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LAist Interview: Senator Hillary Clinton

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Hillary Clinton, via her site.

As we speak, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is in a heated, two-way battle for the Democratic nomination with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Clinton has enjoyed a strong lead in California, the grand prize of today's Super Tuesday, but has seen some of her poll numbers slip recently.

LAist asked to interview both Clinton and Obama in January. Both camps agreed, questions were sent and, as of 3:30 Tuesday, only the New York Senators' answers were received.

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We asked Clinton about some of the issues that most affect the city, the state, the country and the world. Her answers, though lengthy, are printed below without edits, allowing readers to gain a more complete view of the politician that is aiming to make history as the first woman President.

Your husband, President Bill Clinton, signed NAFTA into law in 1992. Despite good
intentions, the agreement provided little protection for labor groups and the environment.
You have said that NAFTA was a "mistake to the extent that it did not deliver on what we
had hoped." However, you, along with Senator Obama, voted for the Peru free-trade act.
How can you ensure, as president, that the same consequences of NAFTA are not revisited?

I support pro-America trade. When trade agreements are negotiated without real concern for
workers, or when the agreements are not properly enforced, it hurts American families. I believe
trade must work for middle-class Americans. Our trade deficit is at unacceptable levels. As
President, I will reinvigorate America's manufacturing base, and ensure that foreign countries do
not manipulate their currencies to disadvantage American goods.

I believe labor agreements must include labor and environmental protections. Going forward, trade agreements must continue to strengthen labor and environmental provisions, and we must
ensure that they remain in the body of the agreement and are subject to enforcement provisions that are at least as strong as the commercial provisions.

As President, I will not enter into new trade agreements or seek trade promotion authority until
my administration has done two things: reviewed all of our existing agreements to determine
whether they are benefiting our economy and our workers; and crafted a comprehensive, pro-
America trade policy that will strengthen our country in the 21st century. Strong, enforceable
labor and environmental provisions must be a part of the core text of every trade agreement. If
they are not, our workers will have to compete on an unfair playing field. That is not acceptable.
As President, I will make vigorous enforcement of our agreements a priority.

I will also appoint a trade enforcement officer and double the enforcement staff at office of the United States Trade Representative.

I have introduced legislation to evaluate our trade agreements every five years and, as President,
I will review NAFTA and work with our trade partners to correct its shortcomings. I will ensure
that the economic benefits of trade are fairly distributed and that workers hurt by the global
economy receive the help they need. Accordingly, I will expand Trade Adjustment Assistance
(TAA) by covering workers whose plants relocate to countries like China and India and by
doubling the budget for TAA's training program.

I will also expand the Health Coverage Tax Credit to ensure that displaced workers have access to quality, affordable health care. I am opposed to the trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. The South Korean agreement does not create a level playing field for American carmakers. I am very concerned about the history of violence against trade unionists in Colombia. And as long as the head of Panama's National Assembly is a fugitive from justice in America, I cannot support that agreement.

Of regional importance: From the Ventura County line to the San Diego County line,
California is facing a transportation disaster whose solution will require federal assistance.
The only recently offered aid from the Republican legislature has included impossible
demands like toll roads. How would you approach this problem? If you support increased
public transportation, do you favor more buses or alternative forms of mass transit?

Last summer, I announced my Rebuild America plan, which includes making big investments in
public transportation. I will increase federal funding for public transit - including buses, light rail
and subways - by $1.5 billion per year. I will also link federal public transit funds to local land
use policies that encourage residential developments that maximize public transit usage and
discourage sprawl. And I will invest an additional $1 billion in intercity passenger rail, which is
an environmentally efficient alternative to highway driving and short flights. It relieves
congestion on roads and airports, reduces the emission of automotive pollutants, and stimulates
economic growth by linking metropolitan areas.

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Under my Rebuild America Plan, which I unveiled after the tragic bridge collapse in Minnesota,
I will also make investments in our roadways and waterways. I will establish a $10 billion
"Emergency Repair Fund" to address the backlog of critical infrastructure repairs on our roads,
bridges, waterways, and seaports; and provide $250 million in "Emergency Assessment Grants"
to states to conduct immediate safety reviews of their high-priority, high-risk infrastructure

I will also form a commission to carry out a comprehensive assessment of our engineering review standards so that we better prioritize needed repairs on bridges and roads. The
commission will review the safety certification process and standards, as well as address the
prioritization of needed repairs to roads and bridges and make recommendations on how best to
inspect, monitor, and maintain infrastructure on an ongoing basis. And I will take steps to
modernize our nation's ports.

I will work with state and local governments and the private sector to devise a coherent and comprehensive national policy to expand our port capacity and our portto-nation transportation connections, and I will also work with industry to improve port productivity through such things

President Bush wants the Senate to pass retroactive immunity for telecommunication
companies who helped implement FISA. Do you support his attempt to offer telecom
immunity and what do you think of the scattered Democratic support for the program?

I oppose giving telecommunication companies blanket retroactive immunity for their alleged
cooperation in the administration's warrantless wiretapping program. I continue to believe that a
grant of retroactive immunity is wrong, and I have cosponsored Senator Dodd's amendment to
remove that provision from the bill. The Bush Administration has blatantly disregarded
Americans' civil liberties over the past seven years, and I simply will not trust them to protect
Americans' privacy rights.

This comes from our contributing writer, Carolyn: You voted for the Patriot Act -- both
in 2001 and 2006. Our civil liberties -- especially privacy and free speech -- have been taking quite a beating as a result. If elected, what will you do to protect and restore our civil liberties?

I supported the Patriot Act but I'm working to improve it. I want to make sure that it strikes the
proper balance between securing our safety and safeguarding our liberties. That's why I fought
for a better balance in the reauthorization, including the right to challenge gag rules and an end to unfettered searches of library records, and that's why I insisted on shorter sunset periods in the reauthorization so that Congress can revisit those provisions that are susceptible to possible
abuse. While we all recognize the importance of equipping our law enforcement with the tools
they need to effectively combat terror, we also must ensure that those tools work in a way that
respects our values.

I will keep working to update the Patriot Act so that it both secures our safety and safeguards our liberties because I reject the notion that we have to sacrifice one for the other. I insisted on
shorter sunset periods in the reauthorization - so that we can revisit those provisions that are
susceptible to possible abuse. And I intend to review this Administration's excesses, including its abuse of "National Security Letters," which allow the government to obtain sensitive information about ordinary Americans.

One of our country's greatest strengths is our capacity to protect the safety of our citizens and
protect their civil liberties. As President, I will do everything in my power to protect our country
from future terrorist attacks. But that does not mean that we must sacrifice the rule of law or our
Constitution in the name of security. Unfortunately, the Bush-Cheney Administration has pitted
these values against each other. As President, I will end the Administration's abuse of executive
power by restoring the traditional right of habeas corpus, and I will close the detention center at
Guantanamo, which has compromised our long-term military and strategic interests, and gravely
impaired our standing overseas. I will also work to modernize our wiretapping laws so that we
can protect Americans from another terrorist attack while respecting the privacy rights of our
citizens. And I believe very strongly and have said unequivocally that torture cannot be
American policy, under any circumstances.

You have often talked of your 35 years of experience. Critics point out that your eight
years as First Lady, and about 16 years with Rose Law Firm, is not as much a qualification
to be President as it is an experience grounded in second hand, executive level decision making. Taking your time as First Lady and at Rose out of the question, how are you more
experienced to lead this country than Sens. Obama and Edwards?

I am proud of all the work I did as a lawyer, First Lady, and Senator because in each of those
roles, I worked on behalf of those whose voices were often unheard or ignored in our society.
Therefore, I do not believe that those years I spent in public service can be discounted. I strongly
believe that those experiences, as well as my time in the Senate, make me qualified to be

After graduating from law school, I took a job at the Children's Defense Fund and went door to
door in New Bedford, Massachusetts, trying to figure out why so many children were not
enrolled in school. What I discovered was heartbreaking - children who were blind or deaf or in
wheelchairs, kept out of school because of their disabilities. They wanted to learn and they
wanted to succeed - but they were never given the chance and they had no one speaking up for
them. So we wrote a report and helped create the momentum for legislation requiring public
schools to give children with disabilities the education they need and deserve. As a lawyer, I led
the American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession, which played a
pioneering role in raising awareness of issues like sexual harassment and equal pay. In Arkansas,

I co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and served as the founding
board president of the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Program, designed to help single
parents gain access to higher education and better jobs. As First Lady, I championed the Family

Medical Leave Act and helped create the State Children's Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP), the
single largest expansion of health insurance in a generation which today covers six million
children. In addition, I traveled to more than 80 countries around the world as an advocate for
women and children.

As Senator, I worked to protect and expand SCHIP, worked to extend TRICARE access to every
member of the Guard and Reserve, regardless of deployment status, championed the Transition
to Teaching program which trains and recruits new teachers, and helped pass the Lifespan
Respite Care Act to assist family caregivers. I also wrote legislation called the Student
Borrower's Bill of Rights, which created an "income contingent repayment program" to allow
borrowers who are starting out in their careers and not making enough to cover their student loan costs to pay only a portion of their discretionary income in loan payments; this program was enacted into law as part of the College Cost Reduction Act.

In the wake of September 11, I worked to successfully extend unemployment insurance benefits for 2.8 million Americans. And I helped to pass a law that has provided funding to states and cities to clean up and revitalize contaminated sites I plan to build on this lifetime of work and experience when I am President.

That's why I'm in this race - to be a champion for those who have been left out and left behind, for all those Americans who feel invisible to their government. As President, I plan to solve our problems - not to just talk about change but to deliver results. I believe I can continue America's forward progress, restore our leadership in the world, and make us proud of our country again. I'm the only candidate for President truly proposing universal health care - no one will be left out. I have plans to fix the housing crisis and keep Americans in their homes, strengthen our economy, end the war in Iraq, improve our schools, and address global warming. I believe I can deliver real change in the lives of real Americans.

Over the past year, I have been in and out of the homes and workplaces, community centers and churches of America - listening to the people of America. When I am President, I will bring the voices of all Americans to the White House. And I will work every day, from the very first, to
widen the circle of opportunity for all. Throughout my life, I have been proud to be a champion
and a fighter for the causes we believe in. Today, the American people need a champion in the
White House. I will be that President.

What are your thoughts about selling our national debt to foreign countries like China as a way to fund national projects without raising taxes? Have your thoughts on this changed
since the sub-prime mortgage fall-out and the erratic behavior of domestic and foreign

I have long sounded the alarm about China and our national debt. The debt represents not only a
birth tax of $30,000 on every American newborn, but it represents a loss of our economic
sovereignty. The national debt has ballooned under President Bush. He irresponsibly borrowed
from abroad to finance reckless tax cuts for the most privileged among us. That is bad leadership and bad economic policy.

I have supported legislation by Senator Dorgan and then Congressman Cardin that sounds an alarm bell when U.S. foreign-owned debt reaches 25 percent of GDP or the trade deficit reaches 5 percent of GDP. It would require the administration to develop a plan of action to address these conditions and report their findings to Congress. At the very least, this proposal would compel our government to deal with these economic issues while they are problems and before they become crises. I believe that proposals like these need to be discussed in order to put our economic house in order, as we can too easily be held hostage to the economic decisions being made overseas.

I strongly believe in fiscal discipline, and I will move us back toward balanced budgets. However, I am also committed to meeting our urgent needs - from rebuilding our infrastructure
to establishing universal health care for all Americans. Unlike President Bush, I have presented a bold plan to end the subprime crisis that is devastating communities, threatening the financial
stability of millions of families, pushing our economy toward recession, and shaking the world's
financial markets.

You cannot fix the economy without ending the foreclosure crisis. That is why
I have called for a 90-day moratorium on subprime foreclosures, a five-year freeze in rates on
subprime adjustable mortgages, and $30 billion in assistance to states and communities to help
them fight foreclosures.

What do you think of the Democrats' effort to end the war in Iraq and, how will you
restore the credibility and moral standing this country has lost as a result of the war?

I believe that ending the war in Iraq in the first step toward restoring our credibility and moral
standing around the world. That is why if President Bush does not end the war in Iraq, when I am President, I will.

This war is sapping our military strength, absorbing our strategic assets, diverting attention and resources from Afghanistan, alienating our allies, and dividing our people. I have a three-point plan to end the war in Iraq: bring our troops home, work to bring stability to the region, and replace military force with a new diplomatic initiative to engage countries around the world in securing Iraq's future.

One of my first official actions as President will be to convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the
Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Council and direct them to draw up a clear,
viable plan to bring our troops home. I will start bringing them home within the first 60 days of
my administration.

I will also redirect aid to provincial governments and the reliable nongovernmental organizations that are making progress in bringing stability and building political reconciliation. And I will begin intensive regional and international diplomacy, including convening a regional stabilization group composed of key allies, other global powers, and all the states bordering Iraq.

A vital component of this diplomacy will be to address the refugee crisis exploding in the region. To this end, I will work with other countries to ensure that asylum seekers can find sanctuary and I will help organize a multibillion dollar international relief effort, to be led by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, to aid the roughly two million refugees and the two million internally displaced persons in Iraq.

This from staff writer, Julie: How will being a mom inform your choices when you are in

I have been fortunate to have had a lot of support while I was both working and taking care of
Chelsea, but I understand what it means to be pulled in a million directions at once. I remember
one time, when I was a young lawyer and Chelsea was a baby, I had to be in court but Chelsea
was sick and the babysitter was sick too - and I just had that gut-wrenching feeling. I was lucky
enough to have had a friend who could come over and watch Chelsea while I ran to court and
then ran back home. I know that many parents across America are in similar situations every day.

Today, parents are working harder and harder for less and less - and they also don't get to spend as much time with their kids. So they worry about having access to quality child care and afterschool programs. They worry about their kids not getting the right kind of support they need to excel in school and go to college. And they worry about whether their children will be able to find good jobs and thrive in our economy.

I am running for President to ensure that every child has a change to realize his or her full potential.

When I am President, I will expand home visitation programs to help first-time parents prepare
for and care for their newborn children. I also have a plan to increase access to quality child care
by increasing the Child Care and Development Block Grant and the amount dedicated to quality
within that program; building states' capacity to administer high-quality, streamlined child care
systems; and fostering public-private partnerships in order to expand child care options.

I will quadruple Early Head Start, which I helped to create when I was First Lady, and increase Head Start funding to $8 billion by 2010.

I also have a plan to invest $10 billion provide universal voluntary pre-kindergarten for all four-year-olds, starting with children from low-income and non-English-speaking households. Once states have provided pre-K to that population, they may invest the remaining funds to serve younger children or otherwise meet the needs of the children and families in their state.

I will double over five years federal support for early intervention and mentoring programs to
benefit an additional one million middle-school students in high-risk schools. I will also invest
$100 million in a new public/private summer internship program. The summer months are
crucial for young people - without positive enrichment, they can lose ground academically,
further widening the achievement gap and increasing the changes that they will dropout of

I will support community-based approaches to re-engaging disconnected youth; I will double over five years education and job training opportunities available to reach more than 1.5 million young people, and I will provide to lower-income cities and communities $250 million in competitive grants to build or expand programs to re-engage at-risk youth.

In order to ensure that all of our students have the opportunities to reach their potentials, we need excellent teachers in our classrooms and strong leaders to chart the course to success in our schools. That's why I will invest $500 million in recruiting and retaining outstanding teachers
and principals in high-need areas. In addition, we cannot continue to write off a large percentage
of our students - the students, many of whom are of color, who do not finish high school.

That's why, in addition to supporting programs to keep youth on track, I also have plans to invest in promising, innovative approaches to help students graduate from high school. And I have a plan to make college more affordable and more accessible to all Americans, which I believe is necessary because, today, the most important doorway into the middle class is a post-secondary education.

At the heart of my plan, which I unveiled in October, is a new $3,500 partially refundable college tax credit. It will cover the full cost of tuition at community colleges and half the cost of tuition at the average public college or university. I will also increase the maximum Pell Grant, and I will maintain its value by adjusting it annually to take into account the rising costs of college tuition. I will provide $500 million to community colleges and $250 million to four-year colleges to strengthen their programs, rein in tuition and fees, and increase graduation rates so that all students reap the rewards of their postsecondary education.

Senator Clinton, thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions.

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