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. krk, MN

    Simple, Over sized baggage, which she can't get rid of even if she wanted.

    February 8, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  2. owen

    Do you know why Obama does better wih more educated voters. It's because we know the truth and the facts. By the way, what experience is Hillary counting on when she has consistently made errors in judgement (such as the iraq war, iran, No child left behind Act " ) without satisfactory explanations? wasn't Bill clinton around to advise her? Or was he just as naive as she claimed to be?

    The Clintons politics has always been divisive and people who know them or have examined their actions know this.

    You know Chealsea Clinton may have more experience than Obama?
    I mean she was in the white house so i'm guessing she should be able to lead to. So when she's 45 she just might have 35 years of experience .

    Lets all tell ourselves the truth. Vote for intergrity,honesty and character.

    vote for change. Obama 08!

    February 8, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  3. charlie

    Liability! Any man that will go to a public hearing and state he is telling the truth and onlt the facts that support it about past events is a liability.

    hillary should of divorced him long ago.

    February 8, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  4. Anne in East Aurora

    Maybe someone has reported on this, and I have missed it. But is anyone taking a serious look at the folks behind the candidates? I mean literally.
    OK, no big surprise that McCain, Romney et all are surrounded by white guys.
    I mean 'the crowds' at an Obama or Clinton event. Watch their faces. The 'crowd people', up close, to Clinton are taking pics,usually by cell phone, and often are looking around kind of disengaged. They're checking out the action and the action is not always HRC.
    Now take a look at the folks at an Obama crowd. Yes, the most 'all-American' mix of any candidate, but also engaged in a way they aren't at a Clinton event. Facial expressions- reacting to words. Smiles, cheers, solemnity. Engagement!
    CNN should be pulling in their psychologists and get them looking at reels of film. Anything quantifiable going on here?

    February 8, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  5. B.Pierce, Arkansas

    Wolf, Why is it that every time you mention Democrats , Obama's face appears on the screen. You are supposed to be fair about all candidates, also i just watched Obama talk for about 10 minutes on your show, that looks like free advertisement.

    February 8, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  6. M

    Veronica Ward listen to Wolf, that politics in the of blood of Bill Clinton and he does it good. At least one knowns what they are good at stick to it. Obama has the charisma but no experience in another couple years, he will be matured after been trained by the Clintons.

    Go Hillary 08!

    Any one who says that their mother didn't do good by training them is laying. Behind every good man is a woman so verse versa.

    February 8, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  7. vicki

    Gotta tell you CNN–I am so concerned with this Obama frenzy. Last night there was a wonderful special on CNN with Anderson Cooper about the problems facing the nation–enormous tasks ahead. I believe that before Oprah came out for Obama he was a virtual unknown–Oprah kick-started this whole frenzy along with the internet youth craze. Every time that Obama speaks his speeches are the same thing over and over.....He has yet to tell me what exactly he intends to do in each of the enormous tasks that CNN proposed to the american people. I think this is why Hillary wants these debates because she knows in her heart that he cannot handle all that will be infront of him. I say shame on the media for making Bill Clinton the scapegoat for Obamas tactics. Bill Clinton is not racial nor did he plan any kind of attack on black america. Lou Dobbs said it best when he said that Bill Clinton had some of the best answers for americas problems. Hillalry Clinton gets my vote because she is most presidenial like and experienced. This media frenzy has just been beneficial to Obama, very straticigally planned. I want to hear him give specific answers. If Obama gets the most delegates there will be a frenzy in Florida and Michigan because the voters will–more than ever want to be counted. Gotta tell you CNN Obama is not ready if he doesnt have these answers on his sleeves. The men out there better wake up...............

    February 8, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  8. Roxie

    Rush, Ken Starr and their ilk have suceeded in haveing people see reality as they have created it. The anti clinton opinions reflected here prove that you can fool most of the people all of the time.
    Obama is counting on that and the GOP love it.

    Hillary 2008

    Why does the GOP still fear the Clintons?

    February 8, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  9. ClintonFatigued

    The Clinton's getting puff piece articles right before this weekends voting.......

    Obama who?

    Is Bill running again or is this perjured, disbarred, impeached serial adulterer just digging the spotlight as usual?

    Mrs. Bill Clinton would be nowhere near the presidency is she were simply Hillary Hornswaggle.


    February 8, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  10. David Florida

    Howard Dean has pointed out that when Democratic nominations come down to Superdelegates and conventions they have problems.
    The last two occasions show this clearly. Adding electoral college votes for the two elections.
    Republicans more than 900 votes
    Democrats less than 70 votes.
    Has this been pointed out to the candidates ?

    Three months ago this race was such that Republicans struggled to even find candidates, so big was the advantage. Now we have a divided party that is tearing itself apart. How did Democrats manage to achieve a position like this ? These two results show just how damaging it can be, how leads are cast aside for personal gain and how the Republicans get landslide victories.

    February 8, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  11. JA Cook

    " ....don't think Bill was divisive or created distractions, did you forget already how prosperous our country was during those Bill years. He cleaned after first bush messes, now that Obama is in race every body thinks IT"S FANCY TO SAY DIVISIVE JUST LIKE OBAMA. HE SAYS THOSE WORDS TO MAKE PEOPLE FOUL AND MAKE THEM CRAZY JUST LIKE GEORGE W.BUSH, DON"T you all forgot WHAT GEORGE BUSH GAVE US. IF OBAMA GETS WHITE HOUSE, HE DOES EXACTLY SAME THING, WE NEED ANOTHER CLINTON TO CLEAN UP AFTER SECOND BUSH....."

    It is absolutely frightening to think that a group of people that write things like this will have impact on who leads our country... There is a sad pattern here on these blogs.
    Scary and as I said, sad.

    February 8, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  12. Nina


    February 8, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |


    "How can you shown Obama"s stump speech in Seattle for almost in its entirety "without giving Clinton equal time. Its as if you have a favorite candidate in this race. Come on be fare."


    February 8, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  14. Janet

    I would like to see Hillary and Bill do her POKE-POKE-CLAP-CLAP dance together on stage ...I think the Clinton supporters looooooove that stuff and I have to admit I get a good laugh out of that too !


    February 8, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  15. grace seitz

    Bill Clinton was the best president in many many years. I hope Hillary gets to be our next president. Bill will help her tremendously. Will be nice to have real brains back in the White House.

    February 8, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  16. Jenny

    I agree with Veronica and I hope people really begin to understand this - both candidates stand for the same things and have good solutions for helping the country. And both are very smart and would surround themselves with good cabinet members. We are voting on leadership abilities. Morals. Character. And this is why I'm supporting Obama and not Hillary. Obama has integrity and Hillary (and Bill) hae less. As much as I supported the Clintons - through everything when they were in the White House - it really is time to move on. In all respects. She is NOT, in any way, a uniter. Smart, yes. Dedicated to good causes. Yes. But she is polarizing and the country, and every one who deeply cares about the next decade and beyond needs to understand the implications of putting her in the White House. There will be more scandals, and shady dealings. It will be a missed opportunity to heal the country and inspire people to become activists. Obama is not inexperienced either. I'm tired of hearing that. She is threatened by how much people are moved by his authenticity and I hope people understand that, whereas she is smart politician, so is Barack PLUS he has integrity.

    February 8, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  17. kay

    I am 41, in my life time and in my opinion Bill Clinton has been the Best president. We have never seen better economic times than we did in the 90's. His stand for AIDS and OBESE children really says alot about his character. With all of the issues we are facing in the world... social security diminishing, lack of health care, our economy, the war, immigration, global warming. Can we really afford to vote for Obama? I realize the republicans have been pushing Obama because they feel he could never become our president BUT what if???... It is possible.... maybe the Republicans and Media will stop for a moment and think to them selves... If our Plan back fires... Do we want Obama running our country with NO experience. THINK ABOUT IT. SOON WE WILL REACH "THE POINT OF NO RETURN"

    February 8, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  18. Stacy Clarks, Texas

    It funny to see the hillary supporters say Bill is not running, and clinton is, and in the same sentence say Bill clinton years were the best in this country. Well reality check, hillary was not president then, and how does being first lady account for "experience" and how did she contribute to the clinton years being the "best in this country"

    That's a contradiction, i suggest you pick one, either way, Barak is much better equipped to win against the Repubicans in November!

    Obama/Edwards 08

    ps: who else is annoyed that Edwards has yet refused to endorse a candidate. This can break this dead heat race, and hopefully propel Obama forward!!

    February 8, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  19. American

    Bill Clinton defends his wife,why shouldn't he,from what i have seen from Obama he is running a popularity contest,couldn't believe on one web sight he wouldn't cross his heart and say the pledge of Allegiance.

    February 8, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  20. Jim Russell

    Have we forgotten that Bill examplified that it is ok to smoke pot as long as you do not enhale, and oral sex is not adultry – cheating on your wife.

    February 8, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  21. I Carscallen

    Surely it can't be legal for a Bill Clinton ...disgracer and perjurer ...in the the White House and Grand Jury to be allowed back in the White House ... what is this world coming to ... ????

    February 8, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  22. v.ananthan



    YOU TOO BLITZER ...............

    February 8, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  23. BETH


    February 8, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  24. Nicole, Wisconsin

    Fact Check: Sen. Obama Follows Hillary's Lead On Gulf Coast Recovery Plan
    2/7/2008 1:03:02 PM

    In May, Hillary introduced a comprehensive Gulf Coast Recovery Agenda.

    Three months later, in August, Sen. Obama released a very similar proposal.
    Today, Sen. Obama "introduced" the same plan he released in August.

    February 8, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  25. Elizabeth

    Liability. . . The man makes a press event to tell everyone that he is taking a backseat in the campaign.

    If Hill really was in command of her campaign, she would yank him from the tour and then when asked would say that it is her campaign and she was calling the shots and that Bill was busy getting her drycleaning done and making her green tea.

    February 8, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
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