Video Report By Matt Johnson, Reporter - bio | email
Hillary Clinton is the keynote speaker at the 2014 BIO International Convention taking place in San Diego.
Photo courtesy @GeneCBS8 taken inside Warwick's book store in La Jolla Wednesday, June 25, 2014.
SAN DIEGO (CBS 8/CNS) - Former Secretary of State and first lady Hillary Clinton touched on numerous subjects during her visit to San Diego Wednesday, but was coy about whether she plans to run for president.
The former first lady signed copies of her book, "Hard Choices," for about 1,000 people at Warwick's Books in La Jolla prior to speaking at a luncheon at the Biotechnology Information Organization conference at the San Diego Convention Center.
For many, the book signing event was a once in a lifetime event. But waking up at 2 a.m. wasn't a hard choice for first in line, Demitry Redka. Autographed book in hand, he even shared a few words with Clinton.
"I hope that she runs for president. She said thank you,” said Redka.
Clinton arrived in a convoy, as police and Secret Service swarmed Girard Avenue. Some said it was well worth the wait.
"She's a brilliant woman, she knows foreign policy and she's knows about issues in the homeland. She's all about equality,” said Tawny Whaley, a Clinton supporter.
Answering a question at the BIO conference about the Russian president, Clinton recalled Vladimir Putin's announcement in 2011 that he would once again become the head of that nation's government.
"You've got to love that version of politics -- it's so clean, and it doesn't cause any fuss, and nobody has to campaign for anything -- just get on the stage and make an announcement," Clinton jokingly said.
Clinton has come under criticism over the past couple weeks for commenting that she and her husband were in debt when they left the White House because of legal bills, without noting pending multimillion-dollar book deals and other prospects that would benefit them financially.
On Monday, former President Bill Clinton defended his wife's commitment to the poor and said she was not out of touch.
The controversy arose from reports that the Clintons charge appearance fees around $200,000. A spokeswoman for the BIO conference did not respond to a question of how much Hillary Clinton was being paid for speaking at the luncheon.
CNN reported that the book tour for her memoir has resembled a political campaign, run by campaign operatives instead of book publicists.
"Hard Choices" includes her views on the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including three San Diegans. She also discusses her dealings with Putin.
She said at the BIO convention that the Russian leader wants to rebuild influence in neighboring countries and has no problem using "intimidation" to get his way.
"He's someone you have to stand up to," Clinton said.
She also talked about global warming, bio-engineered food products, challenges posed by China, negotiations over Iran's nuclear program and recent turmoil in Iraq.
She laid the blame for the renewed insurgency in Iraq at the feet of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who purged Sunni members of the government from power. The only solution to the current crisis is to get al-Maliki to make changes that inspire Sunni support, she said.
Clinton said she doesn't think he will take such action.
"My point has been the United States should not be committed to doing very much at all, unless we have a clear understanding of what Maliki is going to do and what role Iran is going to play," Clinton said.
She said the U.S. doesn't want to support only one side in the conflict.
"I don't think we want to be in the same arena with the Iranians until we know what that means, and I, sitting here today, have no idea what that would mean," Clinton said. "I don't think it's necessarily in our interest to be seen that way."
She said there are too many questions that need to be answered before she would back any action beyond President Barack Obama's order to send as many as 300 military advisers to the strife-torn country.