(CNN) - Bill Clinton regrets the swirl over comments he made earlier in the week in which he appeared to suggest he would be open to extending the so-called Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, the former president said Thursday.
"I'm very sorry about what happened," Clinton said in an interview to air on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer." "I thought something had to be done on the 'fiscal cliff' before the election. Apparently nothing has to be done until the first of the year."
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Republicans seized on Clinton's remarks this week when he said lawmakers will likely put off a series of major spending and budget decisions. They argued the former president was siding with many in the GOP who call for the extension of the controversial tax cuts largely opposed by Democrats.
"[Congress] will probably have to put everything off until early next year," Clinton said Tuesday during an interview with CNBC. "That's probably the best thing to do right now."
The "fiscal cliff" consists of measures set to begin in January that would remove more than $500 billion out of the economy in 2013 alone. Those measures include the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and protection of the middle class from the Alternative Minimum Tax, the onset of $1 trillion in blunt spending cuts, and a reduction in Medicare doctors' pay.
On Thursday, however, Clinton argued that he, in fact, supported President Barack Obama's position, which calls for an end to the tax cuts only for those making $250,000 or more.
The former president emphasized he was mistaken about the timing of the fiscal cliff when he made his comments, thinking it would happen before the November election, rather than at the beginning of next year.
"I really was under the impression that they would have to do something before the election, and I was trying to figure out how they would kick it to last (through) the election," he said.
He continued: "Once I realized that nothing had to be done until the first of the year, I supported (Obama's) position. I supported extending them last year, but I think his position is the right one and necessary for working out a comprehensive (deficit reduction) deal."
The comments marked the second time Republicans pounced on Clinton in a week, trying to use his own words against Obama.
The former president last week complimented Mitt Romney's private equity career in an interview on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight," which raised eyebrows among Democrats who have been using Romney's corporate history as an attack against the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
Last week, Clinton described Romney as a successful businessman and nodded to his "sterling" career.
Clarifying his remarks Thursday, Clinton said that just because he thinks Romney did well in the private sector doesn't mean he deserves to be elected president.
"You can be successful in business...if your shareholders do well," he said. "You can only be successful as president if the shareholders, the employees, the customers, and the communities do well–all of the constituencies of American market economics."
While Clinton has attended several top fundraisers for Obama this cycle, some critics argue Clinton's recent slip-ups are attempts to undermine the current president. Asked about his relationship with Obama, Clinton did not directly comment on his personal views of the president but pointed to his record of campaigning for him, instead.
"Look in 2008, when he ran for president and defeated Hillary in the primaries, I did 40 events for him. 40 in the election," he said.
He then said he repeatedly argues the president has "done a good job, a really good job under very trying circumstances" and stressed that he is "strongly committed" to Obama's re-election.
Thursday's interview came the same day a new CNN/ORC International poll indicated 66% of Americans hold a favorable view of Clinton, while 31% give him an unfavorable rating.
The former two-term Democratic president's favorable rating bottomed out in CNN polling at 51% in June of 2008, after Clinton took a very active role in advocating for his wife in her historic battle with Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.
- Watch the full interview at 5 p.m. ET on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."
- CNNMoney's Charles Riley contributed to this report.
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In order to reduce the deficit, we need to take steps that are even more drastic than those that go into effect automatically at the end of this year.
So I don't want to hear a single politician, GOP or Dem, say that we're facing a "crisis" at the end of this year, and then EVER hear that same politician talk about wanting to reduce the deficit, or crying about the debt ceiling.
No one should be talking about the end of this year as a crisis, they should be talking about it as an opportunity to reduce the deficit in a way where the burden is shared by many people across every socioeconomic class.
There is NO WAY to reduce the deficit without taking money out of the economy, because at the end of the day that's what the deficit is: money that's pumped into the economy now on the promise that it will be repaid later.
Clinton was a Democrat who understood how important the business sector was to the health of the economy. Obama has targeted the business sector as an evil enemy. It shows the difference in knowledge about the economy between the two!!
Now Biden is considering a run in 2016! That's scary! No telling what that dude says from day to day, minute to minute. That makes Hillary a shoe in for the Dems. No wonder Billy is backing off....he doesn't want to upset his party. It's all a game that we the middle class have to live with. These people do not worry about where their grocery money comes from or paying any bills month to month...that includes Obama. Wake up America.
THE TRUTH IS THIS. Clinton loves his country and knows that the current administration is not working and ending the Bush tax cut is a bad idea for the economy to grow!!! His previous comment on that was very honest. As Republicans have gotten a public boost from it, Clinton is now trying to politicize his statement in favor of Democrats. We got it!
That's the most profound truth that's EVER come out of HIS mouth and he's taking it back?? He is consistent.
Hey Big Al – Clinton was a Rhodes scholar.
Replying to jamie above you said the poor need tax cuts and the wealth need to pay more. That just shows how ignorant Democrats are. 50% of Americans pay zero Federal income tax. I saw a great cartoon for your type that had an Obama charachator and It said "I won't allow the half of Americans who pay no taxes to bear the burden of the other half who aren't paying their fare share". That about sums it up. My guess is that most of the commenters here who agree with the president are in the 50% of Americans who pay zero federal income tax.