Hillary Clinton was not going to pick a Democratic favorite.
“I am absolutely delighted to see this incredibly diverse field, and especially to have more than one woman running for President of the United States,” said the former secretary of state, four years to the day since launching her own presidential campaign. In a surprise interview with CNN host and newspaper columnist Fareed Zakaria that concluded the 10th annual Women in the World Summit in New York, Clinton would, however, offer a little advice to the 18 Democrats who have announced so far.
“I think you really have to do two things simultaneously, and it’s challenging,” she said.
First, she said, you have to present what it is that you want to do: “What is your vision? What is your hope for our country? How do you see the future? What are you going to propose that will make a difference in the lives of Americans and maintain the values, the ideals, of America in a very complex world?”
At the same time, she continued, you also have to be able to counter “the diversion and distraction that we see, unfortunately, working by the current incumbent in the White House. So you have to do that balancing act, and I think that we have excellent candidates who are demonstrating their ability to do that.”
In a wide-ranging discussion that touched on everything from the shocking arrest of Julian Assange on April 11 to Bernie Sanders’ proposed “Medicare for All” policy, Clinton was passionate, reflective and — particularly when addressing policies of the Trump administration — candidly frustrated.
“Do you believe William Barr’s summary of the Mueller report?” Zakaria asked to laughter from the audience.
Smiling ruefully, Clinton replied, “Well, how can we? We deserve to see the Mueller report!” Describing the current situation as akin to The Twilight Zone, she suggested that U.S. Attorney General William Barr was “somebody who considers his principle duty to be protecting Donald Trump, not protecting the rule of law and the democracy that the Justice Department should be defending.”
When Zakaria mentioned Jamal Khashoggi and President Trump’s reluctance to penalize Saudi Arabia for fear of its effect on oil prices, Clinton was even more forthright, offering a fiery reminder of what, in her view, America stands for on the world stage.
“When you blow the top off and say that you are supporting autocrats, dictators, nationalists, you are forgetting the lessons of the 20th century. We fought the bloodiest war in human history — twice. We dealt [with] concentrations camps, the worst that people are capable of doing. Why did we set institutions like NATO, the EU? Why did we pass something called the Declaration of Human Rights? Because we wanted to contain those impulses. We wanted people to be held accountable.”
The difficult topic of immigration drew a more nuanced response from Clinton, seemingly aimed at members on both sides of the aisle. We cannot “demagogue the issue,” she said, but open borders are “not in anybody’s interests.”
She added, “For people who want to deny a problem, or people who don’t want to solve the problem but want to use it as a political issue — they’re both, in my view, failing.”
Clinton called for more immigration judges (“quadruple”) to be placed at the border so asylum claims can be processed quickly, humanely and in orderly fashion. “One of the worst things this administration has done is to separate those children and have no system that actually would tell you where they are. I would go to the big tech companies and I would say, ‘Okay, you’ve got 15 days. Give me a system so that I can keep track of everyone. I’m not going to lose anyone.'”
As for Bernie Sanders, her former adversary in her 2016 bid for the Democratic nomination, Zakaria’s inquiry about Medicare for All was parlayed by Clinton into a strong defense of the Affordable Care Act, which President Trump has attempted to dismantle. “You have to defend the Affordable Care Act. You have to defend it in court, in Congress,” Clinton insisted. “But at the same time, set that big goal.”
After 40 minutes, Zakaria finally asked the question that many at the Summit were waiting for: “Do you think the world would be different if it were led by women?”
“Of course!” Clinton laughed, to loud cheers from the audience. She pointed to the recent actions of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern following the terrorist attack in Christchurch on March 15. “Her reaching out to the Muslim community in New Zealand sent a message about how leaders should behave in the face of horrific violence conducted for ideological reasons. And I think that that was as strong a signal as we can get that, given the chance, many women will govern and lead differently.”