February 8th, 2008
03:26 PM ET
6 years ago

Blitzer: Bill Clinton - asset or liability?

CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer.
CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton is still out there actively campaigning for his wife. He has toned down his comments in the face of some severe criticism, especially in the days before and immediately after the South Carolina primary. In defending Hillary Clinton, he was accused of going way too far in criticizing Barack Obama. The argument was that other campaign leaders should do that – not a former President of the United States.

“She’s the best qualified person to be president I’ve ever had a chance to support, and I feel strongly about that,” Bill Clinton told a reporter from WCSH in Portland, Maine on Thursday. “And I think there’s nothing wrong with me saying that.” He then added: “But what I learned from that whole dustup, and all the things people saying that I didn’t, is that as long as I’m promoting her no one can have an objection; but I can’t defend her. Someone else has to do that.”

There is no doubt that Bill Clinton is a huge asset for his wife’s campaign. He remains extraordinarily popular among Democrats. But there is also no doubt that he can – and probably has – hurt her chances by aggressively defending her record. He now openly acknowledges that. Other surrogates and supporters will have to do the defending for him.

I started covering Bill Clinton in November 1992 – just before he was elected. I then stayed in Little Rock for nearly three months during his transition to the White House, and then became CNN’s Senior White House Correspondent for seven years. It was clear to me then – and it remains clear now – that he is one of the most astute political strategists out there. Politics is in his blood. He truly understands the process even as he occasionally makes some serious blunders. When he does, he is among the best in damage control.

– Wolf Blitzer


Filed under: Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (167 Responses)
  1. Carol

    I try not to listen to the whole "distortion in media" conspiracy ... but ... I saw someone on CNN the morning after Bill Clinton made the Jesse Jackson comment in South Carolina and that person said it was a very small part of the conversation and that the question put to Bill Clinton at the time was about Jesse Jackson !!!

    I'm Canadian, so I'd prefer if a democrat wins ... even though our dollar went from .60 to 1.00 in the past year under Bush. But the idea that the media is leading the voters to think a certain way is disturbing.

    February 8, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  2. W, Calgary, Canada

    Bill Clinton was a poor president in a time when he needed to do nothing for an economy that was running itself. Hillary has not "stood on her own"... she has relied on Bill and does very little to stand as a legitimate, strong example for her gender. I agree, Bill is an astute politician. But that's gamesmanship, and it is time we had a president who really meant it and not just someone who wants to "win" another game in their personal career of collecting victories and listing achievements. For all you folks who praise Bill Clinton as president, I guess you must simply have such low personal standards that you'd be equally as happy to vote for the next American Idol champion to be president. Indeed... the standing ovation has lost all meaning in this world.

    February 8, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  3. Moses

    Democracts, stand behind Hillary, this is her time, she has worked hard in her whole life, and she can deliver what she promises, look at what she has done in New york. If Democracts cannot stand now for a woman, you will never see a woman president again. Obama is a good guy, but he has more chances in future. He should now give in and run with Hillary. Hillary for president and Obama for Vice president, and in this way, Obama can slowly gain the experience everyone doubts about. It is time for Democracts, unite yourselves and get the republicans out, and if you do not do it now, it will never be again.

    February 8, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  4. Sam

    The Clintons have had their turn and are the past. I am waiting on the Hill and Bill Clinton reality show. As long as it is not in the White House.

    February 8, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  5. jessica

    Why does CNN keep bashing the Clintons???? Why do they not focus on Michelle Obam stating she would think about supporting Hillary if she becomes the nominee? Yeah so the change that Obama preaches where is it? Or is it that no bad media attention is given to the Obama because they are affraid of the Al Sharptons of the world. Why is last week all day the interview with Michelle Obama was played all day? Where is Hillarys segment on her life's work? CNN please stop being so bias and favoring the Obamas. GIve the Clinton's the same respect and air time as the Obamas.

    February 8, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  6. Damian

    Gore's biggest mistake was distancing himself from Bill Clinton in 2000...
    and that's essentially why he lost.

    Bill's modified role, will work very well for Hillary's campaign.

    At the moment, America can only dream of having the same peace and prosperity, that was Bill's Presidency.

    The only candidate that can realistically achieve this is Hillary.
    Remember it'll take a Clinton to clean up after a Bush!

    February 8, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  7. Ynot19

    Frank...I understand your point but if what you say is true.. The Great Hillary should have defeated "inexperienced" Obama badly in the democratic debates, which has not happened. Every analyst indicated the one-on-one debate was a tie at best with Hillary winning the first half and Obama the second half. Did you listen to Hillary's response on the Iraq war.... It was painful.

    Hillary will energize the GOP and will not win any independents. When both of these happens, she will lose to McCain..The numbers are just not there... I am going with Obama

    February 8, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  8. c.k.

    I think Obama is nothing but dreams , facades and slogans, he isn't saying what he would do to fix this country. He watched hours of tapes of Bill Clinton speeches and is now imitating him. He then listens to what Hillary says and he adopts what she says. He is a non person with no personality or presence he has to copy someone else. He isn't even a full term senator no experience, the job of the President of the United States is not a place to get "ON THE JOB TRAINING!!!!" Wake up Democrates half the party is saying if Obama wins the nomination they will vote republican!! So the republicans will retain the White House. Stop trying to just be PC Obama is NOT ready.

    February 8, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  9. Summer

    I have been thinking not cheering on the side line of Clinton nor Obama. However, now I am leaning against Obama, for two reasons.

    1) Clinton has been preaching us about her 32 years of experience, and that to me is a shameful statment. becuase, in 32 years, I have not seen a change, so are the Clintons determin to get in the White House to sing the same song and make it a retiring house (senior citizen house)? She should be ashamed to have the audacity to tell us her 32 years of experience, to me its has been 32 years of nonsense.

    2) Her health care plan "universal health care", well, didn't she make that promise since 1991? At least, I have counted 16 promises of getting "unversal health care" plan coming out of her mouth since 1991, so it has been all talk, and now she wants use that line again? We have been fooled once, but you can't fool us again.

    Please someone from CNN double check my fact about her 16 promises in regards to her health care plan since 1991. That should be a good question to ask her.

    Thanks,
    ~Samer

    In Change, I believe, in experience I doubt!

    February 8, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  10. Independent

    Hillary is running as a Clinton. Take the Clinton name away and she is nothing. Take the Clinton image out - however controversial - and she is nothing. All she has is Bill Clinton. So how can he be a liability?

    The Clinton camp just failed to account for the possibility of an Obama factor and now they are not quick-thinking enough to handle him. They thought she would just come, say she is a woman, and win without a sweat. They were wrong. Now the Clintons are decreasing and Obama is increase - and America with him.

    February 8, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  11. marie

    It's true, he should really just step aside and hand her the presidency because she has a little more experience. And we should all support that, regardless of how we feel about her, her stand on the issues, and what kind of president we think she'd be.

    Please. I dread what a long campaign might do to fracture the party, but that doesn't mean roughly half the party should just give up fighting for what we believe in.

    February 8, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  12. John in Columbus, OH

    I will not vote for Hillary, not even in the General. I'd rather McCain be President.

    She will say anything, do anything to be President.

    February 8, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  13. Paul

    I've always been a supporter of Bill Clinton, and I would've voted for him again if I could. However, he really needs to slowly fade out into the background, and let Hillary and her own supporters shine. He also needs to be less publicly critical of the candidates, as it only seems to hurt them in the long-run. All he should be doing is going out to those places who want to hear him, specifically, and speak on behalf of Hillary's merits and keep the speeches positive.

    February 8, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  14. rudy cosentino

    How can you shown Obama"s stump speech in Seattle for almost in its entirety without giving Clinton equal time. Its as if you have a favorite candidate in this race. Come on be fare.

    February 8, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  15. Yeah Right

    Wolf, at least you are finally almost coming clean that instead of being a journalist, you are one of the surrogates that comes to poor Mrs. Clinton's defense whenever reality bites at her heels. Hold back the truth Wolf, you can do it. Tony Snow's job looks sorta cushy doesn't it?

    February 8, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  16. William Sharp

    Bill, in many ways was a great president. Barry Bonds in many ways was a great baseball player. But for serious flaws (which will never be forgotten) neither Bill nor Barry will go down with the best of their occupations (Bill will rank considerably higher than George W). Using baseball Hillary has been on deck for a long time as the favorite in the on deck circle but her batting average is not overwhelming. Perhaps a pinch hitter?

    February 8, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  17. JADA

    PLEASE...SHHHHHHH, AND VOTE

    February 8, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  18. King, GA

    Deligate count so far: Clinton 1,033; Obama 937. Clinton leads in popular vote also. Another big story today is that Hillary is winning New Mexico. Winning is on Hillary's side, CNN (bunch of media junkies) on Obama side. Money doesn't buy presidency. Obama's millions of dollars won't affect my voting. I voted for the person I thought is the best for the economy, healthcare, education, foreign policy and the nation in general. If it were not for Wolf, I wouldn't watch CNN anymore. Wolf, you are the only one controlling your emotion. Please can you train Jack Cafferty and Gloria (whoever her last name is) how to control their emotions and be a real journalists? Thank you in advance!

    February 8, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  19. Chats

    I like them both, but I am for HIllary Clinton. I was for her long before Barack ever decided to run. Now I know he has the right to run – but frankly I think he is a spoiler. She was SO far ahead – everfy poll showed that she would have beat every Republican candidate and she had everyone's backing. Then Barack came in and now everything is split down the middle.

    The way I see it is we could have had it all. I think HIllary easily would have won and Barack could have waited 4 or even 8 years – would still be a young man (52) and then he would have won – imagine that – the first woman president AND the first black president – now THAT would have made history!!! And been wonderful for the country.

    But he just couldn't wait – so now no matter what happens now the Democrats will be divided – women will be mad or blacks will fill cheated..and watch those Republicans swoop in and win again. What a waste!

    February 8, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  20. COMCAST.NET

    TO GAVIN , YOU SAID THAT YOU THE VOTERS DECIDE WHO YOUR NOMINEE WILL BE, BUT THE SUPER DELEGATES WILL DECIDE WHO WILL BE THE CHOICE, WHICH MEANS YOUR VOTE DOES NOT MEAN NOTHING, YEAH THATS A FUNNY NAME FOR YOUR PARTY DEMOCRATIC WHEN THE BOSSES DECIDE MAKES ME GLAD I HAVE AND ALWAYS WILL BE A REPUBLICAN, BY THE WAY GAVIN WHAT WAS BILL CLINTONS EXCUSE FOR NOT SERVING IN VIETMAN JOHN MCCAIN SERVED HIS COUNTRY AND LOST 5 YEARS OF HIS LIFE IN ENEMY HANDS MY WIFE AND I WILL PROUDLY CAST OUR VOTE FOR MCCAIN IN NOVEMBER ON THAT SUBJECT ALONE

    February 8, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  21. NOBAMA NO WAY

    It's about time the media starts covering something besides the hot air balloon Obomber.

    If he's so wonderful, why can't he speak without his teleprompter?? That's the only time he sounds "motivating" – because he's reading. I can sound motivating when reading a short sentence at a time! No suprise he didn't want to have a DEBATE with Hillary – she eats him alive in debates, because she is smarter and knows the issues and what we need to do to fix the problems our country is facing.

    Hillary Clinton is BEST PREPARED TO BE PRESIDENT!

    DEFLATE THE HOT AIR BALLOON!

    VOTE SENATOR CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT 2008

    February 8, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  22. Brad

    Hillary isn't entitled to 'her turn'. The way she acts like it's owed to her has chased away a lot of potential supporters. If we're going to keep electing the same two families, we should have skipped that revolutionary war business.

    February 8, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  23. W, Calgary, Canada

    Dude – if the Dems run Hillary then the Reps win. If you really want to change, you have to go Obama. He would win against McCain... Hillary would not. And, Obama does not have chances in the future. He's already said he won't run again... once for the family is enough. See... he isn't wanting of the achievement of president – he'd like to make a difference and has one good effort available. I'd be the same. To put your family through this twice is simply self-centered. Oh, and Hillary has not done so much in New York... gimme a break!! And, her health care plan... like ours up here in Canada... you're being suckered... she cannot ever deliver that – it's an over the top quantum leap for you guys. At least Obama's health plan is a big improvement that is actually debatable and could be argued to a reasonable, positive conclusion that can be implemented. Hillary will give you nothing and simply blame the Reps... like she does already. Why can't Clinton supporters grasp the reality of what can be done if you try hard versus what can be dreamed and dropped on the floor. Idealism will get you – McCain!!! C'mon!!

    February 8, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  24. seaofwhite

    Very funny, Wolf. The same was asked about Hillary by Time or People back when Bubba was running for President.

    Turns out, they are both a liability, but it didn't stop him from being elected – twice.

    February 8, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  25. Barack Obama Supporter from Lawrence Kansas

    Bill Clinton is a huge liability, not only to his wife's campaign, but to the country.

    I used to respect him, but for the way he lied, attacked, and distorted Barack Obama, I will never respect him, nor will I ever vote for Hillary.

    He is dishonest, greedy, power hungry, and full of himself, and HE JUST CAN'T STAND IT THAT HE IS NOT THE ONE RUNNING. Him and Hillary are seething and drooling for power just like "Schmeigel" in The Lord of The Rings.

    THE BOTTOM LINE:

    Hillary will lose because she already has over 100,000,000 people who can't stand her, don't trust her, and WILL NEVER VOTE FOR HER. She cannot attract Independents and Repiublicans. She will lose.

    Barack Obama represents a CLEAN BREAK from the past, can INSPIRE MILLIONS, and has already garnered the support of Republicans and Independents.

    Bill Bennett, the conservative radio show host, said on CNN Tuesday night: WE REPUBLICANS ARE PRAYING EVERY NIGHT THAT HILLARY WINS THE NOMINATION. She is the only hope for Republicans in November.

    Obama 08

    February 8, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
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