[Editor's Note: The interview below is an excerpt from a longer Newsmax interview with former President Bill Clinton covering his take on the economy, as detailed in his book "Back to Work." The full interview will be featured on Newsmax Sunday night.]
Former President Bill Clinton praised his erstwhile nemesis former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, crediting Gingrich's strong debate performances with propelling him into front-runner status for the GOP presidential nomination.
“It’s not any traditional charisma,” said Clinton, who discussed his new best-seller, “Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy,”
in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV. Instead, Clinton believes Gingrich is emerging because “he thinks about this stuff all the time.”
Story continues below video.
Clinton’s praise for his one-time rival, whose willingness to interrupt normal government functions temporarily in 1995 and 1996 contributed ultimately to balancing the federal budget, came in an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview.
In a September interview with Newsmax, Clinton had predicted that Gingrich, who at the time was polling in the single digits, would make a comeback.
“He’s articulate and he tries to think of a conservative version of an idea that will solve a legitimate problem,” Clinton told Newsmax in the exclusive interview this week, by way of explaining the Gingrich resurgence. Gingrich holds frontrunner status in the race for the GOP nomination, as several polls have him surpassing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Clinton continued: “For example, I watched the national security debate last night. And Newt said two things that would make an independent voter say, ‘Well, I gotta consider that.’
“He said, ‘OK, I don’t want to legitimize immigrants who came here undocumented, illegally.’ On the other hand, a lot of those people have been here for years, they worked hard, they paid taxes, they’ve got kids in the schools, they’re not criminals, we’re going to have a hard time sending them all home, there’s millions of them. So, I’d like to have a process where they could be here legally but not have a path to citizenship. That sort of splits the difference between the immigration reforms proposed by President Bush and President Obama, which would give a path to citizenship, and would be a version of what President Reagan did.”
Clinton was impressed that Gingrich devised a “red card” system that would be used to stop normalizing the immigration status of illegals if efforts to control the border proved ineffective.
“That was a thoughtful response,” Clinton said.
The former president also credited Gingrich for innovative thinking in his plan to give workers an option to invest their Social Security retirement funds privately. Gingrich said there should be a guarantee, so that, if markets nose-dive, workers would not receive less than they would have received under the old Social Security system.
“See, that’s a new wrinkle on this,” Clinton said, crediting Gingrich for thinking out of the box. “So he’s always . . . I think he’s doing well just because he’s thinking, and people are hungry for ideas that make some sense.”
Clinton noted, however, that the former speaker’s tendency to challenge people’s assumptions also get him into trouble on occasion. He stopped short of predicting that Gingrich would win the nomination.
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