Clinton Supports Regime Change in Iraq

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Meet the Press
Tim Russert
Event Date:
9/15/2002, 2/17/1998
Air/Publish Date:
Resource Type:
Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
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Senator Hillary Clinton says that she supports toppling Saddam Hussein in Iraq.



"Clinton Supports Regime Change in Iraq." Tim Russert, correspondent. Meet the Press. NBCUniversal Media. 15 Sep. 2002. NBC Learn. Web. 15 January 2020.


Russert, T. (Reporter). (2002, September 15). Clinton Supports Regime Change in Iraq. [Television series episode]. Meet the Press. Retrieved from


"Clinton Supports Regime Change in Iraq" Meet the Press, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 09/15/2002. Accessed Wed Jan 15 2020 from NBC Learn:


Clinton Supports Regime Change in Iraq

TIM RUSSERT, moderator:


MR. RUSSERT: In 1998, Congress passed this and the president signed the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. "It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq." Do you agree with that?

SEN. CLINTON: I do. I agreed with it in 1998. I agree with it in 2002.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe we could have disarmament without regime change?

SEN. CLINTON: I doubt it. But I do appreciate greatly the president going to the United Nations, making the case, which is really the United Nations' case. And I listened carefully to Secretary Powell. It's apparent that he's working very hard with the Security Council to come up with a resolution that will set forth an ultimatum, perhaps demand the reintroduction of inspectors and set forth an authorization for force in the event that that doesn't happen.

MR. RUSSERT: You would prefer one resolution with those three components?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I'm going to leave that to the secretary and his negotiators. Obviously, that would make it cleaner and faster for everyone, and I hope that's what can come from it. But I know he's working as hard as he can.

MR. RUSSERT: Secretary Powell said that the president wants Congress to vote on a resolution of authorization before leaving for the November recess. Could you support language like this? "Resolved by the Senate...That Congress...urges the President to take all necessary and appropriate actions to respond to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs..."

SEN. CLINTON: Well, Tim, I'm not going to say right now what language I will support. If it's the right thing to do, I'm going to support the president. I know a little bit about what it's like on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue making these difficult decisions. But I do think that it's important to continue down the United Nations' track, to do everything possible to get as much international support and buy-in as we can. I think that's important for the ultimate objective, but then we're going to wait to see how this unfolds over the next several of weeks.

MR. RUSSERT: What supporters of the president will say that this resolution--and I'll show it again--was drafted by--you'll see it here--Tom Daschle back in January of 1998 in support of President Clinton.

SEN. CLINTON: That's right.

MR. RUSSERT: If Democrats could support that language in '98--it's four years later without inspections--why couldn't they support it now?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I can support it. I mean, I can support the president having that kind of authority, but I think this is a serious issue. You know, I get a little bit bewildered by the political talk around this. You know, each of us has a solemn responsibility to vote what we think is right, what our conscious tells us, what is in the long-term security interest of the United States. So I don't think that, you know, anyone should be forced into a corner and say, "OK, are you going to do this now or not?" It hasn't come before us. We have to see the language, we have to look at what's happening simultaneously in the United Nations.

And, of course, you know, from my perspective, we also have to recognize that that decision takes place in a very large context, not just in international context with respect to the war on terror but also our domestic issues. And I don't want to lose sight of the fact because, you know, we're a great country. We can do more than one thing at the same time. And we ought to be focusing on the economy and on other related issues that are really causing people a lot of anguish here at home.

MR. RUSSERT: But the former president, four years ago, laid out very specifically what he saw as the threat from Saddam Hussein. Let's listen:

(Videotape, February 17, 1998):

PRES. CLINTON: What if he fails to comply and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route, which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction?

Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: That was four years ago.

SEN. CLINTON: That's right. And I agreed then with President Clinton. I agree with President Bush's emphasis on this issue. And, you know, you remember sometimes a president has to do what he thinks is right no matter what anyone else says. In fact, when President Clinton went into Kosovo, he didn't have Security Council authorization. Tried to get it. Did not get it. Decided it was the right thing to do. But he had NATO. He had the NATO allies willing to support him. So what President Bush is now doing is exactly what should be doing. He's got to bring about at least greater acceptance among our key allies and hopefully among the Security Council. But at the end of the day, look, the United States and especially our president, who's put into the position of having to shoulder that awful responsibility, has to do what he believes is in the best interest of our country.

MR. RUSSERT: President Bush has said he hopes that the Senate will vote for a resolution in October before they go home because he thinks voters should know how they stand on this issue. Do you agree?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think, again--I don't know that we want to put it in a political context. I'm sure that the president doesn't mean that. This is a national security issue, not a political issue. It should come before the Congress when it's appropriate to come before the Congress. And I'm not going to set a date or a time on that. I think we have to see what happens with the United Nations. We just heard Secretary Powell say several times that the president is not ready to declare war. He said that over and over again to you, Tim. And I think that what the president is doing is trying to get the United Nations to act in its own self-interest and in the interests of the world community.

MR. RUSSERT: Wouldn't it show the world we're united if, in fact, Congress joined with the president in support of this?

SEN. CLINTON: I think the world knows what we all know, which is that the Congress is going to give this president this authority.

MR. RUSSERT: Overwhelming?

SEN. CLINTON: I can't imagine that we won't. I mean, as we saw with, you know, the 1998 quote, this has been the policy of the United States for four years now.

MR. RUSSERT: But in 1991, 85 percent of the Democrats voted against a resolution to give President Bush authority to invade Iraq when he went into Kuwait.

SEN. CLINTON: I wasn't there then, you know. I supported that war and...

MR. RUSSERT: You see a much different Democratic response this time?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think that, you know, from the Democratic perspective, what we want to do is, you know, make a decision in a deliberative manner so that it isn't in politics. You know, the last thing in the world you want is to have to make a decision for political purposes. You want to do what you think is right. Maybe the, you know, political world agrees with you, maybe it doesn't, but you have to, at the end of the day, look in the mirror and believe you did the right thing. And that's what I hear my colleagues saying. You know, I have the utmost respect for the Democratic leadership of our major committees, of Tom Daschle and others. You know, these are very thoughtful, patriotic Americans. They're trying to do what the right thing is. And I'm convinced that, you know, just like me, if we're convinced it's the right thing, we're going to do it, and I would have no problem with that at all.