July 28, 2015
Hillary Clinton covered a wide swath of issues — many dealing
specifically with rural economic development, opportunities for Iowa
small towns — in a 23-minute interview with the Daily Times Herald
Clinton, who logged more than a million miles of travel as secretary of state and represented the heavily rural New York state in the U.S. Senate, talked extensively about small-business opportunities in Iowa, the value of high-speed Internet and using rural cooperatives as an inspiration for similar structures to boost local economies.
She also considered — for the first time, according to her own account — the lack of rural representation on the U.S. Supreme Court.
On the political front, Clinton, discussed the potential of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, serving as her running mate, and brushed aside any suggestions that lingering sexism would confound her White House ambitions.
Speaking with the Daily Times Herald in the library of Dr. Steven and Jill Kraus’s rural Carroll home, Clinton also addressed questions about abortion and the National Consumer Product Safety Commission’s work on head trauma.
Additionally, Clinton, a former first lady and a national figure since the early 1990s, discussed the changing nature of public life, of campaigning surrounded by thousands of cellphone cameras and “selfie”-seekers.
Hillary Clinton: How are things going in Carroll these days?
Daily Times Herald: We have a labor shortage. We could use more people here. It’s sort of the same story around us in Carroll County.
Hillary Clinton: That’s the good news-bad news story. You have the chance for more jobs. You just can’t get people recruited to do them. I think Iowa is doing pretty well in this recovery. The last time I checked, your unemployment rate was slightly less than 5 percent. So you’re getting a tight labor market, and there’s just going to have to be more recruitment of people right? Across the board.
Daily Times Herald: Former President Jimmy Carter says the No. 1 problem in the world is violence against women. Is he right?
Hillary Clinton: He certainly is right that the failure to give rights and opportunities to women is the great unfinished business of this century, and that violence against women in the home, in the community, in conflict, is a growing and serious problem. So he’s right on target.
Daily Times Herald: As you point out in your book “Hard Choices” you’ve logged extensive miles traveling the world. As you travel Iowa — today you came from Ames along Highway 30, saw the new casino going up and other things — as you’re driving and you recall some of these trips overseas, does it spark any ideas, Mrs. Secretary, in terms of potential trade opportunities or ideas for agriculture, links maybe that we’re not pursuing that you think we could.
Hillary Clinton: That’s a great question. When I was a senator from New York, as you may know, at that time the second-biggest industry in New York was agriculture. I think it’s dropped to three or four now, but it was mostly dairy and fruits and vegetables. We have a lot of small towns that are very reminiscent of what I see as I drive around Iowa.
I worked hard to create a system to help small businesses put their business on the Internet. This was back in 2001 to 2006, and we worked with eBay. We helped to build websites. We really worked to try to connect our small towns and businesses to the global marketplace. So I think there still is a great opportunity.
You have to get access to high-speed Internet, and we haven’t done that yet in most rural areas of our country. When I talk about infrastructure and the need to build, I’m talking not just about our physical infrastructure, but the need to get broadband as pervasive as we got electricity. As we all know, we didn’t leave electricity just to the utility companies. They were happy to wire towns and cities, but not so interested in going into rural areas where it was more expensive and the profit margin was very low. So we came up with rural electric cooperatives, and we did a lot that brought the power of the federal government to the local community by empowering entities to wire America.
I think we’ve got to come up with smart ways to get broadband everywhere, so when you’re traveling, whether it’s route 30, or any other part of the state, and you see people’s homes or businesses, how are they going to expand their market unless they are connected to the global marketplace?
I also believe, just as we have historically with agriculture, had cooperatives, you know, the old cooperative model, I really believe we have to reinvent cooperatives for the future.
What do I mean by that? If you take like small businesses in a small town a lot of times they each pay for all of the services they need. The small dry cleaner, the small retail outlet, the small hardware store, everybody goes off and they hire their own accountant, they hire somebody to advise them about marketing, whatever. I think we should create more cooperatives in the retail world, just like we have in the agricultural world, to cut expenses and to be able to channel some of those saved resources into economic development and into a broader market outreach by small towns.
I’ll tell you a quick story from my experience in New York, actually two little anecdotes. There was a man in a really small town up in the Adirondacks who made superb fly-fishing rods. He sold maybe one every two or three weeks, and it was all word of mouth. We helped him design a website, we put him on the Internet, we connected him up with eBay, and all of a sudden, he was getting orders from Norway, from Italy, from all over the world, people who would never come to his small town, or would never hear of him.
Another story: a woman made beautiful handmade soaps, and we did the website, we did the work with eBay, and somebody who worked for Oprah discovered her soaps, and Oprah decided she wanted to place a $40,000 order. That was more than twice as much as this woman ever made in a year. She had to get everybody off the streets, everybody in her family, everybody to come in to make the soaps, so she could fulfill the order. Really, you don’t know what you can possibly sell, until you’re connected. I think that’s one of the best and smartest investments for towns and counties and states to make these days.
Daily Times Herald: A lot of the political chattering class and media almost seem to have a humility meter on you. If you deviate from it, they’ll pounce on it. Yet at the same time, you have Mr. Trump flying in here on a plane with his name emblazoned, “Trump,” and he seems to soar in the polls with each provocation or outrageous remark. Do you see any gender bias or sexism in that?
Hillary Clinton: Well, you know, Doug, I just accept the fact that there’s a double standard in politics, just like there is a double standard in life, and if I’m going to be in the arena, I just have to work extra hard to overcome whatever bias there still may exist, and not to shy away from what I believe, and what I will fight for, including women’s economic opportunities, and particularly equal pay for equal work. I feel really good about where the campaign is, but I know that I seem to be the object of a lot of attention coming from the other side of the aisle and other places out there.
Daily Times Herald: I went to college and am close friends with Elliot Kaye, chairman of the National Consumer Product Safety Commission. I am probably the only Iowa reporter and newspaper owner who will ask you about the National Consumer Product Safety Commission, but I spent some time with Elliot in the last month, and he’s been really focused — every day he gets a report of how people have died in certain accidents, like kids getting hung in the window blinds — he’s put a real focus on head injuries, head trauma, and has made some nice relationships with industry, the NFL, and so forth to go after that. We’re about ready to start football practice here in Iowa. It’s a big part of our culture. What are your thoughts on that, on head trauma?
Hillary Clinton: Let me first say that when I was both first lady and senator, I paid a lot of attention to the Consumer Product Safety Commission because it is a watchdog and we really need it. It has through recalls and drawing attention to a lot of problems over the last 20 years, it has saved so many lives. It sounded the alarm on flammable pajamas.
I will always support the commission and always support people who are doing the right thing by it. I’m glad he’s going after head trauma, because when I was a senator, I became very committed to working with the military on traumatic brain injury. It became the signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, often invisible to the eye, but profoundly damaging.
I introduced legislation. I worked to get more research and more support for people in our military who were affected by head injuries. And then, as you know, I suffered a concussion. Back in December of 2012, I got dehydrated, got food poisoning on a trip, one of my last trips (as secretary of state).
Daily Times Herald: I don’t think it’s affected you. Some Republicans do.
Hillary Clinton: Yeah, well, anything they can say about me.
I was very lucky. I just recovered and everything was fine. But I learned a lot, about not just concussions from military, but concussions from sports, concussions from accidents, particularly car accidents, and how we are just at the beginning of trying to begin to understand what do we try to do to help people.
It is a really serious problem, because we’ve ignored it for a long time. We’re kind of like “shake it off.” You’re knocked down on the football field, the soccer field. You get an elbow on the basketball floor. You get shook up in an auto accident, everybody’s kind of like, “Well fine, you know, look you don’t have any injuries. Just kind of go home, rest for a day.” But we now know the brain is so much more affected by some of these head injuries than we did before.
I’m a very strong supporter of doing more research and figuring out how we categorize different sorts of head injuries so we can treat them appropriately.
Daily Times Herald: In 1992, your husband selected a running mate that really wasn’t based on geography, balancing geography, or ideology. He seemed to pick somebody who reinforced his own strengths, his own character. Using that history as a guide, do you think another Northeasterner, another woman, perhaps Elizabeth Warren (a U.S. senator from Massachusetts) could be your running mate? If you follow what your husband did, she would be your Al Gore, so to speak.
Hillary Clinton: And they were from neighboring states, too, right, Arkansas and Tennessee. You know, Doug, I don’t know, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself because I am on just the beginning phases of this campaign. First, I have to win the nomination. Then I can look to see how we win the election and what a running mate can contribute to that.
I am totally open. I have no predispositions. I want to focus on my own race right now, and then, when I get the nomination, turn and say, “How are we going to win the general election? Who can be a really good president? And who can help us make the case to the American people?”
Daily Times Herald: Right now, the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court, there’s nobody on the court from rural America, there’s nobody with any rural bona fides and connection. I think Clarence Thomas spent a little time in rural Georgia when he was younger. But nobody from rural America, and yet we’re going to have many decisions involving the environment very likely in the next 20-30 years.
Oftentimes, when appointees are looked at, they’re looked at through the litmus test of where they’re at on abortion, male, female, gender, race. Do you think it’s a problem for our country that there’s nobody among those nine justices who grew up in a place like this, who has a natural rural instinct or orientation?
Hillary Clinton: No one has ever asked me that before. I’ve never been asked to think about that. Here’s what I would say: I think our Supreme Court is strongest when it really does represent the broadest possible American experience.
We do have on the district courts, the courts of appeal, a much broader cross-section of people from all different walks of life and geographies.
I don’t know how to answer, other than to say we need the broadest possible experience, and the rural experience is part of being broadly representative of America.
I’m going to be rolling out a rural-development agenda in this campaign. I care deeply about what happens in rural America, just like I did when I represented New York.
I stay in very close touch with (Secretary of Agriculture) Tom Vilsack. He’s doing some of the most-creative, smart work through the Department of Agriculture, about how to incentivize developments in rural America.
Daily Times Herald: He remains widely respected here in Iowa among both Democrats and Republicans.
Hillary Clinton: He should. Because he was a very far-sighted governor. And now he is a really creative secretary of agriculture. Tom and I had a couple-of-hours conversation a few months ago, and he was telling me what he thinks the rural agenda should be and how it could really work for rural America. I am going to be rolling out my own policy, and a lot of it will be based on the smart work that Tom is doing. I just think we have to elevate rural issues in general. The Supreme Court and courts are part of it, but it’s important that even within states people understand there’s a lot more we could do in rural areas.
Daily Times Herald: Your host today, Dr. Steven Kraus, is still something we have out here in Iowa, and rural Iowa, in particular. He’s a very, very strong Democrat, but he’s also pro-life — as you see on the wall, his personal life represents that (Steve and Jill Kraus have seven children). This is an historically Catholic county. It’s a swing county. If you can do well here, you can do well anywhere in Iowa. A question for a lot of people who might be with you on a lot of other elements of the Catholic social-justice teaching, on abortion, can you tell me when you think it should be wrong for a woman to have an abortion, when do you think it should be illegal for a woman to have an abortion?
Hillary Clinton: Well, I have said for many years, “Abortion should be legal, safe and rare.” And I really mean rare. I think it’s important to do everything we can to try to prevent the need for women to make a choice for abortion. But I don’t think we should make it illegal, per se. It ought to be based on trying to educate women, trying to provide better access to family planning.
There was a very important study that just came out of Colorado where making access to long-acting contraceptives for young women cut the abortion rate dramatically.
When I was first lady, and I saw that we needed a more-affirmative project to try to cut the abortion rate, I worked to set up the campaign to end teenage pregnancy. We made real progress. We really did cut the rate. But we did it in a supportive way.
The reason I’m pro-choice is that I totally respect the views of people who, for religious or personal reasons, are against abortion. I think that is an absolutely sustainable, defensible, position. I’m pro-choice because I don’t think the government should be mandating when and how and who should get abortions. I think that is a mistake, once you get the government involved.
My course has been how do we make abortion more rare. How do we get better information,. better support systems, try to convince young women and young men not to make irresponsible choices. How do we get access for older teens and women in the 20s to long-acting contraceptives so that we can, over time, diminish the number of people who seek abortions. That is my goal.
Daily Times Herald: I’m 45. I’ve been covering these campaigns in Iowa since 1988. I notice all these people lining up to get selfies (cellphone photos). What I used to see was people would really work on a question, or a comment or a point. They’d come up to Al Gore. In 1996, they’d go up to different candidates. Even when Howard Dean and John Kerry were running in 2004, they would work on trying get something across to you, plant that with you, and really try to shape what you’re doing.
Now, I just see all these people lined up in a cattle call where they’re just concerned about getting their picture with you so they can put it on social media. It just seems like you’re losing something in that mix. Am I right in that assessment? You have to be sick of all these people wanting these selfies.
Hillary Clinton: But it is what they want. It is important to them. Several people (in Carroll Sunday) still found their time to say what they wanted to say and to ask their question. One young woman had $180,000 in student loan debt. Another young woman said, “Thank you for talking about mental health. I’m one of those people who really needs help.” I said, “What’s your problem?” She said, “Depression and anxiety.” I said, “Are you getting help?” And she said, “Well, I’m getting help now, but I worry that I won’t be able to afford ...” I had some really meaningful interactions in and amongst all the selfies.
People who have something they very much want to say, still say it.
Even when I was running for Senate the first time, if I get a lineup for photos like that, and somebody else would be taking them, maybe 10 percent of the people would really work on their question and they’d ask me. Other people just wanted to say “hello” and they’d met me before, they met my husband. So I think the proportion is not all that much different, maybe slightly lesser now.
But this whole phenomenon of everybody carrying around their cameras does interfere, not so much in a smaller group like this (in Carroll with 80 people), but in a bigger group like we were in Ames, people, all they wanted was their pictures. I didn’t get the quality of interaction that I got right here because the group was smaller. So I try to do a mix. But what I have learned, Doug, in the last months, is that it’s so important to people and they live in a social-media world — not to older people, not to people above a certain age, so to say — but for younger people, it’s as important as anything they could have asked me. So I just say, “OK, we’re going to do it.”
Daily Times Herald: Thank you for being so gracious with your time.