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Clinton In 1992: I'd Be Considered Conservative "In Many Areas" If Not For GOP Attacks

In the days when she was depicted as her husband's radical left-wing partner, Hillary Clinton said that she was "conservative, not liberal" on the death penalty and parental notification for abortion.

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Hillary Clinton said in a 1992 interview that she would be considered "conservative, not liberal" on the question of the death penalty were it not for Republican attacks against her, and said that the same would be true of her stance on parental notification for abortion.

While Clinton has fought off criticisms from Bernie Sanders that she is insufficiently "progressive" in this primary, she was in the opposite position in July 1992 during the Democratic National Convention. Asked by PBS' Judy Woodruff about Republican allegations that she was a radical left-wing counterpart to Bill Clinton, the party's nominee, she argued that the characterization ignored her conservative views on issues like capital punishment.

"So I suppose that they're coming after me and I have to ask myself, why are they doing that? Particularly, why are they distorting who I am and taking me out of context and forgetting the fact that, in many areas, whether it be the death penalty or parental notice, I would be considered conservative, not liberal?" Clinton told Woodruff. "And I think it's because they worry that I do have more in common with most American women today than many other people and that the kind of struggles that I've had to go through are ones that people can identify with."

Clinton's position on the death penalty in particular has come under scrutiny this election. In October, she reaffirmed her support for preserving some form of capital punishment, but added, "We have a lot of evidence now that the death penalty has been too frequently applied, and too often in a discriminatory way."

Clinton has mainly discussed preserving the death penalty in the federal system as it concerns terrorism, but hasn't been entirely clear on what crimes in general should or should not merit capital punishment consideration. In a March debate, she said states that apply it must "meet the highest standards of evidentiary proof of effective assistance of counsel." She went on to reiterate a point she made in February, saying that she has "much more confidence in the federal system" and citing the case of Timothy McVeigh, who got the death penalty for bombing the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

The other issue Clinton mentioned to Woodruff, her belief that the parents of minors seeking abortions should be notified (though not given the power of consent), has not come up in this Democratic primary. She has, however, been criticized for it in the past. As a New York senator in January 2005, she said she supported "parental notification with a judicial bypass," meaning that there should be cases where judges exempt individuals from the notification requirement.

The comment caused concern among abortion rights supporters about her position, forcing her aides to clarify that she had evolved from her support for parental notification laws in Arkansas and preferred New York's laws, which only required minors to be told about risks and other medical options. "In states where it is the only option, then yes, she supports parental notification with judicial bypass," her spokeswoman said then.

Beyond her comment on the death penalty and parental notice, much of the rest of the 1992 interview with Woodruff was devoted to the question of how Clinton could regain control of the public perception of her.

"What I'm trying to do is to make sure that people have an accurate perception of who I am," she said. They may still decide that they don't like me because I wear headbands on occasion or whatever the reason might be."

In the end, however, Clinton predicted that people's views of her wouldn't affect whether they voted for her husband.

"I honestly don't believe that the spouse of anyone determines how somebody votes," she said.

Christopher Massie is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Christopher Massie at

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