Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'I Bring A Different Perspective To the Campaign This Time,' Clinton Says

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began her day here with a fundraiser. Tonight she's back on the campaign trail.

HILLARY CLINTON: So you have to be adjusted to - you're going to be in San Antonio, and then tonight I'll be in Burlington, Iowa. So you...

SHAPIRO: In the middle of this, she sat down with us for an in-depth conversation. The Democratic presidential context is turning out to be closer than she would prefer. In Iowa, Bernie Sanders has quickly narrowed the gap in the polls. There are distinct parallels with 2008 when Barack Obama came from behind to win the race. I asked Clinton if she's having flashbacks.

CLINTON: No, I'm really not. I feel very positive about the organization we've built, the enthusiasm and energy of the people who are literally showing up in below freezing temperatures to canvas for me. My precinct teams are really all so focused on doing well in the caucus. We're going to have to work hard, though. I always thought that would be the case, and that's part of the job. You've got to work hard as president. Nobody's giving the job away. You've got to get out there and earn it, and that's what I try to do every single day.

SHAPIRO: What, apart from the changes in your ground game, which you've talked about changing since 2008 - the infrastructure - what have you learned since your 2008 defeat about the American voter - the Democratic primary voter - that has changed your approach this time?

CLINTON: Well, I have to say, Ari, I think perhaps I've changed more. Having served for four years as Secretary of State has given me the kind of perspective that really fuels my understanding, my proposals about how we keep us safe at home and how we work with our friends and allies to try to keep the world more peaceful, secure and, hopefully, prosperous. So I bring a different perspective to the campaign this time.

SHAPIRO: One of the things that seems to appeal to voters so much about Bernie Sanders and about Donald Trump is their visceral anger that they convey on the stump. What makes you really angry?

CLINTON: Well, lots of things do. Most recently, what happened in Flint, Mich., makes me really angry. The idea that you would have a community in the United States of America of nearly 100,000 people who were drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water infuriates me. And that is a fundamental failure of government to protect the very people we represent, so I understand why people get angry. They're angry about the Great Recession, which so knocked everybody flat. I understand that, but I also know that once you've vented your anger, once you've gotten out there and roused all of those really strong passions, you've got to do something.

SHAPIRO: But to take Flint, Mich., as an example - you talked about this on Sunday night at the debate. And you said, I was angry about Flint, Mich., so I went on TV and talked about it, and I sent an aide, and I put out a statement. And a lot of people said, if you were so angry, why didn't you go? You know, you're pinballing all over the country. If this is something that really gets you in the gut, why not go there?

CLINTON: Well, I think that's really unfair. Number one, as soon as I heard about it, I sent my aides. You know, I didn't want to go off half-cocked. I wanted to know what was happening and what the facts were. Let's get the facts first. You know, I am not someone who goes off half-cocked. I like to actually know what the facts are. I know that puts me at odds with some people these days in our political environment, including...

SHAPIRO: Are you referring to Senator Sanders?

CLINTON: Well, I'm referring mostly to the Republicans who seem to be very fact-adverse. So what I did was to gather the information, then I immediately called for action. And I thought the action would be forthcoming because, clearly, if I had been in a position of responsibility, it would have been. But then it was clear unless the governor asked the president to make the order, it couldn't happen. So I then, as you know, went on "Rachel Maddow" and said the governor needs to ask for the help that is required to help the people he represents. Within two hours, he did. I think that's a pretty good track record.

SHAPIRO: Do you think he did it because you went on "Rachel Maddow" and said he needs to do this?

CLINTON: Well, you know, I lived a lot of years in Arkansas, and one of my favorite saying I learned is, if you find a turtle on a fence post, it didn't get there by accident. I think it was quite telling that the governor made his decision two hours after I really challenged him to do so.

SHAPIRO: Well, Secretary Clinton, I know we have to wrap up but the last question I wanted to ask you - you have been open about the fact that you maintain your health on the campaign trail by eating raw jalapeno peppers.

CLINTON: (Laughter) It's true.

SHAPIRO: Where did that practice come from? Where did you get that?

CLINTON: (Laughter) Well, I don't want everybody listening to think this is a good idea because they may have a different constitution than I have. But back when, you know, my husband was running in '92, I read an article about the special immune-boosting (laughter) characteristics of hot peppers. And I thought, well, that's interesting because, you know, campaigning is pretty demanding. And so I started adding hot peppers, and then I got into eating them raw wherever they weren't really, really too hot. And all I can tell you - knock on wood - is that maybe that's one of the reasons I'm so healthy and I have so much stamina and endurance out there today. But I can't do them all, so if you're out there listening, don't meet me with a raw habanero and say OK, take a bite (laughter).

SHAPIRO: That's Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. You'll hear more of my interview with her elsewhere in the program about the latest questions surrounding her private email account and, tomorrow on Morning Edition, how she thinks she'd get along with a new generation of Republican congressional leaders. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.