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. Kevin

    I really hope that he does a better job on the campaign trail. I'm not sure that this luke warm support does anything but create stories for the press to follow. Sen. Obama is doing great without Pres. Clinton – maybe that is best.

    September 28, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  2. A NATION OF WINERS for OBAMA

    CONSIDERING A MAN THAT HAS BEEN INVOLVED

    IN AS MANY SCANDALS AS BILL, GREAT IS A WAY

    OF PERHAPS HOPING HE CAN FIT IN THE EYE OF

    THE NEEDLE FOR THAT GREATNESS AS WELL .

    BILL HAS HAD PLENTY OF OPPERTUNITIES & HE

    HAS SQUANDERED ALL OF THEM, AS HAS MCSENILE.

    September 28, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  3. Give me a breake

    Bill for the sake of the us and its people shut up . And for that reason i will forgive you. No more repugS

    September 28, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  4. Scott

    He's just being honest. He's no longer running for office so he doesn't need spin anything anymore. I'm beginning to really like the man.

    September 28, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  5. Dawn Lancaster

    Anybody that would elect John McCain, so that we could have dumb & dumber – Sarah and Iron man, DOES NOT CARE ABOUT OUR COUNTRY. Cany you imagin Sarah Palin and her husband commander and chief? Has the world gone mad?

    September 28, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  6. Hitler Youth for Obama

    Obama has yet to do something of merit.

    Campaigning is not meritorious.

    Being young gifted and half black makes no difference with regard to qualifications and achievements.

    That description can only apply IF and WHEN Obama does something that can be called important.

    The promise of change does not make a man great.

    September 28, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  7. tillman

    YOU KNOW ONE DAY AT DEBATE CAMP,

    I SAW RUSSIA FROM WY WINDOW

    September 28, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  8. PALIN can I ask you a question? Yes, after the election.

    To Gary. Calm down bro.

    September 28, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  9. Becky Smith

    Seriously, why this news and how does this affect voters? I couldn't care less one way or the other. This is just the media trying to find some drama.

    September 28, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  10. From New York

    I really believe that he is crossing his finger hoping Obama won't win...so Hillary can run in 4 years...the problem is that if Obama won't win, he will run again in 4 years and the story continue.....and NO democratic will run our Country forever...how stupid!

    Hillary can run in 8 years...didn't the old McCain????

    September 28, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  11. LeePee

    Come on Bill, you're stretching it. At on time, you rated right behind my husband and that says a lot even though he doesn't have your money. Your lack of enthusiasm will lead us to 4 more just like the last eight. You must get over that Hillary LOST! She was good however, she was outvoted. She would not make a good VP for Barack because she is a leader and would definitely try to take over just as Palin would do for McCain if he was elected. The bigger picture is that white America would rather see their livelihoods go down the drain rather than to vote for a Black man. White AMERICA WILL LOOSE! Blacks have always been on the loosing end. Do you really think that Blacks are in the majority of those people loosing homes. No, it is white America, making 35K a year and getting those sub-prime loans . Wake up America; McCain will not be hurt., His wife is rich and he has good health care to take care of his beginning Alzheimer's. Palin can go back to AK and finish raping the government there. Bill cannot be hurt; he has millions. Don't be swayed . Vote Democratic and get back on your feet and forget Bill; he's a politician still..

    September 28, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  12. SC for Hillary

    Mr. Clinton, you should do Absolutly NOTHING for this CROOK, remember he and his STUPID supporters said you were RACIST, well he should not want a RACIST to campaigh for him, and John McCain should not worry, the American people are not stupid, they will not let Crooked, Corrupted, ACORN Supporter, Radical Barack and OMG. RACIST, EVIL, ANGRY MICHELLE IN THE WHITE HOUSE, For all you Whiteys, as Michelle label you will definiely suffer if the Obamas get in the White House, so Its, either John McCain-Palin, or Barack-Michelle, who will reduce the Whiteys to slaves.: enough said.,

    September 28, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  13. Sylvia

    I'm always on pins and needles when I hear that Bill Clinton will be interviewed. But, I agreed with his comments on Sunday morning, including with him being hesitant on calling Obama great. He hasn't lived long enough to be great. Just GIVE HIM TIME and I believe he can be.

    September 28, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  14. BM

    Initially, Hillary had my vote. I voted for Bill. Why is it that African Americans have no problems voting for a white american.
    During my lifetime, I've only known one other African (MLK)American until NOW that I would have considered voting for, therefore, I am not voting for Obama because he is black, but I feel that he is the most qualified candidate to lead this country in the right direction and restore our respect around the world. Vote based on qualifications, not based on the color of one's skin.

    September 28, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  15. Bill

    Remember, all you fools that think Obama is so great voted for Clinton.....twice! And now you turn on old Willie just like a disguarded old shoe. We see where you people are at now don`t we. McCain is a great man.

    September 28, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  16. dan

    HILLARY 2012 !!!!

    September 28, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  17. Helen, NY

    This is what it is. Cat is out of the bag. These democrats want to shut up until Barack gets to White Hous eand then the true colors will come out. Barack has no experience whatsoever to be our president. Right now he is behaving as if he is a big economist and people are getting carried away. he has no record. He cannot be oue president period.

    September 28, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  18. Janet- New York

    He can't embrace Obama's greatness because it's not about him or his wife!! Too bad he can't see that the Clintons are over and it's time to move on and the world doesn't revolve around them. Sad that he doesn't put his party and his country before his own selfish needs. Obama doesn't need Bill Clinton- he is great in his own right!
    OBAMA/BIDEN 2008

    September 28, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  19. a southern bell

    IF I WERE BILL CLINTON, I WOULD SHUT UP

    BEFORE BECOMING TOTALLY IRRELEVANT.

    September 28, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  20. Fed up with Obama

    We shoud be laughing if a truly great man- such as Bill Clinton- could be so silly as to call Obama a great man.

    Based on what?

    Name 3 things Obama has done for Country or for others.

    Being out for your own self and self-promotion is not "great".

    Great leaders ACT they do not posture and pontificate like Obama does.

    Let us see some accomplishments.

    September 28, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  21. tillman

    (QUESTION) SAHRA HOW WAS DEBATE CAMP?

    (SAHRA) YOU KNOW ONE DAY AT DEBATE CAMP,

    I SAW RUSSIA FROM WY WINDOW

    September 28, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  22. Chuck

    Last time I looked it was PRESIDENT Clinton. Funny how CNN disrespects anyone that doesn't have their head up Obama's .....

    Did Senator McCain refusing to talk to Larry King because of Alma Dale Campbell Brown make you all that mad?

    Sour grapes baby.

    Two Words: BABY BOOMERS. (2:1 ratio over your wet behind the ears crowd.)

    September 28, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  23. OBAMA GET'S IT!

    As a supporter of Obama's I personally wish Bill would STOP speaking about Obama, I have said many times Bill still promotes Hillary who is no longer in the race more than he does Obama. To me it's like he is sending mixed signals.

    Bill is in my opinion doing what he is doing just for the sake of his own place in history and for Hillary! That's so very sad especially when we are faced with the threat of McCain and Palin, who would possibly total ruin our nation!

    September 28, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  24. Messiahbama

    Bill,

    How can we vote for Hillary?

    Cleary SHE is a great female warrior and leader.

    Obama? Not so much.

    September 28, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  25. Murf

    Bill Clinton is still having difficulty with being displaced as the leader of his party and the clear suggestion that the nation can do better without another 4 or 8 years of Clinton drama.

    His behavior belies his commitment to democratic party causes and in the final analysis just proves that he was more interested in himself and "his legacy" than in what is best for the country.

    September 28, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
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