Promoting her new memoir, Hard Choices, former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton discusses the ins and outs of the Keystone pipeline, how she helped give a Chinese dissident freedom and the liberation of forgiveness. The interview took place last Wednesday in New York. The one-time first lady and senator will be in Toronto Monday.
Most people believe that Washington’s partisan politics – not environmental concerns – have held up the decision on the Keystone pipeline. What do you say to Canadians who feel that our special relationship is being taken for granted?
Our relationship is so much bigger and more important than any one decision – even one as important as this is. Canada is critical to who we are and what we hope to do together in the future. We have no better relationship. [But] this particular decision is a very difficult one because there are so many factors at play. I can’t really comment at great length because I had responsibility for it and it’s been passed on and it wouldn’t be appropriate, but I hope that Canadians appreciate that the United States government – the Obama administration – is trying to get it right. And getting it right doesn’t mean you will agree or disagree with the decision, but that it will be one based on the best available evidence and all of the complex local, state, federal, interlocking laws and concerns.
So do you personally believe that the U.S. should go ahead with the pipeline?
I can’t respond.
In your book, you describe your hashing out of differences with Barack Obama after a bitter nomination contest, your reconciliation and eventual friendship.
Beyond coming together for the common good of the party or country, what advice would give people for learning how to forgive?
People have to decide whether they’re going to move forward or stay mired in the bitterness and disappointment of the past. Over time, [the President and I] became friends. We got to know each other and see each in action.
And I was able to take that lesson and share it with people around the world who couldn’t understand how I could work with him or he work with me when it was so contentious.
A common tension in your book – and for that matter, American history – pits U.S. strategic interests against bedrock U.S. values. Where did you stand on that continuum when you began your job as secretary of state and where do you stand now?
I had hoped there was a way to more closely align them. We could do more to get our values and our strategic interests to be coinciding. I worked very hard to do that. But I also came to realize what generations of American diplomats and leaders understood before me: that often it’s not possible and often you have to make that hard choice – stand for your values and be ready to take the consequences.
When, for example?
In my book, I describe how we let blind [Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng] into our embassy. It was a perfect example of being forced to make a decision that was primarily a values decision and believing we had done enough to firmly ground our relationship with China in a broader discussion about where we could work together, where our disagreements would persist, that the relationship was strong enough to withstand what would be a difficult, confrontational experience for both sides.
In a Globe call-out to readers to send in their questions, @susank says: “I’d like to hear Mrs. Clinton’s opinion on the overwhelming support for her as female president. Is there so much pressure, guilt?” And I’d like to add, would you feel less pressure if you were a potential male candidate?
I can’t answer that [last part] because I’m not, but what I can say to her is that at the end of the day, this is such a personal decision and I have to figure out what I think is the best answer. I’m incredibly grateful for all the people who want me to run or [are] urging me to run, and I will do the best I can to make the right decision.