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Clinton Comments On Lessons Of '08, Email 'Politics' And Voters' Passion


I'm David Greene broadcasting this morning from Des Moines, Iowa. This evening, Iowans will be joining their neighbors at caucuses, the first real voting in this presidential campaign. A few minutes ago, we spoke on the phone with Democrat Hillary Clinton. I covered her campaign back in 2008 when she finished third here. She told me that surprised her, and that she has learned some lessons.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, look, I think that we had a lot of challenges organizationally. I'm not sure that I - and I'll take the responsibility - understood the differences that a caucus presented to someone to campaign than a primary which is something I've been very used to. I did not have any experience with the Iowa caucus in '92. So it wasn't until '08, and I really became convinced that I had to understand better how caucuses worked, and I needed to get people who've been part of the Obama effort who had also worked for me in the past and a lot of new young talent. And that's what we've done this time.

GREENE: You know, I want to ask you about your opponent, Bernie Sanders, who brought up on the stump the email issue and, you know, last week the State Department said 22 of your emails from that private server when you were secretary of state will not be released publicly because they contain such highly classified information. And I guess, you know, as you address the American people on this, does that mean that you were putting top-secret information at risk by using, you know, this unclassified private server as secretary of state?

CLINTON: No, absolutely not. And, you know, what was announced on Friday is no different than what I've been saying for many months. I took the handling of classified materials very seriously. The State Department has a process for classifying material and then they mark it. And it does not go on to the unclassified system unless it is viewed in the opinion of State Department professionals that it belongs there. And the emails that I was received were not marked classified. Now, there are disagreements among agencies on what should have been perhaps classified retroactively, but at the time that doesn't change the fact that they were not marked classified.

GREENE: But if I may, secretary, are you worried that as sort of this drumbeat continues, the FBI is involved - I mean, could this become a criminal case in the middle of your campaign at some point?

CLINTON: No, absolutely not. I mean, I can't prevent it from being a political case which seems to be the motivation behind selective leaking and anonymous sourcing and the kinds of things that seem to be going on. But it's like Benghazi - I'm just very concerned that the timing here is interesting and this information in concert with Republican members of Congress has been consistently leaked as we've gotten closer to Iowa and other primary elections, but it does not change the facts.

GREENE: I wondered - one of the moments that stands out to me from the Iowa caucuses and the campaigning was at a town hall. A young man stood up and said that he was likely voting for Bernie Sanders, and he said, you know, what polls show that many young people seem to be supporting your opponent. And he said many young people think you're dishonest. And I just want to give you another chance to respond to that question in a very direct way if you could.

CLINTON: Well, I remember the question. And obviously he was asking it as a passionate supporter of my opponent. And it was something that, you know, I don't like hearing because I don't think there's any basis to it. I have been the subject of more concerted political attacks than probably anybody else currently still in the political arena for years now - many, many millions of dollars and, of course, you know, when that happens to you that is something that you have to absorb, you have to deal with, you have to keep going. But it - you know, it does - it does leave a mark on some people, and I understand that. So what I do is make it clear my values have been consistent, my work has been in pursuant of those values. I'm proud of my record going back decades to take on some very entrenched, powerful forces in our country who would prefer that I not become president because they know I mean what I say, and I do what I say.

GREENE: Let me just ask you this - President Obama - there have been stories about his relationship with members of Congress and it not being always comfortable. Do you feel like if you were president and facing a Republican Congress, could you have a better more workable relationship with Republicans than President Obama has had?

CLINTON: I have had, David. I've had that since I was first lady. That doesn't mean that we agree on everything. We had some pretty hard-fought political battles over the direction of our country. I was not successful what I tried to get the universal health care coverage. They - remember - called it Hillary care before they called it Obama care. But after we, you know, dealt with our disappointment, I got back up and started working with both Republicans and Democrats. I worked across the aisle all the time, as secretary of state - the same thing. I know how to do this and when I'm not running against them, the Republicans say a lot of really nice things about me. I have a whole archive of it talking about how good a colleague I am and how willing I am to try to find common ground.

GREENE: I just wonder if you have learned anything from the passion that Sen. Sanders' message seems to have inspired in his supporters - many of whom are very young.

CLINTON: Well, David, first let me say, I feel a lot of passion and enthusiasm for my supporters. You know, the Des Moines register poll which had me ahead slightly at the tight race showed that the enthusiasm of my supporters is actually higher. So I think it's terrific that we've got the level of interest and energy and enthusiasm and the story is much deeper and broader than it might at first appear. So I want to get everybody of every age really understanding what's at stake in this election, deciding who they think would be the best president and commander-in-chief for our country. And I hope that the people who are enthusiastically supporting me will be out there in force.

GREENE: Secretary Clinton, thanks very much. Thanks for your time.

CLINTON: OK. Good to talk to you. Bye-bye.

GREENE: That's Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. We should say we've reached out to other candidates from both parties involved in today's caucuses, and you'll be hearing from many of them throughout the show. We did invite Secretary Clinton's main rival, Bernie Sanders, to come on the show this morning. He declined. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.