Bill Clinton plays professor, blasts media in Georgetown speech
April 30th, 2014
01:32 PM ET
5 months ago

Bill Clinton plays professor, blasts media in Georgetown speech

Washington (CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton's lecture on Wednesday had everything a Georgetown class usually has: A high profile professor, some carefully crafted slides and a handful of students dozing in their oversized sweatshirts.

Clinton, a Georgetown graduate, delivered an over 90-minute long lecture that addressed a topic with which he was intimately familiar – the eight years he was president. Clinton used his remarks to knock supply side economics, tout the economic growth that defined his presidency and, at one point, fault the media for their coverage of policy issues.

The thesis of the speech was Clinton's belief that "the details” of policy matter in both domestic and international affairs.

"You do not have to have unequal economic growth; you can have broadly shared prosperity, but it involves policy," Clinton told the students and invited guests. "You have to have a deliberate strategy to do it."

Near the top of his remarks, Clinton knocked the media's coverage of policy issues. In particular, the former president said the coverage of the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – stifled the public's understanding of the law because journalists built a politically dramatic narrative and did little to stray from it.

“If a policymaker is a political leader and is covered primarily by the political press, there is a craving that borders on addictive to have a storyline," said Clinton. "And then once people settle on the storyline, there is a craving that borders on blindness to shoehorn every fact, every development, every thing that happens into the story line, even if it’s not the story.”

Clinton went on to say that public policy is "dimly understood" and often "disconnected from the consequences of the policies being implemented."

Bill Clinton's remarks somewhat echo what his wife, Hillary Clinton, said last week at a speech at the University of Connecticut.

"Journalism has changed quite a bit in a way that is not good for the country and not good for journalism," Clinton said.

Hillary Clinton was not expected to attend Wednesday's event, but the former secretary of state entered the room just minutes before her husband took the stage. The audience erupted and gave the former first lady a standing ovation.

Bill Clinton acknowledged his wife's attendance when he said, "I want to thank Hillary for coming with me today…She hasn't had to sit through one of these in ages."

Clinton took aim at a number of targets during his speech. He criticized former President Ronald Reagan's economic plans and the idea that cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans would lead to economic growth for everyone.

He also faulted skeptics who think certain areas of America are unable to come back from dower economic conditions.

"When people say Detroit can’t come back, don’t believe it," Clinton said. "It has not always been a basket case."

The former president maintained a professorial tone for much of the speech, leaning on his lectern as he called for slides to be changed.

Standing in Gaston Hall, an ornate room at the heart of Georgetown's campus, Clinton highlighted three initiatives during his presidency: the 1993 budget, the 1997 Balanced Budget Act and his increase of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Clinton, who is famous for lengthy, policy-laden speeches, also addressed the 1996 welfare reform and the importance in getting people to come to the negotiating table when trying to broker a peace deal.

"Somehow you have to find a way to establish trust among adversaries," Clinton said about his 2000 Camp David Summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. "Agreement is not nearly as important as trust."

Clinton continued: "Everybody talks about the collapse of Camp David. That is a big load of bull. Camp David was a roaring success in my point of view because they had never sat together and talked about all these issues."

Students, many of whom lined us as early at 5 a.m. to see Clinton speak, began to doze off at times, their hands holding up their nodding heads as they slumped over in their cushioned seats. Almost 75-minutes into the speech, Clinton appeared to know he was going long when he told the audience that he would make his comments on Israel and the Palestinians "brief."

Clinton's appearance is the second installment of a four-part lecture series for the former president at Georgetown. In 2013, Clinton spoke about "people, purpose, policies and politics" and in 2015, Clinton is set to speak about politics.

The appearance brought out a number of Clinton loyalists, too. Paul Begala, Clinton's adviser, Kiki McClean, his former press adviser and Gene Sperling, his former economic adviser, were all in attendance. Neera Tanden, the head of the Center for American Progress, and Guy Cecil, a longtime Clinton confidant, also attended the speech.


Filed under: Bill Clinton • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Tommy G

    tout the economic growth that defined his presidency
    --

    Yeah, he really had a lot to do with the dot com economic surge, PCs, the growth of the internet. Companies that never made a cent being worth billions. And then the bubble burst as he left office and he handed a recession to Bush, along with 9/11 already under way. Did he talk about his refusal to order the takedown of Bin Laden when we literally had him in the gun sights? Didn't think so.

    April 30, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  2. Hector Slagg

    My Gawd,
    Who let Bill Clinton out of his cage? Bill Clinton was a benefactor of Reagan Economics and the end of the Cold War. Defense Spending slowed and the country had a small surplus, no thanks to Bill Clinton.He was dragged kicking and screaming to a balanced budget by the newly elected republican congress. He is bad mouthing the Media that gives liberal democrats a pass? President Reagan cut spending because Speaker Tip O' Neal promised spending cuts that never happened so the National Debt rose. Well you have to give Bill Clinton a pass because he doesn't know which end is up. But he can always serve as a bad example.

    April 30, 2014 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  3. Tampa Tim

    Now wingnuts think Reagan gets credit for the economic boom of the mid nineties? Talk about dreamers.

    April 30, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  4. Chris-E...al

    Oh the clintons can do no wrong and the media is talking about benghazi again boo hoo . Both clintons have blood on their hands how dirty . clintons suppose to be in a good light all the time and not pick on poor oh pity me . we to good to get picked on or question by the media or anyone . Long live the Royals .ha laugh or cry begin .

    April 30, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  5. AlbaMN

    Go Bill! Hillary, please run.

    April 30, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  6. anonymous

    "Somehow you have to find a way to establish trust among adversaries," Clinton said about his 2000 Camp David Summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. "Agreement is not nearly as important as trust."
    ---

    Just how is Israel supposed to trust a people and their government that has sworn to drive them into the sea and continuously attacks them? Just more meaningless babble by worthless politicians.

    April 30, 2014 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  7. Silence DoGood

    @Chris-E...al
    Oh the clintons can do no wrong and the media is talking about benghazi again boo hoo .
    -----------
    Actually there was one small article about Benghazi. It is the Consiracy Wingnuts that are ranting about Benghazi.
    So basically you are exaggerating about news about a conspiracy theory. Is it any wonder people roll their eyes when tin foil hats rant?

    April 30, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  8. Silence DoGood

    "Somehow you have to find a way to establish trust among adversaries," Clinton said about his 2000 Camp David Summit
    -----
    Compare this to the Bush policy of invading the wrong country in search of terrorists and killing 1000's of people including 1000's of US soldiers.

    April 30, 2014 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  9. sly

    Besides Obama, the Best US President since Ike.

    Miss you Bill ... and thank the good Lord we'll have your wife Hillary as President for the next 2 terms.

    It is great to have progressive and intelligent President's for a change.

    April 30, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  10. it must be said

    Silence DoGood
    "Somehow you have to find a way to establish trust among adversaries," Clinton said about his 2000 Camp David Summit
    -–
    Compare this to the Bush policy of invading the wrong country in search of terrorists and killing 1000's of people including 1000's of US soldiers.
    --

    Yeah, his wife's failed Russian Reset is working out just great isn't it?!! Ukraine is finding out the hard way what happens when you trust your adversary, and the USA to keep their word. You end up invaded and part of another country under an ex-KGB commie dictator.

    April 30, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  11. richyalf@aol.com

    They could use his intelligence to counter the current beliefs in Kansas Universities, if any of them are still accredited.

    April 30, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  12. yolanda

    @Tampa, please enlighten us as to who should get credit for the economic expansion of the 1990's.

    April 30, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  13. Boomer in Mo

    The inequality is in opportunity. Give most Americans equal opportunity, and they will be successful. Not necessarily filthy rich, but successful. Right now, our jobs are going overseas for what is now mostly imaginary savings in labor costs. I have started hunting out products made on the North American continent at least and made in the U.S. if possible. Sometimes I pay a bit more, but the quality is much better. No more disposable undies! Can't find U.S. made socks that are not $12-$15 a pair but I keep trying. Sometimes if I can't find an American product, I just don't buy it and do without.

    April 30, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  14. salty dog

    Imbs, oblivious to facts again, so ignorant. You approved of bush wars? Of course you did, you were told to. Not an independent thought in your little head is there?

    April 30, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  15. wrm

    Even the authors of the ACA didn't understand, collectively, how it would manifest itself.

    April 30, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  16. Steve

    But Professor Clinton, I really need an A in this class. Is there anything I can do to make my D into an A?

    Sure Miss Student, wear a blue dress and meet me tonight in my office.

    Just what we do not need is more people on campus as predators of young women.

    April 30, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    Tommy G

    tout the economic growth that defined his presidency
    -

    Yeah, he really had a lot to do with the dot com economic surge, PCs, the growth of the internet. Companies that never made a cent being worth billions. And then the bubble burst as he left office and he handed a recession to Bush, along with 9/11 already under way. Did he talk about his refusal to order the takedown of Bin Laden when we literally had him in the gun sights? Didn't think so.
    ------------------------
    No, Tommy. The bubble didn't burst on internet growth. The growth has kept pace and never looked back. Do you remember Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's remarks about the extended sustained growth? He called it "irrational exuberance". He felt that the economy was growing too quickly, and so he raised the prime rate, but it seemed to make no difference. He raised it again and again, to seemingly no avail. At one point he had raised the rate at a record pace: something like seven times in four months.

    Finally, the prime lending rate increases did kick in. Money became too expensive. People stopped buying cars. They stopped buying homes. Companies stopped investing in themselves. That was cause of the slowdown that began the Bush administration, irrational exuberance on the part of Greenspan.

    April 30, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  18. smith1

    president Clinton is sharper than anyone in the repo party put together. Reagan repos try to give Ronnie credit for what Bill did.

    April 30, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  19. Silence DoGood

    @it must be said
    Silence DoGood
    "Somehow you have to find a way to establish trust among adversaries," Clinton said about his 2000 Camp David Summit
    -–
    Compare this to the Bush policy of invading the wrong country in search of terrorists and killing 1000's of people including 1000's of US soldiers.
    -

    Yeah, his wife's failed Russian Reset is working out just great isn't it?!! Ukraine is finding out the hard way what happens when you trust your adversary, and the USA to keep their word. You end up invaded and part of another country under an ex-KGB commie dictator.
    ---------
    uh oh – spinning off into fuzzy tin foil hat land! Which agreement (by name)? In your infinity wisdom what action exactly are you suggesting? Should we invade another random country and let US solders die? "Commie" – Joe McCarthy was censured and died in shame – get over it and join our century.

    April 30, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  20. critical thinking

    It's interesting. People think that if Hillary runs that Bill will be some type of benefit. When the opposite will be true. Here is why. Does anyone on the planet think that Bill Clinton has been a boy scout all these past years? If you do, please refer to the saying; "a tiger doesn't change it's strips" I'm predicting no less that 3 women will be coming out in public talking about their affair with Bill just as Hillary gets the nomination.

    April 30, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  21. RA

    Once a socialist, always a socialist.

    April 30, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  22. The Real Tom Paine

    Its really funny looking at the post on here from the usual members of the Junta, somehow trying to spin the Clinton Era as one that had nothing to do with him and his policies and those of his failed, one-term predecessor. Clinton was a pro-business Democrat who managed to strike a balance between left and right after decades of divisive policies. And you know what? People were doing well, even the right-wing whack jobs who tried to impeach him over having an affair with an ugly intern. As far as having Bin Ladin in his sights and not pulling the trigger, can you imagine the howls of outrage getting even louder if we had done that at the height of the impeachment hearings? We already heard that Kosovo was a case of " wag the dog", and I'm sure the Right would have turned Bin Ladin into some kind of martyr of government overreach along with Waco and Ruby Ridge. People forget how hateful the Right was towards Clinton, and it all stemmed from the fact that he took something that they wanted: the White House.

    April 30, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  23. salty dog

    Tommy G suggested that the Democrats are in the pockets of the Jews, priceless, nothing says clueless quite like Tommy does. Review McCain's statements, along with other gop, did you have some sort of accident when young?

    April 30, 2014 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |