By LAURA MECKLER – – – – –
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said Thursday that she hoped to find ways to elevate moderate voices as a counterpoint to extreme ones that she said too often rise to the top of a cluttered media atmosphere.
“It’s become harder and harder for moderate, reasonable voices to be heard,” Mrs. Clinton said during a roundtable discussion about homeland security at the University of Southern California. “Think about it. The way you get eyes or ears is to be provocative, even extreme, to say things that are going to draw attention. That’ll get you invited back, or that will get you more responses to whatever it is you’re posting.”
She didn’t specify which extreme voices she talking about, or who was responsible for elevating them. But she said she would do what she could to spotlight alternatives– in particular, moderate Muslim voices who serve as a counter to the Islamic State.
“I don’t think this is a trivial issue, because you hear, as I do all the time, people say why don’t American Muslims speak out? They do, they do, in many different ways,” she said. “Why aren’t they given platforms for their voices to be heard, at least to counteract the more extreme views that get an audience any time they desire?”
The discussion appeared to be her attempt to offer a platform and she twice thanked the media here for covering it. The conversation included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetii and three other officials, who talked about efforts to bring diverse communities together locally.
Mrs. Clinton mostly listened during the hour-long conversation, a throwback to the early days of her campaign, which featured many similar conversations with local officials and Mrs. Clinton essentially agreeing with one another over a variety of issues.
The roundtable came a day after Mrs. Clinton delivered a speech reviewing her plan to counter terrorism and calling out Republican opponents for ideas she argued would undermine the effort and put American values at risk. She also emphasized that Muslim-Americans are allies in the fight against terrorism and said casting suspicion on the entire community is counter-productive.
Thursday’s discussion was almost completely devoid of politics. The closest Mrs. Clinton got to a political point was at the end when she said, with a smile, “We like to say in my campaign that love trumps hate.”
Speaking briefly with reporters after the discussion, she did not answer directly when asked whether she agreed with President Barack Obama that the Islamic State was not an “existential threat.”
“It’s got to be dealt with seriously and I’ve said repeatedly. It must be defeated, it must be defeated where they are physically located, it must be defeated online, and it must be defeated in the minds of anybody here in this country,” she said.
She added that she wants to elevate “what works” in the fight against terrorism. “Because dividing us, engaging in hateful discriminatory rhetoric does not work. In fact … it plays into the hands of the terrorists.”
She also addressed her prospects in the California primary in June, the last state to vote.
“California will be the final word on the nominating process for both sides. And I’m gonna work as hard as I possibly can to do well here, reaching out to every part of the state, every voter in it,” she said. But looking past her primary opposition, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, she said the state will also be important in the general election. “It’s important to get ready and organized for the fall election, where so much is at stake for our country.”
She interacted with few regular voters during her two-day California swing , which featured several fundraisers, Wednesday’s terrorism speech to an invited audience at Stanford University and an appearance Thursday night on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” The roundtable at the university included 150 people in the room and another 200 in an overflow space.