Hillary Clinton: 'Get in There and Mix It Up'

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Hirsh

Hillary Clinton on Obama, Iran, and a world of troubles.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat down for a 40-minute interview last week with NEWSWEEK's Michael Hirsh at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Tallinn, Estonia, where she was attending the NATO foreign ministers' meeting. Excerpts:

The great psychodrama that people are interested in is how do you go from one of the great battles in modern American political history to this close partnership?

Actually, it was kind of funny. It was the Sunday after the election, and Bill and I were going for a hike at a reserve near where we live in New York. About an hour and a half into it, [Bill's phone] rang. It was the president-elect saying he wanted to talk to Bill about some potential appointments. Bill said, "Well, we're on this walk and it's kind of awkward talking to you. Can we talk later?" And the president-elect said, "Yes, and I want to talk to Hillary too, so tell her to call me." I assumed it was along the same lines. And then when he asked me if I would be his secretary of state, I said there are so many other people you should look at [laughs]. I really felt an obligation to the people of New York to go back and serve, and I was just so surprised. I had never, ever, ever thought about it. We began a series of conversations. They ended with my deciding if the shoe had been on the other foot, and I had won and I had asked him to be part of my administration, I would have hoped he would have said yes. And I'm old-fashioned enough to believe that when a president calls, you should have a presumption of saying yes.

You have delivered some of the toughest messages to come out of this administration. Are you President Obama's bad cop these days?

I don't think there's anything as formal as that -- It's not "You're with us or against us." It is "We have a lot of business to do. But just because we're going to work with you to achieve progress on issues A, B, and C doesn't mean we're forestalled from raising questions about what you're doing on X, Y, and Z." We do a lot of business with China, for example.

Are you encouraging Google in its current standoff with China?

That was always a business decision on the part of Google. But we are encouraging the Chinese to recognize the importance of this form of free expression.

We know how hard you're working now to get a U.N. resolution on Iran sanctions. But last year you proposed what you called a defense umbrella for the region, and we've gotten indications that Secretary Gates is interested in the idea of containment should sanctions fail. …