Bill Clinton weighs in on Syria, Larry Summers
September 17th, 2013
02:29 PM ET
12 months ago

Bill Clinton weighs in on Syria, Larry Summers

(CNN) – In an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, former President Bill Clinton stood by the Obama administration's pursuit of a deal with Russia for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons.

On a separate topic, Clinton called Larry Summers "a friend" but did not directly answer whether he should have removed his name Sunday from consideration for the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve.

The full interview will air Sunday on "Fareed Zakaria GPS" at 10 a.m. ET and 1 p.m. ET. In it, Clinton said of the origins of a potential diplomatic deal to the Syria chemical weapons crisis: "who cares how it came up?"

While cautious of the diplomatic solution's chances, Clinton stood by President Barack Obama's stance against chemical weapons and general handling of the matter.

"[Secretary of State] John Kerry got asked 'well, what can we do to stop you from bombing' and he said 'make the problem go away' so Putin says 'OK, I'll do that,'" Clinton said in reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Clinton also said that the perception that the diplomatic back and forth has strengthened Russia's international position and ensured Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's power was "a separate issue."

Rogers on Syria: 'This was a bipartisan failing'

"But there is inherent and enduring benefit in taking a step that has the potential to rid the world of these chemical weapons, because it's going to be difficult for anybody else to use them if this happens," Clinton said.

The military strike against Syria for its use of chemical weapons for which Obama had once sought permission from Congress has been tabled indefinitely. Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, have started hashing out a deal that will, in theory, see Syria turning over all its chemical weapons to international authorities by the middle of next year. Syria has still not taken responsibility for a chemical weapons attack believed to have killed more than 1,400 people in August.

Lawmakers disagree on whether use of force is still on the table

For his part, Clinton said he didn't think the president was required to seek Congressional authorization for a strike. Clinton himself launched punitive military strikes against Iraq in the 1990s over noncompliance with international weapons inspectors.

Clinton said the failure of a strike authorization in the British parliament likely gave Obama pause. "I think it made him think, you know, this is something the country ought to do together," Clinton said.

As for Larry Summers, the man believed to have been Obama's top pick to lead the Fed after Ben Bernanke steps down in January, Clinton would not directly say whether or not he was disappointed that Summers had withdrawn his name from consideration.

Clinton did however say that Summers is "a friend of mine and I think that a lot of the criticism which he's been subject about, what he did in my administration, is not accurate," he said.

"I think there's this kind of cartoon image that's been developed that somehow Larry Summers was a one-note Johnny, just trying to let big financial titans ravage the land. And it's just ludicrous."

Summers took himself out of consideration over the weekend, yielding to liberal pressures over a reputation as a deregulator during his time as Clinton's Treasury Secretary, along with controversial statements about women.


Filed under: Bill Clinton • Larry Summers • Syria
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Those in the media call Sec. Kerry's comments a gaffe when in actuality, I believe he intentionally said that to see if anyone would bite. And they did. As far as Summers goes, not too fond of him. I'd prefer someone not tied to the hip to Wall St. as was Geitner.

    September 17, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  2. Data Driven

    "this is something the country ought to do together"

    Interesting insight into the imperial mind. According to Clinton, we needed to pause on Syria because of public/ world opinion ... and not because we shouldn't just bomb other countries, no matter how "good" the reason.

    I'd like to see the War Powers Act banned along with the AR-15. Both are bad for America.

    Meanwhile, Obama is doing the right thing.

    September 17, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  3. Gurgyl

    Obama knows what to do with Syria. GOP is crazy idiots.

    September 17, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  4. Italmn

    President CLINTON !!! YEA!! The Big Blue Dog !!! LOVE HIM !!!

    September 17, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Obama is knows whats up ! Mr Bill was not great with foreign policy . He had his hand full with Monica Lewinsky.

    Rwanda

    September 17, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  6. Thomas

    Obama is knows whats up ! Mr Bill was not great with foreign policy . He had his hand full with Monica Lewinsky.

    Rwanda

    September 17, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  7. O'drama ya Mama

    Again the mighty Bill Clinton makes things clear for those with a small brain. Thanks again Bill i wish we could re-elect you again and again and again.

    September 17, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  8. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    The GOP hated this man so much that they tried to impeach him. Sound familiar?

    September 17, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "Those in the media call Sec. Kerry's comments a gaffe when in actuality, I believe he intentionally said that to see if anyone would bite."

    He had already discussed it with Lavrov.

    September 17, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. Larry in Houston

    too bad he can't run again. Last time he was in office, I remember this country had a surplus, at the end of his term, and gave the "surplus" to the dumbest one.

    September 17, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  11. Silence DoGood

    @Gurgl "Obama knows what to do with Syria. "

    Yeah – he wanted to bomb them outright just like in Libya and Pakistan villages. Thank goodness the American people through the polls pulled him back from that. I will side with the peace lovers in the world and not the imitation Peace Prize winner.

    September 17, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  12. ThinkAgain

    "Those in the media call Sec. Kerry's comments a gaffe when in actuality, I believe he intentionally said that to see if anyone would bite."

    Kerry put it out there to save Putin the embarrassment of having to offer the deal himself. Who cares if the little man with the bare chest thinks he's hot stuff? Assad has stopped gassing his people and although challenging, the international community has an opportunity to rid Syria of chemical weapons – and keep them out of the hands of others.

    September 17, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    @Jeff Brown in Jersey: "The GOP hated this man so much that they tried to impeach him. Sound familiar?"

    And the charge for impeachment was being lead by Newt Gingrich ... who was having an affair at the time (with the helmet hair head he's married to now).

    September 17, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  14. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Can't wait to see the GOBP stuff Jeb Bush down the tea potty's throats Mitt the twit style.

    September 17, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |