September 28th, 2008
07:00 PM ET
6 years ago

Clinton hesitant to call Obama a 'great man'

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Bill Clinton said he wasn't ready to call Obama a 'great man'.
Bill Clinton said he wasn't ready to call Obama a 'great man'.

(CNN)– Former President Bill Clinton was hesitant to characterize Barack Obama as a "great man" Sunday, a phrase he had no qualms using last week to describe Obama's rival John McCain.

Clinton told NBC's Tom Brokaw that it was only earlier this month in Harlem that he and Obama had their "first conversation." He said he had spoken with Obama before, but only in passing.

Clinton then explained what he meant in characterizing McCain as a "great man."

"I think his greatness is that he keeps trying to come back to service without ever asking people to cut him any slack or feel sorry for him or any of that stuff because he was a POW," Clinton said of the Republican presidential nominee.

Clinton, who successfully ran his own 1992 presidential campaign on the now commonly used phrase "it's the economy, stupid," said that he believed the current economic crisis "left [Obama] in a position of leadership that he's now in."

Clinton said he thought Obama "saw and imagined" how the economic situation could develop.

"And I think that the rest of us should admire that. That's a big part of leadership, being able to sense, as well as see the future," he said.

Clinton said he and Obama are developing a "really good relationship," and the Democratic nominee has the potential for greatness. Explaining, he said Obama has many personal accomplishments, but none that exemplify his greatness to the country.

"When he becomes president, he'll be doing things for the American people and for the world and he is-and the greatness will then become apparent because of the good he'll do...That's what I very much believe is going to happen."

Some have questioned Bill Clinton's support for Obama following the protracted primary battle between the Illinois senator and Hillary Clinton. The former president praised Obama during his speech at the Democratic National Convention and declared Obama "ready to be president of the United States," as both sides tried to bring an end to the "Clinton-Obama rift" storyline.

Clinton himself was among the most outspoken critics of Obama's readiness during the primary season.

The reason it has taken him so long to hit the trail for Obama was the need for him to return to work on his foundation after the long primary season, Clinton explained Sunday.

He is expected to campaign for Obama in Florida, Ohio, northeast Pennsylvania, and Nevada after the Jewish holidays.

"I'm going to do my very best to do every single thing he asks me to do," Clinton said.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Extra • John McCain
soundoff (118 Responses)
  1. Julie

    Why doesnt Clinton just go and sit down somewhere??? We get it, your pissed your wife didn't win the nomination, but if you're not going to support Obama, just shut your mouth! If you were thinking that HIllary would have a chance to run in 2012 or 2016, well you just killed it, Bill, and you betray her everytime you ruin her chances, the same way you betrayed her with Monica.. Nice..real nice

    September 28, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  2. Chanel

    And he wonders why people say he's really campaigning for McCain.

    September 28, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  3. opeluboy

    Thanks for all your help, Bill. They must just love you in Harlem right about now.

    September 28, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  4. witch

    I am a very big fan of yours Mr Clinton,but I find myself at a loss for all your comments on McCain and Palin. I feel that your suoport is somewhat lacking for Obama. Please step up and try your hardest.

    September 28, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  5. Doh!

    Bill is still trying to swallow defeat.

    September 28, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  6. Theogracias

    Bill's still riding dirty.

    September 28, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  7. Jeff Brown

    Bill, you are an angry man and your legacy will be ruined by the way you treat Obama!

    September 28, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  8. NoMccain

    Well of course... this isn't big news. He was accused of being racist. He is in a precarious position. He still backs Obama... now move on.

    September 28, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  9. R. Cooper

    This is just a nice way of saying McCain is history!

    September 28, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  10. Joseph Regis

    Between the sublime and the ridiculus, there is only one step.

    Bill is a great man and Obama has proven himself capable to achieve greatness.

    Obama/Biden 08/12.

    September 28, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  11. GARY

    CLINTON KNOWS WHAT OBAMA REALLY IS. A CHICAGO DIRTY POLITICIAN ,THAT WILL CUT ANYBODY'S THROAT TO WIN. LOOK HOW HE GOT 5THE DNC ETC TO SWIFTBOAT HRC OUT OF THE RACE. HE HAS DONE THE SAME TO OTHERS IN CHICAGO.HE IS NOTHING BUT A CON MAN, MEDIA CLOWN ,ARROGANT SHOWBOAT. HIS FOLLOWERS ARE LITTE PUPPETS BEHIND THEIR MASTER, AND FULL OF HATE. CLINTON'S ARE SMART, BUT MEDIA IS BUILD UP AROUND OBAMA ,WHAT BIAS JERKS.

    September 28, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  12. e.Rivera

    Maybe Clinton isn't entirely convinced – hes one of those undecided voters. I know he said hes a committed, loyal democrat, but the language isn't entirely coming out like so.

    I think Obama can still put him to work in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia regardless he'll still bring in voters for the democrats on election day.

    September 28, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  13. Ian M

    Another breathless headline about a Clinton. Geez, can't the media vultures find someone else to hover over? You've had Billary for close to 20 years now, you've picked them dry, no one cares about them anymore.

    September 28, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  14. McCain for Pres.

    President Clinton has no choice but to support Obama.. He said what he really felt about him before he was given the nomination. So did Joe Biden and Hillary. HE IS NOT READY TO BE PRESIDENT. HE DOESN'T HAVE ENOUGH EXPERIENCE. Nothing has changed except that he got the nomination. How could that change what they know is the truth, its impossible if they are honest.

    September 28, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  15. Natalee in Canada

    Mr. Clinton is still having a hard time accepting the fact that not only did the Clinton name not appear on the ballot this year, but that Barack Obama, has done things Bill did not accomplish in his first campaign...and if Americans are smart and make a smart choice in November, Bill Clinton will lose his status as the first "African-Amercian" President. Barack Obama inspires me...and I'm not even from your Country...more than Bill Clinton ever did. I think Bill Clinton is having a bit of a hard time accepting this...

    September 28, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  16. Ron was a REP now a DEM

    Help the Democrats don't need

    September 28, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  17. cr

    Well I sure wouldn't call Bill Clinton a great man.... mediocre politician, questionable man. I respect Hillary.

    September 28, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  18. Brian

    Jee.

    Stop trying to picture Bill as a deuchbag, he has tried really hard to support Obama, and he does support Obama,

    Give him some slack,

    September 28, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  19. Dr. Mimi De La Cruz for OBAMA

    BILL CLINTON WILL NEVER BE CALLED

    A GREAT MAN. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY

    NO HISTORY BOOK IN THE HISTORY OF

    POLITICS OR MANKIND THAT WILL CALL

    MCSLEAZY A GREAT MAN, EITHER.

    September 28, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  20. D from MI

    Palin's interview with Katie Couric:

    Palin resembled, "a high-schooler trying to BS her way through a book report," which is an insult to both high-schoolers and B.S.

    Palin: "Just ask me about pitpulls, pigs, and lipstick."

    September 28, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  21. BM

    As I have always said, Bill Clinton is a smart man and it takes the average person days to figure out what he is saying. I think Clinton has to protect his legacy and I'm sure Hillary will hold an important position in is cabinet, so I do think they are sincere. If Sarah Palin gets in, I'm not so sure. Hillary will be too much competition for her and you must agree with her or else and I don't see Hillary taking a backseat to anyone.

    September 28, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  22. Jasmine

    Mr. President, could you be just a little more supportive or committed? I'm beginning to wonder who you are campaigning for.

    September 28, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  23. stacy

    President Clinton knows who the better man is for President.

    September 28, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  24. Nico

    Is it just me, or does it seem that Obama will win hands down so long as the Clintons don't have anything to do with it?

    September 28, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  25. Maggie

    The Clinton's never saw Obama coming.

    September 28, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
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