Former President Bill Clinton, like many Democrats, sees an upside and a downside for the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"They have an amorphous set of resentments for which I sympathize," Clinton told USA Today
. "I don't think Americans can continue this level of income inequality."
But the movement needs some tangible goals, Clinton says. "They need to have some idea of what they want the country to do. If I were in their position, I would invite politicians down to talk to them. I'd invite [New York] Governor [Andrew] Cuomo down to talk to me. I'd invite the mayor down to talk to me in New York."
Clinton compared Occupy Wall Street’s situation with that of Arab Spring protesters in Tunisia and Egypt who helped topple authoritarian governments but now have to become a part of the formal political process.
On other topics, Clinton told the national daily newspaper that the 9 percent unemployment rate doesn’t necessarily doom President Barack Obama’s re-election chances. "The American people have a funny way of figuring. If they decide that the unemployment rate is that high because the Congress refused to work with the president, and their numbers remain markedly lower than his, he might win anyway. I still think he's in pretty good shape."
If the supercommittee on budget deficit reduction can come up with a program that Congress and the president approve, Clinton said, that may usher in a new spirit of bipartisan cooperation, "where the election can then unfold in an environment where the voters can decide in the races for the Congress and the Senate and the White House who's got the best ideas."
To be sure, Clinton sees ominous signs now, too. "It has a disturbing feel like the bad recession we had at the end of the 19th century, when there was a lot of partisan discord," he said.
That period included major bank and railroad failures, which ended with social unrest and Democrats being shut out of the White House for 16 years.
“But I still believe we can get out," Clinton said.
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