Bill Clinton: ‘I’m Very Sorry’
By Ashley Killough, CNN
(CNN) — Bill Clinton regrets the swirl over comments he made earlier in the week in which he appeared to suggest he would be open to extending the so-called Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, the former president said Thursday.
“I’m very sorry about what happened,” Clinton said in an interview to air on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.” “I thought something had to be done on the ‘fiscal cliff’ before the election. Apparently nothing has to be done until the first of the year.”
Republicans seized on Clinton’s remarks this week when he said lawmakers will likely put off a series of major spending and budget decisions. They argued the former president was siding with many in the GOP who call for the extension of the controversial tax cuts largely opposed by Democrats.
“[Congress] will probably have to put everything off until early next year,” Clinton said Tuesday during an interview with CNBC. “That’s probably the best thing to do right now.”
The “fiscal cliff” consists of measures set to begin in January that would remove more than $500 billion out of the economy in 2013 alone. Those measures include the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and protection of the middle class from the Alternative Minimum Tax, the onset of $1 trillion in blunt spending cuts, and a reduction in Medicare doctors’ pay.
On Thursday, however, Clinton argued that he, in fact, supported President Barack Obama’s position, which calls for an end to the tax cuts only for those making $250,000 or more.
The former president emphasized he was mistaken about the timing of the fiscal cliff when he made his comments, thinking it would happen before the November election, rather than at the beginning of next year.
“I really was under the impression that they would have to do something before the election, and I was trying to figure out how they would kick it to last (through) the election,” he said.
He continued: “Once I realized that nothing had to be done until the first of the year, I supported (Obama’s) position. I supported extending them last year, but I think his position is the right one and necessary for working out a comprehensive (deficit reduction) deal.”
The comments marked the second time Republicans pounced on Clinton in a week, trying to use his own words against Obama.
The former president last week complimented Mitt Romney’s private equity career in an interview on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight,” which raised eyebrows among Democrats who have been using Romney’s corporate history as an attack against the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
Last week, Clinton described Romney as a successful businessman and nodded to his “sterling” career.
Clarifying his remarks Thursday, Clinton said that just because he thinks Romney did well in the private sector doesn’t mean he deserves to be elected president.
“You can be successful in business…if your shareholders do well,” he said. “You can only be successful as president if the shareholders, the employees, the customers, and the communities do well–all of the constituencies of American market economics.”
While Clinton has attended several top fundraisers for Obama this cycle, some critics argue Clinton’s recent slip-ups are attempts to undermine the current president. Asked about his relationship with Obama, Clinton did not directly comment on his personal views of the president but pointed to his record of campaigning for him, instead.
“Look in 2008, when he ran for president and defeated Hillary in the primaries, I did 40 events for him. 40 in the election,” he said.
He then said he repeatedly argues the president has “done a good job, a really good job under very trying circumstances” and stressed that he is “strongly committed” to Obama’s re-election.
Thursday’s interview came the same day a new CNN/ORC International poll indicated 66% of Americans hold a favorable view of Clinton, while 31% give him an unfavorable rating.
The former two-term Democratic president’s favorable rating bottomed out in CNN polling at 51% in June of 2008, after Clinton took a very active role in advocating for his wife in her historic battle with Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.
— CNNMoney’s Charles Riley contributed to this report.