Sen. Hillary Clinton answers questions in our presidential mashup.

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Sept. 12 2007 11:53 PM

Clinton: Health-Care Plan Will Cover Everyone

Sen. Hillary Clinton answers questions in our presidential mashup.

The following is an unedited transcript and may contain typos or omissions. Click here for more on the presidential mashup.

Rose: Joining us now is Sen. Hillary Clinton from New York. On Iraq, what's your assessment of the Petraeus and Crocker testimony before the House and Senate committees?

Clinton: Well, I think they became the spokesmen for the president's failed policy, and I have a high regard for each of them and for their service to our country and the fact that they are facing an incredibly difficult and dangerous situation in Iraq. But the fact is that the president tomorrow night will announce that he's going to withdraw 30,000 troops by next summer. That would have happened anyway, Charlie, because we have to start withdrawing the so-called surge troops and get back to the pre-surge number, which we know is already too high, of 130,000. Then, I'm afraid, based on what we've heard from the general and the ambassador, that's where it's going to sit under this president until he leaves office.

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Rose: You said yesterday it required a willing suspension of disbelief. Meaning that you questioned either his veracity or his judgment in what he said.

Clinton: No, what I said was meant to convey my very strong feeling that no matter how flat the pancake, there's always two sides. The problem is that what the administration's report intended to do was was to take anecdotal evidence and actually gild the lily once again, making it seem as though there had been much more progress than I think you can actually justify. For example, they take tremendous credit for what's happened in al Anbar province in terms of the coalition with the Sunni tribal sheikhs. That was going on before the surge. In fact, when Gen. Petraeus testified during his confirmation hearings last January, he alluded to the progress that was going on, the sheikhs were already turning in the face of the barbarity and violence of al-Qaida in Iraq. And there is no getting away from the fundamental problem, which is there is no military solution. And everyone has to admit that the Iraqi government has failed politically, and the Bush administration has failed to pressure the Iraqi government and has totally missed the boat when it comes to the diplomatic offensive that should have been undertaken.

Rose: Two quick questions, finally, about Iraq. Do you think there's anything that this administration can do that it's not doing to bring about a political reconciliation?

Clinton: Absolutely. They could set up a process that they worked at 24/7. You know, the ambassador is a very able diplomat, but he's pretty much out there on his own. You know, they set conferences months ahead. There needs to be a presence on the ground. I think the United Nations could be usefully involved. I think that there has to be a parallel process with the neighbors in the region as well as beyond. You don't get a sense of urgency on the political and diplomatic front that really matches the extraordinary heroism of the military front. So, yes, I think our government and the Iraqi government have dropped the ball, and it's been disastrous.

Rose: Did you think the Moveon.org advertisement about Gen. Petraeus was either appropriate or necessary?

Clinton: You know, I think that we should focus on what the problem is here. The problem is a president who has a policy that flies in the face of reality. I don't fault people who are serving their country and fulfilling the mission that they have been given. Both the general and ambassador were there implementing the president's policy, and I think we should remain focused on this president, and frankly, I'm getting enough Republican support to force the president to change course.

Rose: You have been involved with health care for a long time. Turning to health care. You have yet to release your plan, and I'd be pleased if you would give me the headlines in this conversation.

Clinton: Actually, I will be releasing the third part of my plan on Monday. You know, I have a three-part plan. I've already given two major speeches. One, on how we could lower costs for everyone. The second about two weeks ago about how we can improve quality for everyone, and on Monday how we can cover everyone. Obviously, I hope the headline is that, you know, Hillary is back, and we're going to get it done this time, because we tried and were not successful in '93-'94. And as we all know, the problems of the uninsured and the underinsured, the pressures on doctors and nurses and hospitals, the loss of jobs with employers struggling to maintain health insurance is all much worse than it was when we were trying to do this before.

Rose: Because of your long involvement, some are saying we should have expected you to be not sort of issuing your third part on Monday, but you should have been first out of the gate on health care especially.

Clinton: Well, I've been at the gate and out of it for 14 years, and you know when we weren't successful with the overall reform, I moved ahead and was one of the people responsible for the children's health-insurance program and trying to make sure drugs were safe for kids, and dealing with aftereffects the Gulf War veterans suffered. So, I've stayed consistently focused on health care and am engaged right now in this battle with the president over his threatened veto of the children's health-insurance program. But I learned, among other things, that we've got to build a consensus. A plan is necessary but not sufficient. We've got to have a political consensus in order to withstand the enormous opposition from those interests that will have something to lose in a really reformed health-care system.

Rose: As you know, those interests help defeat the health-care plan that you were trying to put together during the Clinton administration. Should the insurance industry be kept out and not make contribution to—not should they be kept out, but should candidates not take money from insurance companies?

Clinton: Well, I can't, you know, say how you prevent people who have legitimate businesses in America from participating in the political process. I think it's somewhat silly that anybody would look at me with the record that I have and the extraordinary incoming fire that I've taken for 15 years and suggest that talking to people, even working with them, is somehow out of bounds. You know, nobody is going to be surprised when I unroll my coverage plan that I intend to dramatically rein in the influence of the insurance companies, because frankly I think that they have worked to the detriment of our economy and of our health-care system. So I think the plan that I have should be judged on the merits, but I've learned in my own years in the White House and my years in the Senate, that a president, no matter how well-meaning, cannot just direct that something pass the Congress. You've got to work with Republicans and Democrats, and I think I'm better positioned with, frankly, a better set of experiences to do that.

Rose: Because of your long history, do you take contributions from insurance companies?

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