Hitting All the Sunday Talk Shows, Clinton Says a Lot but Reveals Little

By Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 24, 2007

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared on all five talk shows yesterday morning and demonstrated a particularly senatorial skill: the art of the filibuster.

Asked by ABC's George Stephanopoulos whether she would withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq during a first term as president, Clinton (D-N.Y.) gave a simple answer: She did not know.

But she used more than 225 words to say so. "You know, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals and make pledges, because I don't know what I'm going to inherit, George. I don't know and neither do any of us know what will be the situation in the region. How much more aggressive will Iran have become?" Clinton said. "What will be happening in the Middle East? How much more of an influence will the chaos in Iraq have in terms of what's going on in the greater region? Will we have pushed al-Qaeda in Iraq out of their strongholds with our new partnership with some of the tribal sheiks or will they have regrouped and retrenched?"

She continued: "I don't know, and I think it's not appropriate to be speculating. I can tell you my general principles and my goal. I want to end the war in Iraq. I want to do so carefully, responsibly, with the withdrawal of our troops, also, with the withdrawal of a lot of our civilian employees, the contractors who are there, and the Iraqis who have sided with us.

"We have a huge humanitarian refugee crisis on our hands. We have millions of Iraqis who have been displaced, some internally, some into other countries. The problems we're going to face because of the failed policies and the poor decision-making of this administration are rather extraordinary and difficult, and I don't want to speculate about how we're going to be approaching it until I actually have the facts in my hand and the authority to be able to make some decisions."

Clinton did two hours of interviews by remote from a furnished barn in her back yard in Chappaqua, N.Y., part of an aggressive media blitz in the week after she offered up her plan for universal health-care coverage. Her campaign expressed pride that she had driven the news agenda, forcing even President Bush to talk about health insurance.

Her trip through the Sunday gantlet was designed to solidify the impression that Clinton is strong, indomitable and all but inevitable as the Democratic nominee and next president.

Clinton showed her lighter side, laughing uproariously when asked by Fox News's Chris Wallace why she and her husband have such a "hyperpartisan view of politics."

"Well, Chris, if you had walked even a day in our shoes over the last 15 years, I'm sure you'd understand," Clinton said. Her answer drew swift condemnation from the Republican National Committee, which issued a statement saying that "apparently Hillary Clinton believes the serious issues facing our nation are a laughing matter."

Clinton drew other questions -- about her former donor Norman Hsu, and about remarks her surrogate, former governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, made about Republican front-runner Rudolph W. Giuliani's three marriages. Clinton distanced herself from Vilsack's comments.

"We are not running a campaign that goes down that road," she said.

Above all, though, in a morning of appearances that yielded virtually no news, Clinton illustrated her ability to talk. And talk. And talk.

"Well, Tim, I'm proud that we tried in '93 and '94," Clinton said, asked by NBC's Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" about her earlier attempts on health care. "We were trying to do the right thing. Obviously, we made a lot of mistakes. But I am proud that we set a goal of trying to provide health care to every American. And I didn't quit. . . . I was very involved in passing the [State] Children's Health Insurance Program and getting vaccines for kids to be immunized and making sure that the drugs that they took were appropriately tested for children. . . . So this has remained a passion of mine. But I've also learned a lot of lessons."

She continued, as if delivering her health-care speech for a second time: "This is not government-run health care; it does not create any new bureaucracy. In fact, it is very clear in saying that if you are satisfied with the health care you have, then you keep it. . . . But if you're one of the 47 million Americans without health insurance, or one of the many millions that have health insurance except when it comes time to get the care that your doctor says you need, and the insurance company refuses payment, then you are going to have access to the same health choices menu that members of Congress do. I proposed that back in '93, '94, and ran into a firestorm of opposition from the Congress. But I think a lot has changed in the last 14 years. A consensus has developed about what we need to do to try to reach quality, affordable health care."

She went on, uninterrupted: "So among the many choices that will now be available to Americans, similar to what are available to members of Congress, we will have a public plan option for people who wish to choose that. If it is outside the reach of people -- because remember, Medicaid will still take care of the very poor, we will still have the Children's Health Insurance Program for children. But if it is out of the reach of affordability, we're going to have health-care tax credits for individuals, and we're going to try to provide some health-care tax credits as well to small businesses."

She continued for several more minutes, saying, among other things, that a consensus had developed, that the automobile industry is now in favor of a health-care overhaul and that her plan "builds on what works in America, but takes aim at what doesn't and comes up with some very common-sense ways of trying to fix our problems."

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company