While President Barack Obama and other members of the U.S. government wonder whether Russian president Vladimir Putin can be trusted to broker a deal on Syrian chemical weapons, former President Bill Clinton says Putin always kept his word.
"You work for the best and prepare for the worst in this business," Clinton said Wednesday on CNN's "Piers Morgan Live."
"But I think it would be a terrible mistake not to take advantage of the opportunity" to get rid of Syria's chemical weapons."
Calling Putin "very smart," Clinton said he and Putin had a "brutally blunt" relationship.
"He kept his word in all the deals we made," Clinton said. Putin was Russia's prime minister at the end of Clinton's second term.
Putin's government has suggested working with its ally, Syria, to rid that country of its chemical weapons and avert a U.S. military strike. Critics fear Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad may be stalling in an effort to hide the weapons.
The United Nations says Syria gassed more than 1,400 of its own civilians in August. Syria denies it, but has finally admitted it has chemical weapons as part of the Russian-backed deal.
Clinton said the deal is worth pursuing.
"You should try everything," he said. "Never shut anything off. It is not necessary to trust somebody to take them up on a good offer. Just pay attention to what's going on."
Turning to the current disharmony in Washington, Clinton says he was able to get things done with Republicans by cutting side deals while the House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the GOP attacked him publicly.
"We worked it out when he was trying to run me out of town," he said of Gingrich. "We were still working together. It was a game to him."
Gingrich once told Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, "The difference between us is that we'll do whatever we can, and you won't do that. You think there are things you shouldn't do," Clinton said. "And once I realized what the deal was, I let him do whatever he could, and we did business on the side."
Clinton said today's Republicans are different. The GOP Congress in the '90s shut the government twice and wanted to keep their jobs, he said, so they thought they had to show up for work and get something done.
Reapportionment has created a climate in the House, and in some states that are led by Republicans, he said, that they don't believe they have to get anything done – just "demonize the opposition."
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