June 7th, 2012
04:10 PM ET
11 years ago

Clinton: 'I'm very sorry'

(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.

Also see:

Romney reacts to Wisconsin recall vote

Texas a cash cow for Romney

Jill Biden weighs into 2016

Watch The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer weekdays at 4pm to 6pm ET and Saturdays at 6pm ET. For the latest from The Situation Room click here.

Filed under: 2012 • Bill Clinton • President Obama • TV-The Situation Room
soundoff (132 Responses)
  1. Milton K. Wiah

    He meant what he said. Surely he is undermining Obama. You can not side with the opposite party two times
    in two weeks and you say you are sorry. One thing he should know his wife will never be president of the
    USA even if Obama is or not the president of the USA the next four years.
    He should just remain quiet from now on, nobody needs his advice or whatever he is doing to help the campaign.

    June 7, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  2. The REAL Truth...

    @Jipe – 10 yr cost of Bush tax cuts for wealthy: 700B
    10 yr cost of Bush tax cuts for everybody else: 3T
    The largest part of this money goes to the middle class
    And of course the largest contingent of dead US soldiers in TWO illegal and unfunded Bush wars we middle class and below. The $3 TRILLION price tag that the Obama administration had to add to the Public Debt will have to be paid for by the middle class too. Not exactly solving the problem.

    June 7, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  3. Marc in Florida

    I wish politicians would stop worrying about the reaction to their comments and just be honest with the public. Political correctness and party loyalty continues to thwart efforts to solve this countries economic problems and a bunch of others. The polarization gets worse as does any hope for the political resolution of any issue- health care, the wars, the economy – you name it. As Richard III said, "My kingdom for an honest politician!" Something like that.

    June 7, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  4. Pete/Ark

    Bubba is one of the rare individuals who can look at what he has said and honestly declare " I didn't say that very well". His enemies always spin that as "flip-flopping" when , in fact , it's honest reflection. He has always been one of the people who can keep an open mind...even about himself.

    June 7, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  5. Bill C

    As has been shown over and over, you can tax the "rich" at 100% of their income, and it won't make a dent in the budget deficit that President Obama has created. This is a completely false issue, but it sounds good. Sure, tax the rich. Why not, they can afford it? Well guess what folks, they can't. Most of the rich are small business owners who will get killed if the tax cuts expire. I fall into that category. If the Bush tax cuts expire, I have to lay off one of my employees. It is that simple. Yeah, great idea folks.

    June 7, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  6. Stephen

    Letting the Bush-Era tax cuts expire WILL NOT take money out of the economy. Where do people think the taxes they pay end up?

    June 7, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  7. Dave IL

    Funny how dems like President Clinton and Mayor Booker have to retract their honest sentiments on issues to protect his highness President Obama's re-election campaign. And since he's always out campaigning anyway, why does he want to be re-elected to a job he never performs.

    June 7, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  8. Paul

    I remember standing in line for 2 hours to get into the ASU auditorium to watch him speak. He was a great president and has my support. Now that does not change the fact that he was president during a time when Republicans were willing to talk. Clinton has been out of the game for awhile.

    June 7, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  9. B.

    It is hard sometimes to understand just what this guys- long term goals are in his mind, or is he just a victim of his own rambling on stage.. He really loves to hear his own voice.

    June 7, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  10. John B

    It's one thing to see Cory Booker do a hostage video; but Clinton? Say it ain't so!

    June 7, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  11. muffinTop

    Bill Clinton knew what he was doing and saying at the time. It is always easier to say I'm sorry after the fact knowing an apology wont make it go away. Would he have done the same thing if Hillary was President and looking to be re-elected? I bet not! How do you say TRAITOR!

    June 7, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  12. SLick Willy

    It's ok Bill. AMerica is very sorry too!

    June 7, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  13. Brandi

    Does anyone really believe he is sorry? He will continue to speak his mind, and then recant what he says. He does not like Obama, but he will recant to make the Democrats happy.

    June 7, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  14. steve

    I feel his pain.....

    June 7, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  15. Daveinil

    Clinton is subtley sabotaging Obama in anticipation of a Hillary 2016 run.

    June 7, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  16. Bell

    Clinton, the fence straddler.

    June 7, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  17. Chuck

    Clinton said in an interview to air on CNN, "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."

    Oh well, that makes all of the difference, doesn't it. It's ok not to act to prevent another crisis if the coming crisis isn't until after the election.

    The job of a president is not to get re-elected, but to guide the country away from and out of these crisis situations. It is utterly irresponsible of a president to see a coming crisis and ignore it because of the coming election.

    June 7, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  18. Get Lost Clinton!

    I wish Clinton would just MOVE ON, and stay out of everyone's business! He is a has been, and the worse screw up ive seen!! GO AWAY CLINTON! Cant stand YOU and Hillary who should of dumped you during your term!

    June 7, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  19. liberal disease

    he tells the truth than apologizes for it because Obama's thugs came down on him Chicago style, just like Corey Booker

    June 7, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  20. Bell

    Clinton should be hired As a spokesman for most things, cool guy

    June 7, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  21. Cityman

    Bill should have stopped when he got it right the first time. I guess your wife still needs the job.LOLOL.

    June 7, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  22. steve

    Clinton spoke the truth earlier, now he is backing down because the party is making him say that he is sorry.


    June 7, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  23. WKT

    He's sorry for telling the truth? I believe him. All democrats ever do is lie. That is how Obama got elected – by lying! Too bad for democrats the American people know better than to vote for Obama ever again!

    June 7, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  24. Please Grow Up

    Dear Democrats: When Johnny Roberts got rewarded for helping fix the Bush election in Florida and gave us Citizen's United, you lost everything. You know that book, "Who Moved My Cheese?" Well, your cheese moved; you should have seen it coming, but you stayed where you were. Hhahahahahahah!

    June 7, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  25. Woody

    Bubba was a much better Black President than Obumbles was or ever will be.

    June 7, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
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