STEPHANOPOULOS: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton going at it this week as we begin this campaign in 2016 just two weeks from the Iowa caucuses.
Secretary Clinton joins us now from Charleston, South Carolina, ahead of tonight’s big debate.
Good morning, Madam Secretary.
CLINTON: Good morning, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to that back and forth between you and Bernie Sanders, but first the news that the American hostages from Iran are heading home this morning. Donald Trump not giving the president any credit and Marco Rubio says it’s going to create incentives for other U.S. adversaries to take hostages.
Does he have a point?
CLINTON: Well, look, I’m pleased, like I hope everybody is, that we have American citizens coming home this morning from Iran. They were unjustly held there, and I did a lot of work on these issues when Americans were being picked up, falsely charged and imprisoned, to get them home. So I applaud the fact that that’s happened.
We still don’t see Bob Levinson coming home, so we have unfinished questions and business still. But I think this is a part of what we’re going to be pursuing—persistent, patient diplomacy.
Today’s also the day that we have verified the Iranians have followed through on the requirements under the nuclear agreement. They have shipped out the vast majority, I think it’s up to 98 percent, of their enriched uranium. They have poured cement into one of the reactors we worried about because of a plutonium potential threat. They have destroyed centrifuges.
So this is the kind of smart diplomacy I was proud to be a part of in the first administration of President Obama that we’re just going to have to be persistent with, because we have a lot of problems with Iran—their aggressive behavior, their destabilizing of neighboring states, their continuing military support for Assad and so much else.
But the fact that we’ve put the lid on the nuclear weapons program, the fact that we got our prisoners back, I think is a reason for good news.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s get to the campaign right now.
A strange series of events yesterday. The super PAC coordinating with you put out word that they’d be demanding to release of Bernie Sanders’ health records. Sanders campaign struck back, calling that vile. Your campaign disavowed it. It appeared to go away.
So what is relevant here and what’s not?
Should age and health be an issue in this campaign?
CLINTON: Oh, look, you know, I put out my medical records. I think you’ve been around long enough to know, George, this is all part of the expectation.
But I think it’s fair to say that I share a lot of the same goals with Senator Sanders about what we need to do on behalf of our country. But we have differences. And that’s what I’m focusing on now. We’re going to have a spirited debate, I expect, tonight in Charleston. Certainly Senator Sanders has been pointing out differences.
And one of the issues that I have drawn a very stark contrast on has been guns.
You know, I have pointed out repeatedly, because I think it’s a critical issue, that Senator Sanders has, for years, voted many times on behalf of the NRA gun lobby position. And one of the most egregious of those votes was the vote to give immunity from all liability to gun makers and sellers. Now, I was happy when –
STEPHANOPOULOS: He now supports taking that away.
CLINTON: Well, he flip-flopped last night, said that he would sign on to a bill that is currently pending in the House and Senate to repeal that liability. And I’m delighted that he has had a change of heart. I think that’s all for the good.
Now I hope he will take a hard look at what we call the Charleston loophole. That’s a provision he also voted for, that gives a gun to a potential buyer after three days whether or not the background check has been completed. And it’s called the Charleston loophole because that’s how the killer in Charleston got his gun when, if there had been a little more time, information would have come to light that would have shown he was prohibited. And, of course, we know he used that gun to go to Mother Emanuel Church and murder nine faithful people at Bible study.
So I want to see movement against the gun lobby, because we cannot continue to lose 90 people a day, 33,000 a year, to gun violence. And I welcome Senator Sanders moving on one of the issues he was wrong on. I hope he will continue to move.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we’re going to ask him about that in a few minutes.
Another big difference on health care. He wants to replace Obamacare with a single payer system, Medicare for all.
So are you against that because it’s a bad idea or because it’s not practical? Would a single payer system be better if you could get it passed?
CLINTON: Well, first, I share the goal of universal health care. You know very well that I threw myself into that back in ’93 and ’94 and still have the scars to show for it. So the goal is we want everybody to have access to quality, affordable health care. But I think we should be defending the Affordable Care Act. This is a historic achievement for our country. It certainly is for President Obama. We are making progress. I want us to protect it, to defend it and to improve it.
The Republicans keep trying to repeal it and offer nothing in place of it. So rather than tear it apart or get rid of it and start all over again in a contentious national debate, let’s do what I’m proposing, to get costs down, get out of pocket costs down, get more support for families who face big medical costs. Let’s deal with the rising cost of prescription drugs. That, I think, is the right way for the country to go and it certainly is what I’m advocating.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also have your differences over Wall Street. We’ve heard a little bit of that going into this. And I was struck this morning, American Crossroads, a super PAC founded by Karl Rove, who, of course, worked for President George W. Bush, has just launched this online ad in Iowa.
[begin video clip]
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hillary Clinton’s gotten 54 times more money from Wall Street interests than from all of Iowa. Hillary rewarded Wall Street with the $700 billion bailout. Then Wall Street made her a multi-millionaire.
CLINTON: I represented Wall Street.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Huh, you sure did, Hillary.
[end video clip]
STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, that echoes the points being made by Bernie Sanders in his campaign.
Are you worried that your ties to Wall Street are weighing you down?
CLINTON: Well, first, let me say I think it shows how desperate the Republicans are to prevent me from becoming the nominee. I find that, in a perverse way, an incredibly flattering comment on their anxiety, because they know that not only will I stand up for what the country needs, I will take it to the Republicans. I have a track record which shows I know how to stand up to them. And I will win.
So I think this just proves my point, that I am the strongest candidate to go up against any Republican.
With the back and forth on Wall Street, I think it’s, you know, look, I have stood up to Wall Street even though I did represent New York. I have advocated for changes. But what I find sort of strange is, number one, the ad that Senator Sanders ran was really against all Democrats who ever took any contributions from anybody associated with the financial industry. That would include President Obama, who took more anyone ever had in 2008. That did not stop him from turning around and imposing the toughest rules on Wall Street since the 1930s. The same with Barney Frank, who has actually written about this.
You know, that is just a false charge.
But in addition, I think it’s important for us to look at our respective plans. In fact, everyone who has offered an opinion about the plan that Senator Sanders has proposed and the one I put together has said mine is tougher, mine is more comprehensive, it would be more effective, because it tries to get not just at the problems of yesterday, but the potential problems of tomorrow, going after shadow banking and investment banks and big insurance companies, like what we saw in ’08 where Lehman Brothers and AIG were principal causes of what happened to us.
And I think, finally, I would say that I have gotten maybe 3 percent of my – less than 3 percent of my contributions this time from anybody associated with financial industry activities. I’ve gotten so much more from students and teachers. Ninety percent of my contributions are from smaller donors and 60 percent from women.
So I’m just – you know, I didn’t know about Karl Rove’s ad against me, but it kind of boosts me up, because I assume he thinks that I am going to get the nomination and he’s trying to interfere with the Iowa caucus to maybe confuse people on their way to caucus for me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Madam Secretary, thanks very much for your time this morning.
CLINTON: Thank you.
Good to talk to you, George.