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CNN's Larry King asks Bill Clinton about the "Senator Obama threat."

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Excerpt from CNN interview....

LARRY KING: And now you are in the running. So first and foremost, what do you make of the Senator Obama threat?

BILL CLINTON: Well, I think, first of all, there are -- the good news about this primary for me as a Democrat who has been following this for 40 years now, is that nobody has to vote against anybody.

I mean, you have got a big field of people. If you look at the three that aren't doing well in the polls, Governor Richardson, Senator Biden, Senator Dodd, these people have rendered extraordinary service to our country.

And they are devoted public servants. They are highly intelligent. They are gifted people and they deserve to be seriously listened to. And then you have got -- and you have Senator Edwards doing well. You have got Senator Obama doing well. You have got the prospect that Vice President Gore might run.
We have got a good field. No one has to vote against anybody. And that means that people are free to vote for the person who is most likely to be the best president.

CNN’s Larry King Live
Interview with Bill Clinton
Thursday, April 19, 2007


LARRY KING, HOST: We welcome Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, who has been on this program many times, and a great pleasure to welcome him back.

BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Larry.

KING: We are honored to have you.

CLINTON: I'm glad to be here. Happy anniversary.

KING: Thank you so much. Obviously we have to deal, first things first, this is Columbine anniversary, it is an anniversary of Waco, tomorrow is an anniversary of Oklahoma City, and then the tragedy at Virginia Tech.

What does a president, what does a leader say, do, think at a time like that?

CLINTON: Well, I think, first, you have to try to give voice to the pain and the suffering and do honor to the lives of the people who were lost. The most important thing you can do right after it happens is to just be there to reassure people and listen and then help people go on.

Then, you know, right after some times passes, you have to analyze what happened and see if you can do anything to minimize the chances of it happening again.

KING: Is comforting hard?

CLINTON: Well, I think what is hard about it, for me, is when you think people perished unjustly or unfairly, especially when they are younger -- you know, the older I get, the harder it is for me to see a young person die.

I think it is because, you know, you and I, when -- we have already had good lives. So whatever happens to us, we are going to end up ahead. And I think that is the most painful thing, is -- I read the profiles yesterday in the -- our local paper of all of these young people at Virginia Tech, and it just -- you know, I could hardly breathe.

You know, there were so many bright, good, fine kids, and also the younger staff members. And that was really difficult.

KING: And now we have come to know, through his own tape, the killer.

CLINTON: Yes.

KING: There are lots of questions today. One, should we be showing him? NBC has pulled back a little. What do you think?

CLINTON: I don't really -- I think that is something the media will have to decide on its own. I don't think we ought to do anything to glorify this young man, but I do think we ought to try to understand, number one, as nearly as we can, exactly what was wrong with him.

And number two, since there were people who knew what was wrong, whether we need a change in law or policy that might have somehow either brought him some support or taken him out of the ordinary population before this occurred.

You know, each of these things you mentioned, in Waco, in Oklahoma City, in Columbine, there are things that you can say, well, if they had been done differently maybe you would have had a different result.

And actually they were all quite different. In this case, the issue here wasn't really the gun laws, for example. He cleared the Brady bill checks. But he had been identified as being profoundly troubled and having violent tendencies at least, either toward himself or others as early as 2005.

So I think we really -- without recrimination, because nobody tried to have this happen, there ought to be some serious attempt to see whether there was some breakdown in the way the law works and the way the mental health systems works to see if we can make some positive changes to avert this in the future.

KING: Would you change any gun laws?

CLINTON: Well, based on this case, I don't think that you can make that case, because he...

KING: Had a gun in a half hour.

CLINTON: He got a gun in a half hour, but he passed the background check. And you know, one of the things that you might argue, I like the three-day waiting period, but in order to get this -- the Brady bill, passed, and then get it extended, we had to agree to allow that waiting period to be waived if you could do an automatic background check.

And you know, that wasn't really the problem here. The problem was that, if he had been committed, if it was clear that he was unstable, then he would not have -- if there was something in his record, he would not have passed the background check.

So we had to go back, I think, in this case, to the mental health care record. It is not like Columbine where you -- we needed to close the gun show loophole, which the voters of Colorado voted to do, 70 to 30 -- to do the background checks at the gun show as well as other sale points.

It is not like Oklahoma City where we needed, I think, to, you know, have taggants in chemicals that could be made into bombs so we could track them. There are lots of things -- all of these cases are different.

This case gives us the obligation to look at how our mental health system works.

KING: Some of the bases we will cover tonight. The Supreme Court has said "partial birth" abortion is wrong. The woman will not be blamed, but the doctor can get up to two years. Thoughts?

CLINTON: Well, you know, I vetoed that bill twice. And I think it is a great victory for the political strategy of the anti-abortion movement. But I do not believe it is a pro-life decision.

KING: No?

CLINTON: I do not. Not a pro-life decision, because let me remind you, when I vetoed that bill, I had standing in the White House with me an evangelical Christian who had had the procedure who was pro-life, an Orthodox Jew who had had the provision who was pro-life, and another Christian who had been pro-choice.

All three women and their husbands and physicians, but two of the three had had the provision were pro-life. They did it because their children were -- I mean, their unborn children were severely hydrocephalic, they were certain to die either before, during or immediately after childbirth.

And the doctors told them that if they did not reduce the size of these babies' heads, which were swollen very high -- very large, that delivering them, even by cesarean section, might so damage the women that they might not be able to bear other children.

And they told me that they would other never want to use this procedure, that no one would want to do this unless there was some medical necessity for it. But it sounded gruesome. You could use -- you can label it and no one ever knew the facts.

It was a perfect political strategy. Who can be for "partial birth"
abortion? It is a great line. But the truth is the doctors who did it and the women who agreed to have it -- as I said, I talked to two of them who were pro-life, anti-abortion, they did it because they thought it was a pro-life position. They thought it was the only way they could go on and have further children.

KING: So you don't see Roe versus Wade in danger?

CLINTON: No, I do think it is in danger. But all I'm saying is I don't believe that this was a victory for the pro-life forces. I think
-- you know, I think abortion is a difficult decision. I agree with the Roe v. Wade decision because I don't think we ought to criminalize this.

I think it is somewhat hypocritical, frankly, to make the doctors criminals and leave the mothers off.

KING: That is two parts (INAUDIBLE).

CLINTON: You can't go around saying, well, this is killing, and then you have an essential accomplice here, the mother. The mother can't do this -- I mean, the doc can't do it without the mother. But we are not going to charge them, we are only going to charge the doctor.

So they know how hard this is. This is -- but as a political strategy for the anti-abortion movement, it is a great triumph. And they do -- they have put Roe v. Wade at risk. I just don't agree with the decision.

And I don't think it is pro-life. I think that the -- I vetoed those bills because I thought that if they passed it would make it harder for women with problem pregnancies to have other children.

KING: This is your first of media appearance since Senator Hillary Clinton has officially announced.

CLINTON: Yes.

KING: And now you are in the running. So first and foremost, what do you make of the Senator Obama threat?

CLINTON: Well, I think, first of all, there are -- the good news about this primary for me as a Democrat who has been following this for 40 years now, is that nobody has to vote against anybody.

I mean, you have got a big field of people. If you look at the three that aren't doing well in the polls, Governor Richardson, Senator Biden, Senator Dodd, these people have rendered extraordinary service to our country.

And they are devoted public servants. They are highly intelligent.
They are gifted people and they deserve to be seriously listened to.
And then you have got -- and you have Senator Edwards doing well. You have got Senator Obama doing well. You have got the prospect that Vice President Gore might run.

We have got a good field. No one has to vote against anybody. And that means that people are free to vote for the person who is most likely to be the best president.

KING: Are you surprised at where Senator Obama has come from?

CLINTON: No.

KING: No?

CLINTON: No. Knowing what I know about the way the media culture works, and the way the press coverage has been, he is a very gifted man, politically. And I'm not sorry that -- surprised that John Edwards is doing as well as he is.

I just -- I get how this process works. But I don't think that money is the only thing. We will just have to see how this plays out.
I remember 30 years ago -- more than 30 years ago now, when John Connally raised $10 million, which was probably what, $50 million, $60 million in today's terms, and got one delegate.

So it is a long, long thing. The thing that bothers me about this process is it is awfully early -- it is starting a little early and it is hard for people to maintain the mental and emotional discipline necessary to sustain this long fight.

KING: Are you concerned for your wife?

CLINTON: No. No, I'm really proud of her. I think that -- you know, I believe she would be the best president by a good long stretch, for all kinds of obvious reasons -- or at least they are obvious to me.

But she also genuinely loves her job in the Senate. You know, she is not -- some people who run for president can't wait to get out of the Senate or out of whatever other job she has got. She loves it. She is still doing it. She is still going to her committee meetings, going to Upstate New York and trying to run for president as well.

So for her personally, she is going to fine regardless. I think it would be best for the country if she were elected president. But if voters make another choice, she is a great senator and she loves her job and we will have a good life.

KING: Well, it could be an awkward situation. OK, she is president. You are very gifted. She comes to you, asks you to serve, secretary of state, something. Would you?

CLINTON: Well, I believe -- I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure it is illegal for me to be secretary of state. I think after...

KING: After Kennedy appointed Robert Kennedy?

CLINTON: Since Kennedy appointed Robert Kennedy, at some point after President Kennedy was killed I think the Congress made it illegal for the president to name a member of his or her immediate family to a cabinet position.

KING: How about another position?

CLINTON: So let's put that to the side. I think in general former presidents should do whatever the current president asks them to do if they can do it in good conscience, anybody.

If President Bush asked me to do something, if I can do it in good conscience, I would do it. You know, his father and I did the Katrina work, the tsunami work. And I have two or three other things for him.

You know, I love her very much. And I think she would be a great president. And all presidents need help, they need all of the help they can get. And we are going to have a lot of challenges. So if she asks me to do something, whatever it was, I would probably do it.

But I hope I won't have to give up the work I do now entirely. I would like to continue my foundation work around the world. But I want to be there for her. She -- if the American people select her, I'm going to do everything I can to be there for her.

KING: Is there something you would like?

CLINTON: No. I would like to be whatever turns out to be most needed by her. That is the most important thing. When you get to be president, the rest of us who support someone who gets elected president, we should just do whatever we are needed to do.

KING: And if asked, you would do it?

CLINTON: Absolutely.

KING: Because it is your president. Iraq is going to be a major issue in 2008. Has -- your wife has had some difficulty with it. For, against, pull out, not pull out, is that going to hurt her?

CLINTON: Well, I think her position on what we do from here on has been clear. She has had some difficulty because of the insistence of some people in characterizing the vote on the Iraq War Resolution back in 2002, saying that everybody who voted for that voted for the war.

And that is factually inaccurate. Let me remind you, that resolution was written by Senator Carl Levin, Senator Lugar and Senator Chuck Hagel, the primary Republican opponent of the war.

And if you read the resolution, it says that the president is authorized to attack Saddam Hussein if the diplomatic efforts, that is, the inspections, fail.

He couldn't make a finding that they had failed, they were succeeding. And before the people voted on that, the president said these inspections were the last chance to avoid war.

So it is simply not true that a vote for that resolution was a vote for this war. Plus which Alberto Gonzales gave an opinion saying he didn't need any help from the Congress. He could go to war against Saddam whenever he wanted.

This resolution was an attempt to confine the use of force to a circumstance in which he failed, the inspections.

And I think the reason she hasn't apologized is she believes that some future president, even if it is not her, some future president may need coercive inspections, the U.N. may need it in the future.

You may need to tell someone, if you fail these inspections over nuclear weapons, then you are subject to military action. So -- but I think the real relevant thing is, what do we do now?

And I basically agree with what she says. We should take down substantial numbers of forces this year, get them out of direct combat, but not bring everybody home because we don't want to abandon the Kurds, we don't want to cause unnecessary tension between the Kurds and the Turks, and we have to have a presence in the region to try to deal with unforeseen difficulties like new terrorist operations rising up in the Sunni section that might want to attack not just the Shiites in Iraq, but other people in the Middle East, and even in the United States.

So I think she has got a pretty good handle on this.

KING: But it is not going away, obviously.

CLINTON: It is not going away. And I -- look, I have got -- I have no problem with this being a subject of debate in this election, it should be. And I think that people should make an attempt to learn the real differences in the positions of the candidates. But we ought to be fair to them, all of them.

KING: Speaking of Attorney General Gonzales, who testified today, should he be let go?

CLINTON: Well, I think he ought to resign. I noticed several of our prominent leaders in both -- at least the Democrats, including Hillary, have asked him to resign. I think that, you know, he obviously loves the president and he has tried to serve him faithfully.

Sometimes the worst thing you can do for a president is to tell them what they want to hear. And you know, I always -- I told people when I was president that no one would ever be fired, demoted or exiled for telling me something I didn't want to hear.

If all I needed was what I wanted to hear, I could govern by computer. You need people that give you the whole deal.

But I think he has been loyal to President Bush. And I understand why President Bush is reluctant to let him go. I don't think he ought to force the president to fire him, I think he ought to -- he has a long and good run here.

And if what I saw coming out of Senator Specter today and others is right, and there is a lot of opposition to him in the Congress, and these cases raise real troubling questions, these U.S. attorney firings, the best thing he could do for this president that he serves so loyally is to step aside.

KING: Back to politics, what -- which Republican candidate, of those thus far announced, do you fear the most?

CLINTON: I don't know yet, because I don't know how this race will play out between now and the nomination. For example, right now, Mayor Giuliani is doing the best, as you would expect, and doing the best with independents, as you would expect, because the campaign hasn't really begun in the minds of many people.

So he is sort of frozen in time in a very good way for himself on 9/11, whereby comparison to others he looked very good. I mean, he had served well. But all of the other issues that might be brought into play are only now beginning to creep into the public consciousness.

I noticed these late surveys, they seem to be tightening up. I still think Senator McCain is a very durable character. He is a very admirable man. He paid the great price to serve this country.

And whether I agree or disagree with him on everything, you have got to respect him. I think that Governor Romney raised a lot of money and has done some important things in his life.

And then again I feel with the Republicans, it is like the Democrats, a lot of their candidates that aren't doing as well in the polls have specific things that really recommend them to people.

So I cannot tell you now who would be the strongest. I don't know.

KING: We have a CNN/Opinion Research poll, 60 percent of those surveyed think that you would have a positive effect on the administration, only 30 percent thought negative.

And a new poll just in, about the notion of Chelsea taking on traditional duties of the first lady, if her mom is elected as president, overwhelming, 63 percent said, that is a bad idea. Is it a bad idea?

CLINTON: I think so. I can tell you that if Chelsea had been called, she would be one of those 63 percent.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: You know, she -- I'm very proud of our daughter, and Hillary is. And she is very supportive of her mother. But she has got her own life to live. She works. She does her own range of other activities. She cares a lot about politics and she wants her mom to win.

But she has got a life to live. And we don't want to interrupt that. And she -- there is no way she should stop doing what she is doing and try to assume that role.

I think, you know, we will figure it out, what to do, about the traditional social responsibilities of the White House. If the American people choose Hillary, we will figure out how to discharge them.

KING: You are not surprised though that 60 percent want you to be involved.

CLINTON: No. Because I have had a lot of experience and I can help her. And we learned a lot from -- not only from our successes, but from the things we tried and didn't succeed in. And that is why I said I will do whatever I can, as much as I can.

I'm flattered and gratified and I will do what I can to help. But she will be the president. She will make the decisions. But if I can help, I will.

KING: We have got a few minutes. I want to cover a couple of other bases. The Global Initiative, which I'm proud to attend every year, how is it going?

CLINTON: It is going great. We have -- we are already picking up new commitments. We had a midterm meeting today. And now we have had 570 commitments affecting 100 countries in the last two years.

A hundred of them have totally completed. And all of the others are in the various process of being implemented. And you know, it is making a huge difference.

We had kids from the Middle East today, a Jordanian Muslim young man meet with an American Jewish girl. They had met together in Jordan.
They talked about their common experience and how together they were promoting reconciliation.

We had a young woman who lost both her parents to AIDS in South Africa and had herself been abused, who was in a program funded by something called the Ubuntu Fund to lift her up and give her educational and economic opportunities and she promised to help 10 other people do the same thing.

So we have things like that that we announced today, just so people could see everybody is still keeping their commitments and we're going toward the next year. I'm really excited about it. This is the most rewarding thing, in some ways, I've ever done. Just seeing all these people, wonderful people, come up out of nowhere and ...

KING: You making (INAUDIBLE).

CLINTON: I try to do that, yeah.

KING: A few other things.

CLINTON: Go ahead.

KING: Someone once proposed some years back that we don't make proper use of former presidents. They have no power. We send them out to dry. Maybe they should have a seat in the Senate. Maybe not a voting seat, but a vocal seat.

Should we make better use?

CLINTON: Well, it's easy to say yes, but let me just point out, first of all, it depends upon what the former president is willing to do.

Right now we are fortunate that Jimmy Carter and George Bush and I are all in pretty good health and we are oriented toward doing this and we get asked to and have several opportunities to serve.

If you gave us an institutional responsibility to show up at the Senate ...

KING: Don't have to show up, but a seat, you can speak out.

CLINTON: That might be a good thing to do, but I think the most important thing is that when you leave the White House, you should feel obliged to give something back for what you have been given. And what more could any American be given than the opportunity to serve as president?

So what I think -- based on your age and your capacity and your interests, when you get out of office you should just try to give something back and you should do it in a disciplined way. And I think that we're changing the culture.

I also -- I used former presidents quite frequently when I was president, and President Bush has asked me to do several things along with his father. Maybe we should institutionalize that. I know Hillary has said that she would like to not only have my services, but she would expect to ask all the former presidents to do things for America, and I think we ought to do that.

KING: Will the Global Initiative keep going on?

CLINTON: Absolutely.

KING: Let's say your wife is elected and you get duties. You will still keep ...

CLINTON: Absolutely. I want to do this for at least a decade, and then I want to say to the American people, OK, we did this -- and people all over the world -- we did this for a decade, here's how much money we raised, here's how much time was spent. Here are the specific things that were done and the consequences.

I really keep score. We're very rigorous about keeping score, about whether people keep their commitment and what the consequence is of it.

And if that happens, and I think within a decade, given the dramatic advances in, like, Internet communications, we will have a global network of citizen public servants that will go on and keep going and going and going, whatever happens to me and whatever I do. I just hope I can sustain this for a decade.

KING: One other thing, you mentioned you were in good health. You obviously look in good health. How are you?

CLINTON: As far as I know I am fine.

KING: You have the regular checkups?

CLINTON: Oh yeah. And I am working as hard as I ever have, maybe harder. I just finished a five-day speaking tour, working on childhood obesity and anti-diabetes initiatives and my foundation work for the Clinton Global Initiative, and health care and other things out West.
And I flew back overnight from Oregon and I'm working today.

KING: How much are you going to campaign?

CLINTON: I am going to do what I'm asked, whatever I am asked to do. Whatever I can. I don't think it's helpful, really, for me to be out there too much now. I try to do some of Hillary's fundraising here in New York because they will accept me and it's ...

KING: But when it gets really going ...

CLINTON: When it gets going I will do what I am asked to do. I think it will be better, though, now for her to be out there. I want people to know her. I want her to get -- and starting one of these campaigns, I don't care how many times you've been through it, takes a while to get your sea legs, get the rhythm, get the resonance of where the people are, and then I'll go out and do whatever I can.

It's fun for me but I just want to make sure everybody knows I'm helping her. That's what I -- just got to -- she's doing fine. I want to help her if I can.

KING: You still love her, don't you?

CLINTON: Very much.

KING: Thanks. Thank you.

CLINTON: Thanks.

KING: President Bill Clinton. We'll be right back with more of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

END

7 Comments

notice how ol' bill just side steps the questions about Obama. doesn't want to talk about him.
I read in the NY Times that he is obsessed with Obama and crushing him.
The Clintons truly did think they would just waltz right into the White House. Plans had been laid for years. And then, all those plans got upset. All because of Obama.
Alright! go! Obama!

As I read the comments on partial birth abortion and why Bill Clinton vetoed the bill twice, I could not help but remember the comments that he made concerning using marijuana, "I did not exhale". At this point the last thing we need in the United States is more dishonesty. "I did not have sex with that woman", no you just pulled your pants down and let her drop to her knees, and her mother told her to save the dress she was wearing becuase what ever she did to you resulted in her having a lot of your DNA. Bill Clinton did not have to veto the partial birth abortion bill twice he could have asked that a provision be made in the bill that stated that in the case of the mother's life or "serious" health that the procedure be performed. Bill Clinton, instead chose to ban a procedure that according to the Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/18/AR2007041800710_2.html?hpid=moreheadlines; involves the following:

"partly delivering the fetus and then crushing the skull to make removal easier. It is this procedure that Congress made a crime. Opponents say it is a form of infanticide, because the fetus could be viable at the time."

Bill Clinton and his "abortion ladies"(as Ann Coulter calls them) are criminals and murderers if they wait until the fifth and sixth month of pregnancy to have an abortion. Ann Coulter has stated that during Clinton's presidency the only special interest group he did not abandon were the "abortion ladies". I think that we all know and don't have to speculate that our former sex addict president has probably paid for many procedures of abortion in the past from early term to late term. So this is and probably was his pet project. As for who should be charged with the crime for the procedure I do agree that the doctor and the patient and possibly the husband or boyfriend should have an equal responsiblity in punishment for the crime, however the truth is some womenm ay not be familiar with the legislation or the laws surrounding the procedure so they could not possibly take all the blame unless they were caught twice doing the procedure.

Nobody in politics today has more class than Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Obama is a rookie and when it comes time to lay his resume down and answer questions about his experience and his readiness to be President, he will be seen as just that - a rookie. I don't mean this in an offensive way. It just happens to be the reality.

He won't defeat Hillary. She is just gearing up and with Bill's help, we will have experienced, professional politicians in the Whitehouse in 2009 to start putting this country back together.

President Clinton enacted the Family Medical Leave Act in 1993. Here it is 2007, and I was denied my FMLA to take care of my elderly father, (whom I lived with), as an inpatient FOUR times by my employer and even a provisional was denied and my father died within that time period of pneumonia!!! I may have been able to keep him alive if my employer gave me my federal right!!!!!!!!

Thank You Best Regards

I just saw Obama hugging Sharpton at Al's NAN convention.

I thought Obama was going to bring 'change' to the political scene.

I wish Lynn would ask Obama how he could still wrap his arms around Al after all the anti-Jewish rhetoric and actions ("Jewing down the vote"----the Fast Freddie Fashions riot and murders and the Crown Hts. attack and murder led by Sharpton). Does Obama endorse the same old double standard for black and white politicians and celebrities?

Ok, Mr. Clinton, the Bilderberger aka Trilateralist presents some good comments. Oh, if he just stops seeing politics and speaks honestly but such cannot be the case. Bill Clinton has an actor's personality similar to FDR. As President or in a supporting role in politics, one must have such a personality to succeed. On issues, Bill didn't insert "negotiable" solutions in the abortion fight. He allowed China to acquire sensitive documents for contributions to his campaign. I can understand why, he panders to NAFTA, other foreign trade. His personal life has "boulders" tripping him up. Trust is something you earn - especially in circles outside the caste system he circulates in. If Bill Clinton were not influenced by certain elements, he'd have been a welcomed "powerhouse" (in my opinion) as President instead of a "hireling" to his "bosses" in the Bilderberger and Trilateralist organizations. A good name is better than money!

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on April 19, 2007 4:59 PM.

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