discharge, despite what her family had told all the doctors who treated her, the discharging physician who had not treated her gave her 50 Oxycontins on her way out the door, and she was dead by the morning. And the reason why the warning and the plea from family members wasn’t in her chart is because of privacy laws. Now if you’re allergic to penicillin, that’s in your chart in great big letters. If you’re a recovering addict, if you have a painkiller addiction, it’s not in your chart. We’ve got to change the mindset. We’ve got to do much more to crack down on prescriptions, do a better job educating physicians, do a better job making sure that all the information is available.

And I heard an idea yesterday in West Virginia, from the Democratic senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, which I am going to look into. He said we should be imposing a very small surcharge, like a penny a pill, or some other very small surcharge on all these prescriptions, which would then go into a fund for treatment and recovery facilities, and resources like training and personnel and the like. So this is a crisis. It’s an epidemic that is breaking records. It is ripping the hearts out of families and communities. So I have a policy. Go to my website, hillaryclinton.com, but I’m going to really elevate this and do everything I can to get bipartisan support, to get a real partnership between the federal, state and local governments, between physicians and treatment facilities and everybody else to try to reverse this terrible toll that is being inflicted.

Maharaj: So a small follow-up on that. You know the FDA recently approved Oxycontin for children. What would your administration do about that, and two, what would we do about the drug companies that market these opioids as OK for the simplest pain?

Well I was against, I spoke out against the request that opioids be made available to children. I saw a really firestorm of opposition coming from doctors, and certainly doctors who are treating children with cancer that can be incredibly painful were in the forefront. And I think we are losing our sense of proportion here. Obviously, if a child has intense pain from some horrible cancer, obviously you want to treat that pain.  But this has opened a door to so many other usages that I think are very dangerous. And honestly I’m just so distressed that the American Medical Association and individual groups of physicians are not more proactive. Now we went from, in many people’s views, seeing a kind of disregard of a patient’s report of pain. I can remember those debates 20 years ago, 25 years ago, where we didn’t know how to manage pain, and people who were suffering were not given appropriate treatment.

We now are way on the other end of the scale, and we are doing very little to rein this in, so that it has become way too common, way too easy. And what happens — and you know this — is somebody does have pain, and they get the painkillers, and they get addicted. Then they can’t afford the painkillers, and very often they start selling things, they start stealing things. They turn to heroin, which is cheaper, which is being laced with terrible additives that are really deadly.

It’s just a downward spiral. And the medical profession has to step up and take responsibility for its part of the problem. I think we have work to do. And we’ve got to get people to recognize that thousands of people are dying. And at some point we can’t keep going on like this. Clearly something has to change, and I’m going to do everything I can to make that happen.

Juliet Lapidos: This is Juliet Lapidos, I’m the op-ed editor. Even if Trump has a real down-ballot effect and the Democrats can take back Congress, your window for doing something big, at least if history is any guide, will be pretty small. What’s the first thing you would do, what’s the first big thing you would do? Obama chose healthcare. What would you choose?

Clinton: First of all, I don’t automatically buy that. And one of the reasons why I hoped to be able to focus, as I am now doing, on Trump in the general election is to lay out this agenda, and to being working with leaders in Congress and others to really be teed up come inauguration day. Because you’re right, if you don’t start until then, it does make it more difficult to deal with more than one thing.

We’ve got to move on the economy. There’s a package of actions there. Everything from raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to passing the Paycheck Fairness Act that would give more weight to women’s quests for equal pay, to taking a hard look at what we can do to try to get a national infrastructure bank set up, and a lot of other things I have laid out.

At the same time I intend to introduce, or to work with Congress to introduce, comprehensive immigration reform in those first weeks because I think we’ve got to start dealing with it early. And I’m hoping that, as I said early on in the conversation, if the Republicans lose another presidential election, maybe they will see the light and work with us on comprehensive immigration reform.

There is a list of issues that I have said I will be addressing, and I want to be teed up to do that. I know enough about how the Congress operates that getting things into the requisite committees begins the process and then pushing to see what can emerge from where, and what can move quickly to floor, is going to take some work. But I want to be in a position where we are pushing a number of issues at once.

Kerry Cavanaugh: This is Kerry Cavanaugh, one of the editorial writers. I have a K-12 education question. There has been in recent administrations an increasing federal involvement in public education. With No Child Left Behind, some people say the federal government has become too involved and that education is done better at the state level. What do you see as the proper role of the federal government in education?

Clinton: I think we should set some priorities because, originally back in 1960s as you know, the federal government got into public education in a major way through Title 1, which was designed to try to provide a means for equalizing funding for poor districts that were really left behind because they didn’t have a property tax base, because their state legislatures wouldn’t fund them, and the like. And I still think that it is a very important role of the federal government to see what we can do. Because right now there are big city school districts that are just being starved by Republican governors and legislatures. We see that in Philadelphia. We see that in Detroit. It is deeply distressing. And there can be a lot reform, and there needs to be a lot of reform, and there’s a lot of good ideas. I actually prefer the ideas that have some basis in evidence and research. But that’s something that I hope we can pay more attention to. But really when it comes to the federal role, let’s get back to using federal dollars to try to fill a lot of gaps.

Secondly, I worked as a young lawyer for the Children’s Defense Fund in gathering evidence about children with disabilities who were left out of school. And I gathered evidence literally going door to door, and it went into a big case that was made that passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, to mainstream kids with disabilities. And at the time the federal government said, we know this will pose extra burdens on state and local districts, so we will pay 40% of the cost of special education. The highest the federal government has ever gotten is like 17%. And what has that meant? That’s meant that the pressure and the legal requirement, the federal legal requirement, to do our very best to give kids with disabilities — learning disabilities, physical disabilities, behavioral disabilities, whatever they might be — the real chance to have a quality education has really crowded out other expenditures in other parts of the curriculum for other members of the student body. And I think the federal government ought to get back to keeping its promise.

This was an amazing, wonderful accomplishment for our country. I am incredibly proud of the tiny role that I played in it. But we should be doing more at the federal level.

And then finally, I think the federal government has the opportunity to be a real clearinghouse of information about what works and what doesn’t work. I mean, we’ve had so many fads in public education. All kinds of passionate arguments about what works and what doesn’t work, and all kinds of ideological arguments about it. At the end of the day, we’ve got a lot of evidence that has been done by experts, economists, educational experts and others. We need to take a look at that. And the federal government can play a big role in saying, “You know what, if you want to see the best results from reading programs for disadvantaged kids, here are the five.” Instead of getting sold a fad every time a new superintendent comes into office or a new school board takes over, and somebody shows up with a new plan to teach low-achieving kids or poor kids how to read by the third grade, let’s look at what the research shows us. And I’m going to be absolutely focused on that because I’ve seen too much money wasted on too many quick-fix arguments about what to do. And  clearly we’ve got to have a particular attention brought to bear on kids, low-income kids, poor kids because those are the kids that are being most disadvantaged in our public school system right now.

So I think I want to be good a partner with teachers. I want to work with people who have gotten results, whoever they are. I want to get back to the original idea of charter schools, which was “Hey, if you do something and it works, let’s make sure it migrates into the entire public school system.” I just am excited about what we can do if we kind of get back to looking at how we make a difference in kids’ lives. And of course, the best way to start is with early childhood education to make sure kids get to school more ready to learn and give them a chance to actually start achieving.

Goldberg: We appreciate the time. Thank you, thanks for talking to us.

Clinton: OK, to be continued. Thank you.

This transcript has been very lightly edited for purposes of clarity.

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