The Buzz

EXCLUSIVE: Clinton rules out U.S. ground combat against ISIS

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton said Wednesday it would not be “smart, effective or appropriate” to send U.S. combat troops overseas to fight Islamic State terrorists.

Clinton also said voters will have to decide whether U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, a Spartanburg Republican, has treated her fairly in directing a congressional inquiry into the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi while she was secretary of state.

"That's for other people to judge,” Clinton said during an exclusive interview Wednesday with The State at Trident Technical College. “All I can say is that there were numerous prior investigations in both the (U.S.) House and the Senate, led by Republicans and Democrats. There was an independent investigation, and the questions have been answered.”

Clinton was in South Carolina as part of a tour of early-primary states, rolling out her domestic agenda. It was her second stop in the state since declaring her candidacy in April. Clinton also met with community leaders in Orangeburg to discuss challenges facing rural South Carolina.

At the tech school, Clinton promised to make job-training and apprenticeship programs a priority if elected president. She said she would back a $1,500 tax credit for companies that offer apprenticeships that help young workers gain job skills and older workers find new careers.

Clinton chose the tech school, she said, because it exemplifies job-training programs that work. She also praised U.S. Sens. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, and Cory Booker, D-N.J., for authoring job-training legislation.

Afterward, Clinton sat down with The State for a Q&A. Highlights of what she said:

On fighting Islamic State

Clinton said she backs President Barack Obama’s strategy of increasing support for Iraqi forces without sending U.S. combat troops to fight the terrorists.

“I do not think it would be smart, effective or appropriate for us to put ground (combat) troops into Iraq. ... There are specific roles that our military is playing and can successfully play in better focusing the Iraqis themselves on what they have to do because, eventually, this will be won or lost by the people in the region.

“They are going to have to decide. Do they want to be oppressed and subjected by this regime of terrorism and give up their right to govern themselves to this group?”

Clinton’s support for Obama’s policies breaks with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Seneca Republican who is running for the GOP nomination. Graham has said more U.S. troops will end up fighting overseas before the conflict is over.

On U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn

Clinton said there “was never a breach” in her relationship with U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of Columbia, the state’s lone congressional Democrat. After Clinton lost the 2008 S.C. primary to Obama, Clyburn said he received an angry, accusatory phone call from the candidate’s husband, former President Bill Clinton.

“(Clyburn) had every right to support whomever he chose. This was a historic campaign with two historic candidacies. I have a good relationship with him. I did before, I do again. ... I look forward to his advice and support in this upcoming campaign and, as president, I would look to him in dealing with the Congress.”

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Obama has been promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with Asian countries. Some Democrats — and Clinton challenger U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — have criticized that effort. Clinton previously backed the trade deal, but now says she is uncommitted.

“I will judge the final agreement because we don't know what's in it yet. It has not been fully negotiated. And if it's a good deal for America — if it promotes jobs and exports, and protects our national security — that's the standards by which I will judge it. Once the House Democrats put a stop to it on Friday, I suggested that the president listen to their concerns, sort through what is fair and legitimate and, where possible, try to respond to those.”

Clinton said she has not taken a position on the bill that would “fast track” the president’s trade-negotiating powers “because it's a process issue. It's an convenience for an administration. When I was in the Senate, I voted against fast-track authority for then-President (George W.) Bush.”

On whether she can appeal to S.C. GOP voters

“I hope so ... I'm looking for good ideas everywhere. ... South Carolina does have financial incentives for employers (for apprenticeships). It's a program that I came across and thought it really made sense. You've got a Republican governor. You've got a Republican Legislature. So here's a program that, as someone running to be the Democratic nominee and the president for the entire country, I'm going to look for what works and I'm going to add them to my campaign.”

Reach Self at (803) 771-8658

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