Bill Clinton says Gingrich surge a result of thoughtful positions
November 27th, 2011
12:32 PM ET
11 years ago

Bill Clinton says Gingrich surge a result of thoughtful positions

(CNN) - Newt Gingrich earned praises this week from former adversary Bill Clinton, with whom Gingrich butted heads during his tenure as House speaker in the 1990s.

In an interview with the conservative online publication Newsmax, Clinton said Gingrich’s positions on immigration would help him appeal to independent voters.

“He’s articulate and he tries to think of a conservative version of an idea that will solve a legitimate problem,” Clinton said.

He continued: “For example, I watched the national security debate ... And Newt said two things that would make an independent voter say, ‘Well, I gotta consider that.’”

At Tuesday’s CNN National Security Debate, Gingrich staked out a position that he said was a “humane” approach to immigrants who are living in the United State illegally.

"If you've come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home, period," Gingrich said Tuesday. "If you've been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you've been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don't think we're going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out."

Clinton said the idea was a good compromise between positions offered by the left and the right.

“That sort of splits the difference between the immigration reforms proposed by President Bush and President Obama, which would give a path to citizenship, and would be a version of what President Reagan did,” Clinton said.

Clinton wouldn’t predict a win for Gingrich in the race for the GOP nomination, saying other candidates including Mitt Romney were still putting in strong performances.

“I still think Romney comes across as strong and forceful and knowledgeable, and I think Perry did much better than he’s been doing,” Clinton said. “I think Gingrich is back in the race because he’s spent a lot of his time in life thinking about these things. And he’s gotten in trouble because of people who have an ideology instead of a philosophy, because at various times he’s supported doing something about climate change, which is anathema to extremes in the Republican Party. But he’s being rewarded for thinking.”

In the 1990s, Clinton and Gingrich were often at odds as the leaders of their respective parties. A standoff between the two men over federal spending led to a government shutdown in 1995, and Gingrich was at the forefront in backing Clinton’s impeachment on perjury charges.

The two did work together on certain legislation, including welfare reform later in the decade.

Filed under: 2012 • Bill Clinton • Newt Gingrich
soundoff (129 Responses)
  1. Frank

    We need someone like Newt. Someone with an understanding of history. Someone of obvious intelligence and ideas.

    November 27, 2011 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  2. John

    Newt Gingrich Is a Crook and a Cheat all has been all way will be.

    November 27, 2011 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  3. normajean @ verizon ,com

    Newt Gingrich is is so well known for his -unpresidential background that I find it hard to believe he would even be considered by voters. His reputation ,, while colorful,,, is actually disgraceful !, He's been in trouble within his own party. before.! He..was criticizing Clinton for his extra curricular activities while busy in his own. games ,, wife in hospital with cancer was hit with divorce papers...he's on his third now... How can any one take this man seriously.?? SERIOUSLY!!!

    November 27, 2011 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  4. GOP = Greed Over People

    President Clinton is merely pointing out the old adage that in the sewer that is the GOP primary candidates, something floats.

    Now if I could just recall the exact words...

    November 27, 2011 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  5. steven harnack

    Gingrich is safe in taking this position as he has no intention of ever (should the world turn upside down and he be elected) asking his Republican brethren to ever adopt his proposal. It's a blatant attempt to capture the Hispanic vote because he knows that, if he gets the nomination, Republicans will vote for him anyway. He is the slimiest person in a field renowned for slime. He lives for one thing and that is power and he will say and do anything to gain it. There is far more than enough in the written record to prove it, too.

    November 27, 2011 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  6. Bring it on!!!

    Clinton is spot on!! I will vote for Gingrich anytime anywhere even before I take a second look to the Mitts circus clown. Atleast Gingrich is a self made man! unlike the clown who is made and bossed by lobbyist, wall street and curch and the Utah mormon/lutheran church elders. I need to buy my favorte budweiser without someone yelling at me "its on a sunday 3:00pm sorry we are closed for seling beer"!!

    November 27, 2011 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  7. Kay

    Gingrich's surge is nothing more than the latest attempt by the GOP to see if they can fashion a candidate they can nominate so they DON'T have to nominate Romney. At this point they're pretty desperate.

    Gingrich doesn't have a chance with all of his negative baggage and will be out of the race by the third primary.

    November 27, 2011 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  8. doregroj

    If Gingrich were to start endorsing increasing some taxes to the billionaires, which most of them approve anyway, that will put him right in the radar screen of becoming electable. To win a presidential candidate has to appeal not only to the base party, but reach out to the independent voters, and increasing some taxes and reducing government spending is the sweet spot for most voters, at least thats my opinion.

    November 27, 2011 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  9. ArthurFrayn

    Maybe ol' Bill should have run this year as a GOP candidate?

    November 27, 2011 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  10. Terry Gloege

    Oh ya. Next thing You'll be telling me the check is in the mail.

    November 27, 2011 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  11. BK

    For those that don't understand why Clinton would say this; it's really quite simple.
    The democratic party knows that Obama has a better chance of defeating Gingrich than he has of defeating Romney. Thus, they should put in their 2 cents and try to make sure Gingrich gets the nomination.

    November 27, 2011 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  12. AmericanSam

    I think it's nice to not want to tear families apart. I don't feel "invaded by Latinos." I think hispanic culture is rich, and I have met many kind people who happen to be hispanic. Whether you think they ought to stay or not, please know that the people who came here illegally aren't doing so to spit Americans. They simply want a better life for themselves and their families that they are not finding in the countries they are fleeing from. Imagine having to run away from your own country.

    November 27, 2011 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  13. JT

    Bill know that anyone who votes for Gingrich in the primary, is essentially voting for Obama in the general.

    November 27, 2011 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  14. Max Powers

    The folks who keep saying that "Illegals" have committed a crime are misinformed. Not everything that is illegal is a crime. Leaving your car parked after the meter has expired is illegal. It's not a crime. That's why you don't get put in jail or deported for it. Entering the US illegally is not a crime. It is a transgression of civil, not criminal law. You can be sued and deported for it. That's it. Also, next time I see a person jaywalking, I will insist that they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law, because I have no tolerance for such "illegals."

    November 27, 2011 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  15. Terry

    It is a setup. Wake up GOP, they are trying to get you to support anyone other than Newt. So, Bill Clinton tells the world that Newt is great, and the GOP Leadership suddenly thinks that Newt is really a Democrat dressed like a Republican, and they go back to the Cain/Palin Ticket.

    November 27, 2011 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  16. Judy

    For the love of heaven, please use your head and vote for Obama, Thats what Bill Clinton , has been trying , to make that point. After the Dead Republican congressJust say no! to anything that is helpful to the American People. The President has showed he is a good president and has what it takes, to to lead this country

    November 27, 2011 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  17. Whatsgonnahappen

    Overstaying a visa is not a crime. Robbing a 7-11 is one. Illegals should pay for the transgression though; but be reasonable. It's like saying that if you brake the law by going 25 in a shool zone the cops should confiscate your car, suspend your license for 5 years and throw you in jail for a night to remember. This will be worked out at the end into a compromise similar to what Gingrich is presenting.

    Let me remind all of us that our ancestors needed only to buy a ticket on a ship and show up on Ellis Island to get accepted to this country. If they would have had today's immigration rules back then this country would still be populated only by Indians.

    Look at how great a country they built. The new immigrants are doing the same. First from menial jobs but many now going up the ladder. That us what makes America great!

    November 27, 2011 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  18. kathleen

    Why is Bill Clinton piling praise on Newt Gingrich of all people? Newt tried to destroy him and bring down his presidency so what is Bill up to? Hmmmm!!

    November 27, 2011 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  19. andrew

    I didn't read the article, only the headline – in itself way more than enough. Praise for Newt comes from people who fall into one of three categories: (1) Ones who've been in twenty year long comas. (2) The ex-husbands of Newt's ex-wives. (3) Newt's current campaign employees to whom he signs Friday paychecks.
    If you do not fall into one of these categories, you have no good reason to pray to God that he make Newt Gingrich be elected President of the United States. It borders on insanity and of being possessed of suicidal tendencies, to pray – or even hold out hope for – such a hopeless event.
    Newt "castrated" Clinton while doing worse things himself; check the record, buddy. Newt "poked the entire world with a sharp stick" then rolled up into a big fat creampuff and then almost got locked up in jail for life!
    He had people (lined up from here to Timbuktoo and back), who either wanted to wring his neck, or sue him, or tar and feather him for betraying them, and lying to them, and stealing from them, and lastly – for embarresing them to all hell.
    THESE things Newt will be held to; there's no way he makes them just "go away".
    Now here's what worries me about this: He knows all this, but has rationalized it away as being "water under the bridge". To some voters that's good enough. That's a mistake; it's not good enough – not even close.

    Ask Newt's ex-wives about Newt – you don't believe me ask them.

    November 27, 2011 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  20. Wylie Mike

    Newt may be Bill Clinton's answer to the 'Big Fairy Tale'.

    November 27, 2011 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  21. Carlos

    If one belongs to a local church, and that church teaches what Jesus and his apostles taught (be honest, don't lie, obey the law of the land, among other principles), and if one is a sincere believer, how can one remain an illegal immigrant for 25 years, or even much less than that?

    November 28, 2011 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  22. Norm

    Who's slick Willie trying to kid.
    Gingrich is popular because the other freaks took a nose dive.
    This election is in the bag.

    November 28, 2011 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  23. W.G.

    If Gingrich is as good as it gets for the republicans , they ought to all start re-thinking their values .

    November 28, 2011 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  24. National Jester

    I like Newt.

    We can't afford to have another Socialist/Socially Far Left President. We can't afford to have someone who needs on-the-job training in the White House. We need someone who knows how to get things done in D.C.

    I don't totally agree with any of the possible candidates for President, from any Party. I'd vote for Newt as President or Vice President. Congress, and especially the Senate, needs to be cleaned out and thoroughly reformed and sanitized. When I think of them, I'm reminded of that den of vipers Jesus talks about.

    November 28, 2011 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  25. Mike D

    It's just one comment people! A moment of sanity that will soon pass. Clinton is praising a comment, not an ideology. Newt is still Newt and lets not forget that he still want to has kids work as janitors in their own schools to save on the cost of education. The crazy is still just below the surface.

    November 28, 2011 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
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