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. Cecilia

    @annie s.. thank you very much for defending "us" aliens. u seem compassionate & sensible lady. I'm an American born citizen that comes fr a very traditional Mexican family & very proud. People assume that "us" hispanics/mexicans come here illegally & we get food stamps & welfare assistance .. which in most cases that is untrue. Everybody wants to work, make a better living for our fam, just like anybody else. People please don't hate on people u don't know, don't judge by our color or origins.. everybody deserves RESPECT..

    November 28, 2011 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  2. skarphace

    I don't see this as an endorsement by Clinton, but rather just an observation. He merely surmised that Gingrich will gain more Independent votes as a result of his immigratio stance. This observation is true, but part because Romney has staked out such an extreme position at the same time (contrary to his stance as late as 2007).

    Some Independent voters will see this shift (flip) to the extreme right by Romney and it will make them view Gingrich as more moderate. Therefore, Gingrich's position on immigration will win him some Independent votes that would otherwise have voted for Romney.

    However, if Gingrich gets the GOP nod, will his stance win Gingrich Independent votes that would otherwise have voted for Obama? This question is just as important and much harder to argue.

    November 28, 2011 03:56 am at 3:56 am |
  3. abudum

    Well, birds of the same feather flock together or Clinton's senility is starting to show.

    November 28, 2011 04:16 am at 4:16 am |
  4. rp

    Ron Paul is the only candidate who stands for meaningful change to our current course. Newt is being rewarded for being thoughtful? Ron never strayed from being thoughtful about these problems and has been warning us for years.

    November 28, 2011 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  5. rpaulwmson

    Clinton is smart like a fox. He hates Newt for Newt's role in his impeachment hearings and knows Newt cannot be elected, unlike Romney who could actually be elected (but it would be a disaster). Watch for more Democrats try to praise Newt.

    November 28, 2011 05:13 am at 5:13 am |
  6. john

    I had to requote THINKAGAIN. well said sir

    "They broke the law. If I break the law, I pay a consequence, but apparently Latinos don't have to."

    And, apparently, neither do the American business owners who have been hiring illegals for decades without consequence. If Americans, out of greed, weren't willing to lay off American workers getting paid a decent, living wage to hire people illegally whom they could pay cheap wages with no benefits, illegals wouldn't come here.

    Your beef is with your lily-white brethren who sold out our country and then turned around and started blaming others for the problems they created. And my guess is if you looked at the political affiliation of all these American sell-outs, the vast majority of them would be Republicans.

    November 28, 2011 05:15 am at 5:15 am |
  7. mad1nola

    Appears newt just got the kiss of death. I for one, believe clinton has absolutely no love for the newt. What's that sound? Repubs heads exploding all over america. Hahaha!

    November 28, 2011 05:39 am at 5:39 am |
  8. Seriously

    Slick Willie, has found his way back into the spot light. What a figure of righteousness and virtue to give his endorsement to Newt, the Gingrich camp must be honored. I agree with what Clinton says- however I am legit and straight, not a useless has never been, shifty a best, liar- that is being used by the democrats to attempt to undermine the republican party – by trumping up the competition between Mitt and Newt. I won't work, because the dems live on a foundation of anti-US bull, and in the end there is no hiding it. Nice try dems.

    November 28, 2011 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  9. JOE

    TOTAL GARBAGE! First of all, Newt Gingdrich supported the Party and the Administratin that has given us two costly and deadly wars along with the worst economic crisis in America since the Great Depression. Furthemore, Newt Gingrrich continues to support the status quo. So ho is he different and how is he going to take America in a new direction? This is only President Obama's third year in office and do you people expect him to wipe out eight years of failure overnight? Especially with the constant and deliberate roadblocks and policy delaying tactics by the GOP and their Tea Party? And is it really possible to create 14 million jobs in three years? Well,the GOP said they have the solution to job growth but they're yet to deliver that 14 million jobs overnight. How ironic!

    And as far as Bill Clinton is concerned, I have always admired and respected him and still do but perhaps he is concerned about President Obama trashing his legacy because more has been accomplished by the Obama administration in three years than that accomplished by the Clinton administration in eight years. Don't think Clinton is concerned about his own legacy? Well, first of all Rick Perry was "a good looking rascal" and now Newt is "intelligent and thoughtful." And your take on Mitt Romney Mr. Clinton?

    November 28, 2011 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  10. TommyTT

    Gingrich is taking the path that Romney should have taken: staking out a more centrist position that sacrifices some of the looney vote but picks up the middle.

    November 28, 2011 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  11. marty

    Those who have as their mantra "the law, the law, the law" should remember that when they break the LAW by speeding or running a red light or a stop sign, or when they take home something from work that they didn't pay for. We all have broken laws at some time or another-the question is whether we want to solve the immigration problem or just puff up our chests and feel self-righteous. Let's get the problem solved, and let's be humane about it.

    November 28, 2011 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  12. sortakinda

    What kind of smoke is Clinton NOT INHALING now? Oh, that's right. The two of them are in the Philanderers Hall of Fame. Clinton for multiple cheats on the same wife, all age categories and Gingrich for multiple cheats on multiple wives in the shortest time period.

    November 28, 2011 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  13. godawgs

    In my opinion, Jon Huntsman may be the best possible nominee for the GOP.

    November 28, 2011 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  14. Big_D

    Gingrich is too reasonable to get any GOP votes. He also lacks any morals.

    November 28, 2011 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  15. Alina1

    After Bush and Cheney , I am not holding my breath about American sanity.

    November 28, 2011 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  16. mike

    One adulterer approves of another one. Breaking their vows or breaking laws, it's all the same.

    November 28, 2011 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  17. stike1

    Perhaps they can collaborate on a book and call it -How to commit Adultery for Dummies,

    November 28, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  18. Chipster

    Adultery isn't the worst problem with Gingrich. He was evicted from his position as Speaker of the House and paid $300,000 in fines for violating House ethics rules! The fact that is even being considered as a candidate reveals just how low the Republican Party has sunk and just how pathetic their leadership is.

    November 28, 2011 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  19. Paul

    Clinton praises Gingrich's "thoughtfulness," in contrast to the witless ideas of most of the other Republican candidates. Note he doesn't say whether he thinks they're actually good ideas or not

    November 28, 2011 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  20. sequoia

    Well, the ridiculous clown carousel of Republican Not-Romneys continues to spin and spin. Newt Gingrich? Really? That guy has more baggage than JFK International and is totally unelectable on a national level...but knock your socks off Republicans. This is fun.

    November 28, 2011 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  21. Frost

    Respect to Clinton for not taking sides, and looking at it for what is is....Fair.

    November 28, 2011 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  22. Chipster

    Gingrich used tax-deductible charitable donations to fund non-charitable, partisan political activities and gave false information about the improper use of funds to the House Ethics Committee. He was fined $300,000 for ethics violations and forced out of his position as Speaker of the House. And this is the person at the top of the GOP list???

    November 28, 2011 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  23. Lindsey

    Gingrich also proposed trashing child labor laws and "employing" 9-year-olds to do the job of "unionized janitors" in public schools. So much for his "compassion".

    If that womanizing, posturing, ethics-violating, self-adulating, pompous, ugly little troll of a man becomes President of this country, then I wash my hands of America. Forever.

    November 28, 2011 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  24. terry

    Neuter gets praise... Here's my praise: he may not be the Devil incarnate, he may ONLY be his right-hand man, but he is still E V I L!

    November 28, 2011 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  25. The Real Tom Paine

    Clinton hits the nail on the head when he states: “He’s articulate and he tries to think of a conservative version of an idea that will solve a legitimate problem”. This is NOT an endorsement of his ideas, only the observation that Gingrich is attempting to present solutions to problems that could have both and conservative and a centrist appeal. Few of the other ideas presented by any of the serious candidates have a prayer of being considered by the Independent voters in a general election because they are idealogically-driven, rather than solution-driven, and will only appeal to the rabid GOP base that will be voting in the upcoming primaries. The GOP is thinking in tactical terms, not strategic terms, and it will cost them dearly next year.

    November 28, 2011 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6