Interview With Greta van Susteren of FOX News
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, nice to see you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Great to see you, Greta.
QUESTION: All right. Now, we expected that this conference would be about the START Treaty, and indeed it was; you exchanged the documents, the ratification documents, with Russia. But Egypt has sort of gone to the top of the topics. President Mubarak says that the protests and revolution will destabilize, leading to a rativized, fundamentalist government there. Scare tactics or possible?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Greta, first, I think it’s important to recognize that for 30 years, American governments, both Republican and Democratic administrations – certainly, this Administration under President Obama – have urged the Government of Egypt to do more on economic reform and political reform, because we believe that that kind of effort to democratize and create economic opportunity is in the best interests of long-term stability. So it’s not a choice between democracy, open markets, and stability and security. It does have to go together.
So what we’re seeing now is that the Egyptian people themselves are particularly motivated by young people demanding more rights, and the United States stands for democracy. We stand for human rights and for freedom. And we want to see an orderly transition. We want to see the process that has begun realize concrete steps that will lead to constitutional reform, the establishment of a set of political laws and regulations that will end in a free and fair election for a new president.
The United States is not, like any other country from the outside, making the decisions. But we are very clear – no violence by the government, peaceful protests, orderly transition, and we know the outcomes we seek.
QUESTION: Two issues with that, and I realize it’s a very complicated problem, but on the protestors, they’re not anxious to have this sort of orderly transition. I mean, they don’t want orderly, but they want it now. They don’t want President Mubarak to be in office until September and run. That’s the first thing.
The second thing is as we sort of publicly state that we support the protestors and their quest to get orderly transition, we send a message to our allies that, well, if – we don’t – not necessarily always stick with you. So how do you walk that line?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, I think that Egypt is a great country with a very storied past of 7,000 years. And this is one of those moments in its history where the Egyptian people must themselves determine their future. And we have made it one of our principles in responding to what they themselves are doing that the voices of the protestors demanding freedom are legitimate and should not be suppressed, and in fact, should be listened to.
But we recognize, as do many of those who are now stepping forward from the opposition, civil society, political factions, that the country has to come together and reach an agreement about how best to proceed, because there are many ways this could go that are not in the best interests of Egypt, the region, or the United States. At the end, we know we want to see a peaceful and orderly transition. How we get there is going to be up to the Egyptians themselves.
With respect to our allies in the region, last month in Doha – before Tunisia, before Egypt – I said that we saw the foundations of a lot of these governments sinking into the sand in the region, because what was possible for them to maintain authoritarian regimes 10, 15, 20 years ago is no longer possible.
Technology has changed that. People are communicating. They know what goes on far beyond their borders, and particularly young people. And what’s so remarkable and what I called a perfect storm in my remarks here in Munich is that you have technology communication with a youth bulge – some of these countries have 50 percent to two-thirds of their population under 35, under 30 – with a very clear problem in the economies of these countries. They’re not producing enough jobs, so young people get out of college, they can’t find work. That is a recipe for unrest.
It’s not motivated by any ideology or any extremism yet; this has been organic. It came initially in Tunisia from a young man, a college graduate, whose only job that he could find was selling fruit on the streets and then he was harassed by the police and he set himself on fire. That literally ignited a revolution in Tunisia. That spread to Egypt with young people looking at each other, saying, “I can’t get a job. There’s so much corruption. I can’t find my way in anywhere because the elite won’t let me.” People then went to the streets.
So this is something I talked about a month ago. It is now being acted out in real time. And the United States very much supports the aspirations, but we do know that each country will have to find its own path forward. And obviously, we want to see end results that are not destabilizing, not giving safe haven to extremism, that actually produce a better outcome for the people who are asking for it.
QUESTION: But how do we do that? I mean, the big elephant in the room is that if the protestors – let’s say that they got what they want today, that Mubarak leaves, they have an election and they elect someone that is not something – that is not a strategic interest, and suddenly, we’ve got a situation like Iran? Number one, is that a probability or a possibility? And number two, then what do we do? Because that certainly then is very destabilizing in the region, especially for Israel.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we care deeply that what comes next in Egypt respects international agreements, including the peace treaty with Israel. That peace treaty has kept Egyptians and Israelis from dying and from having to wage continuous war for 30 years.
QUESTION: Yeah, we love it – I mean, we like it, we think it’s important.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: But what if the next group doesn’t?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, but I think number one, we obviously would like to see responsible leadership in Egypt that recognizes it’s not in their interest to tear up a peace treaty while they’re trying to rebuild an economy, try to open up opportunities for young people, and engage in political reform that leads to democracy.
QUESTION: How do we do it, though? But how do we do that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, look, we have a choice. We can pretend this is not happening and wish that Twitter and Facebook and all those things had never been invented. That is not an option. We can turn our backs on our own values. We do stand for democracy, we do stand for human rights. We always have. We do business with lots of governments who we do not see eye to eye on, but there are strategic reasons that we do, and we will continue to do so.
Or we can do what I think President Obama has very well done, which is to say, look, here are the principles that we believe should be followed during this transition. We cannot reach in and move the players around on the chess board. That has to be an Egyptian-led, Egyptian-run process. Everybody recognizes that. But we can hold out the promise of what does lie in the future.
Most of the people who began to demonstrate in Egypt were driven by a desire for more political freedom and economic opportunity. The United States is very good about helping countries realize economic opportunity, and we think we can offer that. We’re also very good at helping countries, as we did after the Berlin Wall fell, in moving from authoritarianism to democracy. It’s not perfect, it is not predictable, but I think it’s a better course for us to follow.
QUESTION: You raised the issue about the diplomatic tension between the moral considerations and the strategic considerations. We do business with a lot of people who do all sorts of human violation – human rights violations. There’s a lot of complaining, clamor, assertions about human rights violations in Egypt. Where do we draw the line? From a purely political standpoint, how do we decide where we should lean on, being – the moral considerations or the strategic?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Greta, first and foremost, we’re guided by a very clear North Star – we stand for America’s interests and America’s values, and we protect America’s security. So there are different applications of that depending upon each situation. We never give up on our values, we’re always very clear about those – sometimes more publicly, sometimes more privately, but consistently, which is what this Administration has done.
But we also have to evaluate on a case-by-case basis. We just hosted a very successful state visit for President Hu Jintao of China. We have a lot of business with China. We always raise human rights. And for the first time in a public setting, President Hu Jintao, in his press conference with President Obama, said, yes, there is more work to be done on human rights in China. Now --
QUESTION: But he says that – but they say that – they said it publicly, but they say that often to us privately, and I realize that we have to think of our interests, but oftentimes, we do look a little bit the other way on human rights.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, but --
QUESTION: I mean historically. Not – I’m not saying --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, no, but --
QUESTION: -- you or this Administration, but historically.
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, but Greta, we have – that’s why I say that we always stand for our values, we always pursue our interests, and we always protect our security. That’s what we get paid for in the position I hold or in the President’s position. And we are very clear about that. But we know that consistently pushing for more economic opportunity, more human rights, more democracy is in America’s interests in all three categories. But we cannot wave a magic wand. We don’t have some kind of ultimate power. We lead by our example and we lead by all of the different assets we can deploy as the leading nation in the world.
But we also recognize there are different historical experiences, different cultural experiences, different aspects of how countries view what we constantly are advocating. So do we say to ourselves, because there are human rights problems in China, we don’t deal with China? No. We say – we keep raising those, but we have economic, strategic, and other very important interests that matter to America.
Similarly with Egypt, for 30 years, president after president has said the same message – it would be better for Egypt, it would be in Egypt’s interests. But we also respected and appreciated the role that Egypt played in making peace with Israel, keeping peace with Israel, being a good partner to the United States in the first Gulf war and in so many other ways.
So I wish there were some kind of absolutist answer that could be given in every situation that I face around the world, but I think that the clear message that I want to give your viewers is that the United States stands strongly for our values, we pursue our interests, we protect our security. But we never give up on making the case to countries and people around the world what we believe is ultimately in their best interest as well as ours.
QUESTION: You mentioned the difference in the cultural – between the different countries or among the different countries. Prime Minister Cameron said here in Munich that multiculturalism has failed, and that, of course, is going to ignite a huge controversy or a big debate. What’s your thought about what he said about multiculturalism and how we’re not – that in his country, I assume he’s talking about, that it has bred radicalism?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I didn’t hear Prime Minister Cameron’s speech. I actually met with him yesterday morning and we talked a lot about Egypt and many other issues in the world. So I can’t speak to what he said. But what I would respond is that the United States, which has historically been an open society – welcoming of immigrants, creating a meritocracy, providing opportunity for people – has been able to manage a pluralistic, diverse society based on what we all believe as Americans.
And I think it’s important for every country to be both clear about what you stand for as a nation, what your basic values are, but at the same time welcome those who come from different backgrounds, and through the power of example, through inclusiveness, through economic opportunities and meritocracy and what America has historically stood for, people feel comfortable being both from somewhere else and being fully American.
QUESTION: But is there a line? I mean, I guess the best example is the Fort Hood example, where I think people looked the other way at some hateful things that he was involved with, and then all of a sudden, we had the tragedy at Fort Hood where people were gunned down. Where do we draw the line in terms of how we look at other people or even how we look at our culture? Because a lot of people in the United States are – that whole – even the issue of racial profiling, I mean, it’s a very sensitive and complicated issue.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is, and look, I think that evidence is coming out that demonstrates people should have paid more attention to what the defendant in the Fort Hood case has been saying and doing. There’s nothing that prevents us from being vigilant. In fact, freedom requires vigilance, and certainly our security in today’s world requires vigilance. But one of the great gifts that we have given ourselves during our history is that we have created a level of trust among people that is quite remarkable.
I had the great honor of representing New York, and every time I went to New York City as a senator and I saw people from literally every country in the world speaking every language, working together, going to school together, walking down the street together – you don’t find that kind of integration of different backgrounds as easily in our country as you do anywhere else. We have that. It is an enormous benefit to us.
QUESTION: So how multiculturalism not failed, though? Would you take – would you disagree? I realize you didn’t hear --
SECRETARY CLINTON: I did not hear, no.
QUESTION: -- the prime minister, but do you disagree that that --
SECRETARY CLINTON: See, I don't know what he meant by it. I don't know what people mean by it. What’s great about America is that we are all Americans, but we bring our diversity to the table. I mean, we sit as an American family with different cultures, different ethnicities, different religions, different food. I mean, it has enriched us enormously, and I think it positions us to be in a very good place going into the future, where that problem of how to deal with difference is going to be increasingly forefront. And we have to show by our example how we did it right here at home.
QUESTION: Okay. Now a different topic: The numbers are in. According to the tally, that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been on the road 165 days, 40 trips, and you have edged out Secretary Rice in the first two days. And I would like to say both women beat the men.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So I’d just like to say that you have won the two-year travel award on behalf of the Secretary of State competition.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m exhausted just hearing you mention it to me. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It is quite daunting. I was surprised. But it – the gentlemen apparently can’t keep up with you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don't know if it’s so much gender as it is the fact that Secretary Rice and I both served at a time when, ironically, despite advances in modern communication, there was more demand for us to show up. That has been quite surprising to me. I mean, we could do a videoconference with our counterparts anywhere in the world at just the flick of a switch. But almost because it’s so easy to communicate, people want to see us. So we’re out there on the road a lot.
QUESTION: And it really – I mean, it is so enormously complicated what’s going on in the world.
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is, it is.
QUESTION: I mean, every time you move a chess piece here in this country, you’re creating an issue here or someone’s got a complaint and it’s --
SECRETARY CLINTON: The last --
QUESTION: You don’t realize how complicated this is.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have to say, Greta, the last 30 years have seen so many cataclysmic movements. And we think about the fall of the Berlin Wall a little over 20 years ago – hugely historically important. But there’s so much else that has just been buffeting the world in the last 30 years that the United States is very much caught up in and determined to continue to lead.
But the easy answers that were there in the Cold War – you were either with us or against us, and we were either for or against totalitarianism and communism – it’s so much more complex now. And it requires us to be more agile and understanding of what other people are thinking so that we can then try to influence them. If you don’t know what others are experiencing or how they see the world, it’s very difficult for us to come in and say, here’s what we think you should do. You’ve got to come in aware of how they are viewing you and viewing themselves and place yourself, to some extent, in their shoes while you try to promote America’s interests.
So it is a very challenging time to be in the positions that we’re in, but the President is very clear about the direction that we’re heading, and I feel very strongly that we are managing some quite challenging times that will eventually accrue to the benefit of our country if we can see our way clear.
QUESTION: And they’re all unexpected, and the enormity of them are unknown to all.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And so many of them at one time.
QUESTION: So many at one time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.