Clinton says Obama needs to call the GOP's 'bluff'
September 29th, 2013
11:52 AM ET
9 years ago

Clinton says Obama needs to call the GOP's 'bluff'

Washington (CNN) – Former President Bill Clinton, who sat in the Oval Office during the last government shutdown, supports President Barack Obama's refusal to negotiate with congressional Republicans and argues he should call their "bluff" as the government nears a possible shutdown and default.

"He could stop it, but the price of - the current price of stopping it is higher than the price of letting the Republicans do it and taking their medicine," he said in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

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Clinton went on to say that House Republicans, having realized they have little chance of pushing through legislative items their party wants, have dug in and scrapped any plans of negotiating. "Give us what we want or we're going to shut the government down," Clinton said, describing how he sees the GOP strategy.

"I think under those circumstances, the president has to take the position he's taken," he continued. "Which is 'You - not me - you voted to spend this money.' … You can't negotiate over that. And I think he's right not to."

Obama has repeatedly vowed he won't bargain in the upcoming debt ceiling debate. If the debt ceiling isn't raised by October 17, the government won't be able to pay its bills.

Republicans frequently point to Clinton's tenure, when he negotiated with congressional Republicans over raising the debt ceiling in 1996.

But Clinton argued Sunday that was a different period in time, saying the negotiations then were "extremely minor" and the stakes at the time were not as large: "The economy was growing and the deficit was going down."

He said while he was criticized for agreeing to lower the capital gains tax during those negotiations, in return he got the children's health insurance program, which ultimately led to coverage for 10 million kids up through Obama's first term.

"That's what lawmaking is. It's that kind of compromise," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Clinton's former communications director in the White House. "There's no opportunity for that in this forum. We don't have enough time. They don't want - they're mad because they don't want to negotiate."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was at the helm of the House in the 1995-1996 showdowns, told CNN's Piers Morgan earlier this week that he was able to work with Clinton because the former president was able to "compartmentalize," compared to Obama.

"It wasn't that we were friends, but we both understood that you had to find a way to work for America, even if as political rivals," said Gingrich, who's now a co-host of CNN's "Crossfire." "We were little bit like two graduate students in that we would get in a room and we started talking and theorizing and remembering books and doing stuff. But in that process, you begin to get away from what you couldn't do and you begin to gradually work your way to what you could do."

"My guess is that we spent more days together than Obama and (House Speaker John) Boehner has spent minutes together this year," he continued. "The president has to come off with his high horse. Boehner has to also say they may now be able to get everybody in his party to vote for something."

Clinton, however, encouraged Obama to stick to his stand.

"I think there are times when you have to call people's bluff," he said, according to a transcript of the interview.

Republicans have signaled they plan to attach a number of items – including tax reforms and provisions to roll back regulations on businesses - in the upcoming debt limit debate.

"If I were the president, I wouldn't negotiate over these draconian cuts that are going to take food off the table of low-income working people, while they leave all the agricultural subsidies in for high-income farmers and everything else. I just think it's - it's chilling to me," Clinton said.

Filed under: Bill Clinton • Congress • President Obama
soundoff (138 Responses)
  1. rs

    I would agree, but in reality, the GOP is simply running the scenario they want. They don't need either encouragement, nor negotiation from the President or the Left, wrecking this nation is what the Right set out to do in 2008, and that is the course they will remain on.

    My question is- when faced with an internal enemy such as the GOP and they're hyper irrational TEA Party, what should be the response of the middle and the left?

    The Right has taken the nation, it's economic health, reputation and more hostage to their insane ideology. Is that really "normal" political activity? Do we just campaign against them? Or, as a nation to we ferret out this cancer and declare war on them? If we had an Al Qaeda cell here doing the same the drone would be in the air.

    The Right has chosen a bad future for themselves and our nation. I see no reason to accommodate their brand of crazy.

    September 29, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  2. Amazing

    Clinton is right. The issue with the GOP is that they refuse to compromise and their sole objective is not to make America. Better but to make Obama look bad. It is too bad that sane voices like Jon Huntsman gets drown out.

    September 29, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  3. Steve

    I agree, President Obama needs to hold his ground and not give in to the Republican GOP. If the GOP take this country' economy down; they will get thrown out in 2014 and I will be celebrating.

    September 29, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  4. Steve

    More and more people are getting fed up with the GOP. Let them dig their own grave.

    September 29, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  5. Larry in Houston

    Clinton is right – he's got the experience – but I hope he also knows that if there is a republican "sweep" in 2014, he'd better talk his wife out of running. It's not going to be worth it. Of course 'ol Hill probably already knows it.

    September 29, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  6. NameFrank Deery

    This is not like 1995 and Republicans kept both Houses of Congress until 2008, after which this Health Care Bill was hastily written and rammed through Congress without "negotiation" or even time for the reps and the public to peruse it-by Pelosi, Reid, and Obama, all now whining about the
    fallout. Even the big labor unions are against
    it. Not on principle, but shoddy substance. And most Americans are confused enough to
    dislike more hassle in their hectic lives.

    Bill Clinton should take a tip from Bush: shut up and stay out of politics. He will ruin his wife's next try, too-just as he did in 2008.
    He is the worst President in modern times
    And Obama, another "snake oil" President, can't seem to get enough mileage out of his
    impeached mentor. Sad!

    Kick ass GOP! The bill sucks!

    September 29, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  7. Tony

    NameFrank Deery, you can't even get your facts right. Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011.

    September 29, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  8. Keep Fear ALive

    Doesn't htis president know that ONLY WHITE presidents get the Nations Debt Limit increased with a clean bill.... the house of representatives is roughly half repub/half dem .... so they make up One Half of One Third ... and of that HALF, only about Hald of them are rooting for a shutdown.... so , f I understand this right, the US and World economy will be thrown into a cataclysmic event, because ONE Quarter of One Third of the Government has no National Conscience for keeping the Founding Fathers Government Operational ... and as such be be prosecuted for Economic Treason against the Nation .. and as such, should be treated they way we treat the worst traitors of this country ... the firing squad !!

    September 29, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  9. Tony

    Just to be clear, Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker for 3 days in 2011.

    September 29, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  10. Thomas

    The party of Abraham Lincoln is now the party of Ted Cruz , what went wrong ?

    September 29, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  11. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Aww... Franky.... Of course the law sucks- it's of GOP origin! But it also IS the law of the land, so DEAL with it you big sissies and try to make it better. Of course the GOP has no intention of trying to make ANYTHING better. They just want to whine and throw tantrums... We need some adults in government. Boot the GOTP!

    September 29, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  12. Gurgyl

    Entire GOP Talibans need to be removed mercilessly in 2014. Drive evil away. Rethuglicans are evil.

    September 29, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  13. Anthony in California

    NameFrank Deery

    A couple things to point out....
    1.Clinton left the country with a surplus and left GWB with a warning about Al Queda attacking US with airplanes..
    2.GWB left this country with... well... 2 wars, and a defect.
    (something tells me BILL has more than a right to chime in on this topic.)

    As Republicans say... "We dont negotiate with terrorists".
    In this case.. THEY happen to be the terrorists holding this country's budget hostage.
    Let them shut it down, and let them see their way out the door in 2014...

    September 29, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  14. Richard Long

    "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government can not pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that "the buck stops here." Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better." -BHO

    September 29, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  15. Anthony in California

    -Keep Fear ALive

    Great breakdown. And great term "Economic Terrorists"

    September 29, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  16. Anthony in California

    -Richard Long

    Yes. Its time to vote out ALL of these Republican "Economic Terrorists".

    September 29, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  17. Stuffit

    First pall libertards, understand that Republicans cannot shutdown the government, they can only employ sleazy tactics pioneered by the denocrat liberals to get their way. Remember how the lied about the social security reforms proposed by Bush? Remember how proud of themselves they were when thy sabotaged Bork and trashed Clarence Thomas. The real truth is they can't shut down the government, only the liberal democrats can. This uncaring and unscrupulous group are the same corrupt liars that shoved OBOZOCARE down our throats in the first place.

    September 29, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  18. Marie MD

    Right on President Clinton.
    The teatards are crazy no jobs, no healthcare, no anything except destroy the country.
    The fact that they call him a socialist when we have the Canadian holding the US hostage is a sad commentary as to what and how low the rethugs will go.

    September 29, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  19. jboh

    More proof that time has come to flush the TEA pot.

    September 29, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  20. rs

    "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government can not pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that "the buck stops here." Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better." -BHO
    The difference here Richard is the deficit is down nearly 60%- it is lower than when Senator Obama made that statement. And- in truth there is a failure of leadership at work. The GOP has decided to be insane, and take the country down rather than pay our bills- (try that with Visa or Mastercard, and see how it works for you).

    Nice try.

    September 29, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  21. Bubba

    The shut down is going to wake up the Democrats who have been inactive on the fence. Plus, moderates can see what the tough GOP rhetoric turn into real damage. Obama will take some blame, but just like the last time the GOP stood tough, the GOP will receive the lions share of the hurt.
    Grandpa loves the GOP rhetoric, but now we will see if he likes it more than his government benefits and services.

    September 29, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  22. vic , nashville ,tn

    I agree with President Bill Clinton
    In Election Day many voter stay at home reason Voters unable to exercise their right to vote. For big turn out we have to add “none of these candidates” in the ballot.

    Best way to clean our congress

    September 29, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  23. ED1

    I agree lets start by cutting your retirement and Secret Service details.

    You should also have to use Obamacare.

    September 29, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  24. old guy in West Virginia

    How many times have we heard that "elections have consequences?" Too bad the GOP won't acquiesce to this practical truth. Budget and debt ceiling negotiations should not be dragged into the muck of partisan politics, as our economy affects us all, and allowing the government to shut down or to default on its obligations (already made!) in order to reverse the effects of elections (Obamacare was passed by Congress and upheld by SCOTUS, and Obama won reelection) is the height of folly and a revelation to all Americans that the TP/wingnut branch of the GOP is not serious about governance.

    September 29, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  25. vikingwoman

    I say let 'em shut down & then We, the people will fire the bunch! Why can't we do that!? I mean, the GOTP is breaking all the rules of Governing, so why can't the American people, who are sick & tired of these adults having Terrible Two's tantrums! No more salary, fat retirement packages, or great healthcare provided by the people! Send them back to their states, unemployed & unemployable. I mean, who in their right mind would hire an arrogant nitwit who holds a whole nation hostage!? Any1 out there??

    September 29, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
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