Sunday, June 7, 2009

Secretary Clinton Sets Stephanoupolous Straight on This Week ( see transcript)

When George Stephanopoulos interviewed Secretary of State Clinton on This Week today, he couldn’t resist a taunt or two lifted from earlier commentary by some of his sexist colleagues. In the exchange below, Secretary Clinton sets Stephanoupoulos straight (emphases mine):

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president has a very high-powered team: Vice President Biden, General Jones, Secretary Gates. You've got envoys for Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea. How do you fit in?


CLINTON: Well, I...

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your role, exactly?

CLINTON: Well, my role is as the chief diplomat for the United States of America. And, you know, when I agreed to do this job, I made it very clear to the president that I would be able to run the State Department and USAID and that we would have to forge a team that I think we've done very well, and that I wanted special envoys, because we were inheriting so many hotspot problems that I knew you could never have one person possibly address all of that.

Here’s another attempted put down by Stephanopoulos that Clinton handily blocked:

STEPHANOPOULOS: This week is also the anniversary of -- the 20th anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square, and you put out a very strong statement on that anniversary. Yet when you went to China earlier this year, you basically said the Chinese know what we think about human rights.

And I guess what I'm trying to get at is, how do you approach that issue? When do public statements make a difference? When should diplomacy be conducted privately? And who's your real audience with these statements?

CLINTON: You know, George, it's such a great question. And there is no one easy answer, because I think so much of it depends upon what our objectives are.

We have made very clear, time and time again, our concerns about religious freedom in China, treatment of Tibet, Tibetan culture. So that is -- we're on the record with that. We've had these, you know, very strong statements that we've made historically, going back years.

And so, of course, we want everyone to know that we still feel very strongly about it, but we also would like to see if there is some way we could actually chip away at Chinese resistance to providing some more at least cultural and religious autonomy for Tibetans. So we -- it's a constant weighing process.

You know, I think a lot of times the public statements can turn out to be counterproductive. They can harden positions. Yet at the same time, the public statements can hearten those who are the dissidents.

So trying to keep that in balance so that we don't ever turn our backs on those who are struggling for the very rights that we believe in so strongly and that we think are universal rights, and yet looking for ways that we can actually get results, not just score debating points or, you know, have somebody say, "Good for you. You made a strong statement."

So what we're trying to do -- and I think you hear it from what the president and I have been saying over the last four months -- is to really focus in on where we can make progress.

It’s too bad this next exchange didn’t occur when Clinton’s name was first being seriously mentioned as secretary of state. The heads of Maureen Dowd and Arianna Huffington would have exploded:

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, it was a bitter campaign. And I'm just wondering: How did President Obama convince you to come on his team?

CLINTON: Well, you know, George, I never had any -- any dream, let alone inkling, that I would end up in President Obama's cabinet. When I left the presidential race, after getting some sleep and taking some deep breaths, I immediately went to work for him in the general election.

I, you know, traveled the country. I worked hard on my supporters. I made the case, which I believed strongly, in making sure that we elected him our president.

And I was looking forward to going back to the Senate and, frankly, going back to my life and representing New York, which I love. And I had no idea that he had a different plan in mind. So when -- when...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Since the primaries.

CLINTON: Well, but I had -- I mean, that was certainly never expected. And after the election, I started seeing little, you know, tidbits in the press. I thought it was absurd. I thought, you know, this is the kind of silly stuff that ends up in the press.

And then, when he called and asked me to come see him and we had our first conversation, I said, "You know, I really don't think I'm the person to do this. I want to go back to my life. I really feel like I owe it to the people of New York." And I gave him a bunch of other names of people who I thought would be great secretaries of state.

But he was quite persistent and very persuasive. And, you know, ultimately, it came down to my feeling that, number one, when your president asks you to do something for your country, you really need a good reason not to do it.

Number two, if I had won and I had asked him to please help me serve our country, I would have hoped he would say yes.

And, finally, I looked around our world and I thought, you know, we are in just so many deep holes that everybody had better grab a shovel and start digging out.

Read the entire transcript here:

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