NEW YORK – Lately, the American media has been obsessed with everything Hillary Clinton says and does. Their interest is understandable: In 2016, Clinton could become the first woman to be elected president. But will she run? That is, of course, the biggest question on everyone’s mind.
“I’m not sure I’m going to run,” she told me during a recent interview in Lower Manhattan. (Our conversation can be seen here.) These days, Clinton seems to be more excited about becoming a grandmother – her daughter, Chelsea, is expecting a baby this fall – than about the prospect of being elected to the highest office in the land. Chelsea is “the best of both of us,” Clinton told me, referring to herself and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
We also talked about her recently published memoir, “Hard Choices,” which quickly became a national best-seller, although perhaps not as popular as the publisher expected, given Clinton’s $13 million book advance. Still, not all value can be measured in dollars. With “Hard Choices,” Clinton is following a well-worn path that has led other presidential candidates to success: First publish a memoir, then jump into the race.
I was especially interested in hearing her views on issues south of the U.S. border – specifically, the waves of Central American children who are journeying to this country, the consequences of gang violence in Honduras, the deaths caused by drug trafficking in Mexico and the prospect of ending the American embargo against Cuba.
As to how the United States should handle the nearly 60,000 Central American children who have crossed the border in the past year, Clinton told me that “some of them should be sent back.” I asked whether that might mean a death sentence for many children who are fleeing violence in their home countries.
“I don’t know that you can make a blanket statement,” she said. “I think some children have legitimate concerns – part of our problem is our laws are not particularly appropriate for what we’re facing right now,” she said.
Clinton, who was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, told me that each of these children belongs in one of two categories: “refugee” children feeling violence, who should receive asylum and protection, and “migrant” children, who should be treated humanely but should eventually be deported. She also advocates identifying children threatened by violence in countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala before they embark on a dangerous journey to the United States and risk falling prey to traffickers, rapists or even murderers.
When it comes to drug violence in Mexico, as secretary of state Clinton dared to say what other American officials had not: “Drug trafficking is not only Mexico’s problem,” she said during a news conference in Mexico in 2009. “It is also an American problem. And we in the U.S. have a responsibility to help you address it.”
Her critics accused her of apologizing for the U.S., and I asked her if she regretted making those statements. “Not at all,” she told me. “Mexico was facing such an onslaught of murder and violence from the drug cartels. And why was that happening? Because of the drug market in the United States of America, and I thought it was important to say that.”
I also asked Clinton about her views on relations with Cuba. When Bill Clinton was president, he never traveled to Cuba. In 1996, when it seemed that inroads toward a better relationship with the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro might be possible, two airplanes from the nonprofit Brothers to the Rescue were shot down by a Cuban fighter jet. After that incident, relations with Cuba hardened. Now, Hillary Clinton thinks it’s time for a change.
The embargo against Cuba “has been a failure,” she told me, “and it has propped up the Castros, because they can blame everything on the embargo.” Ending the embargo would be a good first step. “I would like to see us move toward the normalization of our relations, she said. “You know, someday, I’d like to go to Cuba.”
Clinton, who considers herself a “feminist” – which is defined as “someone who believes in full and equal rights between women and men,” as she pointed out – certainly seems to be laying the groundwork for a presidential run. Her potential candidacy may still be the biggest political unknown in America, perhaps even in the world. But if she ultimately decides to run, nobody will be taken by surprise.
Jorge Ramos, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, is the host of Fusion’s new television news show, “America With Jorge Ramos,” and is a news anchor on the Univision Network. Originally from Mexico and now based in Florida, Ramos is the author of nine best-selling books, most recently, “A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto.”