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Secretary Clinton Interviews on START Ratification

Interview with Bob Schieffer of CBS Face the Nation

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Lisbon, Portugal
November 21, 2010

QUESTION: All right. Well, let's talk about this START Treaty. You know, Madam Secretary, on the President's recent trip to Asia, he was totally blind-sided when he thought he was going to get a trade agreement in South Korea and the thing fell apart. Now he is saying that getting this START Treaty ratified by the Senate is -- he is putting the highest priority on getting that done in this lame duck session in the Congress.
How -- isn't he risking another serious embarrassment? Because, frankly, he doesn't have the votes to get it ratified in the Senate right now. Why has he said this is the highest priority right now?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Bob, first, I don't think those are two analogous situations. I mean the President didn't finalize a deal in Korea because he was not satisfied that the deal was in the best interests of America. And that's what a President is supposed to do. And so he did the right thing. Obviously, he is continuing to negotiate to get a deal that is in the interests of the United States.
With respect to START, there is no doubt that the START Treaty is in the interest of the United States. Don't just take it from me or from the President. Look at what Europeans, people like Angela Merkel or the foreign minister of Poland or the presidents of any of the Baltic countries or so many others are saying. They live next door to Russia. They know that this is in their interests. And they also know that, because we have no treaty, there is no inspection going on, there is no verification going on --

QUESTION: But, Madam Secretary, he doesn't have the votes.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, but it's always difficult to get these treaties through. It always takes a lot of presidential effort. And we are making the case that, number one, this is in America's national security interests. Our friends and allies around the world support it. We need to get inspectors back on the ground. Remember what Ronald Reagan said when he was passing an arms control treaty with Russia? "Trust, but verify." Right now we cannot verify. And this is the kind of important national security agreement that the Senate needs to be encouraged to stop and really study and focus on.
And, to be fair, Bob, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted it out on a big bipartisan vote. It couldn't get the attention it needed before the election. The President is saying, "This needs to be dealt with in the lame duck session." Senator Lugar, who knows more about arms control treaties than anybody else, I would argue, in our country probably at this point has said very passionately, "This must be done for the United States."

QUESTION: But do you think you can get the votes? I guess that's the question I have.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, but that's what politics is about. And I have to say I am proud of the President for making this a priority, because he is putting it above politics, which is exactly where it needs to be. He believes so strongly that this is an important treaty to get done this year, that he is putting his enormous office efforts behind it. And, obviously, we are all doing everything we can.
Now, at the end of the day, the senators have to decide. But I would hope that this treaty would be treated as others -- whether it was a Democratic or a Republican president -- saw their treaties in arms control with the Russians treated, and that is this is beyond politics. Let's pass it by an overwhelming bipartisan vote.


Interview With David Gregory of NBC Meet the Press

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Lisbon, Portugal
November 21, 2010

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, welcome back to the program.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, David.

QUESTION: I want to talk about this showdown between the President and Senate Republicans over the START Treaty. The President, in his comments to reporters, made it very clear he thinks politics is being played here, saying to reporters, “Nobody’s going to score any political points to 2012.”
Is that the President’s belief here about what’s standing in the way? And in your view, is this really a litmus test of whether there can be bipartisanship in Washington after the election?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think the President believes strongly, and I agree with him, that this treaty is in the national security interests of the United States. And it’s not only Americans who believe that. I’m very impressed by the number of leaders at the NATO-Lisbon summit who voluntarily told their own press or American press – they were chasing down reporters to say this is so much in the interests of Europe and others.
So the President sees this very clearly, but I don’t think he considers this a political issue. It’s a question of whether we have the time and whether we can make the case, in the limited time that the lame duck provides, to satisfy the concerns of two-thirds of the Senate. I think we can. I think that everyone has operated in good faith. We have looked hard at this. When it came out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it came out with an overwhelming bipartisan vote, 14-4.
I think that the questions are being – that are being asked by Republicans deserve thoughtful answers, and everyone in the Administration stands ready, from Bob Gates to Jim Clapper, the head of – the Director of National Intelligence, because we all see it in the same way. And we’re in the tradition of both Republican and Democratic presidents, going back to Ronald Reagan, who famously said, “Trust, but verify.”
We have no verification without a treaty about what’s going on in Russia’s nuclear program. So I think whether you’re already convinced or can be convinced, I think we want to get our inspectors back on the ground, and the only way to do that is by ratifying this treaty.

QUESTION: Is there an issue, though, of America prestige? The President was dealt a setback on fair trade when he was in Seoul. There was a feeling when it comes to whether it’s trade or economic policy, that America can’t always get what it wants. Is this going to potentially be a problem with the President not being able to get what he wants on the world stage because of Republicans?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, I think that the President didn’t agree to a trade deal in Seoul because he didn’t feel like it was enough in America’s interests. That’s what a president is supposed to do. Obviously, he’s still working to get one finalized that is. And in respect to START, which concerns not just trade but life or death, because we’re talking about thousands of nuclear warheads that are still pointed at the United States.
The President believes that it does go beyond politics. You can argue about a trade deal, but what the tradition has been in the Senate going back to the 1980s with President Reagan, is that once people have had a chance to carefully consider these arms control treaties, they have been passed overwhelmingly. We’ve seen it with the Reagan and the Bush Administrations, the Clinton Administration. Now, of course, we are in the Obama Administration. And in this one area, this goes beyond politics. This should be nonpartisan, not just bipartisan.


Interview With Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Lisbon, Portugal
November 21, 2010

QUESTION: The Obama Administration is pushing for a vote this year on the New START Treaty agreement with the Russians, but the lead Republican John Kyl says that there’s not enough time in this session, this lame duck session before the end of the year. And the fact is you only have one of the nine Republican votes you need. Aren’t you taking a big chance pushing for a vote this year and running the risk of suffering a major, embarrassing defeat on the world stage?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Chris, I have a great deal of respect for all of my colleagues, Democratic and Republican, in the Senate. And I think that everyone is trying to figure out how to do the right thing on this important treaty. I would just make three quick points.
One, this is in the national security interest of the United States. There’s no doubt about it. In fact, what I was heartened by and even a little surprised by at the NATO meeting was the number of people, like Chancellor Merkel of Germany, like foreign ministers and prime ministers and presidents from the Baltic countries, from Central and Eastern Europe, like the editorial that was written by the foreign minister of Poland – people who are on the ground in Europe, nearby Russia, many of whom were part of the former Soviet Union, who are saying: Please ratify this treaty now, United States Senate.
Now, why are they saying that? Not because they have a dog in the hunt between Republicans and Democrats in our country. It’s because they know that this would be an important treaty for the continuing cooperation between Russia and the United States.
Secondly, we do not have any inspectors verifying what Russia is doing with their nuclear stockpile or anything else that is going on in their sites. We’ve lost that capacity. If you talk to any of our intelligence experts, like General Jim Clapper, the new director of the National Intelligence Agency, they will tell you we cannot go much longer without that capacity restored.
And finally, this is in the tradition of not just bipartisan but nonpartisan action on behalf of arms control treaties, going back to President Reagan, who famously said, “Trust, but verify.” Well, right now, we have no verification. So what we are arguing is that we’ll find the time in the lame duck. I understand the legitimate concern that there might not be enough time to debate, to make sure that everybody is well-informed. But as Senator Lugar, who is one of the leading experts in the world on the dangers posed by nuclear weapons, on the necessity of having more insight into what Russia is doing, he said we cannot wait. I agree with him.
And so we’re continuing to work with all of our Democratic and Republican senators to try to get to a point where we can hold that vote this year.

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Full text of the interviews