Wednesday, February 25, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Bill Clinton Says Obama’s Speech Was “Terrific” And Struck Right Tone Of Optimism

The Plum LineGreg Sargent's blog

BillClintonPresident.jpg President Bill Clinton picture by dissent_is_cool

President Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton — who recently urged President Obama to show more optimism about the future — hailed Obama for getting the tone right in his speech last night, praising Obama’s effort as “terrific” and a “real success” that struck just “the right balance.”

In a phone interview with me just now, Clinton offered his first public comments on the speech, saying Obama succeeded in telling “the American people that we’re gonna get out of this and it’s gonna be alright in the end.”

In the interview, Clinton also threw a bit of support to embattled Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, saying he’d done “the best job he could with a hard hand to play.” And Clinton also commented on Obama’s vow last night to tackle health care reform this year, saying he thought Obama had a “better than 50-50 chance of getting it done.”

Speaking of Obama’s speech, Clinton said: “I think he drew the right balance — he didn’t sugarcoat anything, he didn’t say it’s gonna get better tomorrow.”

“I think people appreciate the fact that he’s not jerking them around and [is] just telling them the way it is,” Clinton added. “But they do wanna know that we are gonna get out of this. And he said we were, and that our commitment to clean energy, and energy independence, and energy efficiency would lead the way, followed with health care and education reforms…It was a real success.”

“When he ran for President he was always relentlessly upbeat and I think that he’d really been focusing on trying to make sure the American people understood how wide and deep the crisis was, which I understood,” Clinton said. Referring to his own earlier interviews, Clinton said he’d previously thought “Obama should always say in addition to that, `we are gonna get out of this.’”

“And he did that last night really well,” Clinton said.

Clinton praised other aspects of the speech, saying Obama had done a good job selling the stimulus and bank bailout efforts.

“He explained what he was trying to achieve with the stimulus and strongly defended it in a way that I thought was important,” Clinton said. Obama, Clinton added, had convincingly argued that the stim package isn’t “just supposed to create jobs, it’s also supposed to save jobs by giving money to state and local governments” and to “put money in people’s pockets.”

“To have the President directly explaining that, I thought was important,” Clinton said.

Clinton also said Obama had explained well that the bank bailouts are “for the benefit of average Americans, middle class Americans, small business people, people who needed jobs. It wasn’t about the banks, it was about the American people” and “would not have unjust enrichment.”

In other aspects of the interview:

* On health care, Clinton said that he thought the public mood had shifted in favor of reform since his ill-fated efforts in 1993, and said Obama would be able to make good on his vow last night to tackle health care reform this year, along with rescuing the economy.

“They should try to do it now,” Clinton said of last night’s promise. “There’s a willingness to take a fresh look at all this, and so I believe he should try, I’m glad he’s going to, and I think it’s a better than 50-50 chance he’ll succeed.”

* On Jindal’s response, Clinton said of the Republicans that Jindal is “their future.”

“He’s a smart guy. While he basically espouses their social conservatism, he is not negative in the way he deals with people, and he’s policy oriented,” Clinton said.

Clinton added that Jindal’s speech foundered because the Republican party line right now is untenable. “They’re on very weak ground with their blanket opposition to the stimulus,” Clinton said, adding with a chuckle: “He did the best job he could with a hard hand to play.”

Clinton said much more in the interview, talking more about health care and about the future of the Republican Party, and we’ll bring you more of it tomorrow.
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