December 16th, 2007
02:26 PM ET
15 years ago

Bill Clinton suggests Obama a 'risk'

Clinton offered a sharp critique on Obama's readiness to be president in a PBS interview Friday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton sharply questioned whether Sen. Barack Obama is experienced enough to be president during a television interview that aired Friday night.

And the husband of Obama's rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton, suggested that electing the Illinois Democrat to be commander-in-chief would be a "risk."

"If you listen to the people who are most strongly for him, they say basically, 'We have to throw away all these experienced people, because they have been through the wars of the nineties,'" Clinton said in an interview on PBS' The Charlie Rose show. "'They made enough decisions and enough calls that they made a few mistakes, and what we want is someone who started running for president a year after he became a senator because he's fresh, he's new, he's never made a mistake. And he has massive political skills, and we're willing to risk it.'"

Asked later in the interview if he thought voters would be "rolling the dice about America" if they elect Obama president, Clinton did not outright disagree, saying, "It's less predictable."

"When was the last time we elected a president based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?" the former president added.

"I don't want a president who's never made a mistake and never had to correct one," he also said.

Campaigning in Iowa Saturday, Obama said the former president's harsh assessment was likely to due to the latest polling numbers that indicate his wife is trailing in Iowa and slipping in New Hampshire.

“Look, I mean when I was 20 points down, they all thought that I was a wonderful guy,” Obama said at a campaign event in Waterloo. “Obviously things have changed here in Iowa and the rest of the country, and that's the kind of politics we've become accustomed to.”

Also in the PBS interview, Clinton compared Obama to himself in 1988, when he was a young governor of Arkansas who decided not to run for president yet.

"Even when I was a governor, and young, and thought I was the best politician in the Democratic Party, I didn't run the first time I could have. I had lots of Democratic governors encouraging me to, but I knew in my bones I shouldn't run, that I was a good enough politician to win, but I didn't think I was ready to be president."

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

soundoff (605 Responses)
  1. David T., Toronto

    Gino Loloya: You should think before you write! You are at best ill-informed; at worst, bigoted.

    Madrassa simply means "school" in Arabic. This fact isn't changed because much Western media finds it convenient to associate them with Islamic terrorism. If you bothered to do some investigation/thinking yourself, you would know that simply attending a Madrassa doesn't imply you're an anti-western Muslim terrorist.

    January 8, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  2. Heather

    I wholeheartedly agree with Bill Clinton. One year in the Senate is not nearly enough time in goverment to make a good President. Not only does Hillary Clinton have exceptional experience, she has personal relationships with people in government, both here and abroad, that would make her a seasoned president from the very first day in office.

    Even though I am a democrat, and have spent one year without my husband, while he fought in Iraq, I would vote for any Republican with more experience over Obama. We don't need a "rock star". We need a true leader.

    Hillary, my prayers are with you every day. Keep up the good work!

    January 8, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  3. Mag

    Something is not understandable with people and the media! Maybe we need to go back and watch Bill struggle finding words against Obama.

    But Facts are there. There were half a dozen of former Presidents who were elected far below in experience as compare to charisma Obama, Abe Lincoln was one.

    Bill and his Wife just want to hold onto the throne but I think should democrats make mistake, republicans will hit another golden chance and nothing will change.

    January 9, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  4. Marie

    Bill, you're just jealous, full of sour grapes. Obama is the new kid in town and the press is protecting him just like they protected you.

    I am sick of the political dynasties: Clinton, Bush, Kennedy. These people have been in office forever and nothing ever changes, except maybe the lies that come out of all their mouths.

    We need new people if we want real change.

    January 9, 2008 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  5. Zane

    I never expected this language from Bill! Dissapointing! His image is ruined forever! He went to far!

    January 10, 2008 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
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