Last month NEWSWEEK invited readers to submit questions to Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton. We received more than 1,000 queries from readers—the bulk of them about Iraq, the economy, health care and education. We forwarded a selection of the best questions to Sen. Clinton. Here are her answers.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: We have a lot of work to do to reverse President Bush's fiscal recklessness. It starts by reintroducing responsible budget priorities to Washington. I have tried to set an example on the campaign by explaining how I am going to pay for my top priorities.
My American Health Choices Plan will need an upfront federal investment of about $110 billion. This investment will yield more affordable health care for American families, workers and businesses, and make us more competitive in the process. However, this amount will be fully paid for, will not increase the deficit, and will not increase net taxes.
I will pay for just over half the cost of my American Health Choices Plan with savings from reducing Medicare overpayments to HMOs and other unnecessary federal spending, lowering the cost of prescription drugs and modernizing the health-care system. Just under half would be financed by letting the Bush income-tax cuts for the wealthy expire. My health-care plan will provide quality, affordable health care for every American.
I am going to set big goals for this country, and I am confident we can achieve them in a fiscally responsible way. It is how we did things in the 1990s. We created 22 million jobs, lifted people out of poverty, dramatically expanded SCHIP [State Children's Health Insurance Program] and created historic surpluses. When I am president, I will ensure we're on a path to balanced budgets. It will require some tough choices and it won't happen overnight, but we can do it.
Those were the things some people said about me when I first ran for the Senate. From my very first days in office, I worked hard to show people who I am, what I stand for, and what I can do. And I was extremely gratified to be re-elected with almost 67 percent of the vote—and to win 90 percent of the counties that George Bush had carried just two years earlier.
During this presidential campaign, my support has grown as I have traveled the country. I am proud of the endorsements I have received from Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas, two leaders from Red States.
People everywhere care about the same things right now—they care about ensuring that every American has quality, affordable health care, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and ending the war in Iraq. And they see that I am the candidate with the strength and experience to accomplish those things and more.
They see that I know how to work with Republicans where we can, on issues like body armor for our troops and health care for our National Guard and Reservists. But they also see that I know how to stand up and fight where we must, like when President Bush tried to privatize Social Security.
Anyone who gets the Democratic nomination is going to be subjected to the withering attacks that come from the other side. I think I have proven that I can not only survive them but also surpass them.
The United States has always stood for freedom and fairness, justice and progress, peace and security. These are the rights we work to protect at home and we must also work to protect abroad. It is long past time that we bring the international community together through American leadership to end the genocide in Darfur. We must quit giving lip service and start acting. I have spoken out repeatedly about the need for action in Darfur since May of 2004.
In Darfur we have seen an organized campaign of genocide perpetrated by armed "Janjaweed" militias blessed—and backed—by the Sudanese government. It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of the tragedy that has resulted. Hundreds of thousands have been killed. Millions have been displaced. Civilians are driven from their homes and refugees still struggle against disease and starvation.
As president I would move immediately to protect the civilians in Darfur. I would push hard to get a U.N. peacekeeping force on the ground as soon as possible; I am concerned about the disagreements that are slowing its deployment. I would also consider establishing a no-fly zone manned with NATO planes. And I would impose more aggressive sanctions and pursue divestment.
It is an outrage that this is happening in 2007. We need to end this genocide and protect the people of Darfur. When I am president, the Sudanese government will know that the United States is serious about doing what needs to be done, not just talking about it.
Right now, I think the best way to hold President Bush and others in his administration accountable is to fight every day in Congress to force them to abandon their failed domestic and foreign policies. That is what I am doing now. I will focus on these things and get ready for January 2009, when, as president, I will put an end to the war in Iraq, restore our image around and leadership in the world, and tackle the many domestic challenges we face.
For the last six and a half years we have seen a dangerous experiment in extremism in the White House. The Bush-Cheney administration has elevated partisan politics and cronyism over competence and professionalism.
I will work to ensure that the Department of Justice is properly funded and staffed to carry out its fundamental missions: to protect the rights of Americans and to defend the rule of law.
Within 90 days of taking office, I will direct the attorney general to submit a report that recommends how to rebuild the Department of Justice and that reviews charges of improper, politically motivated hiring to determine whether laws were broken. I will restore professionalism and remove politics from hiring, case deliberations and policy decisions throughout the Department of Justice. At the Department of Defense, I will take steps to ensure that abuses like those that took place at Abu Ghraib never take place again, and I will hold accountable anyone who has violated the law.
Throughout this campaign thus far, I have been thrilled by the movement we are building. Fathers are driving long distances to bring their daughters to my events. Women in their 90s are telling me that they were born before women had the right to vote and that they want to live long enough to see a woman in the White House. When I am elected, we will have made history by working together.
I'm not running because I'm a woman; I'm running because I think I'm the best qualified and experienced person to hit the ground running and to do the job in January 2009.
I have spent 35 years of my life fighting to make life better for children, for women and for families. I believe that I am the candidate with the strength and experience to create change in this country. Americans all want the same things right now: an end to the war in Iraq, quality health care for all, and a better life for the middle class.
I have fought for decades for America's working families, and I will continue to do that as president. America's middle class is being squeezed—they are working harder and longer for less and less. Americans are facing increasing costs of living, from housing to energy to health care to college; health-care premiums have nearly doubled in the last six years, while wages have been stagnant.
I believe it's time to reject President Bush's philosophy of a "you're on your own" society and to replace it with shared responsibility for shared prosperity. I will work to level the playing field and reduce the special breaks for big corporations; get rid of the incentives for American companies to ship jobs and profits overseas; recommit ourselves to the idea that every young person in America who wants to should have the opportunity to attend college; and invest in a 21st-century education system that starts early in life and continues well into adulthood.
I will work to create millions of new well-paying jobs by investing in alternative energy. I have also proposed an innovation agenda that will help ensure that the United States maintains its technological edge in the global economy.
I am committed to creating economic growth while promoting economic fairness in order to strengthen and expand the American middle class.
My American Health Choices Plan will cover all Americans and improve health care by lowering costs and improving quality. It speaks to American values, American families and American jobs.
It will put the consumer in the driver's seat by offering more choices and lowering costs. If you have a plan you like, you keep it. If you want to change plans or aren't currently covered, you can choose from dozens of the same plans available to members of Congress or opt into a public plan option like Medicare. And working families will get tax credits to help pay their premiums.
Insurance companies will not be able to deny you coverage or drop you because their computer model says you're not worth it. They will have to offer and renew coverage to anyone who applies and pays the premium. And they will have to compete for your business based on quality and price. Families will have the security of knowing that if they become ill or lose their jobs, they won't lose their coverage.
My plan will also help small businesses, which are the engine of new job growth in the U.S. economy but face bigger challenges when it comes to providing health care for their employees. My plan provides tax credits to small businesses that provide health care to their workers to help defray their coverage costs. This will make small businesses more competitive and help create good jobs with health benefits that will stay here in the United States.
We badly need to fix our public schools: right now, a child drops out of school every 29 seconds. These children have their life opportunities limited from that decision, and that is unacceptable. When the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted, I viewed it as a historic promise between the federal government and educators. Today, that promise has been broken.
It is an unfunded mandate that encourages teachers to teach to the test, and the curriculum is being narrowed. I hear story after story about music and art or physical education or field trips being cut out of the school day to make more time for drilling and routine work that prepare students for standardized tests.
When I'm president, we are going to fully fund and fully fix No Child Left Behind. I have been working on these issues for 35 years—and after all this time, I still think it takes a village. I still think that educating our children not only requires good educators and good schools but also dedicated parents, strong families and strong communities. It also takes a president who supports our educators and believes in our public schools. I will be that kind of a president.