Interview with Chris Matthews of MSNBC


Spoken by

Hillary Clinton

MATTHEWS: You know, we’re getting near closing time and closing arguments in the big fight in Iowa, and then in New Hampshire coming on quickly. Donald Trump is not going to debate on Fox tomorrow night. Will you debate on our debate? Will you show up?

CLINTON [via telephone]: Look, Chris, what I’ve said through my campaign is that I would look forward to another debate. I am, you know, anxious, if we can get something set up, to be able to be there. And so let’s try to make it happen.

MATTHEWS: Well, someone has to lead from the front. Will you be there, no matter what? Will you show up and wait and see? Will you be there waiting for Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley? Would you, in other words, lead the pack in showing up and committing to doing that?

CLINTON: Look, I’m ready for the debate, and I hope Senator Sanders will change his mind and join us. And I think the DNC and the campaign should be able to work this out. I’ve said for — you know, for a long time that I’d be happy to have more debates, and I hope we can get this done.

MATTHEWS: Well, if he doesn’t show up, will you?

CLINTON: Well, let’s hope that we can get it worked out. I don’t want to — you know, I don’t want to jump the gun and create more problems for everybody trying to get this worked out, so we can all come to agreement that the voters of New Hampshire and America deserve to see us, you know, debating before the New Hampshire primary.

MATTHEWS: So you won’t be there — just a last question on this. You won’t be there unless Bernie’s there.

CLINTON: Well, I’m not committing to that, either, Chris. I think we should have another debate. I think people want it. They have called for it. Folks have moved forward trying to get it set up. We’ve got, you know — look, 24 hours in a political campaign is an eternity.


CLINTON: We’ve got a little time to try to get everybody on board, which would certainly be my preference.

MATTHEWS: OK, you believe candidates should have the courage to face each other before the — before the caucuses, in other words. You think you should be there and he should be there.

CLINTON: I do. I think that — you know, I agreed, we all agreed to go with the process that the DNC had set up. And you know, I’ve been saying for a while that if they come up with more debates, I will be there. And now we’ve got a real, live possibility, and I — I personally think it would be great for the — you know, the primary. We’re moving into the caucus, as you know so well, on Monday.


CLINTON: And then once we come out of there, whatever happens, we should agree to debate in New Hampshire.

MATTHEWS: In other words, you’re sticking to your commitment, I will be there.

CLINTON: I will — I will debate. Now, as I say, I’d want — I want all the campaigns and the DNC to agree. That is my preference.


CLINTON: That’s what we’ve tried to, you know, do in our side of the ledger here.


CLINTON: And I’m pushing people to come to agreement so we can all get out there and debate before the New Hampshire primary.

MATTHEWS: Well, this is getting very sharply worded as we get closer to the caucuses. The word in “The New York Times” this morning, Madam Secretary, is that Senator Sanders is readying an attack ad against you. We don’t know whether he’s going to use it, but the language is basically that you’re in hock to Wall Street because of the speaking fees you’ve taken from Goldman Sachs. How do you respond or how will you respond to an eleventh-hour attack like that?

CLINTON: Well, first, it’s really disappointing, Chris. You know, Senator Sanders has started to get increasingly personal with his attacks. He even compared me to Dick Cheney last week, which, you know, is kind of a low blow. So it would be another escalation and a breaking of his pledge not to go negative. One of the things that I think has been great about the Democratic side is we really have focused on issues, while the Republicans have been hurling insults. And I think the people in Iowa want to go to the caucuses thinking about which one of us as president can actually make a difference in their lives, and that’s the case I’ve been focused on making. So you know, it would be a sharp departure by Senator Sanders. And you know, the other part of this, is anybody who knows me knows you can’t buy me. I mean, honestly, I’ve been standing up and fighting and getting knocked around for years, trying to get things done that I think would improve people’s lives. And I’m not going to stop, and that includes anybody trying to, you know, mess with our financial system.

MATTHEWS: Well, when he uses phrases like — dark phrases like, You can draw your own conclusions, as to whether you’re in hock to Goldman Sachs or anyone — is that — is that a low blow, You can draw your own conclusions?

CLINTON: Well, I think he’s trying to go to the line without going over it. And you know, clearly, some of the journalists covering us are starting to notice and call him out on it. But I feel very — you know, very positive and energized by what I’m seeing happening here in Iowa. And I know that I have the best plan to rein in Wall Street abuses, to make sure it doesn’t ever happen again. Lots of folks, from Barney Frank to Paul Krugman, have said that’s the case because I don’t just go after the big banks. You know, we already have the authority to do that under Dodd-Frank, and I have said I would use that authority if they were posing a systemic risk to our economy. But equally importantly, we’ve got to go after the shadow banking sector. You know, let’s not forget Lehman Brothers, AIG, Countrywide, Rapovia. And let’s also remind people, Chris, that, clearly, the billionaires, as Bernie likes to say — the billionaires have chosen sides. They’re running ads against me and trying to, you know, kind of hoodwink Democrats into voting against me because they know exactly what I will do because they’ve seen me in action. So whether it’s, you know, Karl Rove or the hedge fund guys with their own super-PAC, or Joe Ricketts jumping in now with a kind of ham-handed effort to look like he was, you know, going against Bernie, when the real point was to, you know, stir opposition to me. I take that as perversely flattering and as the single best refutation of what Senator Sanders is trying to imply.

MATTHEWS: Well, you’re giving us a real rogue’s gallery here of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. [laughter]

Anyway, let me ask you about the slogans. You used a phrase the other day, these shouting slogans. Now, I know what you mean — I’m going to build a wall across the Rio Grande — across — along the Rio Grande River. I’m going to make the Mexicans pay for it. But on the Democratic side, Senator Sanders says things like free health care, or rather, government-paid health care for life, as a right. He talks about free tuition when you go to a great school like Berkeley or Madison, Wisconsin. Free! Free! Is that what you mean, this — we had a young guy on yesterday from South Carolina who switched from you to Senator Sanders, and he — I went through this list of free things and I said, Where’s the money come from? And he says, Well, we put a man on the moon. We can do this. And that kind of fantastic — what do you call it — appeal. And then I heard from Sanders the other day that they’re going to stay left, right to the general, they’re not going to make any appeal to the middle. How do you beat somebody who promises to go hard left, right to November, and offers all this stuff to people who are 20 years old, 22 years old, and they don’t have to pay much taxes now, but you say, Look, you’re going to get free — no more tuition bills, no more bills! You’re going to have no health care the rest of your life, so forget having to buy insurance. It’s a pretty good offer. Is that what you mean by shouting slogans?

CLINTON: Well, I was really more referring to the Republicans, as you pointed out initially. And I have been, you know, pointing out the differences in the approach between myself and Senator Sanders because I know that it’s more important we actually make progress than fall back into gridlock. And let’s take health care as an example. You know, we’ve been trying, as Democrats, since Harry Truman to get on the path to universal coverage. Before it was called “Obama care,” it was called “Hillary care,” and I have the scars to prove it. And I was thrilled when President Obama passed and signed the Affordable Care Act. We are now at 90 percent coverage. I sure think we ought to improve it. I’ve got plans to get the costs down and make sure we do go after high prescription drug costs and some of the other drivers of health care costs. But I think it’s a lot smarter to try to go from 90 percent to 100 percent than to throw our country into another contentious debate about health care. Where’s the money going to come from? Who’s going to be paying it? If you have health care you like, if you’re under a private plan, do you have to give it up? If you’re on Medicare and you work, do you have to pay more taxes? All these questions that would be thrown back into the public arena and we’d have to start all over again from 0 to 100 percent. I just think we want to stay on the path of making progress. Now, some people, you know, say, Oh my gosh, that’s so pragmatic. It’s not, you know, soaring, or whatever they say. Well, I’m out there talking to people who prescription drug costs have gone up from $200 to $14,000. I’m talking to people whose insulin cost has gone up three times. That’s not a new drug. That doesn’t have any new research in it. I’m talking to people who are thanking me for the Affordable Care Act because the lifetime limit, the cap has been lifted. And a man yesterday in Davenport said to me, I’m so grateful because I’ve got a granddaughter with a congenital heart condition. These people can’t wait, Chris. We can’t wait for another big debate that promises, you know, the sky when we know we’ve got to deliver on the ground. We’ve got to help people deal with the problems, the issues, the challenges they’re facing right now. We have to restore faith that our government can work. And that is what I intend to do as president, and I’m going to keep fighting for that. And I respect the goal because Senator Sanders and I share the same goal. We want to get to universal coverage. I think my way will get us there faster and provide the health care that the people here in Iowa are telling me they are desperately, desperately in need of.

MATTHEWS: Last question, and it’s so important to this campaign. I think so. I know you think so. It has to do with history. And it’s not the only issue in the campaign, obviously, but if you look at the American Constitution — and you’ve studied constitutional law — and the fact is that it wasn’t until after the civil war that African-American men were given the right to vote in the 15th Amendment. And then women didn’t get it until after the First World War. There’s a long lag there. Obama was elected president. You might get elected president. You may well get elected president. Do you think it’s — you think young American women — say, young women in college, 18 to 22, 23 — do they get it, how long this struggle has been and the fact that it’s a precarious struggle that could fall back? Do they know that all the rights to choice, to equality at workplace, where they do get it, all were fought for? Do they get it? That’s my simple question. I don’t know if they do. Do you think they get it?

CLINTON: Look, I think that a lot of young people — and I wouldn’t limit it to women. I think young people of every background, every racial, ethnic, religious background, are, you know, trying to understand how best they can participate in our political system and what the stakes are for them. And of course, you know, if you haven’t been through a lot of these struggles, it’s easy either not to know about them or to think they didn’t go far enough or that, you know, everything is taken care of. So we’ve got the two extremes of the argument. But here’s what I’m hearing, at least from the young women who come to see me. They say, Hey, OK, you’re for equal pay. What are you going to make sure I get it? I had a young woman the other day here in Iowa say, I want to go to law school. How can I be sure that if I work hard and do well and get a job, I’m going to get equal pay? And I said, OK, that’s the right question because we’ve been fighting for this. We’ve made progress, but not near enough. Here’s exactly what I think we need to do to get it. Or young women who say, you know, I can’t balance family and work. I had a young woman come to see me holding her 9-month-old baby and she said, you know, I can’t go back to work until I get my baby stabilized. I need paid family leave. What are you going to do about it? So I think what’s happening is, as the campaign goes on, a lot of young people — and let’s focus on young women — are moving from the sort of general, either we haven’t gone far enough or those fights are over and I don’t have to worry about it, to being much more specific. And that is a good development because at the end of our efforts here in the primaries, and if I’m so fortunate enough to get the nomination, then I think we fight out an election between a party that believes we’ve got to continue to address the lacks in our drive for equality, our drive for justice, whether it’s racism, sexism, homophobia, you name it — we need to address those gaps, and the other side doesn’t even want to admit they exist. So I think we’re going to have a very positive reaction in the general election between, you know, the big deniers on the Republican side, and you know, Let’s make progress, get things done, on my side.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. One last — just to clarify what you said about the debate. Would you like the chairman — the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to approve the MSNBC/NBC debate next week?

CLINTON: I would like the chairmen of the party and the campaigns to agree that we can debate in New Hampshire next week.


CLINTON: That is what I’m hoping will happen.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much. It’s been an honor to have you on, Secretary Hillary Clinton from Iowa. Thanks for joining us on HARDBALL tonight.

CLINTON: Thanks, Chris. Good to talk to you again.