September 21st, 2010
03:30 PM ET
12 years ago

Clinton to Democrats: Don't underestimate the Tea Party

Programming note: Watch the full interview on "The Situation Room" tonight beginning at 5 p.m. ET

(CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Tuesday that it would be a "mistake" for Democrats to underestimate the Tea Party movement.

"In their purest form the Tea Partiers are saying, 'I've been let down by big business and big government. I've been let down because the big banks were bailed out but nobody helped me. And the government that bailed them out, they're doing fine, they all have a job, they make their mortgage payments, have health care, send their kids to college. I want reform in both,'" Clinton said.

The former president, though, also lashed out at the movement, saying that its founders "tend to be pretty far-right extremists whose goal is to destroy the power of government to mediate the power of corporations."

"I don't really think that is a sustainable position," he added.

Clinton also advised Democrats to make the upcoming election about the American people and not about playing "games" by waging war against the Tea Party movement and others.

"Tell them what we need to do and what you would do about it and ask them if they really think you're more likely to do it than your opponent," he said.
"I think we should play it straight."

Clinton said Americans are "scared to death" and angry – and they want to know where the country is going.

His advice?

"Answer the 'throw him out after 21 months.'Say, give us two years. That will give us half as much as time as you gave them and if it's not better, throw us out," he said. "Say, 'throw us out if it's not better. Then say, let's talk about what we're going to do, who's more likely to do it.'"

But he warned that if the election is framed as a choice, "we can win." If it's a referendum, "it's not good."

Updated at 4:22 p.m. ET

Filed under: 2010 • Bill Clinton • Tea Party movement • The Situation Room
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Texan

    Tea party is no different from others; they are complaining because they did not get piece of the dole out. If they had got it, they would have gone home happy. How sellfish has our country become? The wallstreet wanted bailout... the lehman brothers crying that no one bailed them out while others got bailed out. Once the banks go bailed out, they are complaining that they have not got more. The hedge fund guys do not want to pay their share of the taxes, when even the poor are paying a full share based on their income.

    The tea party folks were ok as long as their agenda was fiscal conservatism though it was unclear how they were going to get there; now I hear social conservatives are joining them, it is not good. It is time for sensible folks to bailout of the tea party movement.

    September 21, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  2. No Way Joe

    Can't we get rid of this nut? He's a sxx pervert who was impeached for lying about a BJ. Go away Billy, let the relevant ones take over.

    September 21, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    No, sir, Bill Clinton, I for one do not underestimate the Tea Party!

    The Tea Party was created by and is funded by, the Koch brothers. It is scary to think that these billionaires will control Congress IF America votes for the Tea Party candidates.

    Wake up, America, Koch brothers are buying you!

    September 21, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  4. Brian, NJ

    You gotta miss this guy

    September 21, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  5. Sonya

    Once again Clinton is right. People make terrible voting decisions based on fear and anger and that is what Republicans have counted on since before Bush was elected. If people thought rationally about the state of our economy, they would realize that the amount of damage caused during the 8 years of Bush/Cheney cannot be undone in less than 2 years by the Democrats! It's crazy to think that Democrats working completely alone without any support from the Right what-so-ever, could turn the economy around that fast. I hope people don't listen to all the rhetoric and lies coming from the Right. They have a purpose which is to manipulate, confuse and scare voters into forgetting that they are the party that drove America's economy into a ditch and caused the the deficit to rise into the trillions before anyone ever even heard of Barack Obama. Where was the Tea Party when all of this was taking place? It is a matter of cause and effect people.......The Republicans caused a huge mess and President Obama is doing what needs to be done to repair the damage and get the economy back on track, especially if that means more stimulus spending because a good President does what it takes to get the economy moving again. Government takeovers don't scare me nearly as much as unregulated, profit driven, greedy corporations. How about Corporations gone wild? That is what conservatives should really be worried about... and certainly not Democrats, gay marriage and especially Sharia law being imposed anywhere in the US ever! Voters need to wise-up and stop allowing themselves to be manipulated by the loud mouthed, right wing wackos!

    September 21, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  6. Dude

    Clinton is such a pathetic moron. Nothing that comes out of his mouth is meaningful. Democrats are all losers.

    September 21, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  7. Willian, from Cali

    Thank you...Bill we needed that advise ! from a former President who think he's the second Coming of Elvis...

    September 21, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  8. Expat American

    As long as their exists individuals whose education exceeds the 4th grade and whose parents are not brother and sister; then ultimately, our nation is safe from Sarah Palin; w/the glaring exception of having to listen to her ridiculous protruding chin mumblings on a daily basis. If Angry White people keep throwing money at her, then she’s never going to shut up. And now she has a BFF who is just as loony and stupid as she is. God Bless Amurica, Yeeeeehaw!

    September 21, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  9. liberal elite = anyone with an education

    The Tea Party is here to take back our government...back to the 18th century, that is.

    September 21, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  10. devil

    Clinton has been the only Democrat with a brain in the last 100 years.


    September 21, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  11. pflatman

    Clinton, can you be serious? The message you should be sending isn't that Tea Partiers are rankled by big biz, big banks and government bailouts (because that's obvious). We all are!

    It should be that Tea Partiers, the express, etc., are all funded by covert big biz and oil, namely the Libertarian Koch Brothers, who enjoy unlimited government assistance and obscene profits at the expense of Americans.

    September 21, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  12. zirakj

    Some food for thought.
    President Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009. I did some research online and found out that the Tea Party started around February 2009. So a few days or weeks after Obama’s inauguration the Tea Party started.
    Now lets try to analyze that. Who will be against Obama right after he is sworn into the office? Obviously someone who did not vote for Obama in the first place; otherwise he/she will give the president some time to see what the president can do. I bet my life on that the majority of Tea Party people voted for John McCain. After some of them recovered from the SHOCK and DISBELIEVE that a person like Obama is their President, they created a movement against Obama called Tea Party.

    September 21, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  13. jeff

    Last I checked the Democrats have been in control of Congress for almost 4 years. These problmes have been around for decades. This isn't about Obama or even going back to the GOP control. It is about getting new blood into Congress. All the old people (Democrat and Republican) are totally worthless. These career politicians on both sides care only about keeping themselves in power. VOTE THEM ALL OUT!

    September 21, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  14. rickcolo

    Wolf Blizer and Rick Sanchez think Bill Clinton is smartest politician in our history. Hello!! Anyone with any common sense can see just how mad the American people are with the current losers in Congress and the Obama Administration. We are tired of the lies, the corruption, the crazy spending which accomplished nothing, no jobs for the American people and the total BS. The change is coming in Nov because it is not the corporations according to Clinton, theTea Party represents, it is the will of the people.
    We are mad as hell and we are going to get the real change in Nov and in 2012. Say goodbye to the harvard professor and his cronies.

    September 21, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  15. D. Bunker

    Clinton is correct, though he didn't go far enough. The Dems need to point out they are the UNDERDOGS this election. There are faceless campaign donations from the ultrawealthy seeking to influence our election through fear and propaganda. Add to that a significant portion of voters who are ignorant cowards who wet their bed in fear of non-existent boogeymen. Sane Americans need to marginalize ALL who would seek to use fear and lies to motivate their votes.

    September 21, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  16. beevee

    The tea party movement is a termite colony. It will destroy the country if it not eradicatedbefore it starts to be uncontrollable. You can't' underestimate and ignore it

    September 21, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  17. Marie MD

    Thanks a lot President Clinton. Just what this bimbo needs. Somebody like you acknowledging the fact that she even exists.
    I am sure she will pee in her pants while her twitter ghost writer responds to your remarks.
    If this woman has quietly been allowed (by ignoring her) to go back to the frozen tundra of AK (a state whe is never in) the teabaggers and all this hate and division of the country would have never happened.
    Once again, thanks mcnasty for unleashing the monster on us.

    September 21, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  18. Lynn M.

    I miss this president. I agree with just talking to the American people about what needs to be done and how to do it. I want the retoric to stop and the work to begin. President Obama and his people are working their buts off to get this government on track again. They need genuine honest an useful feedback from the american people. tea partiers. and the republicans. They need support, not hatred and inflammitory retoric.

    September 21, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
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