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Sweet blog special: Bill Clinton on CNN's Larry King Live. Transcript. What he really thinks of Obama.

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WASHINGTON--Here's what former President Bill Clinton--he's not against anybody, he's just for Hillary--- thinks about Barack Obama and his appeal, especially to young people. As told to CNN's Larry King on Wednesday's show.

"No, I think he is a very compelling, very able political figure. I mean, he is really smart, really articulate, really attractive, very savvy. And he is exciting to young people, you know, because he is closer to them in age.

I was there once. I get that. And he has brought a lot of excitement to the race. I think John Edwards has a certain particular appeal to part of our electorate that he has really worked hard to relate to, lower-income working people particularly, people that have been given the shaft in this modern economy and by the policies of the government, from our lights, as Democrats.

I think that -- I personally believe that the other Democrats still may make a move here. I think that if you look at Governor Richardson, he has got a -- he had two positions in my cabinet. He was in the Congress.
He has been a very good governor.

Joe Biden and Chris Dodd were two of my closest friends in the Senate, and two of Hillary's good friends. And they have rendered enormous service to this country. So this whole thing has some play in it. But as a Democrat and a citizen, I like that.

I like having a field of people running for president where I don't have to be against anybody, you know, where I can admire these people and appreciate what they bring to the race and trust the voters to make the right decision.

I feel very strongly that Hillary would be the best president. And I would go around the country trying to say why. But so I don't fear them, but do I think that they will -- they present formidable campaigns, absolutely."

CNN’s Larry King Live
Interview with Bill Clinton
September 5, 2007

LARRY KING, HOST: So, always a great pleasure to welcome the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton, to LARRY KING LIVE. He is with us tonight. The occasion is the publication of his latest book, "Giving" -- there you see its cover, "How Each of Us Can Change the World," published by Knopf. And we will get into that book quite a bit tonight as we discuss various aspects of giving.

But I must ask, to start things off, Mr. President, your thoughts on the Senator Craig matter. He is going to resign. He may resign. What do you
-- what are your thoughts on the whole picture?

BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, I think we ought to recognize that this is a very traumatic time for him and his family. And whatever happens or doesn't, most of his political career was behind him. So whatever your party, we should be hoping that he and his family can work through this in a way that leaves them as whole as possible.

I think that that is more important than the politics of this. The politics of this will have to be resolved by him and the Republicans in the Senate. All I know about this is what I read in the papers. The morning papers say that his lawyer has advised him not to resign because he thought he would lose leverage.

Now he was simply given, I think, one year of probation or something, or a fine. So I don't know if they are trying to renegotiate the plea or something. It sounded like he wasn't really seriously thinking of staying throughout his term that he was trying to follow his lawyer's advice. But it looked awkward after he had said he was going to quit.

KING: Did you get any sense of satisfaction, since he was such a critic of yours during the impeachment thing, and using terms very demeaning about you?



CLINTON: No. Because when it was going on, I knew that, you know, a lot of them were outed for hypocrisy long before this. And everybody knew that -- every serious student of the Constitution knew that the whole thing was bogus and that they were just jumping on a terrible personal mistake I made.

But I -- one of the things I did to try to get though that period was to think long and hard about times in my past when I had judged people too harshly because they had a problem I didn't have.

We all find it easy to judge somebody. You can always say, well, I may not be the best person in the world, but at least I never did that, you know, or the other thing, whatever it is.

And I promised myself that I would never do that again. And I'm trying to keep that promise. And so I honestly didn't feel any great joy. I don't like to see a person suffering from a self-inflicted wound that comes the inability to resolve some conflict in his or her life.

I mean, that is something everybody has to deal with. And to see it played out in public is painful to me. I didn't enjoy it at all.

KING: And one other thing in that area. What do you make, just as a student of life, of people who rail against things they do themselves?

CLINTON: I think maybe it is a little -- I don't know, subconscious self-hatred. Maybe it is a desire to avoid being caught, maybe it is just a desire to deal with what they can perceive to be the social and political realities that they found themselves in.

He came from a very conservative culture in Idaho. I think it has the smallest number of Democrats in the state legislature in the country. I don't know. But I just know right now he and his family have got to be hurting.

And I think the rest of us should just be pulling for their personal lives, their family, and the politics will just play itself out.

KING: Now to politicking -- we are going to get a lot on giving. To politicking, here you are out politicking for someone else, something you haven't done -- oh wait, maybe, you have campaigned for people. But usually you ran for yourself.

George Bush Senior, your good friend, has said it pains him more when his son is criticized than when he is criticized.

CLINTON: Oh, that is absolutely right.

KING: So if Hillary is knocked in a speech by someone, it hurts you more than when someone knocked you?

CLINTON: Oh yes. Or if some -- one of these campaigns that is trying to leak something on her or, you know, spin something I know is not accurate or I don't agree with, or if somebody says something in a debate I think is a little off-kilter, it bothers me much, much more than it ever -- than anything anybody ever said to me about me, ever.

KING: Do you like politicking again?

CLINTON: I do. I like working for her. You know, partly because she worked so hard for me for so long. And partly because, you know, in any long marriage, it is almost impossible to resist the temptation to keep score of who was right and who was wrong about various things.

And most of the time, she has been right and I have been wrong. But many, many years ago, even before we were married, I told her I thought she should be in politics, because I thought she was the most gifted person in our generation. I thought that then, I think that now.

And she always laughed at me and said, oh, I will never run for public office. It is not my thing. You know, I like being and doing what I do.
She actually was, as I point out in the book, kind of a private citizen giver all of her life.

KING: Yes.

CLINTON: And so when she ran for the Senate I felt vindicated. And when she did really well in the Senate and had all of this -- these Republicans praising her because of the bipartisan things she got done.
And I felt vindicated. And when the -- she got overwhelmingly re-elected, I did.

So I love seeing her out there doing well, having a good time, relating well to people. It is touching.

KING: Why do you think she engenders so much hate in people too? In other words, she has a high favorable standing and a high unfavorable standing. How do you explain that?

CLINTON: Well, some of it may be that she is a strong woman, and the first person in her gender ever to be seriously considered as, you know, presidential possibility. But I think most of it, frankly, is that she took a lot of hits along with me beginning in 1992 when we threatened what the Washington Republican right-wing thought was their permanent hold on the White House.

I mean, they really had convinced themselves that they would never lose the White House again until there was a third party. That they would always have the ability to beat the Democrats by demonizing them, you know, from Willie Horton to the Swiftboat deal.

And they knew they were in danger of losing. So starting in '92, we took licks. And then from the day I took the oath of office, I never got a honeymoon. They tried to undermine the legitimacy of my presidency and they took after her too.

So she had nine years of that. Then she had six years in the Senate of that. And so I think a lot of what people think -- who don't like her, think they don't like about her is either consciously or subconsciously affected by all those 15 years, 16 years now of hits.

Because if you look at how people who know her feel, it is all together different. Like look at New York. In New York, when she ran for reelection, she carried 58 of our 62 counties. George Bush had won 40 counties in New York just two years earlier.

In the counties that President Bush won, she got a reelection margin of about 60 percent, which means some -- a lot of Republicans and conservative independents voted for her, because they know her now, and they like her, and they saw her in action working for them.

If you look at Arkansas, which I carried twice, and President Carter carried once, otherwise no Democrat has carried since 1964, in all the recent polls, she is beating all of the Republicans handily there, because a large number of people know her, not the cartoon of her that has been presented.

So I just encourage her to be herself, have a good time, and just trust people, just get out there and do it. I think -- remember, Larry, in 1992, when I was nominated, on the June the 2nd, 1992, I will never forget this, I got enough votes to win the nomination.

I was running third in the polls behind both Ross Perot and President Bush, six weeks later I was in first and I never lost it, because the people of this country are fundamentally fair. Once the Republicans and the Democrats picked nominees, both nominees -- both the Republican and the Democratic nominees will get a fresh look by the American people.

And I always have felt that Hillary might have a greater challenge in the nominating process than the general election because of that. But I know the kind of person she is. I know that the people -- the negative things that are said about her, couldn't be true if her best friend from childhood is out here killing herself to get her elected.

She has kept the friends of a lifetime and the people that know her best are deeply devoted to her.

KING: We will be right back with Bill Clinton. When we come back, we will talk about giving and then more about some politics and other things later. That is next. Don't go away.


KING: The subtitle of Bill Clinton's new book, "Giving," is " How Each of Us Can Change the World." That is pretty bold. Each of us?

CLINTON: But sometimes one person at a time. The premise of this book is, first of all, there has been an explosion of private giving, of time, money, skills, all over the world, for several reasons.

One is, there is a lot of real concentrated wealth now in the changing economy, from Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, a lot of people want to spend a lot of that money in their lifetime to do good.

Two, ordinary citizens have even more power to give money because of the Internet. We gave over a billion dollars to tsunami relief, for example, in America. And the median contribution was under $60. A third of our households gave, half of them over the Internet. The Internet has empowered ordinary people to give vast amounts of money.

The third thing is, there has been this enormous increase in organizations. We call them in international terms, NGOs, non-governmental organizations. Most of them…

KING: You had one.

CLINTON: Yes. I do. That is what my foundation. But most people think of them as foundations or charities. In America, there are 1.001 million, half of them, half of them started in this decade.

And finally, we now know more about how to solve a lot of these problems. So what I tried to do was to say, OK, this is where it is, and you should part of it. Every citizen. This should be part of our citizenship. It is not enough just to vote and follow politicians.

Although what happens in government matters enormously, there will always be a difference in where we are and where we ought to be. And so then what I try to do is just go through the things people can do, no matter how old or young they are and no matter how much money they have or don't have, no matter how much time they have or don't have, there is something everyone can do.

And I try to explain in this book, by giving over 100 examples, what people can do no matter what their circumstances are.

KING: Are we all -- are you saying we are all basically desirous of giving and we now have outlets to give?

CLINTON: Well, yes. What I think basically -- I don't know if we are all desirous of giving. I'm saying that most of us are and all of us would feel better if we did it. At the end, the last chapter is about how much we should give and why do people do it?

And I go through the religious instruction to give in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism, and I talk about the ethical arguments for people who aren't religious, but I say, based on my own observation, that it seems to me that every substantial giver I know is happier doing that than almost anything else.

And I think in the end that is because we know down deep inside, no matter how angry we are or alienated we are from some other political party or group or movement, down deep inside we all know what the scientists now tell us is true, that we have got a lot more in common than we have dividing us.

KING: When someone says to someone who has given something, thanks.
There is no bigger reward feeling than giving that.

CLINTON: It is unbelievable.

KING: You can not hear anything better…


KING: … than thanks. You say this is worldwide?

CLINTON: Oh, absolutely. I see this -- for example, there were almost none of these non-governmental organizations in Russia or China when I became president. Today there are 400,000 in Russia, so many that President Putin is trying to restrain them. I wish he wouldn't do it.
But better that than not having any.

China has 250,000 registered with the government, maybe twice that many unregistered. India, half a million. So it is low-income people trying to help themselves. If you think about it, Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Prize last year for the Grameen Bank.

Now it is a bank, but it is essentially a giving organization. You take people with a good reputation and no financial statement. You make money loans to them. Ninety-eight-point-five percent or something pay them back. And you change the face of a country.

KING: What got you to think about this?

CLINTON: Well, when I left the White House, I wanted to keep working on things I cared about when I was president, where I could still make a difference. There are lots of things I care deeply about still, but I can't make a different anymore, like, you know, the current state of the Middle East peace negotiations or something.

But on issues like providing more care people with HIV and AIDS, helping people to work their way out of poverty, finding ways to combat global warming that create jobs instead of cost jobs, helping to bring people together across religious and other lines, those things I can still do something about both in America and around the world.

So I set up my foundation to it. And everything else has just sort of happened. I didn't have -- I wish I could say I had some master plan when I left the White House to wind up where I am today with 750,000 people around the world on AIDS drugs as a result of the contracts we negotiated and major development projects in Africa and major climate change projects in 40 cities on five continents.

And now we are about to start a project with mining companies to develop sustainable economies in poor communities where there is mining so that when the mines play out, the ordinary people will be able to live.

I had no idea exactly what form that would take. We have got great economic and other projects here in America. And of course, my great campaign against childhood obesity, which I care a lot about. I didn't know I was going to have the heart trouble.

So I had no idea I would wind up doing this. But my foundation gives me a platform and an organization to take these things on. But every person can do something in some of these areas.

KING: Yes. I started a heart foundation.

CLINTON: Yes. And it made a difference.

KING: Yes. It makes a difference. You see it people's…


CLINTON: And you like it, don't you?

KING: Oh, I love it. Yes.

CLINTON: You know, I did "Oprah Winfrey" yesterday. She was taking about talking this school she did in South Africa. And she lights up talking about those kids who are going to get a decent education and may wind up being like her someday, lots more than she does talking about her ratings or her bank account. It is something that matters.

KING: More with Bill Clinton, former president of the United States, the book is "Giving." We will be right back.


KING: We have an e-mail question for Bill Clinton from Michael in Clearwater, Florida: "Do you feel that you, your personal and political history, could be a liability to your wife's campaign even though polls say the opposite?"

CLINTON: I think…

KING: What do you think your effect is?

CLINTON: I don't know. First of all, I want people to judge her mostly on her own merits. She is -- in my opinion, I will be a voter 40 years next year, she is the best-qualified, best-suited non-incumbent I have ever had a chance to vote for at a particular moment in history.

It is not just her wide variety of experience, over 35 years and what she knows about, like health care and energy and global affairs. But it is how well she fits with this moment.

And I hope I can help her. I think that the people that like me will be more open to her. She…

KING: She is going to make you ambassador-at-large, right?


KING: That is what she said.

CLINTON: Yes. I think she will ask me and former President Bush and other people to go help the country -- we have got to restore our standing in the world.

KING: Including this President Bush?

CLINTON: I think -- well, I wouldn't be surprised if she didn't ask every former president to do something. You know, she works very closely with Lindsey Graham, who was one of the House impeachment managers. And he loves her. He even wrote a glowing portrait of her in Newsweek or TIME.

KING: He said on this show he would be very comfortable, as much as he would like a Republican to be elected, if she were president.

CLINTON: Yes. They -- you see, that is what happens when people get to know each other and trust each other. We find that we have these preconceptions about people that turn out not to be true.

And so anyway, whether I will be an asset or liability, the surveys show that it is a help because I think people know I would do anything I could for her, but the people that don't like me probably wouldn't have voted for her anyway.

KING: Are you fearful -- if that is a correct word, of Barack Obama?

CLINTON: No, I think he is a very compelling, very able political figure. I mean, he is really smart, really articulate, really attractive, very savvy. And he is exciting to young people, you know, because he is closer to them in age.

I was there once. I get that. And he has brought a lot of excitement to the race. I think John Edwards has a certain particular appeal to part of our electorate that he has really worked hard to relate to, lower-income working people particularly, people that have been given the shaft in this modern economy and by the policies of the government, from our lights, as Democrats.

I think that -- I personally believe that the other Democrats still may make a move here. I think that if you look at Governor Richardson, he has got a -- he had two positions in my cabinet. He was in the Congress.
He has been a very good governor.

Joe Biden and Chris Dodd were two of my closest friends in the Senate, and two of Hillary's good friends. And they have rendered enormous service to this country. So this whole thing has some play in it. But as a Democrat and a citizen, I like that.

I like having a field of people running for president where I don't have to be against anybody, you know, where I can admire these people and appreciate what they bring to the race and trust the voters to make the right decision.

I feel very strongly that Hillary would be the best president. And I would go around the country trying to say why. But so I don't fear them, but do I think that they will -- they present formidable campaigns, absolutely.

KING: An e-mail from Porter (ph) in Virginia Beach: "If Hillary becomes the Democratic nominee and asks your advice," and I imagine she will, "about selecting a running mate, who would you recommend and why?"

CLINTON: I don't know today. And I try to discipline myself not to think about it. And that is not just talk. I have a rule that I have followed all the way through my long political career, which is, never look past the next election, or you may not get past the next election.

And no one has voted in this process yet, not a single vote has been cast. This thing will be over quite early, be over by March the 1st in all probability. So that will give plenty of time for reflection on the fall campaign and who should be the vice presidential nominee.

I will give her my thoughts at that time and gather them at that time.
But it would be foolish and arrogant for us to be thinking about that now, because nobody has voted yet. We have got to win this election first.

KING: On the other side, what are your thoughts on Fred Thompson, who will enter the race, coming in?

CLINTON: I think he is an exciting personality for them. You know, he has got his -- because of his movie roles and his television roles, he has got a certain swagger. He is smart. And he knows what to say and how to say it to appeal to a certain big swath of the American electorate.

He doesn't have the record of achievement in public life of some of the others running, but he may not have some of the baggage either. So it will be interesting to see how his late entry fits.

Mayor Giuliani has proved surprisingly durable in these national polls.
Mitt Romney has put a lot of his resources into Iowa and New Hampshire and he has moved to a lead in the poll there.

John McCain, for whom I have enormous respect, I think was not well-served by the people working for him. And they spent too much of his money too quick. And his independence in a way has not endeared him to the Republican right. But I wouldn't count him out yet.

So their business is pretty fluid right now, I think.

KING: On an international level, do you think the surge is going to succeed? What do you expect to hear in a couple of weeks?

CLINTON: My guess is that General Petraeus will ask to give it more time. And he will say it is succeeding. What I think is a little more complicated than that. Look at what is indisputable, where has it done well?

There are a couple of places in the Sunni section of Iraq where the American military has allied with Sunni insurgents that previously fought against us. Why have they allied with us?

Because we are now helping them to do something they want to do. They have decided they need to beat the al Qaeda in Iraq because it is controlled by non-Iraqis, and they don't have an Iraqi agenda.

They are basically trying to wreck everything. You know, if they are trying to kill as many Americans as possible, and if they have to kill Iraq Sunni sympathizers and people that don't adhere to their very severe interpretation of Islam, they don't have a problem in the world doing it.

And the Sunni insurgents that are homegrown, they have a political agenda. They want a piece of the governance of the country. They want a piece of the oil revenues. They want a piece of Iraq's future.

So that is fine. But in a way, the fact that we have now succeeded with this strategy also shows its limits, because we don't have the troops to do this all over the country.

And it shows you that ultimately this is a political problem that has to be solved by the Iraqis themselves. Furthermore, I don't see any alternative consistent with the responsibilities for national security to a substantial withdrawal of troops this year, because the military is so overstressed.

If we had a big national security emergency now, we would be virtually compelled to meet it with Naval and Air Force forces, because the Army, the Marine Corps, the National Guard, the Reserves are all overstretched, all deeply stressed.

There are Naval personnel now, substantial numbers of them who have been trained in weapons fire, infantry tactics, even guerilla warfare, trained, in effect, to be a second army because we are so overstressed.

So I don't think, given the problems we have got in Afghanistan with a resurgent Taliban and the al Qaeda and the imperative of defeating them there, I still believe that we will have to have a substantial drawdown of troops this year.

KING: We will be right back with some more moments with Bill Clinton.
The book is "Giving." Don't go away.


KING: We are back with Bill Clinton. The book is "Giving." The publisher is Knopf. By the way, some people, they can't read the pin in your lapel.

CLINTON: Oh, it says "Hillary." I probably should have taken it off before the TV show started, huh?



KING: Hillary two thousand…


KING: Eight. You could have kept it on.

CLINTON: Well, I have got another one.


CLINTON: I will give you one for a keepsake. You don't have to wear it.

KING: Now (ph) I have them. OK. Some other items.

CLINTON: I will put it on.

KING: Are we ever going to get Osama?

CLINTON: Well, not if we don't put the right resources into the right places.

KING: You almost got him.

CLINTON: I did. But I never had a chance to deploy large numbers of troops to Afghanistan. I think that we can. And I think it is very important. We shouldn't forget, here, this guy -- he and Dr. al-Zawahiri are responsible for the deaths of the Americans on 9/11.

They are still trying to plot violent actions in the United States and all over the world. And that is another reason we can't lose in Afghanistan. If they have freedom of movement -- greater freedom of movement, the more freedom of movement they have, the more freedom they have to plot and contact and do things that might be damaging to us.

So another reason that I strongly feel, and I know Hillary strongly feels this way, that we have to withdraw troops this year is that we need to beef up our presence in Afghanistan and get our allies to join us.

KING: The German police arrested three suspected Islamic militants planning apparently a massive attack on American targets in Germany. And we are coming up on the sixth anniversary of 9/11. What is your reaction to this?

CLINTON: First, it is good news.

KING: That they got them?

CLINTON: Great news. But secondly, it proves what works here. It proves that the best strategy is not one that is primarily unilateral or primarily military. How are these people found? Through intensive law enforcement and intelligence works, and probably through tracking money change and money movement.

Both before 9/11, when I was president, and since 9/11, most of the people who had been arrested for suspected attacks on Americans are -- on American soil, have been arrested by other people and other countries because of multiple cooperations across maybe four or five, six, seven countries, from intelligence, law enforcement people and people tracking the movement of money.

And that is why we haven't had another attack in the United States and why so many attacks like this are foiled. Many other attacks have been foiled in the last six years. And many were attacked -- were foiled before, in my presidency by this sort of intense cooperation. That is still the thing that is most likely to help us thwart these terrorist attacks.

KING: Are you more optimistic than pessimistic about terrorism in the world?

CLINTON: Oh, long-term I'm much more optimistic, because I don't think that having an agenda of destruction that feeds off the kind of low-grade fever that exists in much of the Muslim world and the misery of people in the end is going to succeed, because it offers ordinary people no way out.

And there is a limit to how many people want to commit suicide to kill other people. It is troubling to me that as many are willing to do so as are. I think that if we could make some real progress on the Middle East peace process, it would take about half the energy away from the terrorist movement.

I think if we could show more involvement with what I would call the "other Middle East," and the "other Muslim world," the Muslim countries in Africa, the Muslim countries in Asia, like Indonesia, the positive Muslim countries in the Middle East, in the Gulf, and do more things to make more good things happen, and continue this intensive work to break down these networks and save Afghanistan, I think those are the things that are most likely to succeed.

KING: Would you be happier if history said about you: Bill Clinton, a great philanthropist who happened to be president?

CLINTON: No. I would like to say that I was a president who left American in the world better off when I left than when I started, and that after I left office, I did my best to help organize people in -- as private citizens to do the same thing. And large numbers of people were better when I stopped than when I started.

I still think it really matters who is president. People may think that you do more good as a private citizen because you get more good publicity and less bad. Nobody is running against you, so there is not as much interest in saying that.

But I'm going to have to live a good long time to help as many people in my private capacity as I did when I was president. And it is one reason I am working so hard to give Hillary a chance to serve.

But I'm very proud of this life I have now. And I love it. I hope I will do -- if my wife is elected, I will do anything she asks me to do. But I hope and believe I will still have time to keep this foundation alive and keep working.

KING: And you don't have to stop it, do you?

CLINTON: No. I think I will be able to do both. I will do whatever she asks me to do. But you know, I can't and shouldn't be appointed to the cabinet. That is now not legal, it hasn't been legal for the president to appoint a member of his or her immediate family to the cabinet in 40 years. So I can do what she wants me to do. I have help to sell the domestic programs at home and help to advance the cause of America abroad.

And I hope I can help to continue this reconciliation process that she started in the Senate, to kind of get Republicans and Democrats together to find common ground on the big questions, on energy, on health care, on reviving the economy in a way that works for ordinary people, on restoring America's standing in the world.

These are the big, big questions we have to face.

KING: As always, thanks, Mr. President.

CLINTON: Thank you. I'm glad to see you, and thanks for talking about my book.

KING: The book is "Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World." By the way, CNN is striving to empower viewers who ask, what can I do to help?
After seeing news stories about natural disasters, manmade crises, or individuals in need, check out our Web site, for information about existing problems, and links to non-profit organizations and charities working to solve them.

Impact your world in a positive way. We will be back, don't go away.



1 Comment

Bill Clinton on Barack Obama:

"I think he is a very compelling, very able political figure. I mean, he is really smart, really articulate, really attractive, very savvy. And he is exciting to young people, you know, because he is closer to them in age."


While seeming to pay Obama a complement, isn't Clinton's use of the word "articulate" a slick attempt to invoke a racial stereotype?

Didn't Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton sharply criticize Joe Biden for unwitting racist language when he used the same word to describe Obama a few weeks ago?

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on September 5, 2007 4:58 PM.

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