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. MesaMax

    Typical Clinton. He says one thing one day, and the opposite thing the next. But we all know what he really thinks. That is the main thing.

    June 7, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  2. Bill

    President Obama must be very powerful now if he is getting Clinton to back off. Republicans will have no problem in November unless they screw it up.

    June 7, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  3. Indiana Voter

    This is hilarious. Talk about the ultimate "walk back" statement. Apparently, the Obama administration scolded Clinton and now he is forced to make public statements saying he "supports" Obama. It is so funny to see so many Democrats rip this current President, by telling the truth, as far as what they believe should be done, only to have to try and "clarify" their statements later, so they don't upset the higher ups at the DNC.

    June 7, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  4. JackBeHumble

    I'm willing to give up my tax cut, if I get to see the wealthy forced to give up theirs.

    June 7, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  5. steve

    We had a lot of hope, and got short changed

    June 7, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  6. jaimie

    The poor need tax breaks. The rich need to pay more. Such a travesty and an injustice to the american people.

    June 7, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  7. Observer91

    Well Clinton, I hope you mean what you say this time. All in all, I wish we had you as President right now. We'd probably be out of this mess in a short while.

    June 7, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  8. lucentsky

    Clinton actually gave up plenty to the right. Too much, in fact. His fiscal policies catered so far to the right that he's to a great extent responsible for new rules of globalisation that make the rich richer while the poor stay poor.

    June 7, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  9. jax

    Why is it that some politicians just cannot let go of the limelight? Clinton is now the best the Dems can put out there, or better yet, leave out there? He's doing Obama no favors. If you are dim witted enough to think he is supporting Obama in meaningful ways,you forget the Clinton's long memories and longer enemies lists.

    Keep wishing your violent thoughts Claudia, it's all you've got by now...

    June 7, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  10. Donkey Party

    Sanity – Ever notice how Republicans never apologize because they never tell the truth?

    June 7, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  11. O.T.

    David Axelrod obviously gave Clinton a good whipping.

    June 7, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  12. 123elle

    As President, I thought Clinton had the sharpest mind and keenest grasp of complex economic concepts of any of them, walking away. I sure hope he isn't slipping. That would be the loss of a very bright mind. And I'm his age, almost.

    June 7, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  13. yukphu

    All the Class Warfare lovers looking for the Bush Tax Cuts to expire, here's some news for your ignorant minds. EVERYONE's taxes will go up A LOT! Not to mention, this will spark lower spending, stifle growth and lead to your min wage job being eliminated. Careful what you wish for!

    June 7, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  14. T in Calif

    Oops' uhhh, did I say somethin truthful ? I take it back.

    June 7, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  15. The all potent one

    Willy had to say this or face the real possibility of shattered knee caps over the weekend. He is messing with a politician from Chicago.

    June 7, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  16. Parker West

    Why does Slick Willie have a part in this two penny opera? His closet friends and fellow commentators swear that he can't stand Obama after the 2008 Democratic primaries, so why is Obama allowing him so much face time? Clinton makes a statement, which someone has to then claim was misrepresented, after which he reverses his original position before doing it all over again. Ex-presidents really should just jet around making $100,000 per appearance and not dabble in the political debate but to simply support their parties cantidate. After Jimmy Carter passed along his condolences on the death of the very evil Great Leader of North Korea, who ran the most oppressive governent ever based on the hatred of the US; it's clear why ex-presidents should never comment on policy of foreign affairs.

    June 7, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  17. Conservative

    face it liberals, the democratic party is in shambles. you've lost your way completely. your leaders are far-left radicals. no one is america is interested anymore. not even willy can save you.

    June 7, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  18. bluesy

    what would be really helpful if during THIS election cycle, clinton would get off the fence and completely and unambiguously support obama. not simply by explaining his 'slip-ups' but by actively making appearances and making positive statements about obama's record. i would really hope that clinton would not take down, even by inaction, another democratic president. it isn't all about politics and sides, but the two aren't very different in basics.

    June 7, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  19. billythekid

    slick willy and Oh-bummer are trying to outdo each other in horing for wall street.

    June 7, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  20. SirRichardPumpaloaf

    "Fiscal cliff"? Bill, you are the Thelma to my Louise.

    June 7, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  21. yukphu

    I love how one of the best presidents we ever had, Slick Willie, would misstate his position. This is one of the brightest, well spoken public figures in a century and he misspoke on such a serious topic. PAAHLEASE!

    June 7, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  22. jake

    Bill knows exactly what he is doing. He is playing the political game because his wife asked him to. He does not support Obama as much as he says and you can hear it when you listen to what he says. He is just setting his wife up for another presidential run in 4 years. He does not care if Obama wins or loses.

    June 7, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  23. Name willardbullock

    I said mocked out of clinton so I ask him what happened about frauad check scam from afrcian amercian alright who recived cash from frauad check scam then people like vote support for obama from frauad check scam with afrcian amercian

    June 7, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  24. Madrep

    Ultimately this will hurt the middle class. Still hope something will be done before they expire. Remember the AMT was supposed to tax the rich back in 99, and now it's a big issue for the middle class....again! The rich get richer and thus the world turns. But, Obama has no time to worry about something like that now, he is too busy campaigning and going to high dollar 1% er fund raisers. Especially his Cali buddies. No different than Romney. Money talks and buys elections and middle class just keeps paying for everything anyway! If we still have "shovel ready" jobs that is!

    June 7, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  25. Carl

    The lazy rich should be taxed, but not the productive rich that give people a place to work.

    June 7, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
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