Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared on all three morning shows, Wednesday, but only Meredith Vieira on the Today show seemed to assume a second term for Clinton's boss, Barack Obama. After questioning how long she'd stay in the job, the NBC co-anchor wondered, "Do we expect any time soon that you are planning to retire like defense Secretary Gates?...How about the second term?"
On CBS's Early Show, Erica Hill also asked Clinton about her future plans, but simply noted that the Secretary of State planned on staying "at least through this first term."
[See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos, who previously worked for Hillary Clinton's husband, questioned the cabinet official about the need for civility: "It's pretty clear that Americans are fed up with the tone of our political discourse." Mrs. Clinton, of course, is the same person who blamed some of her husband's troubles on a "vast right-wing conspiracy."
Overall, however, Stephanopoulos conducted a surprisingly tough interview. He pressed the Secretary on the latest remarks from Dick Cheney: "Vice President Cheney, he gave an interview where he wondered if President Obama has absolute commitment to stop a terror attack that he, he said, and President Bush had. What do you make of that?"
Meredith Vieira also highlighted this point, playing a clip of Cheney saying that Obama will be "a one term president." She followed up, pivoting off of Clinton's smile, "What's your response, beyond the laughter?"
On the Early Show, Hill pushed the hardest on human rights issues, challenging, "China, though, has repeatedly dismissed U.S. calls for greater human rights as interference. How do you work on that issue of human rights while also balancing out the need for working on things like trade agreements?"
Stephanopoulos, on ABC, queried, "Are we seeing any progress [on human rights]? Because, it doesn't seem like it from the outside.
A transcript of the GMA interview, which aired at 7:08am EST on January 19, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That new ABC News/Washington Post poll we talked about also showed you that Americans are divided on the question of how to characterize China. 47 percent see China as a friendly nation, while 44 percent regard it as unfriendly. And when I spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that's where we began. The White House is rolling out the red carpet for President Hu. But I think a lot of Americans, especially those having trouble in the job market, are having a hard time figuring out how to think about China. Are they friend or foe? Ally or adversary?
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: George, one of the reason why we're rolling out the red carpet and having President Hu Jintao come for a state visit, is that we think we'll be better to answer such a question as we move forward. And my hope is-
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, we don't know yet?
CLINTON: Well, my hope is that we have a normal relationship, a very positive, cooperative, comprehensive relationship, where, in some areas, we're going to compete. There's no doubt about that. But in many areas, we're going to cooperate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's tough competition on the economic front, especially. And your senior senator in New York, Chuck Schumer, has said Americans are fed up with the way China is manipulating its currency, closing down its markets. And he says that, it's time, they're seeking unfair economic advantage. He's actually proposed legislation that would sanction them, have tariffs if they don't stop manipulating their currency. Can you see a point when the administration would get behind something like that?
CLINTON: I think Americans need to put this relationship into perspective. Our standard of living is much higher, our innovation, our creativity. All of that is, really, to America's advantage. They have a huge labor market. They have lower costs. And they are going to be a really tough competitor. And what we're looking for is a competition where nobody's got their thumb or their fist on the scale.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not how it is right now, though, is it?
CLINTON: No. We agree. That's why we continue to raise issues of currency, of the failure to protect intellectual property. I think it's important to realize that we're going to stand up for our values and our interests and our security. They're going to stand up for theirs, as they see it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We also have to see on the issue of security, whether they're going to do more to crack down on the North Korean nuclear program and stop undermining efforts to stop the Iranians from building nuclear weapons. Are we seeing any progress there? Because, it doesn't seem like it from the outside.
CLINTON: Well, I think I see it a little differently. On Iran, for example, China joined with us in the tough sanctions. The Israelis just said, about a week or so ago, that they see a slowdown in the Iranian program. We believe that sanctions have had an impact in North Korea. They also joined with us on sanctions. We are still-
STEPHANOPOULOS: You don't think they're undermining the sanctions in Iran?
CLINTON: We think there are some entities within China that we have brought to the attention of the Chinese leadership that are still not as, shall we say, as in compliance as we would like them to be. And we are pushing very hard on that. And we may be proposing more unilateral sanctions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Vice President Cheney, he gave an interview where he wondered if President Obama has absolute commitment to stop a terror attack that he, he said, and President Bush had. What do you make of that?
CLINTON: Well, I think that is really unfortunate language. I was certainly taken aback by it. I don't know how anyone who was in the White House before or now could doubt any President's absolute commitment to stopping the terrorists from attacking us. And I think you've seen in the last two years that President Obama and our entire team is single-mindedly focused on that. And we've had some successes in preventing terrorists from, you know, wreaking havoc on our own country. And working with our friends and allies around the world. I don't think it's useful to make such a statement. And I certainly reject it completely.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you a question coming out of that tragedy in Tucson. It's pretty clear that Americans are fed up with the tone of our political discourse. We had a poll at ABC News showing 82 percent don't like the tone right now. You've been in the middle of the political fray for so long. I was just wondering if you have any concrete ideas on how we might ratchet down the rhetoric. And if, for example, if you were still in the Senate, would you sit by Republicans for the State of the Union?
CLINTON: Oh, absolutely. I think it may be a symbolic action, but symbolism matters. I think we need to be doing more of that. I also think we have to be very careful about, you know, demonizing what are political disagreements by personalizing the people who hold different views. And I think everybody in politics, as I have been, gets carried away in the heat of the moment, from time to time. And maybe says things about the person, as opposed to the policy, that we would think better of the next day. So, I think we need to continue to hold the opinion. That goes back to the beginning of our great debate in this country. But let's try to keep it on the policy because let's have a legitimate, fact-based debate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One, final question. You seem awfully fulfilled on the professional front. How are you doing on the grandmother front?
CLINTON: Well, you know, I will only get in trouble however I respond to that. But, let me just say, I love babies. So, you know, maybe I'll have more in my life someday.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, good luck with that. Thank you very much for your time this morning.
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.