Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday said that if confronted with the prospect of a General Motors or Ford bankruptcy, she would extend the resources of the federal government to help keep the auto company afloat.
In saying a federal role would be justified, Mrs. Clinton explained: "Yes, one in eight jobs are related [to the auto industry], absolutely. You know, but I want something in return. You know, we don't want to just keep investing in the car companies unless they change their direction. But they're beginning to do that."
The New York senator was asked her views of a possible bailout of one of the Big Three domestic auto makers as she discussed manufacturing policy and other issues in an appearance before the Post-Gazette editorial board.
The Democratic presidential candidate argued that, for both economic and national security reasons, the next president should be aggressive in taking steps to protect and nurture the nation's manufacturing base in general.
Mrs. Clinton said one step the next president and Congress should take to deter the export of jobs would be to eliminate tax breaks that allow firms to shield profits earned abroad from U.S. taxes. She dismissed as "defeatist," those who see something inevitable about the erosion of the American job base.
"I spent Saturday in Indiana, traveling the state making the point that not only are we losing jobs that are essential to our economy, we're losing jobs that are essential to our national security. And I think, if we don't change that, we're going to find ourselves at a great strategic disadvantage."
On other issues during the hour-long interview, the Democratic contender:
• called President Bush "one of the worst, if not the worst president we've had";
• said the solvency of Medicare was "a difficult issue," but one that could be dealt with in conjunction with developing a universal health care system;
• cited wellness as an essential component of efforts to contain health care costs.
Without prompting, Mrs. Clinton also took the occasion to renew her criticism of her Democratic primary rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, for comments that she characterized as elitist, when he recently referred to "bitter," small-town residents who "cling to" traditions such as churches or guns in the face of economic difficulties.
"We have a hurdle to overcome," Mrs. Clinton said, speaking of her party. "That's why I have been speaking out about Sen. Obama's comments. It is something that's come across as elitist and out of touch."
The following audio excerpts of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton were recorded today during her appearance before the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board.
- Preserving the American auto industry
- President Bush's legacy
- Social Security
- Health care
- International relations
- John McCain
- Democratic primary race
Asked if her background, with an education from Wellesley College and Yale law school was appreciably less elitist than Mr. Obama's, with degrees from Columbia and Harvard law school, she said: "I'm not making any claims other than to be somebody who grew up in the middle class. My husband and I have worked hard for everything we have."
While Mrs. Clinton has emphasized in her battle with Mr. Obama her support for Second Amendment rights, she reaffirmed her commitment to some gun-control proposals.
"I am going to do everything I can as president to restore the assault -weapons ban," she said. "I am a staunch supporter of trying to keep guns out of the hands of people who have criminal records or have been adjudicated and committed for mental disability or health reason."
Mrs. Clinton noted that she had appeared at a recent anti-crime forum with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. She declined to take a position on whether Pennsylvania should repeal its ban on local gun-control ordinances. "That, obviously, is a local and state issue that the people of Pennsylvania have to come to terms with. But, being from New York, I've seen that that balance is possible."
Mrs. Clinton was withering in her assessment of the man she would like to succeed: "I, for the life of me, cannot understand how he has done so much damage in such a relatively short period of time," she said of President Bush.
"We're going to inherit some of the most difficult challenges anyone has ever walked into the Oval Office and had to assume. ... We have two wars -- one of which we have to end, and the other we have to be successful in waging. We have an economy that's in terrible shape and [will be in] worse shape by the time the next president gets into office."
Mrs. Clinton said there would be "both challenge and opportunity" in foreign policy in the next administration, as "the world is going to breathe a sigh of relief when George Bush and Dick Cheney are gone."
"We have to start at the beginning on our policies for China and Russia, because President Bush's policies are incoherent; I don't even know what they are," she said. "We've lost ground in Latin America, so there is a lot we have to be ready to do immediately to restore our leadership and our moral authority."