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'Goldwater Girl': Putting Context To A Resurfaced Hillary Clinton Interview

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There's a clip of a Hillary Clinton interview making the rounds on the Internet. Let's hear.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SIMON: I mean, did you ever, back in the '60s, between when, I believe, you were Goldwater Girl and...

HILLARY CLINTON: That's right.

SIMON: ...Whatever you became politically?

CLINTON: That's right. And I feel like my political beliefs are rooted in the conservatism that I was raised with.

SIMON: Hey, I know that interviewer. Hillary Clinton was in the White House, married to President Clinton and promoting her book, "It Takes A Village." That clip's gaining renewed attention because, of course, Barry Goldwater was a Republican known as Mr. Conservative. The Internet is abuzz with people who charge this exchange demonstrates something about Hillary Clinton. NPR's Tamara Keith is covering the entire 2016 presidential campaign. She heard the entire interview this week - bless her - joins us in the studios. Thanks, Tam, that must have been painful.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Oh, it was good times - 13 minutes.

SIMON: I - we don't get that kind of time anymore, do we?

KEITH: We don't.

SIMON: Barry Goldwater was the 1964 Republican presidential nominee. What do some opponents of Mrs. Clinton think this shows about her?

KEITH: Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act. And some liberal opponents of Hillary Clinton said that Goldwater wanted to re-segregate the United States, and they've criticized her for supporting him.

SIMON: He was not, on the other hand, David Duke or even Strom Thurmond.

KEITH: No, he - and he, in fact, did not want to re-segregate the United States. And the other thing to note is that Hillary Clinton wasn't old enough to vote for Barry Goldwater when she supported him. Really the larger context of that clip, which is not going around on the Internet, includes, leading up to that point, a very long discussion you had with her about Whitewater and other controversies surrounding the Clinton White House, which she blamed and continues to blame on Republicans.

SIMON: What did your set of, if I may, fresh young ears notice in this interview?

KEITH: (Laughter) You know, what really stands out is that if you take out a lot of the details, there's a lot of this that sounds like it could happen today. The discussion of Whitewater has echoes of the email scandal. And at one point, you asked Clinton about how her younger self, who worked on the Nixon impeachment as a young lawyer, how she would have reacted to - at the time there was this issue where all of these Whitewater documents had been missing and then suddenly reappeared.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SIMON: I was intrigued by something. You were a lawyer in the House Judiciary Committee...

CLINTON: That's right.

SIMON: ...During the Watergate impeachment hearings.

CLINTON: That's right.

SIMON: And I - I'm just wondering that - if you could put yourself back in that frame of mind once again - if the Nixon White House had come to your committee and said those records you've been asking for for two years, we found them, suddenly we found them, and here they are, would you have accepted that explanation with a straight face?

CLINTON: I think we would have been delighted. The problem back then, you'll remember, is the documents were destroyed, tapes were missing 18 and a half minutes, the White House was not cooperating. They were claiming executive privilege on every piece of paper. I think the contrast is so dramatic. We want the truth to get out. We would just love to have this matter brought to an end.

KEITH: And what really stands out to me with that is how much it sounds like something she said not that long ago about the ongoing controversy over her use of a private email server for public business while she was secretary of state. Here is just a little clip from the press conference she had last year about that server.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

CLINTON: I heard just a little while ago the State Department announced they would begin to post some of my emails, which I'm very glad to hear because I want it all out there.

KEITH: She wants it all out there.

SIMON: Let me return to the discussion about the Goldwater clip that's been making the rounds of the web. That wasn't really what I was getting at.

KEITH: No (laughter). As far as I can tell, what you were getting at was something entirely different. And your question, in light of today, seems rather prescient.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SIMON: Would you ever run for office yourself? Do you ever think about that?

CLINTON: Oh, I don't think so. No.

SIMON: I mean, did you ever, back in the '60s, between when, I believe you were Goldwater Girl and...

CLINTON: That's right.

SIMON: ...And whatever you became politically?

CLINTON: That's right. And I feel like my political beliefs are rooted in the conservatism that I was raised with. I don't recognize this new brand of Republicanism that's afoot now, which I consider to be very reactionary, not conservative in many respects. I'm very proud that I was a Goldwater Girl. And then my political beliefs changed over time. But I've always thought that the role of citizen, the role of advocate, were as important in our democracy as running for office. And so it's not anything I've ever, you know, seriously considered.

KEITH: So I guess you never say never (laughter).

SIMON: Yeah, times and circumstances change.

KEITH: Things change.

SIMON: Twenty years from now, I hope they'll call this interview prescient, Tam. Thanks very much.

KEITH: Oh, I sure hope you. You're welcome.

SIMON: For those who are interested, the full audio from that 1996 interview and a transcript are now on our website. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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