Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in appearances on all five Sunday talk shows yesterday, tried to sell her new universal health care plan by promising to work with Republicans to pass it.
A rare and coveted guest on the political shows, the New York Democrat, who is running for her party’s nomination for president, also was asked to defend her changing stance on the Iraq war.
In the five-show offensive, Mrs. Clinton, speaking from her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., reached millions of people and discussed the two issues voters identify as the most important.
The former first lady outlined her American Health Choices plan, which would give all Americans health insurance, and said she learned from her failed 1993 effort during her husband’s administration.
“Having now served on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, I know how important it is to work with the Congress, to enlist them, to have them be involved from the very beginning, and frankly, to have ownership,” Mrs. Clinton said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“We’ve all learned a lot since then … I bring all of those lessons with me,” she told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who served as communications director in her husband’s administration. “I now know better … . There is a consensus-building that we must do.”
Later, on CNN’s “Late Edition,” Mrs. Clinton said Democrats “all want to have a system that covers everybody,” adding: “The Republicans don’t, and that is a great divide.”
Mrs. Clinton began the morning on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace, a year after his interview with former President Bill Clinton, who accused the host of doing a “nice little conservative hit job on me.”
Mrs. Clinton laughed at Mr. Wallace’s opening question: “Why do you and the president have such a hyper-partisan view of politics?”
“The real goal for our country right now is to get beyond partisanship,” she said. “I’m sure trying to do my part, because we’ve got a lot of serious problems that we’re trying to deal with. I know how to seek and find common ground, but I also know how to stand my ground.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Georgia Republican, who sparred with Mrs. Clinton in the 1990s, followed her on “Fox News Sunday” and praised elements of her health care plan but said parts are “disingenuous.”
“This is a big government, high-tax, bureaucratic plan. It’s much better than Hillarycare of 1993, but it is nonetheless, in the end, a big government plan,” he said.
On the shows, Mrs. Clinton insisted: “This is not government-run health care” or “This creates not a single new government bureaucracy.”
When NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert confronted her about conflicting past statements on Iraq, Mrs. Clinton responded, “I try to do what I think is best for my country and for the troops who serve it.”
“You’ve changed your mind,” Mr. Russert said, citing her 2002 vote to authorize the war and previous statements that a troop-pullout timetable was a “mistake” and a date certain for withdrawal was not “responsible.”
“The circumstances on the ground have certainly compelled me to continue to evaluate what is in the best interests of our country and our troops,” she replied, adding that she would rather talk about “political consensus” to end the war instead of focusing on 2002.
Later in the day, Mrs. Clinton attended a fundraiser in Charlottesville with novelist John Grisham, who ridiculed Mr. Russert’s interview technique. “I will not remind her of things she said to the contrary 25 years ago, like Tim Russert,” he said.
On each show, Mrs. Clinton said she will continue to vote against funding the war if the spending bill does not contain a timeline for troop withdrawal.
“The best way to protect our troops is to start bringing them home,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”
ABC’s Mr. Stephanopoulos asked if she would pledge to bring all the troops home by the end of her first term, prompting her to decline to engage in hypotheticals “because I don’t know what I’m going to inherit.”
“I don’t want to speculate about how we’re going to be approaching it until I actually have the facts in my hand and the authority to be able to make some decisions,” she said.
The Republican National Committee ridiculed Mrs. Clinton’s lighthearted nature in an e-mail that stated she “giggles uncontrollably” when asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation” if her health care plan was a step toward socialized medicine, and noted her laughing response to Mr. Wallace’s question about her husband.
“Apparently, Hillary Clinton believes the serious issues facing our nation are a laughing matter,” said RNC spokesman Danny Diaz. “Americans won’t be amused by a candidate whose rhetoric is completely disconnected from her record of higher taxes, bigger government and less support for our men and women in uniform.”