September 21st, 2010
03:30 PM ET
8 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. Linda

    MR. Clinton you advice to the democratic congress is very good. However, how are you going to overcome the fact that the democrats have been in control of contress for six years? They took over during Bush's second term. Blame the republicans is what Obama has been doing since he took the oath but he is the one that was using the democratic congress and they were using him to push through legistlation that the American people didn't want. Everytime he calls the republican party the party of no, I say good for them. At least they are listening. If the democrats would have listened to the American people instead of telling us what we needed and wanted, they wouldn't have to worry about reelection. It isn't necessarily about the economy, we expect it to be hard right now. The problem is that we don't want the USA to get worse. You want to be reelected democrats, repeal the obama, reid, polaski care before the election and stop telling us that we are stupid and that the rest of the world is enlightened. Otherwise bye.

    Independent since 1981.

    September 21, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  2. normajean

    The hardest part in reading these comments is seeing the abject stupidity of so many writers.They either can't read or think and have no conception of what is really going on.They must get all their information from the big three or four {Beck Limbaugh ad nauseum} or from their neighbor down the street because they are SO MISINFORMED THAT IT'S SCARY TO KNOW THAT THEY ARE GOING TO VOTE .PLEASE PEOPLE BUY A COUPLE OF NEWSPAPERS AND COMPARE WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY. TALK TO FRIENDS WHOS INTELLEGENCE YOU RESPECT. AT LEAST TRY TO UNDERSTAND FOR WHOM YOU ARE VOTING AND WHY , PLEASE!!!! .WE'RE CRASHING FOLKS..!

    September 21, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  3. Jerry

    To late Bill, the four years we have just endured with democrats in control of the congress and senate were enough. Vote them all out

    September 21, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  4. S in California

    Not a Clinton fan by any stretch of the imagination but this does sound like sound advice.

    September 21, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  5. heemy

    Sorry Bill, it is too late our minds are made up. Dems are going down big time for a long time to come.

    September 21, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  6. Carl

    We already know what the progressive/socialist Democrats will do...they've been doing it to the American people for almost four years, accelerated under the Obama administration. There is NO WAY they will change their "in your face/up yours" attitude to what America wants vs. what they want. We don't want any more of it. We've told them for over a year we don't want it and they do it anyway (Stimulus, auto industry takeover, health care "reform", more stimulus, MORE stimulus, more and more bailouts for their campaign contributors.) We've had enough! We already understand the "choice", and we choose liberty. Throw the bums out!

    September 21, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  7. S in California

    In other words Bill – play: "Russian Roulette"?

    September 21, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  8. Gaterade

    All everyone wants is for the public to be aware of E.T Presense. It is such a joke to get ridiculed for knowing the truth while others refuse to believe anything besides what the Mainstream (Schools, Government, Media) says. The Mainstream is a bunch of B.S. Humans are not natural. Humans were intervened with by E.T Race from Nibiru. This information is not argued by scientists. It's FACT. Only the General public and a few mainstream articles support ideas so far off of reality. Where do you think we came from? What do you think we are? Where do you think we are going? Come on everyone! It's time to Remember WHO YOU were. Think! Remember! Ask questions. You've been here a lot longer than you think!

    September 21, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  9. Chad

    Playing games with the American people is exactly what the republicans and Teabaggers are doing. President Obama is leading the country out of the mess that they made in the first place, and they
    think its cute to parade a professed witch in front of the country and
    expect someone to take them seriously. The democrats had better not
    get lax play games and get to the polls in droves again to make sure the
    country is not handed over to the likes of the teabaggers, or people
    think they are suffering now, just put a teabagger in charge.

    September 21, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  10. Dave

    Bill, the problem is that Republican voters would re-elect GW Bush again if they could. Just because he's a Republican. And they will vote for anyone who runs against Obama in 2010. Just because he/she's a Republican. The Republicans can lie as much as they want; they can ruin the country; bankrupt the treasury; destroy the lives of millions around the world and back home; and the Republican voters will show up at the polls to – YES – send the exact same policies back to Washington DC. Just because they're Republicans!

    September 21, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  11. usualone

    The "virus" of fear is spreading. President Clinton is exactly correct. Why are the Democrats looking so weak? They had the upper hand and are blowing it. They need to play up what they are doing to HELP people and show that the opposition offers nothing. They need to get out the Democrats to vote this Nov. Even with not smooth sailing they offer more choices for the country. It is embarrassing how meek they have become. Look how the Republicans stick together. Are they blind to the effect that has on the population?

    September 21, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  12. Dave

    I meant 2012. Woops.

    September 21, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  13. Jodie

    It's simple. Look at what the Republicans did in their last 8 years at the helm. Then they unloaded all it on Obama. He's trying to dig us out of that hell hole and they say he made it. It's like rationality (Dem) vs. irrationality (Rep). But too often in human affairs the latter prevails.

    September 21, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  14. NotFooled

    Agreed Pres. Clinton, if voters want lies, generalities and bumpersticker slogans they can listen to the republicans.

    September 21, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  15. Bridgett

    I hope the people are smart and not vote the Repugs, party of No into office, I haven't seen anything they have had to offer. The Repubiicans have spend a lot of time just going against the Potus and has not offer themselves any solid solution.

    We have not lose jobs, money and homes at the fast rate it was. The Tea Party is making more noise then the Repugs.

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

    Yes, we are scared to death, but mostly of the crackpots running around calling themselves the Tea Party. Less government, get rid of social security, no social programs. Abstinence, no birth control, no abortion, teach your children well! How will all the unwed mothers support their children? They have two mentors that go around writing books, giving speeches, and dancing to earn money! No need to practice what you preach. Health insurance death squads, no need, people will have to work until they drop. We are all doomed.

    September 21, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  17. Gerald flowers

    It seems to me that the Banking and Corporate interests have created a quasi grass roots movement to promote their agenda. NO TAXES means some stock trader can have and extra bottle of champagne on his/her Gulfstream

    September 21, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  18. Scott T

    We are here to take back our government and restore Liberty and Freedom for all, not just for Unions and Public sector Unions and minorities... We live here too. We want a smaller less intrusive government with less deficit spending...

    Tea Party Patriot

    September 21, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  19. John Que 3000

    One phrase is all the Democrats and Republicans need to remember.
    Pass the "$15K Plan for Us Citizens, "

    Not only does no one in either party know what the $15K Plan would mean to poor and middle class families, once they read the specifics of the targeted stimulus package, they laugh and say the US citizens can do without.

    The $15K Plan in a nutshell.

    All law abiding US citizens over the age of 18 earning less than $100K annually would be issued a $15,000 stimulus investment grant. The money then must be used locally, within their own state. Or it can be combined with other recipients of the grant and used within any state the combination group resides.

    You would have the ability to catch up on mortgage payments, buy transportation, get an education geared toward the jobs that will expand their workforce. Grantees could have babies, donate to education, religious or civic organizations as long as they are political agenda free. This leaves out R & D money wells.

    However, even though the $15K plan would have an immediate long term positive affect of the US and worldwide economy, Washington DC won't even discuss offering an investment into the average citizen. Instead they are content to allow $billions to funnel through to the wealthiest CEO and stock investors.

    Their Trickle Down economic theory hasn't worked in the past and it will not work in the future.

    The $15K Plan is a " Trickle UP, " process that rewards those companies offering products and services that actually offer value and benefit to the consumer. This is in stark contrast to ignorant and callous treatment of the consumer and their own investors CEOs have been rewarded with the first three stimulus packages. The US consumer knows who deserves their business, the corporations who don't make the grade deserve to fail.

    The $15K Plan....

    September 21, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  20. RightTurnClyde

    Clinton MAKES SENSE (dammit). That's the right answer. The Democrats have been BSing everybody about bail out and recovery and all they did is pay-off their buddies and screw everybody else. The GOP has been BSing since 2000 (when they thought they had it made) ONLY THE Tea Party is willing to DO SOMETHING to make things work. There is NO WORK, no jobs, no business, no trade, no money. Houses are foreclosing, people are hard up and unemployment is WAY higher than they report (that's BS) . The war expanded, Gitmo expanded, the Gulf was ignored, the border is being ignored, Arizona isn't racist, we are not in recovery, health care is a rip off (in a hundred ways). Listen to Clinton - he's telling the truth (the only one) (and the Tea Parties)

    September 21, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  21. Barry

    I agree. No one could believe anyone as incompetent as obama could be elected, and look what happened.

    September 21, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    Bill...seriously...I love you to death, but are you inhaling again? They don't want to hear the facts, the evidence or rational and well-reasoned argument. They want to "take the country back" from darky, period. This country is well on its way to fascism, so if you're brown or otherwise don't fit into the GOP/Teatard's definition of what it means to be an Amurikan, I suggest you buy a couple guns before they make it illegal for you to have one undless you fit the aforementioned definition of what it means to be an Amurikan OR start making plans to move somewhere where people aren't quite so batsh-t crazy, like Australia. Personally, I'm staying and arguing for the blue states to secede. Let's see how the GOPers like losing the economies of NYC, Boston, San Fran, LA, and other economic and cultural centers. What...they get to threaten it all the time...why shouldn't we?

    September 21, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  23. ETM

    Clinton is right. The teabaggers have every right to be angry but they have no rational solutions to any of our problems and have allowed themselves to become Republican stooges. Obama and Democratic have had only 20 months to clear away 8 years of gross Republican mismanagement.

    September 21, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  24. ronald malaney

    the problem is if they all tell the truth and nothing but the truth, nobody will vote for them, and they will end up broke and have to get a real job. Mr Clinton you personally destroyed logging in the USA, You crippled oil drilling, power plant construction, you banned guns "the worst scare we Americans have had until Obama and his gun comments,and thats including 911" your blind environmentalism was the biggest tax on the little person and big person that I know of ever, and Obama wants to times it by ten. the dems aka the lawyer network, needs to own up to their past policies and their results, tell them what effects your logging ban is having now to forest fires, and our economy. your drilling ban your mining ban, your home lending policies, tell us about the truth about the border and why suddenly AZ is getting all the attention of the DOJ and not homeland security or military, tell us the truth about what affects AZ only closing the border will have on other states, and how you all can't let that happen.

    September 21, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  25. scott

    Actually very sound advice. Only an Idiot expects Obama to fix everthing the GOP messed up in 2 years.

    September 21, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
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