Hillary Clinton on sunlight, open records, the Caucus campaign

OK and Senator Clinton"I want to turn the lights on this country. I want people to see what’s going on. I want everybody to understand that this is one of the most important elections in our country’s history. There is so much at stake," Hillary Clinton said as she began her eight-minute-long speech to an outdoor gathering of AFSCME members.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union this week endorsed Clinton and on this chilly Saturday afternoon in Des Moines Clinton spoke to a rally with 200 or so AFSCME members in Iowa.  "Join with me in making history," Clinton said as she concluded her remarks.

Clinton spoke with Radio Iowa a few minutes later. The first question I posed was about this past week’s debate and the ruckus is raised. [Larger photo]

Henderson:  "Your campaign said ‘piling on’ — other campaigns said ‘whining’ after the debate.  I think earlier this year you said you were going to be ready to deck people.  Do you feel like decking anybody?"

Clinton:  "No, because I feel like I’m running to tell people what I’m going to do as president and I know that as the campaign gets closer to the end people will get more and more excitable, so I’m going to let everybody else run their campaigns and I’m going to run my campaign."

Henderson:  "In regards to the transcript issue, would it not buttress your argument that you were involved and you had those eight years of White House experience if people were able to see the documents? Why shouldn’t they be released expeditiously?"

Clinton:  "Well, they are being released expeditiously.  The archives has control over all of the documents.  They’re not in the control for my husband, but under the law which effects every president there are certain rules that are set up as to how a president want to proceed and I think it’s fair to say and we can give you all the background on this, that Bill has said move as quickly as possible, release more documents, has said we don’t need to review the vast majority of them and that’s what’s happening, but I learned — it was much more than I even thought — that there are 100 million pages in the library, 20 million emails and several hundred Freedom of Information Act requests.  By law, they have to go through every page — not for us but for their duty to history.  They have to record every page.  They have to also excise anything the archives believes is national security or other things that are listed in the law that I can’t recall at the moment.  Then, every president is entitled to look at what the archives are about to release.  There’s been no involvement on the part of anybody on the part of the president before that moment and I think that the president’s staffs have, like, 30 days to make a decision and the only reason — they can’t stop it.  That’s not the whole point of it, but then you then know — because it’s released — the questions about why did so-and-so say this about UFOs doesn’t come to the archives, it comes to the president’s staff and I think there’s so much misunderstanding.  (Clinton begins to laugh) 

"I think it’s like people think we have boxes of records in our basement and why don’t I just go and get them and hand them over and you know my husband has never blocked a record ever.  He has been the most forthcoming of all presidents and as a matter of fact when President Bush said, ‘I want to stop all these papers from being released,’ Bill said, ‘That’s not how we’re going to do it,’ so it’s moving as rapidly as that process moves and Bill and I have said, ‘Move as rapidly as you can move,’ but the fact is they have to do it in a certain order and they have to follow their process."

Henderson: "It sounds as if some of records will be released in January…"

Clinton:  "And some records already have.  We’ve already released, I believe, about a million pages and it’s released as soon as it possibly can be and my understanding — again, I’ve not seen anything. I don’t know anything about it and it’s up to the archives and that’s the end of it as far as I’m concerned — but I believe that most of the requests have nothing to do with me, but there is a request that is in line to be released sometime in January as I understand it."

Henderson:  "So, when those are released, give us a hint.  Will they reveal Hillary Clinton — power broker?  Hillary Clinton — international ambassador of goodwill?  Hillary Clinton — policy wonk?  What sort of picture will they reveal?

Clinton: "Well, they could reveal all of the above that you just described.  I honestly don’t know what’s going to be revealed.  I actually read in the press it’s going to be schedules, so it may reveal the very ordinary life of moving from meeting to meeting, event to event, hostessing something here, talking somewhere there — I don’t know, but if that’s a true reflection of how I spent eight years it will be full of all of the various responsibilities and tasks that I performed."

Earlier today, the Obama camp released a letter from a couple of Iowans on this issue.  It was signed by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who is co-chair of Obama’s Iowa campaign, and by Linn County Supervisor Lu Barron (Linn County is home to Cedar Rapids/Marion, Iowa’s second-largest metro).  Here is how the letter began: Yesterday, it was reported that the Clinton presidential library will not release the public schedules from your tenure as First Lady until late January – several weeks after Iowa Democrats have participated in the January 3rd caucuses.  Other records documenting your time in Washington won’t be made public until long after millions of Democrats have cast their vote to choose our nominee, because of the request to have documents reviewed by Bruce Lindsey prior to their release.

Throughout this campaign, you have repeatedly emphasized your experience as First Lady.  However, by refusing to authorize an expedited release of the records from your time in Washington, you are preventing the Iowa voters from thoroughly reviewing that experience.

Now, returning to the Clinton conversation.  One topic will be revealed in a later story on Radio Iowa.  The following I shall use to close this post — Clinton’s observation that Caucuses are definitely not like a Primary or a General Election.

"It’s so personal," Clinton said.  "….There is a pool of people who take it very seriously.  I’m trying to increase the numbers of people in that pool who care deeply but have never done it before and finding lots of interest in becoming involved, but at the end of the day people can make a decision based on anything of importance to them.  I’ve had people say they’re going to be for me for all kinds of reasons.  The last time I was here, I had a woman say, ‘I’m going to be for you because I loved when you went to my country’ and I said, ‘Well, what’s your country?’ and she said, ‘I’m from Spain.’  There’s so many reasons why people (decide to support you).  I don’t have any idea, sometimes, as to what people are responding to.  I just go out, present myself, answer their questions and hope that I’ll be able to persuade some of them to Caucus for me."

Henderson:  "Isn’t that frustrating?"

Clinton:  "No, it’s not.  It was a little bit challenging to understand at first because a Caucus is not like an Election.  A Caucus is a very, very different experience and it took me a while to really sort that out and people who have done it before told me, they said, ‘It’s very different. It’s not like anything you’ve ever done before,’ and I thought before I started, ‘Well, my gosh, I’ve been working in Elections for 40 years.  My husband was in these elections.  I’ve supported many people.  I’ve run twice myself,’ but it’s true.  It’s a much more thoughtful, personal, hands-on process and therefore I’m not frustrated at all because I understand it and respect and I see the positive support growing so it’s gratifying to me."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.