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Interview With Bill Clinton

Charlie Rose

The following is an eight minute excerpt from Bill Clinton's appearance on "The Charlie Rose Show" Friday night. He talks about the campaign and which candidate is "ready to be president." The full transcript is below.

Charlie Rose: I am pleased to have President Clinton back at this table. Welcome.

Bill Clinton: Thank you, Charlie.

Charlie Rose: Nice to see you.

Bill Clinton: Good to be back.

Charlie Rose: Tell me about Giving. What have you learned about it?

Bill Clinton: I have learned, first of all, that it's easier to do and to have an impact than I had previously thought. At whatever level of time or money or skill you have, whatever you wish to give away, there are ways to do it now. Partly because of the rise of Internet giving and the ability to find something that's really suited to you, partly because of the rise of nongovernmental groups in the United States and around the world who can actually change things for the better. They know -- your money is less likely to be wasted today than ever before if you're careful about where you put it. And your time can be spent with others who know how to do what it is you're supposed to do. I have learned that you can give, even if you're in a profit making venture if you change the way you make money in a way that deals with a big crisis like climate change and you reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, you have found a new way to make money. I write about that extensively. And I also have learned that in the end I think the reason most people do it, it just makes them happier.

Charlie Rose: When you look at it, did you have a model that you think is of the future because there's so many new rich people --

Bill Clinton: Yes.

Charlie Rose: -- with lots of money?

Bill Clinton: Well, I think that --

Charlie Rose: A new generation of philanthropists.

Bill Clinton: Yeah, I think the reason there have been so many -- so much of an increase in this activity is a significant number of the wealthy, the new really, really wealthy who want to give their money away in their lifetime and really do -- are bothered by this going inequality in our country and in the world and they want to do something about it. And a significant number of socially aware middle class and sometimes lower middle class people are now able to give money with real impact because of the Internet, either by picking specific things they can actually fund themselves, like business in -- half a world away through or by joining together with like-minded people and adding up their money. So I -- what I want to do was to describe kind of coming out of my life now and the work I do with my foundation why there has been this explosion and activity that we see embodied by people like Bill Gates or Bono, or with the work I do around the world. But really it's much more rich and textured than that, it involves millions and millions and millions of people.

Charlie Rose: Have we come to a better understanding of how to make it have a maximum impact?

Bill Clinton: Absolutely.

Charlie Rose: And to assess the impact?

Bill Clinton: Yes, and I think frankly a lot of these new entrepreneurs involved in getting -- have helped with that because they're quite tough about wanting their contributions evaluated. And if they are perfectly prepared to admit that it's just like any other kind of endeavor, you know, you may make a bad investment, but if you are, you should stop and do something else. They want to be accountable. And I know that I try to be rigorously accountable to my donors. You know, every year I tell them this is what we're doing, here is what we've achieved. This didn't work, we stopped. I think that that is a big reason for why there's more giving now.

Charlie Rose: A belief in results.

Bill Clinton: Yeah. And at least a big reason why the giving is more likely to be effective. There are -- this one little factor. There's twice as many foundations in America today as there were at the dawn of the decade. We have a million, 10 thousand. Barely over 500,000 when we started this new Millennium. It's stunning. But people don't want to just throw their money away, they want to know that it's being spent to good effect. And so I think that Internet technology is making it possible for more people to give but also it's making it possible for more people to make seasoned discreet choices and to get reported -- get back reports on what the impact of their gifts are.

Charlie Rose: I'm also struck as I talk to a lot of people about the corporate sector's power to make a difference, you know, if given the right kind of incentive and guidance and rules.

Bill Clinton: I agree with that. Well you know, I talk in the book about the gifts the corporate sector can give just outright, like Proctor and Gamble giving millions of people a chance to get clean, safe drinking water. The practice these corporations can follow with their employees that advance the common good, like companies in Southern Africa testing all their employees for HIV and AIDS and then providing medicine and care if they need it so they can keep working.

Charlie Rose: Uh-huh.

Bill Clinton: And then companies changing their business model in a way that makes money for them but advances the common good. Entrepreneurs like Venode Kosvo [spelled phonetically] getting into the biofuel business, Wal-Mart reduces its packaging five percent, sounds like a little bit, saves three and a half billion dollars for the supply chain, takes 210,000 diesel trucks off the road, sells a hundred million compacts for us involves the equivalent of taking 700,000 cars off the road. They didn't quit making money. They decided to make money in a different way. And I got interested in this, because that's what we induce people to do with my projects, when my AIDS work, we induced who make generic drugs to change their business models from a high profit margin, relatively low volume business, to a low profit margin, super high volume.

Charlie Rose: You turn from a jewelry store to a grocery store.

Bill Clinton: Yeah. Jewelry store to a grocery store. But a lot more people live for the same amount of money. That's the kind of thing I think today's givers are looking for. Not only the givers of money, but the givers of time. We want to be all involved in something that works. It saves lives, it moves the ball forward.

Charlie Rose: Muhammad Yunus has brought a lot of attention to microfinance and got a Nobel Prize. Tell me, when you look at it, how effective is it? And how much is it spreading?

Bill Clinton: First, it is almost universally effective where it's done based on the same model that he and other big givers in Bangladesh have used. That is, where you realize you may be dealing with people who never have a balance sheet, but they have a good reputation in the community, you know they have a skill, and there is clearly a market for what they want to do. In the early '80s, the South Shore Bank in Chicago, now called Shore Bank started loaning -- make microcredit loans by American standards to black carpenters and Croatian electricians to work together to retrieve the South Side. Hillary found out about this and talked to me, and she went out and raised some money to create a rural microcredit bank in Arkansas, do the same thing with the same results. It's still in place. Then when I became president, we gave two million microcredit loans a year overseas, and gave the first microcredit programs funding in America. It always works. Now, can it make a difference? It depends on whether they're concentrated enough. I think in Bangladesh, the Grameen Bank and others have been giving money now for 30 years so that the volume of loans is so great now, I think it's making a measurable contribution to the economy.

Charlie Rose: Has moved beyond just loans to women.

Bill Clinton: Yeah. But even though -- women are still the primary recipients, when there are so many of them have been made, that the various examples of economic growth have a synergy, they're working together. My only evidence of this, is that in the last couple of years, Bangladesh has had one political crisis after another, the kind of thing that tanks the stock market, you know.

Charlie Rose: -- run for prime minister and then backed off.

Bill Clinton: Yeah. But, in spite of all this trouble, their economies still continue to grow about six or seven percent a year, unheard of. I think it's because it's growing through the grass roots, through the interlocking networks of microcredit entrepreneurs. So I saw when I was president that we changed the reality of life for a lot of villages in Africa and Latin American and Asia. But we would have to give 20 or 30 million microcredit loans, not two million to change a country.

Charlie Rose: That brings me to this question. What's role of government today in the context of the kinds of problems we're talking about?

Bill Clinton: Well, the government still that is a huge responsibility for dealing with the global problems of inequality and climate change, and obviously, of security and cooperation. Within a country, a government's economic management, its competence, its honesty, its social programs, its -- you know, educational systems, all of this will have a huge impact. But even in the best of societies, there are gaps, particularly in richer countries with a lot of new immigrants, and in the very poor countries where there will be, by definition, limitations on the capacity of government. In civil society, these giving groups can step into the breach and make all the difference.

Charlie Rose: Bill Clinton -- Bill Gates has talked about SEEP programs in which he gives foundation money, he and Linda give foundation money to get something started, opening up the way for government to play a role, even partnership.

Bill Clinton: That's correct. He and I both strongly feel that the kind of work that he does, the kind of work that I do, can be sort of the entrepreneurial pioneering for eventual public policy. That is, you know, governments can't afford to take some of the risks that we can. You know, I can just tell you, thank you very much for your $300,000, I tried this, it didn't work. But you should be glad, because we know it doesn't work, now we'll go do this. Governments, you know, are worried they'll get bad publicity for doing that. So we think should be doing is proving what works, establishing networks, and then if you can make a case that we have to have government support to solve the problem on a grand scale, you've got evidence of what to do. I also think that there can be ongoing partnerships. For example, both the Gates Foundation and my foundation work with other governments. I work in Africa, in various ways, with the Irish government, the Canadian government, and Norwegian government, the Swedish government. And the American government, the Bush administration's AIDS program in various places, and all over the world with the international fund called UNITAPE [spelled phonetically] to treat children with AIDS. I can do what they want done cheaper than government can do it, but I need government funding to do it, and we agree on what the rules are, and I do it. So I think you will see a lot of new partnerships between foundations and government.

Charlie Rose: AIDS. Did I read that it's on a slight decline in Africa?

Bill Clinton: Well, yes. The rate of new infections -- the absolute number of new infections has continued to increase, the rate at which it's increasing is declining. Plus there has been a revision downward from 40 million cases globally to 33 million. But that shouldn't give anybody any comfort though. A lot of that was something that I had been sort of on the grassroots floor of, that's India, where we knew that there were very substantial nut cases of AIDS in a lot of their cities, and we knew where it was growing. And so there was a tendency, as you have to do, to extrapolate that across the country, and it turned out there were huge chunks of India where there was virtually no AIDS yet. So we overestimated the number of cases they had, and we had some similar readjustments elsewhere. But it's important to note that, you know, two-thirds of 70 percent of the cases are still in Africa, it's still growing faster in the former Soviet Union, it's growing faster in some other Asian countries, and the only place that there seems to be an absolute decline is in the Caribbean, which I'm very proud of, because I have been working hard there. But even --

Charlie Rose: Public information, use of available drugs, and --

Bill Clinton: And the Caribbean, except for Haiti, which is the poorest country and has about half the AIDS cases.

Charlie Rose: Right.

Bill Clinton: Is -- they have a pretty competent government infrastructure, and we go in and do the training and provide the medicine. And the populations are small enough that you can educate people, you can test, you can prevent, and you can treat aggressively, and then you can stop mother-to-child transmission. Because there is a medicine that is 98 percent effective in stopping HIV-positive pregnant women from giving it to their babies. But you have to --

Charlie Rose: Ninety percent?

Bill Clinton: Ninety-eight percent effective, if given early enough, and in the proper dosage. And the regime has followed. But it's easy to organize that in the Caribbean, because they're near us, they have their own competent governmental structures, they have relatively speaking, more money than a lot of countries with big AIDS problems and trained professionals that can span a more limited population. So when I started this work in 2003, our neighbors in the Caribbean had the second fastest growing rates of AIDS in the world, and they really have turned it around.

Charlie Rose: You mentioned Hillary. In a conversation with Warren Buffett. What do you learn from Warren Buffett?

Bill Clinton: Well, first of all, he's a very lucid, clear, straightforward thinker. And I often agree with him, and funny enough, when I disagree with him, he's so clear that both he and I know what the grounds of argument are, which is great. No two people can possibly agree on everything else. I admire him immensely, because he never lets his ego get in the way of his decision-making. I mean look at this. Here is a guy, one of the richest men in the world. Decides he's going to give away 98 to 99 percent of his wealth during his lifetime

Charlie Rose: I think other people have taken some leave from what he has done --

Bill Clinton: Right.

Charlie Rose: -- in terms of thinking about how much they want to give away while they're alive and finding the right kind of vehicle.

Bill Clinton: Yeah. Let me just make one other point about Buffet, though, because, you know, Buffet never minimizes the need for government. Buffet believes he should pay higher taxes, and his secretary should pay lower taxes.

Charlie Rose: Right.

Bill Clinton: Buffet believes that the public interest is furthered by that. But he also never minimizes the plain fact that even if he had a government that he thought was wonderful, there would still be gaps in the social fabric, holes of need, if you will, in America and around the world that guys like him ought to step in to fill.

Charlie Rose: In that context, tell me where you think this country is today and where it ought to be in terms of its public debate

Bill Clinton: The 2006 election was about both the Iraq war and our foreign policy and about the deteriorating conditions of a majority of America within our country, and it was our first post-9/11 election. That is, it was not conducted within the bubble of people's sense of imminent fear. Right now, we are even more there because the surge had some success partly because al-Qaeda overreached, and a lot of the people that were fighting for us thought -- fighting against us fought with us partly because five million people have been ethnically cleansed and moved around. But the casualty rates are down. And also, partly because I'm rather proud of this, not only my wife but other candidates for the Democratic nomination have been honest enough to say they would end the fighting in Iraq and bring as many troops home as possible. But they can't promise just to pull everybody out if it's going to make it worse. We've got to extricate ourselves in a way that doesn't make it worse and cause us to have to haul back over there. So as a result of that, there's been a shift of focus to the domestic issues.

But I also -- let me just say, you know, I go out and speak in Iowa and New Hampshire. And all I know is what gets a response. I think people know in their bones that this subprime mortgage crisis was somehow the predictable result of years and years and years of housing, healthcare, transportation, and higher education going up more than wages, and of people desperately trying to get into better homes so their kids would be in better schools, and of an economic strategy that basically say we grew our economy in this decade 40 percent on housing. And the rest was on basically maxed-out credit cards and second mortgages on homes. So I think that the rise of this is sort of crystallized for a lot of people, that I think doubling healthcare premiums has had a lot to do with this -- the further loss of health insurance coverage in America. So there's a lot of economic anxiety. In the Republican Party, it expresses itself as this sort of very hard line against immigration. In the Democratic Party, it expresses itself in a very hard line against trade. But the real problem is we haven't created enough good new jobs. And we have given up our economic sovereignty so we can't enforce our trade laws any more because we have to borrow money from all these countries that have big trade surpluses with us. So I expect and I welcome -- I think it's good that we are about to have a debate about all these issues. However --

Charlie Rose: Well, tell me what the debate is between globalization and jobs at home, trade versus --

Bill Clinton: Well, that is, that is the -- that's the temptation of the debate. The debate is rooted in the fact that we're in the sixth year of economic recovery with no increase in median wages. That for 35 years we have only had one period of five years or more when median, the ones in the middle, wages rose, and that's when I was president.

Charlie Rose: And the middle class today doesn't feel like --

Bill Clinton: That's right.

Charlie Rose: -- they have participated --

Bill Clinton: That's right.

Charlie Rose: -- in America's prosperity.

Bill Clinton: Yes. And more working people --

Charlie Rose: And they fear jobs --

Bill Clinton: That's right.

Charlie Rose: -- are going somewhere else.

Bill Clinton: More working people have fallen into poverty. More people have lost their health insurance, more people have health insurance, but not really. One-third of Americans now are without health coverage at some point during the year. People are worried about this climate change thing but they don't really -- they want to deal with it if we can figure a way to do it economically. They just think that things are not being organized properly and we're not moving in the right direction at home. So I think that the economics, healthcare, energy, and education are all very, very important. But unlike 1992 when I ran, I don't think security can ever get completely into the background.

Charlie Rose: Because of 9/11 or because of threat of --

Bill Clinton: No, partly because of 9/11 and because we still haven't gotten Bin Laden --

Charlie Rose: Right.

Bill Clinton: -- and because the outcome in Afghanistan is still somewhat uncertain. But also because the American people now know something they have never known before. In their bones they know there's almost no problem we can solve all by ourself.

Charlie Rose: Including?

Bill Clinton: Whether it's --

Charlie Rose: National security.

Bill Clinton: Terror.

Charlie Rose: War on peace.

Bill Clinton: War on peace.

Charlie Rose: Terror.

Bill Clinton: Nuclear proliferation, climate change, you name it, they know we have to do this in a cooperative way. So underneath the domestic, economic, and social concerns there is a clear understanding we're still part of the world and our security depends upon our ability to cooperate with others whenever we can and act alone only when we have to, not the other way around. They know that military, they're proud of our military and they want to support them and they know we need to rebuild them but that our security depends on aggressive diplomacy whenever we can and using force only as a very last resort. And I believe that as we move through the primary season, and particularly as we get in the general election, all these security challenges will become a very important part of mix. I think when I was running it wasn't so important that I had national security experience, is that I had a vision for the post Cold War world, a political vision that aided our security. And I talked about it quite a lot.

Charlie Rose: That your argument for vision is more important than experience. That somehow your personal intellect is more important and your vision and your comprehension of things is more important than experience.

Bill Clinton: Partly. That is, if you set it up like that. But if you have the right vision, if you understand that we have to restore America's standing in the world, we have to rebuild the middle class dream in America and we have to reclaim the future for our kids, that is, we have to restore our efforts in science, technology, innovation, including stem cell research and we've got to do something about climate change. That's the right vision. Then the question is, what are your policies. So who's got the best healthcare policy, the best energy policy and all of that. Then the third, and I think by far the most important question in this day and age for the next American president is, who is the best agent of change. Not the best symbol but the best agent. Who has proven the ability to make positive change? And let me explain why. For years before I got into this AIDS work in 2003, a lot of people were willing to spend money on it and they had the best of intentions but they couldn't really turn their intentions into treating a lot of people. Now, you know, we treat 800,000 people all over the world in 71 countries -- at least we sell the medicine to treat them for a fraction of what was being spent by the other major program. We just had this meeting -- Al Gore, thank goodness, just got the Nobel Peace Prize. He gave a wonderful speech, I thought. I stayed up late the other night and watched it. But before he gave this speech he and John Kerry went all the way to Bali and Indonesia to this meeting that was held to talk about now what are we going to do about climate change. We have got to have a successor to this Kyoto Treaty. Now the whole conversation was still about how sad it was that America got out of the treaty after we left office. I agree it was sad. But you know what else was sad? A hundred and seventy countries signed that treaty and only six, six of 170 reduced their greenhouse gasses to the 1990 level, and only six will do so by 2012 at the deadline.

Charlie Rose: So we --

Bill Clinton: So what does that mean? Were these people dishonest when they signed it? No. Were they lazy and incompetent? By and large, no. But they couldn't turn good intentions into positive change in people's lives. So I think my view, and maybe it's just because I've always been a scorekeeper and maybe it's because of the work I do now, but I think vision is important and I think programs are important. But I think symbol is not as important as substance now. We got --

Charlie Rose: Are you suggesting by that, that Senator Obama is more symbol than substance, as an agent of change?

Bill Clinton: Well, that's not -- he can't help that.

Charlie Rose: But is that the reality, that he's more symbol than --

Bill Clinton: No. Other people -- what I'm suggesting is that if I were not president -- if I had never married to Hillary, but I had known her all these 36 years, and she asked me to be doing this for her, campaigning, I would do it in a heart beat, because I don't think it's close of all the choices. And I like all these people. I don't think -- I think the others are entitled to a serious look. I think John Edwards made a serious study of poverty the last four years. You know, he started running for president two years after he was in the senate full-time. But when he left the senate, he made a serious study of poverty. The others -- Biden, Dodd, Richardson have done great things. I think that counts for something. You know, I'm old fashioned. I think it really -- I think a president ought to have done something for other people and for his country when you pick a president. But -- but Obama is a person of enormous talent. You know, staggering political skills.

Charlie Rose: Ready to be president?

Bill Clinton: Well the voters have to make up their mind. But what I'm saying --

Charlie Rose: You sat in the office.

Bill Clinton: But what I'm saying is, in my experience, my -- what I know about the job and what I know about the world, and I have been to 90 countries since I've been out of office, I want a president next time who has a good vision, and has great programs, but understands that even vision and programs don't necessarily change people's lives. And Hillary, ever since I knew her, has been the best I ever saw at seeing a problem and figuring out what to do about it. And that's -- so I have nothing bad to say about him or any of the others. But if you --

Charlie Rose: But you do -- you measure it, and you just said, you keep score, and the question is --

Bill Clinton: But it depends on what -- yeah, but it depends what you think the election is about. If you listen to the people who are most strongly for him, they say basically we have to throw away all these experienced people because they have been through the wars of the '90s, and they made enough decisions and enough calls that they made a few mistakes. And what we want is somebody who started running for president a year after he became a senator because he's fresh, he's new, he's never made a mistake, and he has massive political skills. And we're willing to risk it. And I, even when I was a governor and young and thought I was the best politician in the Democratic Party, I didn't run the first time. I could have.

Charlie Rose: That would have been '88?

Bill Clinton: '88. And I had lots of Democratic governors encouraging me to. I knew in my bones I shouldn't run -- that I was a good enough politician to win, but I didn't think I was ready to be president.

Charlie Rose: But do you -- look at this. I mean --

Bill Clinton: Let the voters --

Charlie Rose: Is Joe Biden ready to be president?

Bill Clinton: Absolutely.

Charlie Rose: Is Chris Dodd ready to be president?

Bill Clinton: I think he's --

Charlie Rose: Is Bill Richardson ready to be president?

Bill Clinton: I think all of them have -- let me just explain it this way. I think all of them know enough and made enough decisions, including a few mistakes, which I think is good. I want somebody to be president who has made a few mistakes. I don't know season that's never made a mistake. Never had to correct one.

Charlie Rose: You believe you learn more from failure than you do victory?

Bill Clinton: No, but I think you learn something from both, if you got any sense. But the point I'm trying to make is, not to criticize -- I have nothing bad to say about any of these people. I think Obama -- I get tickled watching him. He's got great skills. It depends on what the American people and the Democrats in the first instance believe is more important. Is it more important to have somebody who is basically by his very nature a compelling, incredibly attractive, highly intelligent symbol of transformation, or is it more information to have somebody who also would similar symbolize change by being the first woman president, but has actually done incredible numbers of different things to change other people's lives? And she's mostly been another direction person. She's never ran for office before 2000. I think that matters.

Charlie Rose: I don't want to sit here and make a test about one candidate versus another, but I do want to tap into --

Bill Clinton: I don't, either.

Charlie Rose: But I do want to tap into your sense of where America is and what the standard ought to be and what the test ought to be, and what the issues ought to be, and what you think --

Bill Clinton: I've already told you -- I think the standard -- I think we need someone who can first change direction.

Charlie Rose: And on that count --

Bill Clinton: All of them will.

Charlie Rose: All of them.

Bill Clinton: We can vote for any of these Democrats. They will all give us a different foreign policy, they will all give us a more aggressive effort to fight climate change --

Charlie Rose: They will all be change agents, you're saying.

Bill Clinton: Well, they'll all change -- to that extent, they'll all change directions. And at least I think -- I know that Obama -- excuse me, I know that Hillary and Edwards and Kucinich and, I think, Richardson have universal healthcare plans, maybe Dodd does. And Biden and Obama don't. But even they would do more on healthcare than we're doing now. So I know --

Charlie Rose: and then comes the debate between some of the candidates as to how they define universality and all that.

Bill Clinton: Yeah, they'll do a serious debate about that. I mean, there are objective, third party authorities here. And you can just -- there are objective third-party authorities who'd say there is no substantial difference between these plans.

Charlie Rose: In terms of level of universality.

Bill Clinton: Yeah. But that's not the point. The point is you get a change in direction so you have a really simple here, who will be the best president? Who is the most ready to lead? Who will -- made more --

Charlie Rose: But doesn't that depend, if I may interrupt, doesn't that depend in terms in '92 -- '92 to '96, 2000, 2002 -- doesn't that depend on, in part, not just the candidate, but where the country is and where the world is? And somehow there is something that we're always called history and where the people are and how they perceive America's government. You just said, American people now understand that these issues have -- are too complex for one country to solve, and America lives in a world today in which there are new sources of power and real competitive power.

Bill Clinton: I agree with that. But remember in 1992, when I was just 46-years-old, I was also the senior governor in America.

Charlie Rose: Dealing every day with domestic issues.

Bill Clinton: Yeah. But I have been doing it for a very long time. And I had also had extensive international economic experience because of my economic development efforts. And I do believe now that the security issues are more important, even though they're in the background, they're more significant than they were then. Then we weren't so much worried about our security, we were worried about building a new architecture for the post Cold War world. And I had a lot to --

Charlie Rose: Which had already begun under George Bush.

Bill Clinton: Well at least he called for it. Then -- and he did some of the trade work. But I think -- and we didn't -- we had some -- quite a lot of overlap on what we wanted to do. He and I did on that score. But --

Charlie Rose: Primarily managing the Russian relationship, wouldn't it be, because --

Bill Clinton: Yes. We wanted to do that, and I think we did a pretty good job of it, I think. He did, and I think I did. But the point I'm trying to make here is that this really -- this whole election will be determined in part by what you think a president's supposed to do, and whether you want a president -- and what do you want them to do based on what they have done. And whether you think it matters that in theory, no experience matters. In theory, we could find someone who is a gifted television commentator.

Charlie Rose: You think? [laughs]

Bill Clinton: And let them run. They'd have only one year less experience in national politics. And so, you know, so I'm just saying -- but I don't want to be flippant here. There are a lot of people who honestly believe what you have done for other people in your public life --

Charlie Rose: Or your private life.

Bill Clinton: Is completely irrelevant, but what matters is what you symbolize.

Charlie Rose: And you don't.

Bill Clinton: No, I don't. I don't based on not only the good things we did when I was president, but the challenges I faced even with the experiences that I had. I think she's -- for this moment in time, significantly better qualified, Hillary is, to be president --

Charlie Rose: Because her preparation is significantly better than --

Bill Clinton: Than mine was.

Charlie Rose: Than yours was.

Bill Clinton: Yes.

Charlie Rose: And if this is between --

Bill Clinton: And because of what she's achieved in working with Republicans as well as Democrats in the Senate, and security and the work she's done in healthcare. She and John McCain took skeptical Republicans to the northern most village in Norway to see what's happening on global warming, to the northern most American town, Port Barrel -- Point Barrow, Alaska. We now have a bipartisan majority of the US Senate set a limit on carbon emissions, to put America back in the forefront of this change. And I think it's critical to our economic future. She did that. And I think she played a role in that. I think that matters. I think those kinds of things matter.

Charlie Rose: What is happening --

Bill Clinton: But the voters are entitled to say they don't.

Charlie Rose: Well, they can say -- they can say we think those things matter, but we choose to go this way because we think there is an overpowering reason to make another choice. And --

Bill Clinton: And we're prepared to roll the dice. We're prepared to --

Charlie Rose: You want to say to the voters, if they have prepared to choose someone with less experience, but perhaps other qualities, as you've said, gifted in politics, gifted in intellect, then they're rolling the dice, is what you're saying.

Bill Clinton: Well, --

Charlie Rose: Rolling the dice about America if they don't choose the person who's had the kind of experience you're talking about.

Bill Clinton: It's less predictable, isn't it? I mean when is the last time we elected a president based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running? He would have been a senator longer by the time he's inaugurated, but essentially once you start running for president full-time you don't have time to do much else.

Charlie Rose: As you know this is true, some people will say -- I mean John Kennedy was 43 when he was elected, I think, wasn't he? You were how old?

Bill Clinton: I was 46.

Charlie Rose: I'll come to -- I know where you're going. I know how fast you work.

Bill Clinton: That's compared to John Kennedy --

Charlie Rose: No, I'm not. But the point is some people are saying the following about this issue, this issue, that experience -- look at all the people in Washington who have been handling the war, which even those who supported then and now, like John McCain say experience screwed it up -- experience in national security.

Bill Clinton: I agree with that.

Charlie Rose: That's -- you can make the argument for experience, but it simply falls short if you believe what those people say.

Bill Clinton: Let me --

Charlie Rose: The other thing about Kennedy and, you know, there is this idea, too, that life's experiences are important, too. You know. It doesn't have to be in the Senate.

Bill Clinton: I agree with that.

Charlie Rose: It doesn't have to be. You had no experience in the Senate. But you had a lot of experience dealing with people's problems and developing solutions --

Bill Clinton: I agree with that

Charlie Rose: -- at a statewide level.

Bill Clinton: All right. Let me just -- let's just unpack this.

Charlie Rose: That's exactly what I want to do.

Bill Clinton: Let's stay with the experience issue. I remember the first time Senator Obama said that, said, you know, Cheney and Rumsfeld had a lot of experience. And that has great superficial appeal. But let me make the argument in another context. That's like saying that because 100 percent of the malpractices case, medical malpractice, are committed by doctors, the next time I need surgery, I'll get a chef or a plumber to do it. I mean, the logical extension of that is inherently absurd. So it's not experience, it is what is your record as doing things for other people and proving you can make a positive difference in people's lives. And do you learn something from doing that other the years, including from your mistakes. I think you do, so that's the first thing. Secondly, there is nothing wrong with ambition to be president.

Charlie Rose: With all respect, you ought to know.

Bill Clinton: That's right. I think that -- but I think it's really, really interesting that, you know, I've heard Senator Obama, I don't know, a dozen times, seen him quoted in the newspapers making some fairly derisive and obvious comment about Hillary saying, you know, she had some decades-old plan to be president, repeating this total canard --

Charlie Rose: She made some remarks about him in some paper he had written when he was very young person that he wanted to be president, some essay somewhere. I don't think any of this makes any difference, do you?

Bill Clinton: No, but let's be fair here. That was how the papers reported it. That's not what happened.

Charlie Rose: Okay. Tell me what happened.

Bill Clinton: What happened was he kept saying -- he kept repeating this totally fabricated account from this anti Hillary book that she had had this decades long plan to be president. As if it were something bad. Because he didn't have a decades long plan to be president.

Charlie Rose: I know.

Bill Clinton: And so on her website, they put up reports from people who worked for Senator Obama that he was planning to run for president when he first got to the Senate, then he was planning it in the state Senate and then they put that kindergarten letter in. They thought that was funny. But Obama's people seized on it and got the press only to write about that, as if it was a mean thing. They thought it was funny. And I think it's funny -- now, look at this. Consider this. Here was Hillary's lifetime plan to run for president, right? She -- when she got out of Yale Law School, she could have gone to Chicago where she was from, taken a job in a big law firm, and looked for the first opportunity to run for office.

Charlie Rose: And lo and behold she bet on a politician who had just been defeated and had no money and was a professor at Arkansas.

Bill Clinton: Yeah. So her idea of planning to run for president was to move to the Arkansas Ozarks and marry a guy who lost the race to make $26,000 a year, and I was 42.

Charlie Rose: Not the best way to start running for president.

Bill Clinton: So it was inherently absurd.

Charlie Rose: But I just think all this is silly.

Bill Clinton: I do, too. But what she was doing was putting something on her Web site to reply to that.

Charlie Rose: Okay. So --

Bill Clinton: So he just got a few stenographers to write stories about the -- as if this kindergarten letter was serious. She thought it was funny. I think we need to be able to laugh at this. Look, we ought to want young people to want to --

Charlie Rose: Exactly.

Bill Clinton: -- grow up to be president.

Charlie Rose: Exactly.

Bill Clinton: It's not a bad thing.

Charlie Rose: But you just --

Bill Clinton: We ought to want girls to be believe there can be presidents.

Charlie Rose: I hear this in terms of what I read.

Bill Clinton: Yeah.

Charlie Rose: I read that you are very nervous about this now, that you are unhappy what's happened with the campaign in the last --

Bill Clinton: No, no.

Charlie Rose: You're here correcting things. And so let's deal with that. You are nervous about it.

Bill Clinton: Oh, no.

Charlie Rose: The race is tightening in New Hampshire and in Iowa, and people say Bill Clinton, the president, is not happy.

Bill Clinton: Well, no. Let me back up and say, in January when Hillary finally -- on New Year's Day, when I knew -- she finally said to me, okay, I want to try to do this. And I really didn't know if she was going to do it to win. I said, okay. I'll make you a prediction. All the press will say you will coast through the nomination, and you won't be able to be elected because you have high negatives and you're polarizing. I said, I predict to you that the reverse is true. I think you will have a difficult time getting nominated, bigger challenge. And if you are nominated, I believe you'll win the general election handily. So she said, why do you think that? And I said, well, I think it for several reasons. First of all, you have to start in Iowa. It's the single most challenging state in the country. You'd be better off starting in Illinois because you'll run easily second in Illinois and surprise everybody. Senator --

Charlie Rose: And you passed up the Iowa --

Bill Clinton: Yeah. But I did it because Tom Harkin was there.

Charlie Rose: Right.

Bill Clinton: But Senator Edwards has a well-earned, huge cadre of support in Iowa because he's worked it for seven long years.

Charlie Rose: As especially the rural areas.

Bill Clinton: Yes. Seven years. And she'd been to all those counties, and he's on his second [unintelligible]. Senator Obama is next door. That matters. I know. I ran better in Memphis.

Charlie Rose: You think that's the reason for the polls -- the fact that --

Bill Clinton: No.

Charlie Rose: -- they had been [unintelligible] it seven years there and Senator Obama lives next door or --

Bill Clinton: Well, I think they know that about -- first of all, on Edwards, there's no doubt. They have confidence in him. They know him. And he has run for seven years. And he's a very attractive man in the same way that Obama is.

Charlie Rose: Edwards on this program, sitting where you are, said the other day that if he was not in the race, most of his people would be supporting Obama.

Bill Clinton: Maybe. But you don't know that. I think -- well, let me finish.

Charlie Rose: Okay.

Bill Clinton: Let me finish. So look, I've done this before. I've -- when I lost New Hampshire to Paul Tsongas. I lost the first 10 miles next to the Massachusetts border. No one would admit they were voting for him or against me or anything because of that. I'm just telling you this makes [unintelligible]. I carried everything from 10 miles north up to the Canadian border. So I think that that certainly didn't hurt him. When he started, he got a little head start there. Then there are thousands of Illinois students in Iowa colleges. Those people have never ever caucused before.

Charlie Rose: Are you lowering expectations here in this conversation?

Bill Clinton: No, no. I'm telling you what I told her in January. You can't accuse me of lowering expectations because I disagree with the conventional wisdom and the political press. I almost always disagree with them. I'm not telling you anything I didn't say in the beginning. So he's been to like 75 counties. She's been to like 50, something like that. Because she's -- I think all the other candidates running missed at least three times as many Senate votes as she has, as least that was true as of about a month ago.

Charlie Rose: Are you unhappy with anything --

Bill Clinton: Let me finish.

Charlie Rose: Okay.

Bill Clinton: You started this. So let me finish. So my view of this is that I never thought she had a big lead in Iowa and never thought she could have one. Now Iowa people have been really fair to her. They've listened to her. They've given her a chance. And she might win there. And it is astonishing because from the beginning of this race she had a lead in 36 of the 38 states polled. She was running great in Illinois, to be in his state. She was winning North Carolina big, huge, in Senator Edwards' state.

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

Bill Clinton: And winning all these other states in the primary and not having good luck. Now, what has really happened? What I have been frustrated about has nothing to do with her campaign. It is that I believe that her -- the challenges in the polls in the moment I think will both be overcome, by the way. And I think I can feel in Iowa we're getting back -- depends on what people think the question is. But in New Hampshire, biggest problem there is is that the Republicans have been steadily attacking her for two reasons in all their debates. And they advertise against her and they do all stuff. And there are two reasons for this. One is, a lot of the Republicans running don't have particularly good credentials with the far right, and they're so really important in the primary process. So they're trying to make up for their lack of credentials by dumping on her. If you notice, almost no Republican senators have criticized her. They like her because they do things with her, they think she's an honorable person, they think she's a good person. Senator Lindsey Graham was one of the managers of my impeachment, wrote the tribute to her in -- when Newsweek or Time or whatever talked about the best young senators, first term senators. That -- those attacks affect independent voters who are very smart on the issues but don't like politics. They think you become polarizing when someone else attacks you. And she is not in a position to answer back what the Republicans are doing in the primary, not right now. So I think that has had a, you know, has not been good. And that's the second reason the Republicans are doing it. They think -- I know because I talk to a lot of them who are candid with me. They think she would be the hardest to beat because she has been vetted and because she consistently does better with Republicans as they get to know her and see what's she's done. So that's what's happening in New Hampshire. In Iowa, nobody wants to go negative on television, so really it's a war underneath the radar screen and it's -- has more to do with how the press interprets it than anything else. But most people are -- she was doing -- what broke her momentum there was the extraordinary attention given to her not very great answer on the driver's license for illegal immigrants.

The point is, the press should have a common set of standards and there should be no attempt to get between the voters and the politicians. They ought to make -- look. He's great. He doesn't -- she -- Edwards is really good. I'm telling you, you're underestimating --

Charlie Rose: I'm not underestimating anybody.

Bill Clinton: Edwards might win in Iowa.

Charlie Rose: That's what I hear.

Bill Clinton: And I think that -- but I think it's a miracle that Hillary's got a chance to win. She might win this thing in Iowa. And I'm not low-balling it. You can look at the facts here. I think it's a miracle, because of the way the thing has played out. But she is so good, if she just gets before enough people, and she would be the best president. I don't think it's close, if you believe the past record as an agent of positive change is a good indicator of future performance, I don't think it's close, who would be most likely to be the most good in the least amount of time.

Charlie Rose: And when people say we need to go beyond looking back at the '60s or even the '90s, then you say, I think a lot of good things happened in the '60s, and I think a lot of good things happened in the '70s, and the '90s.

Bill Clinton: If that's relevant. Look at this decade. Look at this decade. She has been a completely modern senator. She has sponsored -- she just passed a bill, as a candidate for president, with Lindsay Graham who led my -- who was one of the impeachment managers, to extend the family and medical leave law to the families of veterans who were suffering physical and emotional trauma in Iraq or Afghanistan. I mean that's --

Charlie Rose: Let me close with this point.

Bill Clinton: That's got nothing to do with the '90s. That's sort of a superficial, you know, bigotry. That's like saying ageism or something. It's like if you fought and did good things, we got to give you a gold watch and tell you goodbye.

Charlie Rose: Let me just close with this, because fairly we're over, and your people need to take you -- you need to go wherever you need to go. I've said this to you before. Because of your eight years of experience, because of your experience as a governor, and because you've spent your time since doing good, but traveling around the world, sometimes with your friend, President Bush 41. Tell me what you would put as the top five things for the next president, if you were sliding a little letter into that Oval Office desk. You can make it as short or as long as you want, from my point.

Bill Clinton: We have to restore American's standing in the world. We have to send a signal that we are going to get back in the cooperation business. And we're going to cooperate whenever we can, not only when we have to, including discontinuing our direct military involvement in Iraq as quickly as we can without making it worse. We have to regain our economic momentum to restore the middle class, which means we need more good jobs, and significant changes in our education policy. We have to have -- finally, we have to pass universal healthcare. What we're doing is costing us too much, doing too little, undermining our economic stability, and our -- the moral fabric of our society. We have to do something really significant on energy, for reasons of national security, global warming, and most -- and our economic well-being. We have got to move back toward a clean, independent energy future. It will create millions of jobs and promote more equality. And finally, we need to do this in a way that gives all Americans a chance to work together on it. One reason I like this whole idea of a clean independent energy future is it's inherently beyond politics. It gives people something to do across political lines, racial lines, income lines. It will benefit people in urban areas, suburban areas, small towns, rural areas. We live in an interdependent world where just a few people, as we found out on 9/11 or the British found out with their car bombings and their subway bombings, who don't feel part of the community can do an enormous amount of damage. The only way to overcome our differences is not basically to try to erase the past, it's to get used to working together. I mean it's kind of a metaphor for the Hillary argument. If you look at last Monday, the --

Charlie Rose: You are people are pushing me, so it's not my --

Bill Clinton: The new leaders of Northern Ireland came to Washington to see the president. They -- it represents a stunning change. I think everybody we met, right, stunning change in Northern Ireland.

Charlie Rose: It's unbelievable.

Bill Clinton: And they asked to see another person. They asked to see Hillary, because she played and independent role in their peace process when I was president, independent of me. Now who were these new leaders? Ian Paisley, who was a long time leader of their conservatives, and Martin McGuinness, who is one of the toughest guys in the Sinn Féin. They are the cold leaders of Northern Ireland. The Northern Irish didn't think that to turn the page, they had to throw out the people who had represented their respective points of view. They thought they were more likely to work together to effect positive change because of what they had done in the past. I think that has some resonance in this election, and as I said, let me say again, I -- you can, you know, probably just to get a political story and get a fight going, somebody will watch this interview and parse everything I said, and cut this phrase or that phrase out. It is stupid. I like all these Democrats. I will support whoever gets nominated. I think we are fortunate in having people who want to turn the page and take a new direction. I think the relevant question from me is who would be the best president based on who has a proven record of making change in the lives of other people. Therefore, I think she would be the best president. But that is, to me, what it all comes down to. And if you think about the Northern Ireland deal, they didn't go out and find two guys that happened to be a Protestant, and happened to be a Catholic.

Charlie Rose: Who had not been working at the problem.

Bill Clinton: Even the smartest, most eloquent, most attractive one. But America may want to make a different decision. It depends on what you think, you, the voter, you, Charlie, everybody watching us, should be the question of this election. The answer will depend on what you think the question is. But all this stuff that, you know, there's something wrong with one or the other of them. It's just not true. These are -- as near as I can tell, all these people are really good people. They are honest. They are articulate. They are intelligent. And there's a race here now because of factors that have developed. But if they hadn't, something else would have happened. We were always going to have a race. They do not give the presidency away. And that's a good thing. You all are going to have to fight for it.

Charlie Rose: Yes. I thank you for coming.

Bill Clinton: You're welcome.

Charlie Rose: You and I have never had a bad conversation.

Bill Clinton: This was a good one.

Charlie Rose: Bill Clinton's book is Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World. This election is about change in the world and change in the United States, as he has said. I thank you very much.

Bill Clinton: Thank you.

Charlie Rose: Thank you for joining us. See you next time.

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