It was a relatively quiet event for Sen. Hillary Clinton this morning at the National Jewish Democratic Council – at least compared to her other recent appearances in Washington, like her kickoff fundraiser and an AFL-CIO candidate forum.
Senator Clinton was applauded when she talked about re-engagement with Iran, a position that I suspect would be more controversial with other Jewish organizations.
“We cannot should not and must allow Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons – that has to be our starting point. No option can be taken off the table. But I think it’s important to look at all options – some have been narrowed by the choices of this administration. If the Bush administration had been smarter, and had been engaged with Iran, Syria and others, I’m not saying dangers would be lessened, but that the process of direct engagement is important. This president’s attitude is “I don’t talk to bad people.” I don’t think that is a smart way to manage the threats we face.”
She compared it to the summit meetings during the Cold War, declaring that those meetings “provided valuable insight intelligence and information on how to bring leverage.”
Other highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective):
She suggested Americans yearn for time-travel: “It has been such a long six years… talking earlier to some of the members as I came in, this whole campaign has taken off so quickly, I’ve never seen anything like it. All the states want to be at the front of the primary process. And I think it’s because America wants to turn the page on the Bush-Cheney administration. If they could go through time, and end the interim we have to go through, they would make that choice.”
“We continue to see the President and Vice President calling anyone who disagrees with them ‘unpatriotic.’”
(Show me, Senator. Show me either of them using that word, even once.)
“I had a diplomat from an Arab country – one of the countries we’re trying to help manage situation in Iraq – and he said to me, to be a great power, you must be respected, feared, or liked right now, in too many places, the U.S. is none of those.”
And here is a not-quite-transcript of the Q&A session:
Q: What will be role of your husband in your administration?
I believe presidents should use former presidents. I’ve seen it work. As we speak former president Bush and Bill are attending Yelstin’s funeral. When they did tsunami relief, it did world of good for America.
We’re going to have a lot of work to do around the world. We need to send distinguished Americans to every country in the world to tell them America is back.
Q: I’ve been working to promote state legislation to divest with companies that deal with Iran – are you hoping effort on federal level?
Hillary: I think it’s a terrific idea something we have to look at we have legislation to toughen sanctions on Iran. I think all of that is beneficial. Like in North Korea, sanctions, multilateral, and bilateral negotiations across the board.
Q: You’ve spoken out about the child abuse of Palestinian children – would you extend that to Iranian children taught same things in their schoolbooks?
Hillary: I would extend that to all those who use propaganda and disinformation to pollute minds of young children and turn them into terrorists and suicide bombers. We don’t have as much leverage with Iran. We know that in Palestinian schools, the latest version textbooks funded with EU money are not any better – still have maps that don’t have Israel on them. I’ve raised the issue with leaders of other Arab countries – it is a breeder of attitudes and actions.
Q: What is your take on immigration?
My take on immigration – need comprehensive immigration reform (little applause) need to do a better job on our borders… we still don’t’ have very good job of system to track people who come in country more personnel more technology we have to make clear employers will pay price if they employ illegal immigrants
If we were in poor village in Mexico, we would probably do the same things…
We need to pressure and incentivize governments to our south to improve their economies. They haven’t managed their economies in a way to benefit all citizens.
We also do need a path to legalization, to bring them out of the shadows. I want them all registered. I want to know who they are. They have to wait in line. I want them to learn English. If they stay out of trouble, and are good employee, then they should have a path to become legal. One without the other will not work.
Q: Can you get Bush to honor will of American people as expressed in last election [even though the top issue to most voters were corruption and terrorism] and get out of Iraq?
Hillary: Martin, you know as well as I do how difficult it will be. Tomorrow will vote on bill to fund our troops and to set goals to begin to bring them home. He is a very hard person to deal with on these issues. He is not inclined to listen to contrary arguments.
We don’t want Democrats to be blamed for not funding and equipping our troops,even though we don’t want them to be there in the middle of a civil war, when they don’t even know whose side they’re supposed to be on.