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Hillary: 'Formal Role' In Welfare?

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Transcript of TIME Interview


TIME: What are you going to do this term?

FIRST LADY: "I intend to speak out about welfare reform and write about it. If there's a formal role that would make sense in terms of reporting to the president, kind of like I did on the Gulf War disease (sic), go out, listen to the people, maybe write him some memoranda -- I always write about the trips I take and give him a report.

"I'll do the same old stuff I've been doing. I'm going to work on issues on which I think I can make a difference." She said she will keep writing a column, continue making speeches and probably start another book soon, though she wasn't prepared to divulge what it will be about. "The idea hasn't totally gelled," she explained.

TIME: What about your role in welfare reform?

FIRST LADY: "I want to travel around and talk to people about what is happening on the ground. I intend to speak out about it and write about it."

Pressed on her welfare reform role:

FIRST LADY: "I'm interested in how the actual implementation of welfare reform will would work at the local and state level. There's a lot of good information we have now because of the waivers that have been granted in the last several years. There has to be a transfer of knowledge across state boundaries so that people know what worked in Missouri and what worked in Illinois or in California. I think there's going to be some really steep learning curves in how this is going to be done. People are going to be facing challenges that maybe they foresaw but others they didn't and what's going to be important is that we get good information available from the entire country so if there are other problems that nobody foresaw, they can be addressed, and if there are solutions that are developing, they can be disseminated and that people have a good network to share information about how welfare reform is proceeding. I've talked with people in the private, not-for-profit sector about some ideas they have as to how to monitor what happens in welfare. So I want to be involved in some way to bring this all to the attention of decision-makers."

TIME: How do you want to be remembered?

FIRST LADY: "No, I don't think about that. I don't think there's much that I could do or say that would be directly relevant to that or add something. Over time, people draw their own conclusions about it."

TIME: What about striking a balance in your own life?

FIRST LADY: "That's what I try to do every single day. I hold my hands out and try to put one foot in front of the other. I'm big on balance."

TIME: Do you feel you can be more outspoken on the issues you care about like universal health coverage that you have spoken about before but haven't spoken about since September?

FIRST LADY: "I've talked about it all year in dozens of campaign appearances, anytime anybody has asked me or in response to a question. I did a lot of Medicare events and I often said that we have to deal with our lack of universal coverage or I'm still concerned that we have a large numbers of uninsured Americans."

TIME: Do you feel freer about speaking out?

FIRST LADY: "No. Different times, venues, opportunities demand different responses. During the campaign, there was a certain repetition of message that everyone of us was engaged in so there wasn't a whole lot of room for talking about other issues, but whenever the occasion arose or if I was asked, I always said what I thought about universal healthcare coverage. Now that the campaign is over, I'm back to where I was before the campaign."

TIME: Any lessons from the last four years?

FIRST LADY: "I'm sure there are lots and lots of lessons, things we did that could have been done better. It's hard to look back because I know so much more now than I did on January 20, 1993. There is nothing to compare you for with walking into that White House, at least I don't know what you could possibly do to your life that would prepare you. So from my perspective I've learned so much I can't even begin to digest it all. "

TIME: How do you deal with the rumors of legal problems?

FIRST LADY: "Apparently that will always be with us. So my attitude is that I can't be very concerned about it or distracted by it so I really spend very little time thinking about any of it."

TIME: Has it overshadowed what you hope to accomplish?

FIRST LADY: "I have a different experience when I travel. I get enormous amount of satisfaction out of going to different parts of our country or the world and there is an intense amount of interest and support from people interested in what the president is doing or what I have done, so I feel very sustained and lifted up as I travel around, so it doesn't enter into my thinking about what's happening in these places that I visit."

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