(CNN) – Bill Clinton regrets the swirl over comments he made earlier in the week in which he appeared to suggest he would be open to extending the so-called Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, the former president said Thursday.
"I'm very sorry about what happened," Clinton said in an interview to air on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer." "I thought something had to be done on the 'fiscal cliff' before the election. Apparently nothing has to be done until the first of the year."
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Republicans seized on Clinton's remarks this week when he said lawmakers will likely put off a series of major spending and budget decisions. They argued the former president was siding with many in the GOP who call for the extension of the controversial tax cuts largely opposed by Democrats.
"[Congress] will probably have to put everything off until early next year," Clinton said Tuesday during an interview with CNBC. "That's probably the best thing to do right now."
The "fiscal cliff" consists of measures set to begin in January that would remove more than $500 billion out of the economy in 2013 alone. Those measures include the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and protection of the middle class from the Alternative Minimum Tax, the onset of $1 trillion in blunt spending cuts, and a reduction in Medicare doctors' pay.
On Thursday, however, Clinton argued that he, in fact, supported President Barack Obama's position, which calls for an end to the tax cuts only for those making $250,000 or more.
The former president emphasized he was mistaken about the timing of the fiscal cliff when he made his comments, thinking it would happen before the November election, rather than at the beginning of next year.
"I really was under the impression that they would have to do something before the election, and I was trying to figure out how they would kick it to last (through) the election," he said.
He continued: "Once I realized that nothing had to be done until the first of the year, I supported (Obama's) position. I supported extending them last year, but I think his position is the right one and necessary for working out a comprehensive (deficit reduction) deal."
The comments marked the second time Republicans pounced on Clinton in a week, trying to use his own words against Obama.
The former president last week complimented Mitt Romney's private equity career in an interview on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight," which raised eyebrows among Democrats who have been using Romney's corporate history as an attack against the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
Last week, Clinton described Romney as a successful businessman and nodded to his "sterling" career.
Clarifying his remarks Thursday, Clinton said that just because he thinks Romney did well in the private sector doesn't mean he deserves to be elected president.
"You can be successful in business...if your shareholders do well," he said. "You can only be successful as president if the shareholders, the employees, the customers, and the communities do well–all of the constituencies of American market economics."
While Clinton has attended several top fundraisers for Obama this cycle, some critics argue Clinton's recent slip-ups are attempts to undermine the current president. Asked about his relationship with Obama, Clinton did not directly comment on his personal views of the president but pointed to his record of campaigning for him, instead.
"Look in 2008, when he ran for president and defeated Hillary in the primaries, I did 40 events for him. 40 in the election," he said.
He then said he repeatedly argues the president has "done a good job, a really good job under very trying circumstances" and stressed that he is "strongly committed" to Obama's re-election.
Thursday's interview came the same day a new CNN/ORC International poll indicated 66% of Americans hold a favorable view of Clinton, while 31% give him an unfavorable rating.
The former two-term Democratic president's favorable rating bottomed out in CNN polling at 51% in June of 2008, after Clinton took a very active role in advocating for his wife in her historic battle with Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.
– Watch the full interview at 5 p.m. ET on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."
– CNNMoney's Charles Riley contributed to this report.
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Is Clinton losing his bearing?
Gotcha republicans. You jumped all over Clinton's statement and now you have to eat your words. The Bush tax cuts should have expired last year like they were intended to. Sen. Kyl held legislation hostage just to keep these tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. End them NOW!!!!
Clinton is not sorry. He's getting even with Obama for being called a racist in 2008. Way to go Bill!
I sure miss Willy. Those were the days! Remember? Where the only thing we had to worry about was who might be smokin' his cigar? Meeeeeeemories!
Oh! unbelievable. How old is Bill now?
But does he know what the meaning of "is" is?
With friends like Clinton who needs Teapublicans.
So what he's saying is that since the deadline isn't until the start of next year, there's not point in doing anything until the last minute. Typical politician.
Ever notice that the only time Democrats ever apologize is when they tell the truth?
End the tax cuts! Whatever. It won't hurt the rich. But ending those tax cuts will hurt the economy and it will contract instead of moderately increasing. Keep your emotions in check. You might hurt yourself.
Delusional repuks still trying to make everyone else see their delusional state of non-REALITY. Not working for you repuks, the only people stupid and crazy are repuks. Try a different spin repuks!
What happen Clinton....did they pressure you to back down. But we do really know that what you initially said, you believed it. But I suppose its only under pressure from the Obama administration and the democrats that you backed down. Sorry to see that you have to back down when you know what you originally said is the right thing to do. Hope you can sleep at night when things go really bad for the american people. I thought you had a backbone but I see that you lost it.
First time a dem said he was sorry for telling the truth, well, no, that isn't true, never mind.
Media is spinning his words
Bill Clinton and I are exactly the same age – to the day. I forget things, too, but I don't forget the president's positions. Hope he doesn't have the onset of something.
10 yr cost of Bush tax cuts for wealthy: 700B
10 yr cost of Bush tax cuts for everybody else: 3T
The largest part of this money goes to the middle class, and the piece that goes to the wealth (70B) per year, is about 6% of this year's deficit. Not exactly solving the problem.
Let's play hardball with these Republicans and let Clinton lead the way because he knows exactly what he's doing and so does Obama. Let's take them on and take them out.
Oh good grief Bubba ... don't let them bully you? We thought you had more gravitas than that!
I am a big supporter of Bill Clinton, but he should know better than this. You give a Republican an inch they'll take a yard and before he could close his mouth they were using his words to support Mitt Romney. And the so-called walking it back doesn't work when you have what you said orginally on tape. Didn't he learn from the Corey Booker deal that you wind up in GOP commercials when you do such stuff.
@GROVER NORQUIST IS A ENEMY OF THE STATE/ConservaFASCISTS – are you foolish enough to believe that someone didn't "scold" him for his "outburst agaisnt the POTUS"? He meant evey word he said!
Frenemies. Love it !
"Fiscal Cliff" How poetic- Give the man with the lying lips a cigar
Hey Bill, say whatever you want. It's your opinion and you have an American right to it. Don't ever apologize for having an opinion.
Clinton and Obama will go down in history as the BEST presidents we ever had, hands down.
Well, he wasn't much of a loyal "friend" to Hillary was he, so really what can Obama expect? Maybe ol' Bill should say "I'm sorry" to the 9-11 families for not taking out OBL when he had the chance...instead of playing with his cigar.