In an interview with NBC's Brian Williams, former President Bill Clinton addressed chatter arising from his praise of Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital, and pointed out that the loss of thousands of public jobs could have been avoided had Obama's jobs plan passed.
Former president Bill Clinton roiled the presidential campaign Tuesday with comments in an interview with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo in which he called for continuing all the current income tax rates into early 2013, as opposed to President Obama who wants income tax rates on higher-income people to go up at the start of 2013. Clinton also said the economy is still in a recession.
It was the second time in a week that Clinton had appeared to go “off message” from the Obama campaign and to put distance between himself and the president. In comments on CNN last week, Clinton defended GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney’s role as head of Bain Capital, praising Romney as a man who “had a sterling business career.”
But Clinton said in another interview Tuesday with NBC's Brian Williams that “I’m trying to help the president win re-election because I think he’s done a better job than most people know. I think the health care bill is a step in the right direction... I think his economic policy is dramatically better than the one articulated by Gov. Romney and his supporters."
Clinton also told Williams that he was "aghast" at the media reaction to his comments about Romney.
But Republicans were quick to seize on the apparent divide between Clinton and Obama, citing Clinton’s comments in his interview with CNBC as evidence that Obama is out of step on the tax question and that even the Democratic Party’s elder statesman thinks the economy is in dismal shape.
Bill Clinton ruffled some feathers at the White House when he defended Mitt Romney's role at the private equity firm Bain Capital. CNBC's Maria Bartiromo asked him about that in an exclusive interview.
“I don't have any problem with extending all of it now, including the current spending level,” Clinton said in his interview with Bartiromo. “They're still pretty low, the government spending levels. But I think they look high because there's a recession. So the taxes look lower than they really would be if we had two and a half, three percent growth. And the spending is higher than it would be if we had two and a half, three percent growth because there are so many people getting food stamps, so many people getting unemployment, so many people are Medicaid.”
Within a few hours of Clinton’s frankly downbeat assessment airing on CNBC, Clinton’s spokesman Matt McKenna felt compelled to issue a statement seeking clarify or perhaps revise the former president’s remarks: “Two questions have been raised regarding President Clinton's interview on CNBC today. First, on extending the Bush tax cuts, as President Clinton has said many times before, he supported extending all of the cuts in 2010 as part of the budget agreement, but does not believe the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended again. In the interview, he simply said that he doubted that a long-term agreement on spending cuts and revenues would be reached until after the election.”
And McKenna explained further that Clinton’s comments on the economy simply stressed the need "to keep the expansion going."
McKenna said that Clinton had said federal revenues were lower than they would normally be “because there was a recession and we're still living with the aftermath of it” – not that America is now in a recession.
Clinton did say in his comments to Bartiromo that “the real issue is not whether they (the current income tax rates) should be extended for another few months. The real issue is whether the price the Republican House will put on that extension is the permanent extension of the tax cuts, which I think is an error.”
Clinton also said that Obama is correct in not wanting to make any commitments in his negotiating with congressional Republicans on tax policy “that will constrain our ability to have long-term debt reduction plan” because by 2014 or 2017 “when the economy grows,” interest rates will “go through the roof.”
It was noteworthy that Clinton did not seem to foresee the economy growing until 2014 at the earliest.