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THE SITUATION ROOM

Reaction to Hillary Clinton Town Hall Event

Aired June 17, 2014 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Nice round of applause for Hillary Clinton and Christiane Amanpour.

Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer. I'm here at the Newseum in Washington. You have been watching CNN's town hall, "Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices."

We once again want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to this special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

You have just seen and heard Hillary Clinton talk for about an hour about all sorts of sensitive subjects, including Benghazi, Iraq, Syria, immigration and a whole lot more.

We have got a lot of coverage, a lot of analysis to do here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're in THE SITUATION ROOM, Newseum branch of THE SITUATION ROOM.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: And I want to keep all of you here for the next hour as we assess what we have just heard.

What do you think? Did she do a good job or didn't she do a good job?

What do you think? Good job?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: I think they think she did a pretty good job.

Let's bring in our chief Washington correspondent, the anchor of "THE LEAD," Jake Tapper. He's got some thoughts on what we just heard.

Nice round of applause for Jake.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: Come on over here, Jake. What do you think? How did she do?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: First of all, she said hard choices a lot. I don't know if you picked up on that.

BLITZER: Yes. She's trying to sell her book.

(LAUGHTER) TAPPER: That's the title of the book, "Hard Choices." And for those people who have read the book, a lot of anecdotes she shared are very much from that.

She was -- it was -- I have seen her in a lot of different formats. This was her at her best campaign format. She was on message and really trying to relate to the audience in some moments, especially when she talked about being a woman in leadership.

There were a couple moments where you could tell she was really speaking in a way that was not as a candidate. Especially, I'm thinking about when she talked about the gun lobby and referred to them terrorizing -- a radical minority terrorizing the majority. But it was certainly -- and Christiane did a fantastic job. We should give applause to Christiane.

(APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: I didn't learn a tremendous amount new, but I thought it was her at her best in terms of relating to an audience.

BLITZER: All right, stand by. I want to bring in John King in and get his thoughts. Christiane is going to follow in the a second.

All right, John, you listened very carefully. I was sitting there with you. You were taking a lot of notes. What jumped out at you?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I thought the greatest value was the diversity of the questions and the back and forth.

Christiane and the audience, you should applaud yourself. I think she gave very short answers here. She was clearly interested in moving on and discussing a lot of subjects. Sometimes, candidates filibuster. Sometimes, senators filibuster. She was not interested in that, which is interesting.

It tells you a little bit about her mind-set. She was very clear and she wanted everyone to understand to the question from the young woman here that she disagreed with the president on Syria. Gently and politely, she wanted to make some distinctions with the president and make it clear.

And she reinforced that early on. She wanted to arm the Syrian rebels. That's important to her. Look, she is running. Her decision is whether to stop running. Right now, she is running. And so I thought it was important.

To Jake's point about guns, the base will like that. The base won't like so much her words about those young kids. She showed a great deal of empathy for the young children at the border trying to get to the United States, but she also said just because they get to the border doesn't mean they get to stay. The liberal base won't like that so much.

BLITZER: When she said they would try -- she would try to reunite those young children with their families back in Central America or elsewhere. Hold on.

Let's give a big round of applause for our moderator, Christiane Amanpour. She is here with us as well.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: You did an excellent job, Christiane.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Beautiful job.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's tough because you want to ask a whole lot of hard questions.

But what I honestly, genuinely think, it is so valuable to hear what people want to ask her and not just what we want to ask her. And I was very impressed by, as you said, the diversity of the questions. I think many people -- all of this was substantive. People wanted to know about Iraq, about Syria, about immigration, about women.

Many people criticize her, which is why I ask her, including many journalists, many female journalists, why did you not run as a woman last time? And I think she answered that very, very well. And she talked about maybe why -- the pressures of not doing that.

To this lady's question or some lady's question about maternity leave, she reminds me that America is one of only three countries in the world that does not give their women paid maternity leave. And I have spoken to top, top -- Christine Lagarde of the IMF. There is an added GDP boost if men and women are in the work force at the same level, even in the United States, even in developed economies.

So, for that reason, as well as humanitarian and other reasons, there should be that kind of thing here.

BLITZER: She certainly sounded and looked like a presidential...

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: And on Syria..

BLITZER: I want to get to that in a moment, but she sounded and looked like a presidential candidate. What did you think?

AMANPOUR: Look, I mean, look, everybody says that she is running. What can I tell you? I tried my best.

I knew she wasn't going to announce or not announce on this.

(LAUGHTER)

AMANPOUR: But she has been sort of thinking about it and evolving.

I liked her marijuana comments. I like -- the gay marriage comment, I thought, was interesting, because she did get incredibly testy during the NPR. And I thought she advanced that and obviously had been thinking about that. And I thought that that seemed to go down pretty well.

Syria, for me -- obviously, I cover that -- is an incredibly important issue. We're all terrified by the fact that an al Qaeda offshoot has established a statelet in Iraq and in Syria. And many people believe that's because of a hands-off policy by this administration.

And she is very clear. But I still wanted to know why, if this was the, you know, existential national security threat to the United States, which it is, push and push and push to change this policy. You know, her own ambassador resigned over it.

BLITZER: If there was any question, Jake, about her health, certainly did not indicate any problems at all. She was lively, she was feisty, she was talkative. She certainly was alert and she wanted to explain her positions.

TAPPER: Sure.

And she has said that if she does choose to run, then she will do what other candidates have done and disclose her medical records. One other point to something that you and Christiane were talking about having to do whether she was being radically candid or speaking more as somebody keeping her options open.

And that was about the question about paid medical leave.

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: Maternity leave.

TAPPER: Maternity leave.

She did not support it. Why not? Because it is not politically possible. That was what she said, not -- it wasn't a statement of principle, as we heard from Christiane. It was, we can't have it done. So I'm not going to come out and favor of it right now, which I thought was interesting.

AMANPOUR: She said, let the states try it. And let's see, as everything happens in this country.

I don't know. Listen, I come from Europe, where we have very generous paid maternity leave, where we he have a universal health care, where we do pay taxes in order to have these kinds of things. So we sort of take it for granted.

TAPPER: And five-month vacations also.

KING: But these points are very interesting because...

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: No, Jake.

KING: People always try to put Hillary Clinton in a box. And she has constantly evolved. We all evolve, but she has evolved in a very public way.

She was in the Clinton administration, her husband's administration, the architect of health care. People described her as an ultra- liberal, the government takeover of health care. While she is a more moderate Democrat on some issues, she certainly was with the liberal base on guns right there.

She was more in the center on the immigration issue and, interesting, she sounds like a states' rights Republican. Let the states try this marijuana question. Let the states try on the minimum wage. Let the states try on the family leave and let's see how things go and when the state proves they can do it, then maybe we try to expand it and nationalize it.

So, a little bit difficult to pigeonhole ideologically sometimes. And one other quick point. She has a great sense of humor. She doesn't always get to show it. We did see some of that here today. Whether you like her or not, she is pretty funny.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: She's got a good sense of humor, indeed.

All right, guys, hold on for a moment. We have a lot of analysis coming up here in our special SITUATION ROOM, including Hillary Clinton talking about her plans for 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Are your competitive juices flowing for the chance to be the first...

(LAUGHTER)

AMANPOUR: ... female president of the United States of America?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: There have been, as you know, a number of investigations, including the independent one that the State Department commissioned, as well as many in Congress. There are answers, not all of them, not enough, frankly. I'm still looking for answers, because it was a confusing and difficult time.

But I would hope that every American would understand, number one, why we were there, because we need to be in dangerous places, and, number two, that we're doing the best we can to find out what happened. And I hope that fair-minded people will look at that seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

We're here at the Newseum here in Washington, D.C., a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

And we're talking about CNN's town hall event with Hillary Clinton, who has just wrapped up a few moments ago.

Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar, and CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She's a senior political writer for Politico as well.

Let's go down the line, ladies. Give us your immediate thought. What do you think?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think she did very well. She got looser as time went on.

I still don't hear any kind of overarching theme for what a candidacy would be like. Her discussion was very much like her book, which is a series of related issues. There was no sort of overarching message.

But she was much more candid than she has been. She was much more open than she has been. She did show flashes of humor and you did see at the end she addressed the question of grandmother. She said there are a lot of grandfathers who have been president too. And that's the first time I have heard her say that.

BLITZER: An excellent point indeed.

What did you think, Gloria? Because you have been watching her for a while.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think there wasn't any overarching message, except for I am woman, I am different. I am running as a woman this time.

What was most interesting to me was she said, in 2008, when she lost, she said it was difficult to gauge how I was presenting myself and being presented. Then she went on to talk about the hair, the makeup, being under the microscope as a woman, how different it was, how people asked her about being a grandmother and maybe didn't ask Mitt Romney so much about being a grandfather many times over.

So, I think that what I heard from her was, this is going to be a different campaign. She is running on her experience. But she is also appealing to women as a woman. BLITZER: Brianna, you have been covering her now for a while as well.

Did you see some outbursts of desire to be the first woman president of the United States?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think when you kind of -- I think you see her really keeping, not just the door open, but sort of everything as geared, to me, I see toward running, unless she decides not to.

To me, it seems very apparent at this point that that is where her mind is. What struck me though is if she is going to run -- and this is to your point, Maggie -- she sort of raised the question herself. What is your vision? She raised the question and didn't really answer it. I want to know sort of what her vision is. I think a lot of people do.

She probably does not want to unveil it so quickly, but I think that's really the question that she is sort of figuring out right now.

BORGER: Well, it was clear she will take on the NRA. Right? That was one thing.

And then the question was, she said, and it almost sounded like...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: She was asking about Barack Obama. It brought me back to 2008. She said some people can paint a beautiful vision, but can you lead us there? And I thought, wait a minute, is this 2008?

HABERMAN: There is no question that she is doing a lot of throwbacks.

And also she was talking about doing some candor, right?

BORGER: Right.

HABERMAN: She did not answer the question about race with President Obama. I do think that is going to come up again and again and again. And I think she is going to need a clearer answer.

BLITZER: What -- specifically, what would you like to have heard?

HABERMAN: I think she needed to say there are people who opposed him because he -- because of race.

I think that in the Democratic primary, that is not going to hurt her and there are people who want to hear her say that. For the voters who would be offended by that in a general election, they were probably never going to be with her anyway.

BLITZER: But a lot of people think, if she runs, there is not going to be much of a Democratic primary.

HABERMAN: Well, then that's all the more reason to make sure that there is no daylight. That's why.

BLITZER: You think there will be other Democrats?

HABERMAN: I think there will be someone. I don't think it's going to be what we saw last time, but why do you want to go through -- because this is a system we have, but why go through that if you don't have to?

BORGER: But if there a Democratic primary, people will run to her left and not to her right.

HABERMAN: Yes.

But that's to my point.

BORGER: That's right, exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Let me play this little clip from the town hall meeting. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Are your competitive juices flowing for the chance to be the first...

(LAUGHTER)

AMANPOUR: ... female president of the United States of America?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: I -- you can see why she's an experienced journalist.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: I have been asked this a million different ways. That was very clever.

I was with my husband for eight years. I saw how difficult that was. I have served President Obama for four years. He became a good friend of mine. And I see how difficult that is, because people who don't agree with you try to tear you down, because there's a lot at stake.

It really matters what is going to happen, whether it is immigration or guns or income inequality or anything else. So, I'm going to think about all that, but not right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Not right now. But she will make up her mind presumably by the end of the year.

KEILAR: Well, she had said by the end of the year, and now she has said that she will be well on her way by the end of the year.

So she is giving herself a little bit of wiggle room. And that fascinates me because if she decides she doesn't want to run, that is something she needs to do sooner than later to give some space to the other potential Democrats who may want to run.

If she does decide that she is going to run, it helps her to put it off a little bit, and she also was -- she looks back and really does not like that she declared in January of 2007 and had almost two full years of campaigning, really did not like that. So I think she will put it off as long as she...

(CROSSTALK)

HABERMAN: We won't have long to wait, though.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Yes, a lot of pressure, a lot of pressure.

BORGER: And she's running. She's running. Can we just say that? She's running.

(CROSSTALK)

HABERMAN: I agree.

(CROSSTALK)

HABERMAN: ... if she doesn't run. But I totally agree with you.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Right. If she doesn't run, that will be a huge story. Like, everybody believes she's running. It will be like, of course she's...

BLITZER: But, in the meantime, she freezes out other potential Democratic candidates. Right.

HABERMAN: Yes, while saying it is a fantastic field and we have tons of other people, which she has said in recent interviews. There aren't tons of other people. It's very hard...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, there is a vice president of the United States.

HABERMAN: Well, there is a vice president and he is thinking about running. But I think that is very unlikely he would...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And he is at the World Cup, by the way.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: There are a few governors out there as well.

HABERMAN: There are, but it is not the same. (CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: All you have to do is really look at the polls. She is -- when you look at the potential field, she is in the 60s. Joe Biden is the closest. He not even in the teens, I don't think.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: But here's the problem. And she faced it in 2008. Inevitability is not a campaign slogan. I'm the inevitable candidate. I'm going to win.

I'm going to -- and polls show that not only is she expected to be the Democratic nominee, but she's also favored to win the presidential race. And it is a little early for people to think she's inevitable, because it happened to her once before. And I'm sure she is thinking about that.

(CROSSTALK)

How did she do on Benghazi?

HABERMAN: I think that it -- I think that her answer is still incomplete and I think she is going to continue to get questions. She said, I'm still searching for answers too.

I don't think that's going to feel good to the families.

BLITZER: She said, there is a lot, Gloria, that we don't know.

I guess that in effect might justify a special congressional committee, if there's a lot she doesn't know.

BORGER: Exactly. And my reporter ears perked up when I heard that, because, of course, there are questions about whether she is going to testify before this special committee in Benghazi.

And now that she has come out and said to Christiane that there are a lot of unanswered questions, I guarantee you that Republicans are going to say, well, Madam Secretary, come visit.

HABERMAN: Come with us.

BLITZER: All right. Hold on for a minute, ladies, because we have a lot more coming up ahead.

Just ahead, Hillary Clinton speaks out about guns in America, also about marijuana, both medical and recreational.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: We have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now. I want to wait and see what the evidence is.

AMANPOUR: Do you want to wait and try it? You said you've never smoked. (LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: We cannot let a minority of people, and it's -- that's what it is -- it's a minority of people -- hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM from the Newseum here in Washington where Hillary Clinton has been talking about her book "Hard Choices," taking audience questions.

I'm joined now by two of the hosts of CNN's CROSSFIRE, Van Jones and S.E. Cupp. Guys, thanks very much for helping. What do you think about that answer, when she says -- used the word "terrorizing" when talking about a sensitive subject like guns?

S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": That was a strong shot across the bow, no pun intended. Not quite accurate. Of course, the majority of people support the Second Amendment. But that was clearly her drawing a battle line between herself and Republicans, and gun rights groups.

And it was just one of many in this interview where she drew battle lines. Not just between herself and Republicans but herself and President Obama.

To me, I think this interview was the clearest indication that she's running. She really didn't equivocate on a lot, and I think she offered up, maybe unnecessarily, a lot of -- a lot of opinions that people are going to read as different from the president's and certainly different than Republicans.

BLITZER: Van.

VAN JONES, CO-HOST, CROSSFIRE: I think first of all, what she said about guns, you know, the majority of Republicans actually are for common-sense gun reforms. I don't think she's drawing a line between herself and Republicans but from some extremists.

I will say this. She came as close to throwing President Obama under the bus on his foreign policy as I've heard any Democrat do.

BLITZER: On the issue of Syria?

JONES: On the issue of Syria. She is clear that she is looking down the road, and she sees a situation where Syria gets worse and worse, and she does not want to be saddled with whatever mistakes Obama may have made.

But she's got to be very careful. She was not concerned at all that there are a big number of Democrats that love this president, that are supportive of this president. And she seems to have no concern with offending them, No. 1.

She also seems to have no concern for the left wing of this party that's very concerned about her position on some economic questions.

There were students here. She didn't talk about student loans. She's got Elizabeth Warren to her left out there talking about student loans every day and she never mentioned it. So I think that she is definitely -- steps forward now. She seems to be acting like a candidate, but there are parts of this party she seems to be not concerned about.

CUPP: In her defense, a lot of those economic questions didn't come up.

JONES: Fair enough.

CUPP: But you're right that she's going to have to draw those distinctions and deal with the far left wing of her party.

But on Syria, I counted three times that she offered up how she would have done it differently. Three times. She also said on foreign policy in general, "I don't believe we should be retreating from the world." I think that was a clear ding at President's Obama's withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and the problems that that might create.

She drew some distance between her immigration position and the president's. Even on marijuana, she seemed less certain than the president...

BLITZER: Hold on for one second. I want to bring Gail Santa Maria, the public school educator who asked Hillary Clinton about -- that question about guns. Did you were you get a satisfactory answer?

GAIL SANTA MARIA, PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATOR: I did. I thought she was very definitive about bringing back the ban on assault weapons and maybe even a ban on magazines, which nobody needs. Nobody needs those except to kill more people more quickly.

BLITZER: You teach where?

SANTA MARIA: I teach in Montgomery County.

BLITZER: So are you afraid of what has happened that we've seen at Sandy Hook and elsewhere? Do you go to school every day worried about that?

SANTA MARIA: I do not. But every time there's an incident on TV -- I mean, there have been 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook. If Sandy Hook isn't going to convince people to get rid of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, looking at those...

CUPP: I want to say those numbers aren't accurate, but more to the point, Democrats really suffered, and Hillary Clinton knows this. Democrats really suffered the last time they enacted an assault-weapon ban. There were a lot of Democrats who were thrown out of office last time that passed. It came up again. No one wanted to do it. There just isn't the political will. And while we all take these issues seriously, we've got to approach is from...

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, Van.

JONES: I give her credit for standing up to the gun lobby. I think that's a very important thing for her to do. It shows some courage. I also give her credit. She raised something I've never heard anybody raise before. Automatic registration for every American when they turn 18. That I thought was very...

BLITZER: To vote. To vote.

JONES: Yes. Not for guns.

CUPP: Not for guns.

JONES: Not for guns. For voting. That was really, really inspiring. Because there has been this concern that there's a concerted effort on the part of Republicans to push down on the right to vote. And she came with something I think probably would have bipartisan appeal. I give her credit for both.

CUPP: It was a good answer.

BLITZER: A majority of Americans, all the polls show, want better background checks, but they can't even enact that, S.E. That hasn't even gone through.

CUPP: No. The politics of this, first of all, there are facts on gun control that really just don't bear some of this out. However, the politics is so tough on this issue right now, that it's just -- it's just impossible to get a coalition around that. And the conversation really needs to shift to mental health, and even Democrats are recognizing.

BLITZER: Gail Santa Maria, thanks for doing an excellent job teaching. Thanks for your question.

We'll take a quick break. Much more of our special coverage coming up. Hillary Clinton on Iraq. Should the U.S. team up with one of its most bitter foes to stop the insurgent attacks?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I'm not prepared to say that we go in with Iran right now. We are a collection of smalls. A home saved. A hero homebound for a new opportunity.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: So the question is, does Iraq fall or do you go in with Iran for a tactical reason in this case?

CLINTON: I'm not prepared to say that we go in with Iran right now until we have a better idea of what we're getting ourselves into.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're back with a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. We're here at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The subject, CNN's town hall with Hillary Clinton. Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, our foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott and our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

So she says, there were some sort of sidelined discussions yesterday between the U.S. and Iran. She's not ready to cooperate with Iran on Iraq, at least not yet.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not that surprising an answer. At risk of saying, she may be running for office, it's a political answer. Because that's a risky thing to support. Talking to Iran about what's going on in Iraq. I think we saw that on some of the answers, for instance, on Iraq. What should the U.S. do? Should the U.S. carry out military strikes there? She said yes, as part of a broader program. That's a position that's consistent with the administration's position right now. In the foreign policy sphere where she did go further, certainly, I think was on Syria, though, saying that she -- making the point, which is true, that she disagreed with the president two years ago and calling out the president on the position.

BLITZER: Let me play -- Elise, listen carefully. I'm going to play that clip where she clearly makes it obvious, she and the president disagreed a couple years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: If we had gone in earlier and tried to help the so-called moderates...

AMANPOUR: Right.

CLINTON: I'm not sure that it would have turned the tide. But I believed then that it was important for us to make clear that we were going to try to support them against Assad and also fill the vacuum that would be created in that territory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She obviously disagreed with the president on a sensitive issue like that. And clearly, I guess, the thrust of what she was suggesting, if they would have listened to her, the president, maybe the problems in Iraq right now would not have developed.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And she said it a couple of times, right? She said, "Well, we made that argument two years ago, and look at the situation that we have now." And I thought what was really interesting is that I covered her when

she was secretary of state. Very rarely did -- was there even a hint of any disagreement with the president.

But here, I think she really wanted to distinguish herself from the president as someone not only who is a little bit more muscular, saying that we need to have -- and also more thoughtful. That we need to have a more comprehensive strategy. We can't cede the ground to Iran and Hezbollah in Syria. We need to be there.

And I thought, actually, the most interesting example of that, when Christiane asked her about Benghazi and when she said that serving in these dangerous places is not -- is part of the U.S. DNA, and that we can't be retreating. And that's one of the biggest criticisms that you see right now of the Obama administration, that they're retreating from around the world.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. Because the answer about retreating from the world was specific to U.S. embassies in response to attacks like this. But I think there was a bigger message available, or not to avail criticism.

BLITZER: Dana, how is it going to play on the Hill, what she said today?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's just talk about the most politically explosive issue, which is Benghazi. The fact that she said that there are still unanswered questions is music to Trey Gowdy's ears. Trey Gowdy is the Republican who's been tapped to have -- to lead a select committee on Benghazi, much to the chagrin of many Democrats, who see it as just a political exercise.

So, you know, she's basically making the point for Republicans which they're not going to, you know, Democrats are not going to love, and I'm guessing that in retrospect she thinks -- she wishes she would have phrased it a little bit differently.

But I do think, just going back to your first question about Iran, this is really shaping up to be an issue that doesn't necessarily fall on the political lines that it has traditionally fallen on. Lindsay Graham, the senator from South Carolina, who is no dove, said this weekend, that to CNN, that he thinks that the U.S. should be working, having direct talks to deal with Iraq. Because it's just that important, because he's so concerned about the embassy personnel in Iraq.

But he just wants to sort of give you the politics, just call it out for what it is. He just won a primary in his state two days before he talked to us. Hillary Clinton is thinking long-term about primaries that she has and maybe some fund-raising she's going to need to do from people who don't like...

BLITZER: On Benghazi, she uttered these words: "There's a lot we don't know," which I'm sure a lot of people on the Hill, the Republicans especially, who want more and more hearings to Benghazi, that's going to be music to their ears, as you correctly point out. Guys, don't go too far away. Just ahead, lots more questions. On

Tumblr for Hillary Clinton, what were people most interested in knowing? The word cloud gives us an idea.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I've evolved over time, and I'm very -- very proud to state that I'm a proud supporter of marriage equality right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're back here at the Newseum in Washington for a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I've evolved over time and I'm very proud to state that I'm a proud supporter of marriage equality right now.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're back here at the museum in Washington, D.C., for a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

We're talking about CNN's town hall with Hillary Clinton which just took place.

I'm joined once again by our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar. Our political analyst Maggie Haberman, she's a senior political writer for "Politico". And our CNN national political reporter, Peter Hamby.

What she said about supporting marriage equality, she has evolved her position over the years, like so many other people. So, why was that such a critical issue that other day in that NPR interview?

PETER HAMBY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: This is a great question. This is the answer she should have given last week. It took her, you know, almost 10 tries last week to get to what she should have said in the first place, which is very simple, that she supports marriage equality. That's what the Democratic base wants to hear. Frankly, that's polling shows a majority of Americans want to hear. So, it's a little shocking that she didn't get there so quickly last time.

But that's I guess what this year is for. It's for practice. It's for her to get better, perhaps, before she does become a candidate, if she chooses to do that.

BLITZER: It's a sensitive subject, at least for some. But she's making it clear that as far as gay marriage is concerned, she has changed her position over the years. She fully supports it.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, because she's where President Obama is. She's where other people are who have switched on this. Her husband switched on this.

What was interesting last week that she did on the NPR interview, in addition to get defensive, is she defended DOMA, which is not really a --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The Defense of Marriage Act.

HABERMAN: Yes, and it's not somewhere that even her husband, who signed it into law has been. Her answer here, as Peter said, was where she should be and pretty much all she should say about it going forward. She will get pressed about aspects but this is where she should be.

BLITZER: Like what would she be pressed on?

HABERMAN: I think it will pressed about whether certain marriages can be nullified by other states, how states -- you know, whether some bills that are state legislation that are going forward, she will get pressed on specifics. I think that she needs to keep this as her frame.

BLITZER: Brianna, what do you think?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think she's in a really safe place with this. And I sort of felt that way with a number of topics as well, including her issue on for instance, on gun control. I felt like she is kind of where the groundswell is on polling. She is kind of there.

And so, I think most Americans are on board with same-sex marriage. I don't think it is entirely, I don't think you really second guess her when she says she's evolved, because I think she is not very much super to the left in her party. So, I think it's pretty believable. But it was certainly a much more articulate answer than she were the other day.

HABERMAN: I think she was defensive on this last week in part because she's perceived in the gay community as having been late to this issue. She was very good on gay rights issues at the State Department. Everybody says this who covers this issue, but this was an area where she was behind, not just members of her own party, but Senator Rob Portman spoke out in favor of gay marriage, before she did.

So, I think she is particularly has her antenna up for this. She is going to get pressed on it again. I agree with Peter that the practice run, you know, got the kinks out.

HAMBY: And one other thing she said on the NPR interview last week that offended a lot of members of the LGBT community was that not that many people in the '90s were for marriage equality. And that got a lot of attention on the left as well. So, she needs to sort of figure out how to talk about that.

BLITZER: She was also asked about marijuana, recreational, medicinal. Let me play another clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I don't think we've done enough research yet, although I think for people who are in extreme medical conditions and have anecdotal evidence that it works, there should be availability under appropriate circumstances. But I do think we need more research, because we don't know how it interacts with other drugs. There's a lot that we don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And then Christiane asked, "But you haven't smoked?" And she said, "I didn't do it when I was young, I'm not going to start doing it now."

KEILAR: And I sort of believe her on that because I think -- well, I just think that actually, I don't think Americans have -- you know, when her husband ran, it was a big deal, that I didn't inhale, right? He said it was a big deal. It's not that big deal anymore.

I was sort of joking, you know, now, it's -- you know, it's fine to be president, I guess, and have done drugs. President Obama has been pretty out there about it.

But she seems to kind of have all the bases covered on this one, right? It's like, wait for more research but it should be available. When it comes to recreational use, well, states are the laboratory, but we should also wait and see.

HABERMAN: What your point, by the way, is that that is not a very often heard Democratic answer in terms of what you hear candidates say. That's what you hear Republican governors say about, you know, the states are our laboratories for innovation and so forth. I did think that was one of the real generational moment in town hall when she said she never smoked marijuana before. I totally believe her and I think it caught a lot of people by surprise.

KEILAR: I'm surprised. But, you know, I think a lot of people sort of growing up when she did grow up, I'm -- I think a lot of people did.

(LAUGHTER)

KEILAR: I do think that. I think it was acceptable then.

HAMBY: This answer to me was revealing and typical of many answers in this town hall in that she masked caution with a lot of charm and laughter, and she felt very comfortable without saying much of anything. Remember she walked into that answer talking about radical candor and didn't really answer the question. And we saw that with some other things with deportations.

And, look, that's vintage Hillary Clinton. She is extremely cautious, but he is charming and able to sort of sell that in a setting like this especially.

HABERMAN: That is different, though. I mean, she was not always great at even sort of the canned candor. She was better at that I think now in this town hall than she was at many points.

HAMBY: That's right.

BLITZER: She's very good in these town hall meetings. I remember when she was running for the Senate in New York state after she was first lady, I hosted a town hall with her at the State University in New York at Buffalo, my alma mater, and she did very well then, she did very well today, as well.

All right, guys. Stand by, we have a lot more coming up.

Hillary Clinton's encounter with a squirrel and why that got the Twitter world all abuzz.

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CLINTON: To be able to make those hard choices. In my book "Hard Choices" -- it's a very hard choice. These are difficult hard choices. We make hard choices and we balance competing values all the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: All right. You just heard Hillary Clinton talk about hard choices, hard choices again and again. Now, that happens to be the name of her new book out, which has clearly something to do with it.

Let's get some analysis here in our special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. We're at the Newseum in Washington.

Once again, we're joined by CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar, our own political analyst Maggie Haberman, a senior political writer for "Politico", and our national political reporter, Peter Hamby.

You got the sense she's trying to sell a book.

HAMBY: I think that's the case. And Maggie reported today -- how many books has she sold?

HABERMAN: A hundred thousand on the first book day.

HAMBY: Hundred thousand, that's pretty good.

BLITZER: Hundred thousand hard cover books.

HAMBER: Hundred thousands, and e-books, too.

BLITZER: And e-books, too.

KEILAR: Is that enough for the reported I guess $14 million advance?

HABERMAN: Well, I think time will tell. But the question is going to be I think it debuts on "The New York Times" best sellers list presumably tomorrow or Wednesday. I think the question is how long it stays there.

BLITZER: It debuts at number one, you mean?

HABERMAN: I assume so. We don't know yet. We'll know tomorrow.

BLITZER: But, obviously, she's going out there. She's selling books. She's trying to do --

HABERMAN: She's saying the title a lot.

BLITZER: Peter, she's got to make a living because you remember, a few years ago, she didn't have that much money, right?

HAMBY: She was dead broke.

BLITZER: Yes, that's what she said.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: So, she's making some money right now. Nothing wrong with that.

You get a sense, though, that it's not just a campaign to sell the book, it's a campaign to start something else.

KEILAR: And I also think it might be a campaign to kind of connect in a way. In 2008, she didn't really connect. It was to her detriment. She realizes that, she talked about it today, especially talking about herself as a woman. And now, she's getting really comfortable kind of in that space. I'm always intrigued by these little sleeper moments that we see. I saw one tonight where, as she was talking about describing herself, the word she settled on was "grateful."

She said, "I practice the discipline of gratitude." That was straight up like Oprah speak to me. She was really trying to connect with women.

HAMBY: And what this book does -- what this book tour does is that it allows her to delay actively campaigning for Democrats because Lord knows Democrats in all kinds of state races are asking her to come and campaign.

BLITZER: All right. Listen to this, she received a very warm welcome here inside the Newseum at the CNN global town hall but outside she was greeted -- look at the video -- by a protester from the Republican National Committee. The person was in a squirrel costume wearing a t- shirt that read, "Another Clinton in the White House is nuts." Mrs. Clinton got out of her car to shake hands with the so-called squirrel who has followed her to a number of events. The protester says Hillary Clinton even gave a copy of her book.

I guess that's pretty clever of her to do that.

KEILAR: I think it is. She's dealing with a lot of -- when she has a chance to deal with criticism with humor, we see her doing that more and more.

HAMBY: You covered her in 2000. This was a vintage 2000 Senate race moment of taking the criticism head-on and it worked. And it's also -- even some Republicans think the squirrel is a tad goofy. So, she made the most of that movement.

BLITZER: She certainly did.

HAMBY: And lots of super PACs, and PACs are going to be travelling around the country, following her at every event, doing stunts like this. She handled it the right way.

BLITZER: She's going to have a lot of criticism, though. She's going to -- she brings out a lot of anger among her critics.

KEILAR: Oh, definitely. I mean, I think that there's still a polarizing influence that Hillary Clinton has on the debate. Right now, the sense I get is that it has so much more to do with Benghazi than I'm sort of getting the female thing that I think we got in 2008, but that's just my read on it.

BLITZER: You cover her on a day to day basis.

HAMBY: Hour to hour, even.

KEILAR: I think, minute to minute.

HAMBY: I think a lot of it centers around Benghazi and her recent tenure at the State Department. That's what the book is about. I mean, the problem for her is that the book focuses on a period in time and there are issues that she doesn't, as she said at the top of the town hall, totally have the answers to. Not being able to answer the Benghazi question completely I think is going to continue to be an issue.

BLITZER: One of the reasons she can't answer some of those questions, Peter, is because there is a sitting president of the United States, she worked for him.

HAMBY: She did. And don't forget Hillary Clinton is one of the most famous people in the world. So, when she articulates something on foreign policy, people around the world, leaders, are listening to that. So, she is -- she does have to be careful. But look, she's such a big

personality, such a known commodity. And there's so much focus on what kind of a candidate will she be if she runs again, will her candidate skills be better, will she figure out how to deal with the media?

I think to think -- and this town hall today showed, the biggest problem for her if she runs again might be President Obama and just answering for all the unpopular things that happened in his administration and not just overseas, but domestically, because she was a part of the Obama administration.

BLITZER: Peter, Maggie, Brianna, guys, thanks very much.

That's it for us.

Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter, you can tweet me @WolfBlitzer, tweet the show @SitRoom.

Please be sure to join us again tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always watch us live or DVR the show so you won't miss a moment. Thanks very much.

This has been a really, really special event. I'm so glad all of you have been watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer, from the night studio at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., the news continues next right here on CNN.