As Hillary Clinton sat on the couch in her home, with bookcase in the background, she began a conversation with America. The Conversation went on for three evenings. Crystal Patterson, Clinton’s campaign blogger asked her questions that participants had submitted. At first she seemed somewhat stiff, but about ten minutes in she was asked a question about New Orleans. She lit up with passion as she talked about the topic. From that point on she seemed much more relaxed.
The first night she took questions on a wide variety of issues; beginning with is America ready for a woman president? She responded, “We won't know until we try.” She was clear on the fact that she believes she is the best person for the job of president. She tackled a lot of issues, the war in Iraq, New Orleans, health care, terrorism, our dependence on foreign oil, international relations, college education, and retirement. It was good introduction to her position on the issues with no surprises. A question from a young man who was interested in politics and about her inspiration to serve, gave her the opportunity to discuss her childhood, giving us a window into a more personal side of Hillary. She encouraged the young man to go out and volunteer. Telling him, “I think, if you can get out and learn more about the world and volunteer to help people. I did that through my church when I was growing up. And any way that you can expand your horizons because every one of us is somewhat limited by the family we're born into and the experiences we have and where we go to school. And I think today, more than ever, we need young people like yourself who's really going to learn about the world and understand what you can do to make a contribution.”
The second night, coming just before the state of the union, provided Clinton with the opportunity to do a pre-buttal. She was asked specifically what she would be listening for in the State of the Union address. She said she was concerned with Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and Darfur; affordable health care, education, and other costs of a middle class lifestyle. That she would be listening for any overture that he makes to the Democratic congress because she believes in getting things done. She said, “I don't really care where the good ideas come from. I just want to roll up our sleeves and get to work.” She also tackled issues related to healthcare, health insurance, and the FDA. She discussed an exit strategy for Iraq, health care for the reserves, the economy and gay and lesbian civil equality.
On the final night on Hillary Clinton’s conversation with America, she had a chance to respond to bushes state of the union. In the first question, she was asked if she thought it odd that President Bush had neglected to mention Hurricane Katrina. She responded, “that did strike me as odd. I know from talking from my friends and colleagues from the Gulf Coast, particularly New Orleans, that the promises the president made are just not being kept. They are more empty promises. It is so heart-breaking because this is a part of our union. These are our fellow citizens and we need a much more serious effort.” She made it clear that she has hopes that now that the Democrats were in the majority, Congress may be able to do something for those still displaced from their homes in southern Louisiana and along the Mississippi coast. The second question addressed President Bush's plan for medical insurance. Clinton made it clear while she was pleased that the President was willing to talk about health care, she wasn’t sure the few sentences in the hour long speech provided her with the information she would need to make a decision. She was however concerned that the President's plan wanted to cap the deduction for the cost of health care; essentially using that to try to help uninsured people get some tax benefits, to go out into the marketplace and buy health insurance. She was concerned that he would pay for the plan by cutting federal funding for public hospitals and community health centers.
The next question was quite interesting. It arose from a post at the Huffington Post Blog. It asked her about the kind of staff she would have as president. Clinton responded, “I like people who challenge me. I like people with expertise and experience and strong opinions. Now, I may push back because I also have my opinions, but I want that kind of give and take and debate. I don't think any one person -- and certainly no president in these difficult and complex times -- have all the answers. And I don't think you find answers from an ideological starting point. I believe in looking at the facts and the evidence, trying to understand what you're trying to achieve in terms of the values that you have and the objectives that you're setting forth in order to get results.” This is very different from the kind of presidential staff we have now.
She continued the conservation tacking tough issues such as, education, environment, the nuclear crisis in Iran, HIV/AIDS, health care for our military personnel, Social Security, and domestic homeland security. She concluded the evening by saying, “I look forward to keeping the conversation going. And I wish all of you the very best. We've got a lot of tough challenges in America but there is nothing we can't handle if we work together, we come up with sensible, practical solutions and we keep our eye on what's important, to renew the promise of America and to restore the greatness and respect for our country at home and abroad. That's what I intend to try to do during this campaign with ideas and with my vision for this country. And then in 2009, to have the chance as your president to do that as well.”