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June 10, 2014

Hillary Clinton defends comments on her struggle with finances

WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended her remarks about the financial struggles she and Bill Clinton experienced, including mortgages they needed for "houses."

"Let me just clarify that I fully appreciate how hard life is for so many Americans today," Clinton said Tuesday in an interview on ABC Television's "Good Morning America."

Interviewer Robin Roberts pressed the former first lady, asking if she could understand the negative reaction to her comment that "we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education," which Clinton made in a separate interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer broadcast Monday.

"I can," said Clinton, who in 2000 agreed to an $8 million advance from Simon & Schuster for a memoir of her time as first lady. "Everything in life has to be put in context. As I recall, we were something like $12 million in debt" coming out of the White House in 2001. The Clintons purchased homes in Chappaqua, New York, and in Washington.

The stumble on personal wealth plays into concerns among some Democrats that Clinton, who is considering running for the presidency in 2016, is out of touch with Americans on the issue of income inequality. The comments inspired Twitter users to include #HillaryIsSoPoor on posts and provided fodder for morning talk shows.

"We have been blessed," Clinton said Tuesday morning. "I want to use the talents and resources I have to make sure other people get the same chances."

Clinton's interview was part of the media rollout for the formal release Tuesday of her new memoir, "Hard Choices," a book that's seen as laying the groundwork for a prospective presidential campaign.

Clinton will go on a promotional tour taking her across the country. In the first week, she's scheduled to sign books in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington and Northern Virginia.

In the interview with Sawyer, Clinton said she would probably announce a decision on whether to seek the Democratic Party's presidential nomination no earlier than next year. Even so, she didn't commit to that timeline.

"I have to make the decision that's right for me and the country," she said.

Clinton also told Sawyer that she sees no problem with Bushes or Clintons running for the presidency almost every four years and that she isn't the prohibitive favorite for the White House in 2016.

"This is a democracy," she said when asked about possible American voter fatigue with the two families. "People get to choose their leaders."

Pressed on whether the presidency is hers to lose, Clinton said, "I don't think so." Her husband defeated Republican President George H.W. Bush in the 1992 election, was re-elected in 1996 and was succeeded by George W. Bush in 2001.

"If I were to decide to pursue it, I would be working as hard as any underdog or any newcomer because I don't want to take anything for granted if I decide to do it," she said.

During the interview with Sawyer, Clinton touched on one of the lowest points of her tenure as the nation's top diplomat and one that Republicans are sure to focus on if she runs for president: the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Clinton told Sawyer that the Benghazi outpost was one of many perilously situated U.S. diplomatic facilities around the globe.

"There's a long list of countries where there are security threats," she said. "It would be in the Top 25."

"Not in the Top 10?" Sawyer asked.

"Maybe in the top, upper 10," Clinton said. "But there were places where we had much more concern."

Asked by Sawyer why Stevens was in Benghazi even though his own diary noted that there were "never-ending security threats" there, Clinton said he was there "of his own choosing."

As for her health, which Republicans have sought to make an issue since she fell, hit her head, suffered a concussion and was later diagnosed with a blood clot near her brain in late 2012, Clinton said she's doing fine.

"No lingering effects," she said.

She'll probably be on blood thinners for the rest of her life to stave off future clots, she said.

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