June 7th, 2012
04:10 PM ET
2 years ago

Clinton: 'I'm very sorry'

(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.

Also see:

Romney reacts to Wisconsin recall vote

Texas a cash cow for Romney

Jill Biden weighs into 2016

Watch The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer weekdays at 4pm to 6pm ET and Saturdays at 6pm ET. For the latest from The Situation Room click here.


Filed under: 2012 • Bill Clinton • President Obama • TV-The Situation Room
soundoff (132 Responses)
  1. Doc in Wyoming

    @Bruce

    "If you're not a liberal when you're 20, you have no heart.
    If you're not a conservative when you're 40, you have no head"

    ~Winston Churchill

    June 7, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  2. I Like to tiE My doG To the rooF Of tHE famILY Car for FUN

    Whoring Billy Whoring AND you're an idiot.

    June 7, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  3. pjoe

    Bill needs to summon his inner Marxist before talking in public. He's having a hard time being liberal enough for these guys.

    June 7, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. SayWhat

    Keep the tax break. We don't need more money flowing in to government for the purpose of wasting it. Let us keep the money so that we can consume, build business and grow the coffers that way.

    June 7, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  5. James

    Sorry??? Yes most Americans are sorry that Obama is the president.... The most Incompetent president in history ...

    June 7, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  6. getoverit

    It seems his opinion has "evolved"....

    June 7, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  7. Nate W. VA

    I personally believe this was an intentional act by Bill Clinton. The debt ceiling caving in soon with a tough obstruction to increase it. So how do you bring it to life and have Republicans throw it to the front line issue?: Get a former Dem president to say he agrees with it. Saying he didn't mean it and was confused is the easy part. Got headlines bringing the issue to light, the eyes of the public on the opinion and forcing Congress to address it. Clinton knew that statement would not fall on deaf ears to the right. Congress now has it in front of them because they jumped on the statement. However, now the Repubs are left with the difficult part, proving it is necessary for the extension. It will be tough to do since public eyes are on it. If the right says it will help to bring jobs they will have to show how and the results in the past. If they show by the previous extension it brought a lot jobs, it would in turn show healthy job growth under Obama. If they don't show any previous job growth from the tax cuts, it would be hypocritical to keep them in effect while debt is increased by the cuts. Pretty crafty there, Bill.

    June 7, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  8. Madrep

    Ultimately this will hurt the middle class. Still hope something will be done before they expire. Remember the AMT was supposed to tax the rich back in 99, and now it's a big issue for the middle class....again! The rich get richer and thus the world turns. But, Obama has no time to worry about something like that now, he is too busy campaigning and going to high dollar 1% er fund raisers. Especially his Cali buddies. No different than Romney. Money talks and buys elections and middle class just keeps paying for everything anyway! If we still have "shovel ready" jobs that is!

    June 7, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  9. MDNA = MaDge Not Applicable!

    I think maybe Bill has had a mini-stroke.

    Claiming he did not know when fiscal cliff were at the first of the year?

    Hope he gets a medical checkup soon.

    June 7, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  10. sweet2th

    Typical of a politian with no dog in the fight. He can afford to say things that may cost him nothing but will penialize the rest of us.

    June 7, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  11. Joe

    The rich already pay more than th spoor by the fact that our tax rate is progressive and the more you make the higher the tax rate, plus 10% of a million is much more than 10% of 10k...but that's ok... Nothing needs to be done until next year... We are in good shape,and got plenty of time to get this mess under control... Obama is doing a sucky job....sorry...I meant great job...

    June 7, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  12. Carole

    Actually, Clinton was probably repremanded but the other two Dems in The Presidents Club for agreeing with (future President) Romney. Bill and Hillary probably have the same type of financial portfolio as the Romney's, so the only one who doesn't know what he is doing is O'Bama because he relies to much on Axelrod, Power , and Jarrett.

    June 7, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  13. Jackson

    "...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..." Er.. Wouldn't that also make a big dent in the deficit and debt that the republicans keep whining about?

    June 7, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  14. samuel burnside

    The GOP and Mitt knows they are in trouble ! They are still below Obama with all of the problems they state the country has. And wait intil the country really get to meet Mitt during the debates and everything is out in front.

    Then you will see this is why Mitt lost to McCain in 2008 ! And McCain lost to the President. And the country was on the brink of a recession, but voters picked McCain over Mitts.....LOL

    June 7, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Bill Clinton is calculated and understands the DNC is being taken down by Obama. He's trying to save the party, but the Kool-aid is just to potent for some of the Liberals.

    June 7, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  16. Lola, Washington DC

    Clinton still believes what he said the first time, and his back-trackiing now is only to appease Obama. The fact is Bill Clinton was and is more moderate than Obama. The other thing about Clinton is that he loves being in the spotlight and cannot be boxed in. Obama might want him to keep campaigning for him, but does so at his own peril.

    Having said all of that, I really miss having Bill Clinton as president. He's awesome.

    June 7, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  17. Blindersoff

    My party status is none-affiliated. How can any one other then the bigots of this country vote for Romney for anything? He has expose himself over and over again, he is not wearing any clothes and yet, he is still promoted and defended as being valid. America, the big fat lie.

    June 7, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  18. MDNA = MaDge Not Applicable!

    I think maybe Bill has had a mini-stroke.

    Claiming he did not know the fiscal cliff was at the first of the year?

    Hope he gets a medical checkup soon.

    June 7, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  19. Zane

    Whatever...The only way to end this mess is to cut what we spend and make everyone pay something. I keep hearing the words "fair share" yet 50% of all wage earners pay nothing, zero, zilch, nada?????????

    June 7, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  20. ClemVinson

    Why are tax cuts even the issue? More important is the one trillion in medicare/defense spending that automatically gets reduced. Both of these "causes" are waaaay overfunded and the most obvious place to start digging our way out of this grave of a hole we have indebted ourselves to. End the insanity, start working together for a better tomorrow, or let the ultimatums take effect.

    June 7, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  21. Steve- Illinois

    Slick Willy is setting Obama up for a fall! He called him an amateur, and now he's playing him like he's an amateur! Clinton will apologise, Obama will keep using him as a supporter, and Clinton will "slip up" again, and again!! Obama is trapped now because Clinton is the darling of Dems, and Obama can't afford to publicly dump him from his campaign!
    This will be fun to watch!

    June 7, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  22. Harv

    You people should have witched the original interview. He was very clear that he believed that tax cuts should be extended but that also the wealthy should pay more. He also strongly said that congress should pass the presidents's jobs bill which the Republican's have been blocking.
    Typical Republican spin machine only using the sound-bites they like.
    Too bad the R's don't have anyone as intelligent as either Clinton or Obama. Maybe they would do something that is good for the country.

    June 7, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  23. J Carly

    Clinton is no longer believable after this debacle......no creds....

    June 7, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  24. REPUBLICANS ARE LOSERS

    Can we nominate him again in 2016?

    AFTER OBAMA FINALLY FIXES THE ECONOMY, CLINTON WOULD TAKE US INTO A GOLDEN AGE.

    June 7, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  25. yukphu

    Claudia, Most independents, and even some GOPers love Slick Willie and would welcome a third term. to put him and Obama in the same sentence is ignorant! They have POLAR OPPOSITE views on how to move this country forward. We cant afford handouts anymore and govt is WAY TOO big and needs to shrink.

    June 7, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
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