February 8th, 2008
03:26 PM ET
13 years ago

Blitzer: Bill Clinton - asset or liability?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/04/art.blitzer.cnn.jpg caption="CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton is still out there actively campaigning for his wife. He has toned down his comments in the face of some severe criticism, especially in the days before and immediately after the South Carolina primary. In defending Hillary Clinton, he was accused of going way too far in criticizing Barack Obama. The argument was that other campaign leaders should do that – not a former President of the United States.

“She’s the best qualified person to be president I’ve ever had a chance to support, and I feel strongly about that,” Bill Clinton told a reporter from WCSH in Portland, Maine on Thursday. “And I think there’s nothing wrong with me saying that.” He then added: “But what I learned from that whole dustup, and all the things people saying that I didn’t, is that as long as I’m promoting her no one can have an objection; but I can’t defend her. Someone else has to do that.”

There is no doubt that Bill Clinton is a huge asset for his wife’s campaign. He remains extraordinarily popular among Democrats. But there is also no doubt that he can – and probably has – hurt her chances by aggressively defending her record. He now openly acknowledges that. Other surrogates and supporters will have to do the defending for him.

I started covering Bill Clinton in November 1992 – just before he was elected. I then stayed in Little Rock for nearly three months during his transition to the White House, and then became CNN’s Senior White House Correspondent for seven years. It was clear to me then – and it remains clear now – that he is one of the most astute political strategists out there. Politics is in his blood. He truly understands the process even as he occasionally makes some serious blunders. When he does, he is among the best in damage control.

- Wolf Blitzer

Filed under: Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (167 Responses)
  1. Theresa

    He is a liability, because as soon as I hear Bill Clinton or see his face, I donate another $20 to Obama.

    February 8, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  2. Linlo

    Yet, there is ole Bill already doing it again – twisting words and spewing his garbage in Louisiana!

    February 8, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. mike

    Why don't you cover obama's wife to the same degree? Or when Oparah or Ted Kennedy make even more deliberate attacks, why don't you spend 10 hours a day discussing that? Oh yeah, it's the ratings. The same way AC spends time criticizing the media covering Brittney Spears, all the while he's showing clips of her in some crazed mental state.

    Wolf, how about you start seriously covering the resumes of the candidates...show us what each have actually done, not just how well they feed us hot air...because as of late, that's all you seem to cover, "hot air".

    February 8, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  4. Mark

    Well, good for him.. I think he helps.. Unlike Obama, hes not all talk.. He actually does stuff.. Did we forget what Obama said during the debate? I will be right on day one, then later on he said you can't always be right.. HE ONLY SAYS WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR. now hes in New Orleans, where was he 2 years ago?? why didnt he want to help then??? The clintons did.

    February 8, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  5. Sam

    Just because Bill hasn't had a chance to support Obama, does not mean that Hillary is the most qualified candidate. Did you read how Slick Willy phrased that sentence? Go ahead Bill, support Obama. It's okay.

    February 8, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  6. Ann Independent Media,PA

    CEO"S of the top news networks must have reeld these Anti-Clinton journalists in. All the glorification Of Senator Obama(For Now) has chilled and hopefully news worthy political reporting will prevail.
    Somebody had to do it.

    February 8, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  7. Lauren

    So Wolf, what you are saying is that you are indeed completely biased towards Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. If it wasn't clear from the first three paragraphs of this article, then you confirmed it in the last.

    Seriously, does anyone actually believe that when Bill Clinton compared Obama's candidacy to Jesse Jackson's, he was just "defending" his wife. I can't follow the logic of that argument... but then maybe that is because, unlike Wolf, I haven't been "following" the clintons since 1992.

    February 8, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  8. Independent

    This time he can be the best in damage control for everyone but Blacks. We don't forget. He has certainly lost his standing in the black community forever. We pick up on operative words very well. Even if the comments were not racial, they were insensative. We don't dislike Hillary, but she will not get the votes of those who were really voting for Bill.

    February 8, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  9. Bill in NC

    Sorry Wolf, I have to disagree with you. I loved the '90s and everything Bill Clinton did during his time in office. However, I've lost a whole lot of respect for him in the past few months. He trudges around the stage like a drunk and keeps jabbing Obama by taking his words entirely out of context. The way the Clintons have been campaigning against Obama is despicable, and is precisely the thing that needs to change in politics.

    You're right. He and Hillary are career politicians, and that is why they're using all the dishonest tactics to try to bring down Obama.

    Obama can't be stopped!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    GO UB Bulls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 8, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  10. FRANK

    Sounds to me like an job application for Senior White House Corrospondent ....

    This guy is convicted of perjuy and lost his law license. He and his wife are arguably the most talented spin doctors out there – that does not put them in my hall of fame though. His great presidency though let to George Bush and the Iraq war. They were not able to campaign for Al Gore because they were a liability – nat THAT great. American just have a short memory.

    Some of the worst leaders in history had been very, very popular at some point in time. That doe snot make them great politicians – effective but not great.


    February 8, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  11. Penny

    Just saw posted on MSNBC , Bills at it AGAIN! The Repubs will eat him alive!

    February 8, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  12. Madeliene

    This is what baffles me about Bill Clinton. He is an astute political strategist, so how would he not know that he was making a mistake when he was so vigorously defending his wife? If he truly believes that Hillary is the best candidate that he has ever seen, why can't he bolster her image? Why can't he use his political talent to help all the American electorate see what he sees in Hillary's candidacy?

    I think that President Bill Clinton has hurt her campaign and unfortunately Hillary's campaign has not capitalized as it should have on his extreme political talent.

    I hate to sound cynical here, but is Bill Clinton seeing the error of his ways because Hillary loaned $5 million of their money into this race?

    We will have to see.

    February 8, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  13. Boomer 4 Obama

    He's not that poular anymore with THIS Democrat!

    In the '90's:
    I believed him.
    I defended him.
    I excused him.
    I prayed for his speedy recovery after heart surgery

    but, now, I absolutely dread the thought of another Clinton presidency!

    February 8, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  14. Roz

    if Obabam wins...we lose. Get ready for it.

    February 8, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  15. Steve

    It's about time Hillary got some attention-Obama and his wife, Oprah supporting Obama and the Kennedys have dominated the news..

    Maybe, Hillary can get the budget back in the BLACK like her husband, Bill, did

    February 8, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  16. Mark S

    Sen. Obama Blasts Cheney's Energy Policy, Doesn't Mention He Voted For It

    February 8, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  17. bpk

    Yeah we're back to glorifying the Clintons. Much better.

    February 8, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  18. donnajp

    I loved Bill Clinton as president because he loved being our president and did such a wonderful job that we had a surplus not a deficit. I believe people either love the Clintons or hate the Clintons – and 50% love him

    February 8, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  19. Carl

    Oh well, at least they had one nice thing about Clinton today. 1 out of 3,6673 for CNN isn't bad.

    My numbers show Obama will come out on top of this next stage with nearly 100 delegates. He would have to do much worse than expected in the university and black demographics and Clinton much better in women to pull anything out. One pundit said she had a chance in Maryland which is 29% black and the 5th highest in college graduates. I don't see it happening.

    February 8, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  20. Cheryl Roberts

    I would like you to ask Donna Brazile a question. The same people created the super delegates rule that made the rule about throwing out Michigan and Florida delegates. Why is one ruling OK and the other wrong? Sounds like someone just likes some rules and not others...

    When a person puts their support behind a candidate I take notice. If they are people I elected and respect I listen to them. Many super delegates influence people to vote in the primary they same way they have committed their support. Why do you think the super delegates shouldn't be involved and part of the voting to elect a president? Is it maybe because they are not supporting your choice for President?

    The RULES say the super delegates can and will vote the way they want to vote and will have votes that count.

    If you want to say throw out those rules because the popular vote of the public is not being reflected – then bring back all those votes from Michigan and Florida and the delegates behind those votes. That would be just as fair – wouldn't it?

    Get real – you follow all the rules or none.

    February 8, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  21. Linlo

    Why does CNN leave people who aren't HIllary Supporters "in moderation"?
    While Bill's out there in Louisiana right now doing it all over again? It really is the Clinton News Network.

    February 8, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  22. Paul

    I think both the Clintons are a liability to our Country. I keep seeing people talking about how Clinton is the best because she is "seasoned", "knows how to do things in Washington", she learned so much from being the "First Lady". For me all I've seen out of the people running this country for the last 30 years is how well they can screw the average American, myself being one of those. To mention a few with Reagan we lost company paid retirement when he started the breakup of labor unions with the ATC group, and eventually created the "your on your own retirement" 401K plans that the individual has to contribute to even tho you're not paid enough to live paycheck to paycheck. The Bush(s), tax cuts for wealthy and Corporations and too many other things to list. The Clintons with NAFTA, and all the scandles, lies and everything else they brought shame to the White House with.

    Looking back on all this makes me think of a part of the Declaration of Independence that is so fitting to this time in our nations history.

    "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

    For my part I think it's time for the New Guard to move in.

    Obama '08

    February 8, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  23. Lawyer2B

    Michelle Obama's comments about Hillary Clinton have been the most vile, dark and disturbing words I have ever heard. She was up there saying them, but it was Rush Limbaugh's tone, content and tenor.

    CNN hasn't even touched Michelle Obama for her attacks.

    February 8, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  24. JA Cook

    Bill Clinton served us with two terms of divisiveness and distractions. As an accomplished master of spin and adjusted truth, he knows full well what he's saying and doing.

    He's Hillary's major flaw in my book and I cannot vote to help restore him to the White House for a third term.

    February 8, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  25. do

    Wolf, Legislation says that no President can run for President after eight (8) years; Hillary took Bill Clinton's last name in marriage; doesn't that break the Law? Bill is still going to be the President!! This error slipped by with Bush Senior, and Bush Jr.; This is not healthy; It is saying that we are a revolving, sick, retarded country; and no one else can do the Job; If the Clinton's win, this means over 30 years two families have led this Country; The Clinton's need to get there daughter married and enjoy their grandchildren!!

    February 8, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
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