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Clinton: 'Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy' Against New Deal, Turn-of-Last-Century Progressive Era

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, during The Atlantic Festival on Oct. 2, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — Former presidential candidate and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked at The Atlantic Festival today whether she contributed to the devolution of political discourse by blaming the “vast right-wing conspiracy” as first lady in 1998.

“Do you regret using that kind of language?” Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg asked. “Do you think that, that over the past 15, 20 years we all have not been as careful as we should have been about the way we describe political opposition, political opponents?”

Clinton replied that when she used the term she was “aware of a very well-organized effort that had been going on for some years — it didn’t not start in the ’90s; it predates the ’90s — of powerful interests on both economical and ideological grounds, trying to undo a lot of the progress that we’ve made as a country.”

“They were against — some of them — against the New Deal. Maybe some against, you know, the progressive era back in the turn of the last century,” she added. “But they were certainly against the great society, against a lot of what President Johnson was able to accomplish in terms of supporting people, providing Medicaid, providing Medicare. There is a very significant, and influential, and well funded, and quite persistent effort in the country that has been going on for quite some time.”

“Now, I think it is important to kind of keep doors open, but it’s difficult to keep doors open when there seems to be this concerted effort to slam doors in the faces of people with whom the other side disagrees, or on grounds of economics or healthcare, you know, want to make life more difficult.”

Clinton added that “when you are dealing with a political entity like the modern Republican Party, that is trying to win at all costs, it’s hard to know quite how to get in there to have that conversation.”

She singled out “two major, substantive reasons” why Republicans supported Donald Trump “despite the doubts of other Republicans”: the Supreme Court and “cut taxes, cut it to the bone.”

“Disable the government as much as possible. Throw us into exploding deficits and unbelievable debt, then go after Social Security, and Medicare and Medicaid, which they’ve never liked anyway, and they’re are on the path to doing that,” she added. “And they seem almost lethal about it, you know, their budget process up on the Hill right now is all about, how do we take money out of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, using the excuse that, well, we’re going to have these big deficits and debts. And of course they are the ones who have really hit the ignition on having such a fiscally irresponsible policy.”

Clinton said Trump’s reaction to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville “remains one of the most troubling episodes in this presidency.”

“I think he has thrown his lot in with many people and groups whose stated objective white nationalism, white supremacy. I mean how could you explain what he did and why after Charlottesville?” she said. “… He has a view of America that is incredibly constrictive. And he talks to that America. He talks to them all the time.”