On Tuesday, the tax-funded PBS NewsHour feted Democrat Hillary Clinton, now a professor at Columbia University at the new Institute of Global Politics. She was also the losing Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, and PBS commiserated with her with the “trauma” of losing an election to a Republican, while tarring the Trump-led GOP as extremists and letting the president himself call MAGA ‘semi-fascists” without rebuttal. On ostensibly to talk about Ukraine and Putin.
Host Geoff Bennett passed along a year-old President Biden smear of “MAGA” Republicans (“semi-fascist”), not as an example of Democratic rhetorical overreach, but to see if Clinton agreed.
Clinton took the bait.
Bennett was nauseatingly deferential to his politician guest about the “trauma” of actually losing an election that entire media had hoped and expected her to win. The interview concluded with this cozy, laughter-filled exchange.
7:15:50 p.m. (ET)
Geoff Bennett: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is once again Professor Hillary Clinton, as a professor of practice at Columbia University’s newly launched Institute of Global Politics.
She’s teaching alongside the dean, who said their focus is inspiring future foreign policy leaders and thinkers to collaborate around solving the world’s most pressing problems.
Keren Yarhi-Milo, Columbia University: What we want to see is a next generation of leaders that they know, they understand how to lead in a polarized society, because they will feel that they got the skills here to learn to disagree with one another respectfully, to persuade, to build consensus, to hear different views, to really listen, to question their own assumptions.
That’s what leadership will look like in the future.
Geoff Bennett: I spoke with Secretary Clinton in an exclusive interview this morning about her new role that bridges the worlds of academia and public service.
Well, Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for making time for us. We appreciate it.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Former U.S. Secretary of State: Thank you, Geoff. Good to talk to you.
Geoff Bennett: It was the 1970s when you were last a professor at the University of Arkansas Law School. What’s it like to be back in the classroom? And what was the intention behind taking on this new role?
Hillary Rodham Clinton: First of all, it’s incredibly exciting. And I was offered this opportunity to be a professor here at Columbia University.
And I was very intrigued, because, having been in the Senate, having been secretary of state, having literally traveled millions of miles, I wanted to know what was on young people’s minds and what they were thinking about the world.
I also wanted to find out if there were more effective ways in talking about the challenges that we confront, whether it’s the war in Ukraine or climate change, whatever it might be. And I thought, there couldn’t be a better way than to stand up in front of 375 young people every week with my co-teacher, the dean of the school, Keren Yarhi-Milo, to really figure out what kids are thinking, what young people worry about.
It helps me understand sort of how young people are thinking about these issues, because I will tell you, Geoff, before I started teaching, I kept hearing, like, they didn’t want to talk about difficult subjects. They wanted trigger warnings.
Geoff Bennett: Mm-hmm.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: I haven’t seen any of that.
This has been a very thoughtful and, for me, enriching experience.
Geoff Bennett: Your course is focused on foreign policy and decision-making. And when you were secretary of state, you focused a lot on Asia and the growing threat that China presented.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Yes.
Geoff Bennett: So now we see the Biden administration trying to contain China, trying to develop more relationships, stronger relationships in the Indo-Pacific. He’s calling for greater stability in the region.
What’s your assessment of the threat that China poses as it amasses more military and scientific and technological strength?
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Well, I think it poses potentially a very great threat, first and foremost, in its region, starting with Taiwan, but not ending there.
Clearly, China has demonstrated an aggressive approach. And they have, as you said, invested a lot of money in a blue water navy, creating much more capacity.
What we’re hoping is that we can manage the relationship, so, yes, we have competition. We will have competition and strategic competition. And we should. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that. But we will not tip over, by intention or accident, into conflict.
Much of that depends upon the current Chinese leadership. And once a leader decides to stay for life, that’s not a good sign.
Geoff Bennett: As we talk about America’s role in the world, the continued funding and assistance for Ukraine is now a point of contention on Capitol Hill, how do you think Vladimir Putin is eying the growing political divide over the Ukraine issue in this country?
Hillary Rodham Clinton: I think Putin is not only thrilled by the divide over whether we continue, and at what levels, to fund Ukraine. I think he is fomenting it as well. Putin and his team that does the kind of interventions, covert and overt, aiming to undermine democracy and to suborn political leaders, is a big part of how he sees his role. So, when I see people parroting Russian talking points that first showed up on Russia Today or first showed up in a speech from a Russian official, that’s a big point scored for Putin.
When I see Americans in positions of responsibility talking about how we shouldn’t support the people of Ukraine, they’re corrupt, yes, they are working very hard to be transparent and accountable. And talk about corruption. There is the master of corruption living in the Kremlin.
So there’s an ideological and, sadly, partisan political divide. And I know that the majority of Congress is still in favor of supporting Ukraine. So we have got to get through this period. We have to pass legislation and continue to support.
And, Geoff, this fight is our fight. Honestly, I don’t understand any American siding with Putin, but we have seen it, and we have heard it, and we have to fight against it.
Geoff Bennett: As we talk about Congress, there’s this effort now led by Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Does Congressman McCarthy, Speaker McCarthy, does he deserve to keep his job as speaker, and should Democrats help bail him out?
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Well, I’m going to let Hakeem Jeffries and his caucus decide that.
But I was pleasantly surprised that the speaker did the right thing when he made common cause with those, as we like to say, grownup members of his own Republican Caucus and Democrats to keep the government open. I would have hope that that kind of mature leadership isn’t punished by the most extreme members of his caucus.
So, how the Democrats play this — and they have a couple of different options — is for them to decide. But I think McCarthy did the right thing for the country. And isn’t that a good thing to be able to say he did the right thing for the country?
Geoff Bennett: On this matter of extremists within the GOP, President Biden has said that the Trump Republicans, the MAGA Republicans, as he puts it, are semi-fascists, and that there’s this growing authoritarian strain in the Republican Party.
Do you see it that way? And what’s the best way to remedy that, if you do see it that way?
Hillary Rodham Clinton: I do see it that way.
And I’m not — I’m not happy about saying that. And I know President Biden wasn’t happy, because it sounds so discordant to our ears. How could we be growing a kind of authoritarian political force inside our country? The people who are at the leadership level of all of that, both elected and unelected, are promoting lies and being incredibly divisive and, frankly, being loyal to a wannabe dictator.
And how did we get here? I don’t know all the answers. Lots of people are writing books about that. But I do know you have to do several things. You have to defeat those people at the polls. And there’s nothing more important than sending a resounding message. Let’s get back to regular politics.
You and I can agree or disagree, as Democrats and Republicans from different regions of our country, different kinds of points of view, but let’s get back to having a fact-based political discussion, where, yes, OK, what do you think about climate change and how we’re going to deal with it, or what do you think about our economy and how we’re going to grow it?
Let’s have that kind of discussion. But let’s move away from the lies and the personal attacks and the kind of nonsense moves, like impeaching Joe Biden for nothing simply because you disagree with him politically.
I was in the Senate, as you know, for eight years. If you have ideas — speaking to the House extremists, if you have ideas about how we should govern our country, do the work you are elected to do. Have committee meetings, mark up legislation, take votes. Then work to try to reconcile whatever the Senate comes up with.
That’s what used to happen, the so-called regular order. So go to work. Don’t be walking around engaging in Twitter fights and insults and personal attacks. That’s — that is not the way we’re supposed to govern ourselves. It’s no way for a great country to behave.
Geoff Bennett: When you say part of the solution lies in defeating those people at the polls, is the Biden/Harris ticket the best ticket to do that?
Hillary Rodham Clinton: People ask me all the time, and they particularly ask me, well, do you think his age is a legitimate issue?
Of course, it’s a legitimate issue, but the outcome of the question to me is, OK, that’s a factor, and let’s look at everything else. Maybe people don’t want to rebuild our infrastructure and deal with all of our physical decay, but I do, and Joe Biden does. Maybe we don’t want to compete with China on building chips factories, advanced manufacturing in this country. But I do.
Maybe we don’t want to move toward a clean energy future as quickly as I think we need to. I like that. He got that done. By any measure, the accomplishments of the Biden/Harris administration are eye-popping. And they are laying the groundwork for a richer, more secure country with more people having an opportunity to go as far as their hard work and talent will take them.
And I’m for them on the merits, but I’m also for them because the alternative is so dark and dystopian, to undermine the rule of law, to destroy our institutions, to pull us out of NATO, doing Putin’s bidding, to be unwilling to stand up for the real American values, to put one person above the country.
None of that is American. So, I think that Biden/Harris deserves to be reelected. And I think we have to reelect them, given what the alternative is.
Geoff Bennett: What’s your assessment of the Republican field? Nikki Haley said that you inspired her to get into politics and run for office.
Geoff Bennett: And then there’s this question of Donald Trump, four indictments, and yet he’s 40 points ahead of his nearest rival.
What do you think accounts for that?
Hillary Rodham Clinton: It’s psychological and emotional. A big part of the Republican base feels a connection to Trump.
I still believe, sitting here today, he will be their nominee, no matter how hard a others may try to distinguish themselves. And I think it’s a very sad commentary on what people are looking for in a leader, because everything that he allegedly stands for is at odds with so much of what has made this country work for a long time, overcome many of our shortcomings and obstacles.
And it seems almost impossible to break through that 40 percent that is wedded to him as the next president. So I think we have to do a better job in reaching out to everybody else who is potential — potentially reachable, talking about what kind of life they want for themselves, their children and their grandchildren, and who’s more likely to deliver it.
There’s all of these projects being announced all over the country. Donald Trump talked about infrastructure endlessly, never did a thing about it. Joe Biden didn’t talk as much, but got it done. So, if you want a good job, if you want a big potential opportunity to grow the area you’re living in, particularly rural areas, because a lot of these projects are going into areas that have real needs, Joe Biden has delivered for you.
But it’s the emotional, psychological, cultural connection to someone who really has, unfortunately, manipulated social media and also some main — so-called mainstream media in a way that people believe what he says to them.
And that’s hard to break. It’s like being in a cult, almost. And so I know the Republicans running against him are trying very hard. I don’t think they’re going to be successful, given where we are. So, then I think it’s imperative on the country to once again defeat Trump and elect Biden.
Geoff Bennett: Final question, because I know your time is short.
In preparing to speak with you, I spoke to some of your supporters, even some people who worked in your campaign. And the question they asked me to ask you is, is she OK?
Geoff Bennett: And I think what they meant was, is she at peace? Does she feel fulfilled after the — I would imagine, the trauma of 2016?
Hillary Rodham Clinton: So, it was pretty traumatic, yes, yes.
Geoff Bennett: So, how are you doing?
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Yes, personally, I’m doing great.
And I appreciate that question, because I get asked it all the time.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: And I always say, personally, I’m great. I’m worried about our country and the world.
And it always reminds me of what my dear friend and the first woman secretary of state used to say when she would speak about all the problems we have. And she — you know, she wrote a book called “Fascism,” which was a warning to the United States. I’m talking about Madeleine Albright.
And she fled the Nazis with her family. Then she fled the communists. She kind of knows what she’s talking about. So she would give these very serious talks, and then somebody invariably would say, but, Secretary Albright, are you an optimist? And here’s what she would say. And here’s what I now say. Yes, I’m an optimist who worries a lot.
Geoff Bennett: Noted. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, thank you so much for your time. And congratulations on the launch of the Institute of Global Politics.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Thank you very much.