September 21st, 2010
03:30 PM ET
4 years ago

Clinton to Democrats: Don't underestimate the Tea Party

Programming note: Watch the full interview on "The Situation Room" tonight beginning at 5 p.m. ET

(CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Tuesday that it would be a "mistake" for Democrats to underestimate the Tea Party movement.

"In their purest form the Tea Partiers are saying, 'I've been let down by big business and big government. I've been let down because the big banks were bailed out but nobody helped me. And the government that bailed them out, they're doing fine, they all have a job, they make their mortgage payments, have health care, send their kids to college. I want reform in both,'" Clinton said.

The former president, though, also lashed out at the movement, saying that its founders "tend to be pretty far-right extremists whose goal is to destroy the power of government to mediate the power of corporations."

"I don't really think that is a sustainable position," he added.

Clinton also advised Democrats to make the upcoming election about the American people and not about playing "games" by waging war against the Tea Party movement and others.

"Tell them what we need to do and what you would do about it and ask them if they really think you're more likely to do it than your opponent," he said.
"I think we should play it straight."

Clinton said Americans are "scared to death" and angry – and they want to know where the country is going.

His advice?

"Answer the 'throw him out after 21 months.'Say, give us two years. That will give us half as much as time as you gave them and if it's not better, throw us out," he said. "Say, 'throw us out if it's not better. Then say, let's talk about what we're going to do, who's more likely to do it.'"

But he warned that if the election is framed as a choice, "we can win." If it's a referendum, "it's not good."

Updated at 4:22 p.m. ET


Filed under: 2010 • Bill Clinton • Tea Party movement • The Situation Room
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Eric

    No no, Bill... don't give the social democrats any useful advice. I like them better when they're jousting against "racism" windmills.

    September 21, 2010 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  2. GL

    American people and not about playing "games" by waging war against the Tea Party movement and others.

    The Dems need to let the Tea Baggers destory themself.

    September 21, 2010 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  3. Hunter of the lib hunter

    Democrats have not waged war against the baggers, the republicans did. It has been quite refreshing to see the infighting for control of the party of big business, big debt, unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy, big government, unnecessary wars, and bank bailouts.

    September 21, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  4. oracle

    Yeah, like we should believe this guy. He's almost as big a LIAR as Obama, and that's saying something! Lie lie lie. And worse, the suckers here believe him! Dhimmis.

    September 21, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  5. key

    Big business has thrown the American people under the bus thanks to the politicians. They out sourced the work on the tax payers dime.

    September 21, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  6. Brad

    Well said Mr President. Apparently the Obama bots don't get it. Any chance you or Hillary can take over and get us out of this mess?????

    September 21, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  7. tony

    And run ads with facts refuting the opposition and revealing their hypocrisy!

    September 21, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  8. all of America

    Too late, the game is already over,obama and the democrats have burned the people by not listening to them . obama has lost all confidence in the public.The dems shoved obamacare down our throats , bailouts that haven't produced anything ,raised the deficit into the trillions, when the people said no,obama has pretty much done what he wanted anyway against the will of the people .

    September 21, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  9. DagnyTag

    You will simply not believe this. Our 8th District US Congressional representative, the Hon. Gabrielle Giffords, in a meeting of the House Armed Services Committee, asked General David Petraeus the following question: "General Petraeus, what are you doing to reduce carbon emissions in the war on terror?"

    Wow. I had to read, and re-read this several times to believe it. Folks, there are American sons and daughters dying every week on the foreign battlefields of southwest Asia. The nation is completely bankrupt and ... quite literally, borrowing 43 cents for every dollar in federal spending.

    We have the largest environmental disaster in the nation's history in the Gulf of Mexico, and we have Mexican drug armies invading our nation.

    And yet....A member of Congress from Arizona's 8th congressional district took the time to ask our battlefield commander what he is doing to curb carbon emissions in the war.

    Gabrielle Giffords is the poster-child for what is wrong with the US Congress. We are being led by imbeciles. To the rest of America reading this blog, and to Gen. Petraeus if this e-mail makes it to your inbox ... my sincerest apologies for the stupid question asked of you by my US congressional representative.

    General... I am sure you have better things to worry about than carbon emissions on the battlefield. I assure you, as a registered voter in Arizona's 8th congressional district, I will do everything I can to ensure Rep. Giffords is voted out of office in November, and I pray you'll get back to business of fighting the war on terror without worrying about such petty and nonsensical matters as your carbon footprint in the war. -Mark Beres, Maj. USAF (ret.) -Tucson, Arizona

    September 21, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  10. Chris from NY

    The Democrats have been upfront with the American people and have meaningful legislations to show for it. Only that the American people are deaf or dettermined not to listen or trust anyone but themsleves. Unfortunately none of them has the majic wand to solve an eight year problem in 18months.

    September 21, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  11. T'SAH from Virginia

    Clinton is Right!!

    DEMOCRATS need to STATE the CASE and mean it and be proud of the accomplishments made thus far.

    The ONLY person I see out there talking about this is President Obama!!! The Town Hall Meeting he held was not all glory for him but he SURVIVED!!!

    The BLUE DOGS are running and the other DEMOCRATS are SILENT!!! Why isn’t there news in the TICKER about Democrat rallies and town hall meetings??? All you see is PALIN & Company!!!

    PLEASE November hurry up and come!!! Let's get this over with and get back to business with the HOUSE/SENATE still in the Democrats majority!!!

    T'SAH from Virginia – the Original Liberal – approves this message!!

    September 21, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  12. Jamey

    Id vote for him again. Then again hes a smart Democrat..

    September 21, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  13. Six

    It should ALWAYS be about the American peoplem Bill. Not just at election time. This is why the GOP is so upset with the T.E.A. party – because they aren't getting their free ride any longer.
    It's about the people and the country. Elected officials serve us, not the other way around. And people are realizing that!

    September 21, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  14. NO Tea For Me

    All Americans are not angry. But some of us are scared to death of the terrorist tea party that is trying to overthrow our government. The tea party and the haters are the minority in this country. So please don't say we are all the same.

    September 21, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  15. CNN: influencing elections since 1980

    So I guess CNN, Fox, and the others calling themselves the media will now try to frame the midterm as a referendum. Because we already know who the corporate interests in this country want back into power.

    September 21, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  16. stufit

    Bill, your advise is about 3 years to late. What the Democrat liberal party doesn't understand is that we are tired of being lied to and having our money taken by those who think they know how to spend it better than we do and then being called names and otherwise degraded and demeaned by these bigoted, racist eiitists. Good advice, but way to late to save the Democrat liberals. They don't get it.

    September 21, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  17. Red by Choice

    Dems had the congress in the final Bush years and have had congress and the White House for the last two. More of the same? Hell no! Quadruple the national debt again? Hell no!
    If the Dems were to tell it straight the story would be - so let’s run up the debt farther, let’s give the hard earned tax dollars to those that don't work, lets implement an unfunded, unsustainable health care bill that you did not want and will crush future generations with debt, let's cripple US industry with the same cap and trade that the Europeans are dismantling because it failed, let’s allow Iran to gain nukes and lets “dialog” with every despot, thug-leader in the world while criticizing the USA. And, oh yea, hopey changey and all that stuff.

    September 21, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  18. Annie, Atlanta

    A great line from "An American President:" I've been so busy trying to keep my job I forgot to do my job. That about sums up American politics these days. These people in Congress, especially the Democrats, are spineless, and I'm a Democrat.

    The military bill that includes DADT and DREAM, that the Republicans are filibustering, failed this afternoon. Case in point. Spineless. And what's with John McCain. He was for DADT if the top brass were, and now that they are, he's against it. Oh, that's right, he said he has never been a Maverick. It's time for him to go before he twists himself into a knot the way he twists in the wind. But that's best left up to the good people of AZ to decide.

    September 21, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  19. Mike D

    Wise words from a former president and moderate democrat that his fellow democratic lawyers should listen to. Everytime I see a picture with his mouth open I hear him saying "I did not have sexual relations with that woman..." He's a smart man but I just can't get beyond him lying to all of us under oath and suffering no consequences. Lawyers protect their own....and that is the democratic party.

    September 21, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  20. SRINIVASAN PILLAI

    I dont see Democrats united in what they say and do.It looks like we have too many groups within a major party.They dont agree among themselves!

    Yes! the election is about real issues and not blame games.Bickering and politicking has made governing difficult for Obama.

    September 21, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  21. sharky

    Sadly the order of importance for politicians these days is

    1) Personal self

    2) Party

    3) The people of the US

    September 21, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  22. GREGOIRE

    Novel idea Billy... play it straight... you might have had more respect in office if you had had this revelation when it was YOUR turn. But you had other things on the mind I suppose... what with those "nasty" republicans and media always busting you on your indescretions. You were one of the most dishonest presidents to ever disgrace the White House. Although I gotta say the current resident is doing his best to take that title from you.

    September 21, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  23. NeptuneRex

    What? Clinton makes such a statement of "playing games" when his words to the American people still float in the air? "I did not (pounding on the desk) have a sexual relationship with that woman."

    September 21, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  24. madeintheusa

    Like I did when I was President!!!

    September 21, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  25. Dave

    Indeed, enough with games by the ruling class!!

    September 21, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
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