Bill Clinton Tells Newsmax: Carter Wrong on Race; Obama Plan to Pass

Monday, 21 Sep 2009 07:47 PM

By Jim Meyers

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On Monday, former President Bill Clinton sat down with Newsmax CEO and Editor Christopher Ruddy for an exclusive interview on the eve of the fifth annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) gathering in New York.

In the wide-ranging, one-on-one session with Ruddy, Clinton reveals that he strongly disagrees with former President Jimmy Carter's decision to bring race into a discussion of the Republicans' criticism of President Barack Obama's healthcare policies.

[See Newsmax.TV’s Chris Ruddy interview Bill Clinton – Click Here Now]

Democrats have a good shot of passing a significant healthcare bill soon, Clinton said.

Clinton also offered advice to both Obama and the Republicans on how to avoid the divisive politics of the 1990s that marked his White House years.

The philanthropic CGI's four-day summit begins Tuesday, and about 1,200 participants will attend, including President Obama, who will give the event’s kick-off speech followed by about 60 other current and former heads of state.

Since the CGI began in 2005 as the brainchild of top Clinton aide Doug Band, it has garnered 1,400 pledges valued at $46 billion, financing programs in education, poverty alleviation, health, and climate change that have improved the lives of 200 million people in 150 countries.

During Clinton's interview with Newsmax, he took issue with Carter's recent declaration that "an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he is African-American."

Clinton's assessment of the comment: "I wouldn't have said what he did in the way that he did it because I believe that while it is true that some of the most extreme opponents of President Obama may also still have racial prejudice, I believe that 100 percent of those who are opposing him now would be against him if he were a white Democrat."

Ruddy asked whether Clinton believes Obama will get his healthcare reform bill through Congress.

"I think that, if Senator Baucus can put together a filibuster-proof number of votes, then I think what you will get is a bill that passes the Senate and a slightly more liberal bill that passes the House," Clinton responded.

"It will go to conference and then they will try to take the best elements of both bills.

"I actually believe that he will pass a bill, and I think if he gets fairly close, there might be four or five Republican senators who will vote for it."

Asked what motivates Clinton to pursue his CGI efforts instead of the lecture circuit and golf outings customary for former presidents, Clinton gave this answer:

"First of all, when I got out of the White House, I believe I was the second-youngest person to leave the job. Theodore Roosevelt was younger than me. I thought I had a fair number of years left and I had been given an incredible life by the American people. I had experiences and knowledge that no one could have had just because of the job I had. And I thought I had an obligation to use it for some good purpose.

"Secondly, I like this. I wanted to do things I care about when I was president where I could still have an influence. And I thought that if I really did it right, I could really continue to make a difference. To me that's more rewarding than anything else I could do."

Ruddy asked: "Do you think you are having an impact?"

"Oh yes," Clinton said. "Look at the CGI. What I've tried to do here is to create a global marketplace for nongovernmental organizations, citizens, philanthropists, businesses, and governments to come together and to work together to try to figure out how to fill the gaps between what the economy will provide and government policy can produce.

"Have we solved all the problems of the world? No. But in five years, we have positively affected the lives of more than 220 million people."

Some of Clinton's most interesting comments were about the current heated political debate, which he agrees is reminiscent of the 1990s when he faced relentless attacks from conservatives, including Newsmax’s Ruddy.

Clinton offered advice to Obama and the Republicans on how to avoid a repeat of the 1990s and its divisive politics.

For Obama, he counseled that the president should keep all doors open.

"He has to do what he thinks is right. He's already shown he's prepared to compromise. But no matter how much I fought with Dick Armey and Tom DeLay and Speaker Gingrich, Bob Dole, or Trent Lott, I never closed the door."

He said the president should not close his ears "to honest criticism."

For the Republicans, he advised that they should not be the "party of no" but rather should concentrate on positive things.

He recalled former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America that helped the GOP gain control of Congress in 1994. When the elections were over that year, Clinton noted, surveys showed that the independent voters who voted for him in 1992 and then voted for the GOP in 1994 remembered above all that the Republicans had a plan and the Democrats didn't.

"I don't think the 'just say no' strategy is enough," he said.

Clinton also discussed an upcoming book based on a series of secret interviews he gave an old friend during the course of his presidency. The 79 interviews with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch, taped by Branch but never before disclosed, provide the material for Branch's book "The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President."

Clinton has seen page proofs of the book, and Branch has said "it's fair to say he's nervous."

Clinton dismissed that concern, saying simply: "I think if people actually read it they'll find it quite interesting."

Noting the tremendous work Clinton is doing with his foundation that has won high praise from leaders in both parties, Ruddy asked with a twinkle in his eye if Clinton might go so far as to address the next Republican Convention.

Clinton laughed and said: "Be careful what you ask for. I might say yes."

[See Newsmax.TV’s Chris Ruddy interview Bill Clinton – Click Here Now]

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