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Hillary Clinton on Gaza, ‘Hard Choices’ and being called a '20th century candidate'

Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives to a signing of her book
Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives to a signing of her book "Hard Choices", Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Ridgewood, N.J.
Julio Cortez/AP
Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives to a signing of her book
Cover of Hillary Clinton's book "Hard Choices."
Simon & Schuster

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded on Tuesday to charges from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that she is a "20th century candidate" by defending the Obama administration's first term and saying that "every election is about the future."

On Morning Edition Tuesday, Rubio said: 

"I think she's extremely vulnerable on her record. The truth of the matter is she was the Secretary of State during an administration that has had virtually no major successes on foreign policy. In fact, their failures on foreign policy are stark, and we'll remind them of them every single day, and she'll have to answer for that. And the other is I think she's just a 20th century candidate."

Clinton is currently touring the U.S. promoting her new memoir "Hard Choices," in which she writes about the four years she served as the nation's top diplomat under President Barack Obama. We were lucky enough to snag some time with her to discuss a number of issues, including Rubio's comments on her potential candidacy.

On Rubio's '20th century candidate' remark:

"I wrote a whole book called 'Hard Choices' that details a lot of the important successes of the first term of President Obama (and maybe I should send a copy of it to my Republican friends). Secondly, elections are about differences, as we know, but every election is about the future and certainly anyone who wishes to run for president has to make it clear how the experience that you've had in the past and what you believe and how you have acted on those beliefs will translate into positive results for the American people.

"I will be standing up and speaking out in favor of the changes that I think we need to make to improve life for middle-class Americans, to give every kid a chance to go to college without being bankrupted and disabled by student debt, to try and resolve our immigration challenges in a way that is keeping with our values, and so much else. I know that elections are about the future and I look forward in engaging in that kind of debate."

On whether she'll run for president:

"We have an election this November, which is a pretty consequential one, because it'll determine the control of the Senate, and obviously I strongly am committed to doing what I can to keep the Senate in Democratic hands. And so I think we all should be focused on that election and not look ahead to 2016. But by the end of the year, or early next year, people will start making decisions, and of course, I will be among them... 

"You certainly have to make the decision, when and how you go pubic with it, that's up to each individual, but from my perspective, I think it's incredibly important that we stay focused on these midterm elections — that historically have a lower turnout than presidential elections — because so much is at stake. After we've done everything we can for the 2014 elections, the Democratic Party, the country, we can turn our attention to the upcoming presidential race."

On medical marijuana and federal enforcement:

"Honestly, I don't think we've done enough research yet to say what the effects are and what they could be on different people with different physical or psychological issues, different ages — yes, medical first and foremost, we ought to be doing more to make sure that we know how marijuana would interact with other prescription drugs and the like. But we also have to know how even medical marijuana impacts our kids and our communities.

But the states are the laboratories of democracy, and we're seeing states pass laws that enable their citizens to have access to medical marijuana under certain conditions, so we have the opportunity to try to study those. And then Colorado and Washington have proceeded to permit recreational use. And at the same time, we're seeing the beginnings of important criminal justice reforms.

So I'm a big believer in acquiring evidence, and I think we should see what kind of results we get, both from medical marijuana and from recreational marijuana before we make any far-reaching conclusions... I think the feds should be attuned to the way marijuana is still used as a gateway drug and how the drug cartels from Latin America use marijuana to get footholds in states, so there can't be a total absence of law enforcement, but what I want to see, and I think we should be much more focused on this, is really doing good research so we know what it is we're approving."

On teacher tenure and the Vergara decision:

"I haven't read the Vergara decision, so I don't know the details, but I would make just a few points. First, I think everybody should agree that good teachers are at the heart of high-quality learning, and we need more cooperative partnerships between innovative unions, especially at the local level, and with local school districts, with parents, with teachers, and not the adversarial approach that I think has not worked to the benefit of our kids. And we have to get back to what really does work for kids, because these education debates are really toxic.


Anything that stands truly in the way based on reliable evidence to the well-being and educational attainment of our most disadvantaged kids we should tackle systematically. But I think it's probably unwise to be making education decisions by judicial decision."

On the conflict in Israel and Gaza:

We obviously want to help bring an end to the conflict in Gaza, we also want to support Israel’s right to self-defense. And we want to ensure that lethal rockets don’t continue to make their way to Gaza under the control of Hamas. You may have heard that American airlines have just been ordered by the FAA not to fly into Ben Gurion Airport because a rocket just landed very close to Ben Gurion Airport.  So that certainly is an issue that we have to be paying attention to.

Similarly, with Ukraine, when an unarmed civilian commercial airplane is shot down by insurgents who have been armed and equipped by Russia, that raises a lot of issues for anybody in America who is flying these days, so you have to look at all of this in a thoughtful way, and you have to meet high bars to do anything that might lead to anything with military support. 

...I’ve been on the phone many times with Prime Minister Netanyahu. I have a whole chapter in my book about negotiating the November 2012 cease fire that prevented a ground invasion by the Israelis into Gaza, because at that time Hamas was firing rockets into Israel…I would certainly be urging that he try to accomplish the military objectives — which I have to say Larry, are legitimate ones: To destroy the tunnels that are providing pathways into Israel by armed Hamas fighters and destroy the stockpiles of rockets that are getting more accurate and raining down now on the entire territory of Israel — and I would say, 'Mr. Prime Minister, please move as carefully and expeditiously as is possible to finish the military objectives, because although you do have a right to protect your country, we want to do everything we can to limit, if not eliminate, civilian casualties... I would urge the prime minister to accept any additional offers of cease fire, because Israel should demonstrate its willingness to end the military conflict, but of course, Hamas should be required to do the same."

On the embassy attack in Benghazi:

"I took general responsibility immediately, because I was responsible for the State Department and the people there, but as I write in a very thorough chapter in my book, I am not a security expert. I would not pretend to be one… Obviously it was a tragic event, and I immediately put together an independent review board and they found that there were problems in the assessment of security requests in the department…

I think it’s important for Americans to realize that our facilities around the world are often attacked. We had a terrible attack with Ronald Reagan was president — 258 Americans killed in Beirut. There were attacks when my husband was president. We lost 12 Americans and many Africans in attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania… It’s a dangerous world out there and we do the best we can, but we don’t retreat. We don’t say, 'OK, it’s a dangerous world, therefore we can’t be out there, and we can’t be picking up information, and we can’t representing the United States.'"


Hillary Rodham Clinton, author of the new memoir, Hard Choices (Simon & Schuster, 2014). She served as the United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013 and is former senator from New York from 2001 to 2009

Jonathan WilcoxRepublican Strategist; former speechwriter for Governor Pete Wilson

Matt Rodriguez, Democratic strategist, Rodriguez Strategies; former senior Obama advisor in 2008