Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton sat down with Rachel Maddow today for her first interview since yesterday’s 11-hour hearing with the House Republicans’ Benghazi Committee. Rachel asked the question on the minds of many: “What does a person do after 11 hours of testimony? You’re the only human being I know of on Earth who has done 11 straight hours. What did you do after?”
Clinton laughed and responded, “Well, I had my whole team come over to my house and we sat around eating Indian food and drinking wine and beer. That’s what we did. It was great.”
Asked if she’s jealous of Vice President Biden, whose decision to skip the 2016 race means he won’t have to endure the difficulties of a national campaign, Clinton joked, “That’s a good question!” Speaking more generally about the Obama/Biden era, the former Secretary of State said something that struck me as important:
“I want to build on the progress that they are leaving behind. I feel very strongly about that. I want to go further, but I think the real point of this election is whether or not the Republicans are going to be able to turn the clock back and rip away the progress that has been made. So I want to support what the president and the vice president have accomplished.”
This dovetails in striking ways with the comments Clinton made during last week’s debate. Confronted with concerns about representing “Obama’s third term,” the leading 2016 Democrat didn’t shrink from the last seven years, and Clinton still isn’t. Biden said this week, “Democrats should not only defend this record and protect this record, they should run on the record,” and there’s every reason to believe Hillary Clinton intends to do exactly that.
In that same debate, Clinton noted a variety of enemies of which she is proud, including Republicans. Rachel asked her tonight about the differences between her style and President Obama’s when it comes to politics and attempts at cooperation with officials on the other side of the aisle.
“I think, when you are dealing with the other party in Washington, it’s that old saying – you know, you hope for the best, you prepare for the worst,” Clinton responded. “Of course you want to have the opportunity to work across party lines. I did that when I was a senator. I did it when I was secretary of state. But you need about – you know, six, seven, eight, 10 scenarios if something doesn’t go your way.”
She added, “[T]here is this ideological purity test that I think, unfortunately, too many Republicans who know better are being subjected to. So I will go anywhere, talk to anybody, anytime to try to find common ground, to try to achieve our national objective. But I’ll also stand my ground, and I think it’s a constant balance about where one begins and the other one ends…. We’ve got to break the stranglehold that the extremist views in the Republican Party have on too many people who are otherwise sensible and try to get them back into the pragmatic problem-solving that should be the hallmark of the relationship between the president and the Congress.”
Reflecting on Obama’s frustrations with GOP lawmakers, Clinton noted that the president was sometimes “bewildered” by Republicans’ willingness to ignore evidence. She added that Republicans would sometimes concede privately, “Yeah, you’re right, but I can’t,” or “I won’t.” for political reasons.
Reminded that one Republican member of Congress is already talking about impeaching her – more than a year before the election even happens – the former cabinet secretary described this as “pathetic” and “totally ridiculous.”
Rachel noted that many of the civil-rights breakthroughs of the Obama era have come by reversing policies – “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the “Defense of Marriage Act” – from the Clinton/Gore era. The former Secretary of State explained that many of these policies were “defensive” measures, intended to prevent Republicans of the time from pursuing even more drastic ideas.
But it led Clinton to sketch out her own vision about a 2016 election based on “fundamental rights.”
“A woman’s right to choose, defending Planned Parenthood, marriage equality, taking on the continuing discrimination against the LGBT community. You can get married on Saturday, you can get fired on Monday. Voting rights – the most profound citizenship rights that we have being blocked and undermined at every turn.“We are going to have a very vigorous debate in this election, because the Republicans are all on record as trying to reverse and rip away the progress that has occurred.“A lot of it, because of decisions that the court has finally made – both for good and for bad. I mean, the marriage equality decision for good, the terrible gutting of the Voting Rights Act for bad. And the local activity in states against a woman’s right to choose and defunding Planned Parenthood. This is going to be at the core of this election.”
This interview covered a lot of additional ground, including Clinton’s thoughts on a no-fly zone in Syria, Democratic losses in state legislatures, and improving veterans’ care.
The full interview will air tonight at 9 p.m. eastern. Tune in.