Transcript of Clinton’s Speech Now Available

The transcript of President Bill Clinton’s June 17 keynote speech from AAN’s Annual Convention in Little Rock, and the subsequent question-and-answer session, appears below in its entirety. Additionally, a set of 2 DVDs is available at a cost of $15 for AAN members or $50 for non-members. To order, contact Amy Gill at or 202-289-8484.


AL: I’ll make a couple of housekeeping things. First of all, where is Phyllis Britton? Phyllis is right there. We want to thank Phyllis [applause]. Everyone’s been telling me how much… what a great time they’ve had in Little Rock and how this convention has gone and that is the woman that did it. So I want to say again, thank you very much. We’re going to go ahead — after the President speaks this afternoon, we are going to go ahead and Patty Calhoun, editor of Westword is going to go ahead and ask questions and she’s going to moderate and we’re going to have questions from the audience. So that is the plan right now. After the Katrina debacle, a political columnist wrote that the Republicans had campaigned on the premise that government doesn’t work, and then they had set out to prove it. And when President Clinton was in the White House, one of the first things he did was appoint James Lee Witt, who was a county judge from Yell County here in Arkansas, to take over FEMA and he turned it into a model of efficiency and he turned it over to the Republicans. Bill Clinton understood government and he understood how to make it work for the people. And he brought a level of competence to government that the current occupants of the White House can only envy. The years, the eight years, that President Clinton was in office, we had our lowest unemployment in modern times, we had our lowest inflation in modern times, we had the highest homeownership in history, we had dropping prime rates and we had a budget surplus for the first time in memory. I remember seeing a political cartoon at that time and the guy was saying, the Republican congressman was saying, ‘our long nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over.’ So with that I would like for you all to please rise and welcome the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton [applause].


WJC: Thank you very much, thank you. Thank you, thank you very much, thank you. Thank you very much, thank you, thank you.

[Video clip of the next two paragraphs available here.]

Thank you very much Alan for that great introduction. I… I don’t want any of you to believe that just because he flacked for me in his Southern seersucker suit there that Alan and Max Brantley and the other people at the Arkansas Times were totally in the tank. They give me hell too, or they did when I was President, whenever they thought I was wrong. I am delighted to be here, I was glad to be asked to come. I hope all of you have a chance while you’re here to go to the Library and see the Museum, and what we tried to do, which was to tell the story of America’s transition into the 21st century. And the new dean of our public service school, Skip Rutherford’s here with his son, I’m glad to see him, and we’re honored to have you here. What I thought I would do today is to try to give an outline of a lot of the combination of the speeches I give when I talk to general groups and when I talk to Democrats and they’re increasingly merging, what I say. But I’d like to… to do that and then leave as much time as possible for questions. You know, lookie here, here’s my talk. The great thing about not being President anymore is I can say whatever I think. [laughter and applause] The terrible thing is you don’t have to care what I think anymore. But I’m… I’m delighted to be here and I believe in what you do. I’ve… I often when I’m traveling around try to read your papers and I obviously read the Arkansas Times whenever I can.

[Video clip of the next three paragraphs available here.]

But I find that these local, community-based papers are filling a void in American political life, for citizens, because they tend to first of all cover both local as well as national and international issues in a way that’s more community-oriented and more designed to shed light than heat. And I will say a little more about this in a minute, but while if you read the major national papers or look at the evening news on occasion, you can learn a very great deal when you’ve got a special purpose story. For example, the television has done a great job of teaching us about the dangers of avian influenza and the fact that it could become a global epidemic on the scale of the Spanish flu after World War I. We now know, it’s the first time in my lifetime, I can imagine, in the last two months I’ve watched the evening news and I know that a chicken was found in Romania with avian flu and I know how many square kilometers every chicken in that part of Romania was killed in. And it sounds amusing but it actually, it’s a really good deal because it shows that we are using our global media culture to learn about what could be a global security threat. But by and large the political coverage nationally tends to divide people and issues into two-dimensional cartoons instead of their three-dimensional aspects, and I want to say more about that in a moment. And I think that whatever your political perspective, you tend to fill in the blanks more and you fulfill a very important function for that reason. And I thank you for that.

For the last five plus years, a particular wing of the Republican Party has been in control of both the White House and Congress and increasingly large numbers of our judges. Their attempts to do this began after Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964 and started with the institution of heavily funded think tanks, and it came into full flower with President Reagan’s election and then into full control with President Bush’s election when the Republicans had the Congress. Obviously I don’t agree with a lot of their policies, but in general the thing I want to talk about is their approach. In a world full of complex problems, they’ve had a simple formula for winning which I think has undermined our ability to solve the problems of the country. They have tax and regulatory policies that are designed to concentrate wealth and power. We have more regulators now over health and safety agencies that come out of the industries they’re supposed to regulate than at any time in American history. The distribution of federal money, through no-bid contracts, is higher than it has ever been. There are now twice as many registered lobbyists in Washington, DC as there were on the day I left office, an interesting little factoid that everybody ought to know. There has been a dramatic attempt to increase the secrecy of government and the unaccountability of public actions and there has been an attempt to maintain the majority by dividing the American electorate and getting people whose economic and social interests are not well served to vote with them over the so-called values issues, including gay marriage, the flag burning amendment, the Schiavo case and many others. And this is largely work to polarize the American electorate in a way that has enabled them to hold on in spite of the fact that demographically America is moving toward a more progressive and more communitarian direction, that is we have more people living in urban and near urban areas. We have more diversity in our population, we have more single workers, we have more people who tend to see their lives in communitarian as opposed to conventional liberal terms than was previously the case. We now have an American electorate that is divided about 45 to 45. For most of the 20th century there were — the American electorate was divided about 40 percent Democrats, about 40 percent Republicans, that means there were many people that no matter how much they liked the other person in a presidential or congressional race, just couldn’t bring themselves to change their parties. And then there were 20 percent in the middle who could swing either way, and it tended to produce a politics of convergence, especially during Cold War. Now the Republicans gained, after 1968, a base of 45 percent which is why they won the presidency so much, except for Watergate and then when I was fortunate enough to be elected twice, because if their base is 40 percent and ours is 40 then we have to win two-thirds of the undecided votes to win. Sometime during my Presidency, the demographic changes in America and the… basically the results that came along, evened up the bases so that by the time Al Gore and George Bush ran and by the time John Kerry and George Bush ran, we had more or less even bases, but they were very high, with only about 10 percent of a moveable vote. And that’s why the Republican strategy of turning out a higher percentage of their base vote, registering and voting them, was more likely to succeed or at least enable them to eke out narrow victories than would have been the case when the bases were 40/40 as opposed to 45/45. Now my problem is, I don’t think that this way of doing politics and making policy is good for America because it tends to give you policies based on ideology rather than evidence and decision making. And I could give you lots of examples, it tends to… just to have policies that instead of being made on evidence and then perfected and modified through argument, policies made on ideology and then rammed through… through attack. We saw… the best example of that was in the 2002 election when Max Cleland, who lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam, was pictured in television ads alongside John Walker Lindh and Saddam Hussein as threatening the security of America because he voted against President Bush’s version of the Homeland Security Bill, which was a mixed blessing at best. I guess it did slightly more good than harm, but there was a lot of adversity in it. And Cleland didn’t vote for their version because it took 170,000 federal workers who had no access to confidential data or technology and treated them like they were CIA agents, which meant that they could be fired without federal job protections. And he basically said, ‘I didn’t leave half my body in Vietnam to come and strip 170,000 workers of their job rights just to get re-elected.’ Now if he’d said it like that he might have been re-elected, but… he… it was like the Swift boat deal, he couldn’t believe that they were doing this to him. I mean how much more could he give to his country and still be able to function? And a guy who had several deferments in Vietnam beat him for the Senate, by making him look like he was Saddam’s toady because he was opposed to a particular version of a bill that the President himself had opposed for eight months. And then they decided they needed it because the Democrats weren’t vulnerable on Afghanistan and Iraq. Now I don’t think that gives you good decisions and I’ll go through that. I think the country works better when our politics are focused on equal opportunity, shared responsibility, an inclusive community, when the role of government is to empower people and to pursue the common good, when decisions are made on evidence instead of ideology, that’s what I believe, and when we’ve focused on the particular responses. I just had an encounter that was not planned before this event, which makes me think my whole life, I’d spend it all over again with all the things that have happened, good and bad to me, just the way I did. When I was walking out of the library to come over here today, there was a working woman from Bell, Missouri and her 12-year-old son standing there. And I went up and shook hands with them and this little boy had started an AIDS awareness program in his school and also he and his mother had led an effort to get the soft drink machines out of their school, to try to combat childhood obesity. And she started crying and said that I had changed her life because she had to support her son alone and when I signed the Family Leave Bill he was desperately ill and she got to care for him without losing her job. Now that’s what I think politics is about, that’s pro-family, that’s pro-work, it unites the country, it exalts responsibility as a parent and gives her a chance to have the opportunity to work. And that’s kind of stuff that it’s not even a headline grabber. In the context of modern American politics that story would elicit a giant yawn. To me it’s the most important thing in the world. [Video clip of the next paragraph available here.]

So when I talk to groups, I try to offer a unifying theory of the way the world works that gives me a prism through which I evaluate every issue and I tell people that I think every citizen should be able to ask and answer for him or herself four questions. What is the nature of the modern world? How would you like to change it? What do you have to do to change it? Who’s supposed to do it? Four simple questions. If you don’t have an answer, I wish you had my answers, but that’s not nearly as important as that you have your own because otherwise reading the news or watching the news becomes the political equivalent of chaos theory in physics with all these different things that are going on. I mean the… the only thing that rivals in New York, where I now live, the tabloid coverage of The New York Post and The New York Daily News is the evening news in New York. There are always three crime stories. You would be convinced that the crime rate was at a 100-year high in New York City. If you watched the news for a week, you’d be scared to go outside, when in fact it’s one of the safer big cities in the United States. So here’s my answer to those questions. The fundamental nature of the 21st century world is not globalization, it’s interdependence, goes way beyond state-by-state connections and way beyond economics. It is trade, it is travel, it is information technology, it is the increasing diversity within societies, it is the impact of a global media culture which has a lot of good aspects. When the tsunami hit, Americans give, we wouldn’t have been able to do that several years ago. The problem with interdependence is that it is unhere… inherently unstable because of our shared vulnerabilities, and deeply unequal. It is unstable because we all share a vulnerability to terror, weapons of mass destruction, disease, climate change and oil depletion, something that the press should be talking more about. A significant number of petroleum geologists believe that in this decade, and perhaps already, we have reached global peak oil production, something that happened in 1970 in America, where half of all the oil that we can get out of the ground has been taken out, most of it in the last 60 years. If that is true, given the rise of India and China and others coming along behind, we could be out of recoverable oil in somewhere between 35 and 50 years if present consumption patterns continue. And that’s a cause of great concern independent of global warming because all the global warming solutions — biofuels, solar energy, wind energy, conservation, everything, even nuclear energy — rests on an oil platform. That is, you have to some base of petroleum to make the materials, to set up the machines, to do all the things that have to be done. So it’s unstable, this interdependence. It’s also profoundly unequal. Half the world’s people live on $2 a day, a billion almost on $1 a day, a billion people never get a clean glass of water, two and a half billion never get a… never have any clean sanitation facilities. Twenty-five percent of all the people that die on earth this year will die of things nearly no American will die from: AIDS, TB, malaria and infections related to dirty water, cholera, dysentery, diarrhea. Eighty percent in the last category will be under five years of age. And in America it’s unequal, we continue to see the disparity between average workers and corporate executive salaries growing. It used to be it was about 40 or 50 to one in the 1950s; it’s about 500 to one now. We’ve had the first five-year period since we’ve been measuring such things where Americans productivity grew for five years in a row and average wages remained flat. Cost of health care, housing, transportation and a college education have gone up dramatically more then inflation. The only things that haven’t are clothes, consumer electronics and food, which is one explanation for the rampant increase in childhood obesity and the exposure of more and more of our children to what we used to call adult onset diabetes. So this situation is beneficial for many of us. Most of you couldn’t do nearly as well as you do with your jobs if it weren’t for the Internet, when you can find out anything about any subject instantaneously because of this era of global interdependence, but it is unstable and unequal. How should it change? I think we should be striving to move from interdependence to integrated communities locally, nationally and globally with shared benefits and opportunities, shared responsibilities and common membership. And based on a central value which is the antithesis of the ideology of Mr. Zarqawi who was just killed, but also all other fundamentalists throughout the world, and that shared value is that our differences do matter, they make life more interesting and they aid the search for truth, but since no one has the whole truth, our common humanity matters more. That is the central issue over which the terrorists and the rest of the world, and all fundamentalists and the rest of the world, are divided. Can you be in full possession of the truth? Can you put it into a political program that is fully true? Because if you can, then by definition, everybody who disagrees with you is less human than you are and if they die, it’s no big deal, whether they’re military officials or walking around citizens. How would you make that kind of world? How would you move from interdependence… from interdependence to integration? Well you do have to have a security strategy to deal with terror, weapons of mass destruction and any other security threats. But since you can’t kill, jail or occupy all your enemies which is why this immigration debate is without a perfect solution. That is, one legitimate concern in the immigration debate is that long porous borders which… with Canada and Mexico, massive borders and huge borders open to the seas with lots of ports, have on balance been a great blessing to us as a country. But it would be better if we had some more security so we could minimize the likelihood that those borders could be permeated by people who’d like to pull off terrorist incidents. But no one seriously believes that they can be made 100 percent lock-down secure. And that’s a metaphor for the larger problem in the world when you can’t kill, jail or occupy all your enemies, that’s where politics comes in. You have to make a deal. You have to make a world with more partners and fewer terrorists. And we know how to do that. [Video clip of the next paragraph available here.]

We know, for example, much more than we did a decade ago what we could do to empower people to eliminate extreme poverty in the world. We know what we could do to dramatically the death toll from AIDS, TB, malaria, infections related to dirty water and a host of tropical diseases that don’t kill Americans that could be eradicated for very little money. That’s what President Carter did in getting rid of guinea worm and river blindness in most of Africa. It’s… and we know two things, we know all of these things could be done, we could pay our share based on our global GDP for somewhere between $25 and $45 billion a year. That sounds like a lot of money, but in a trillion and a half plus federal budget, it’s not very much and we’ve already spent $300 billion on the Iraq war alone. So all these things, one rule of thumb to keep in mind is they’re always cheaper than war. The other thing to remember is it works, in a totally selfish, self-interested way, it works. There are now two Muslim countries where opinion of the United States has improved over what it was after the invasion of Iraq. The largest, Indonesia, and the most explosive potentially for us, Pakistan, where there are still lots of people including those in the military, who sympathize with the Taliban and with the Al Qaeda and Mr. bin Laden. They like us better and why? Because we helped with the tsunami and we helped with the earthquake, because the military dropped food instead of bombs and rescued people and the civilian government workers worked and hundreds and hundreds of American religious and non-religious, non-governmental organizations went. I even saw business people, American business people just uproot their operations and move to Indonesia or to Sri Lanka and set up water purification operations. And Americans gave $1.2 billion in tsunami relief, 30 percent of our households gave. Astonishing. And they got that. So all of a sudden geography, religion, politics didn’t matter and in a stunning moment when they had lost everything in Indonesia, opinion of America went up and opinion of bin Laden went way down. And he did nothing to them after the tsunami but nothing for them either. And people realized when they lost their kids and their wives and husbands and their brothers and sisters and their homes and their businesses, that it may be easier to kick down a barn than to build one, but building’s more important. So in addition to being morally compelling, this works and we should do more of it. The third thing we have to do after security and building more partners is what I would call home improvement — sounds like a cable TV show. But it’s really important, we can’t possibly expect the United States to be a leading force for peace and freedom and prosperity and security around the world unless we’re getting better at home because otherwise our people won’t want to do that sort of thing. And even though that there’s much more of a consensus now, the Christian Evangelical community deserves a lot of credit for supporting more money for AIDS relief, for example, for supporting this last round of debt relief and the big one that I did in my last as President. But if… if Americans feel that they’re becoming more insecure and the Europeans feel that and the Japanese feel that, then they’ll be less willing to give, invest and relate to people in the rest of the world. We have several fairly dysfunctional systems in America today. We have an economic system that’s dysfunctional in two ways: one, the deficit’s unsustainable, and two, you can’t run this country forever where people are… which is basically… consumer driven, when people don’t ever get a pay raise and they just keep taking out bigger and bigger debt. And now you’ve got all these second mortgages taken out and you’ve got people on variable rate mortgages and when they expire, if the mortgage rates are higher, it’s going to make it difficult for them to service their debt payments much less pay anything else. The problem is that if you’re going to… if we’re going to have an open economy and continue to trade with others and run a trade deficit while China gets richer and India gets richer and these other people get richer, we have to have a source of new good paying jobs in America every five to eight years. When I was President I was very, very fortunate, 92 percent of our job growth, highest in the 20th century, was in the private sector and it was because everybody in every walk of life, every kind of activity, integrated information technology into their operations in the 1990s and it generated a huge spate of new jobs and they all paid better than average. It changed the job mix in America and enabled us and our… in my second term to have rising wages for the first time since 1973. And we haven’t found this decade’s source of that which is why wage increases have been so anemic and it’s been there in front of us all the time. I’ll say more about that. The second dysfunctional system we have is healthcare and if you want to ask questions I’ll be glad to talk about it, but let me just give you four statistics here that you should remember. We spend 16 percent of our income on healthcare, no other rich country spends less than nine and half or more than eleven. The most expensive health care systems except for America are Switzerland, Canada at 11. The difference is over $700 billion a year, that’s real money. That’s roughly twice the federal deficit. First fact. Second fact, we insure now 84 percent of our people, nobody else does less than 100. Third fact, in the latest ranking of international, by an international health group of the overall effectiveness of health care systems, we rank 37th. So we pay more than anybody else, insure fewer and even the ones we insure don’t get the best. But primarily that low ranking is because of environmental and violence factors and because of the absence of primary and preventive care that makes a society much healthier which is a correlative of the fact that we only insure 84 percent. So we pay more, insure fewer and get lower overall health results. Fourth fact, General Motors has got $1500 a car in health care, Toyota has $110. How do we propose to preserve the American automobile industry or any other industry, with the current system? So we have to deal with that. We have certain educational problems, but basically we just need to get people… more people out of high school knowing more and having at least two years of post high school education and up the science, math and engineering component of our graduates since more and more… one of the, I think, unfortunate consequences of 9/11 is we made it harder for foreign students to come here and do graduate study who would then stay here and overcome the fact that we weren’t producing as many scientists, mathematicians and engineers out of our own people as was previously the case. [Video clip of the next paragraph available here.]

And then finally, and I think most important of all, more important than the deficit, more important then healthcare, more important than anything, is we have got to do something about our energy strategy because if we permit the climate to continue to warm at an unsustainable rate, and if we keep on doing what we’re doing ‘til we’re out of oil and we haven’t made the transition, then it’s inconceivable to me that our children and grandchildren will be able to maintain the American way of life and that the world won’t be much fuller of resource-based wars of all kinds. And you really could have, all those Mel Gibson Road Warrior movies could look more and more like reality 100 years from now. It’s inconvenient to think so, but why run the risk when this is a golden opportunity. America’s source of new high wage jobs should be in the dedication to a clean, independent energy future. It will create millions of jobs in both clean energy for transportation, for providing energy for residential and commercial buildings, for running power plants, running manufacturing operations and powering everything about the American economy. And walking away from it is a mistake. Final question, so that’s the third… what are we supposed to do? Security, partners, home improvement. Who’s supposed to do it? In every area the government has a role, but the private sector both in business and as non-governmental citizens, can do an enormous amount to help us make the energy transition, to help people all around the world, to make more partners and fewer terrorists. And I’ll just give you a couple of examples that… the rise of the Internet has given people of ordinary means the power to change the world. I just said, 30 percent of American citizens gave to the tsunami, over half of them gave over the Internet. And their average contribution was somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 or 50 bucks. Last summer I was up after former President Bush and I got… were asked by the President to go help in the Katrina area, the very next month I took my annual trip to the New York State Fair in Syracuse with Hillary. It is the only place that a senator from New York gets any mileage of having a husband from Arkansas. I mean you know I have old cowboy boots and belts with rodeo buckles and I know one end of a horse from another. I’m very good at the state fair. [laughter] So I’m walking down the midway, you know, past all these little booths where you throw balls at targets and you get stuffed animals with… I got my little nephew with me and this lady comes out from one of these booths in a khaki shirt with a logo on it and stuffs 50 bucks in my hand and says, ‘This is for the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund. I’m sorry to give you this money in cash, but as you can see I’m working, I don’t have time to send it over the Net.’ And this is an astonishing conversation just three years ago, right? Inconceivable three years ago. I mean how much money can this woman make working in a fair booth in Syracuse, right? But her preferred way of giving is over the Internet. In 2004 for the first time since campaigns became really expensive, both Republicans and Democrats raised more money in the aggregate from small than large contributions because of the Internet. Amazing. And the other thing is the rise of these non-governmental organizations, the biggest one’s the Gates Foundation, but there are millions of little ones in America and all around the world that can fill into the gap, fill in the gaps between what the private sector will produce and what the government can provide. When I became President in ’93 Russia had none, now they have 63,000. China had none, now they have 265,000 registered with the government and probably twice that many that aren’t registered. When I started my AIDS project we negotiated the lowest prices in the world and now 25 percent of all the people in the developing countries of the world are getting medicine for AIDS to stay alive in the last three years, have gotten it through out contracts. So there is an enormous amount that people of whatever means can do. That’s one of the reasons Bill Gates resigned from Microsoft from a more active involvement because he sees not only with his money, but because he’s smart, that he can actually change the world. He spent a billion dollars on health care in Botswana and India alone and about $300 million on trying to give us competitive high schools in America. And if Botswana survives as a country with an AIDS infection rate, an HIV infection rate in excess of 30 percent, it’ll probably be in no small measure because of Bill and Melinda Gates. But all of us can do that at home and around the world. Now what that means is that we should be striving for a unifying politics. We should, which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have out political fights, it means that we should not be so mad when we have them so we can hear the arguments and come out to a good conclusion. Bob Dole and I raised $110 million together to guarantee a college scholarship to the spouses and children of everybody killed or disabled on 9/11, and you know what former President Bush and I have done, and the Republican governor here, Mike Huckabee and I have worked on this childhood obesity initiative. Hillary’s got a measure in the Senate with Senator Frist to give electronic records to all people with healthcare… all healthcare records in America. That could save $100 billion of that $700 billion gap, just that one thing by cutting administrative costs and reducing unnecessary procedures, we could close that much of the gap. She sponsored a bill to provide health care to National Guardsmen going into combat who weren’t getting it, with Lindsey Graham who was one of the House managers in the impeachment thing. And she and John McCain hauled reluctant Republicans all over the world and the island and 600 miles north of Norway in the Arctic Circle to show them the consequences of global warming and to Port Barrow in Alaska, because we’ve got to find ways to get back to evidence-based politics. Now just a final word about where you come in. One of the problems, and one of the great victories of the right actually, in the last 30 years, has been to get its frame of reference embedded in the psychology of the American political press. That is, if you’re busy and you’ve got more stuff than you can cover and more facts than you can digest, much less give back to your readers, it’s very helpful to be able to turn every conflict and every person into a two-dimensional cartoon. So I’ll just give you a… but it is… often wrong. Let’s take… and basically so, all cartoon figures must be conservative, liberal or a few moderates. So John McCain, a man I admire, lionized by the press as a moderate. All you got to do to be a moderate Republican today is be against torture, think global warming is not a myth and like campaign finance reform. [laughter] Right? So he goes and gives this speech at Jerry Falwell’s University and immediately people say well this is a calculation and therefore this is a character problem, ignoring the fact that McCain is in other respects, genuinely, deeply conservative. That is, in two ways… he’s very strong pro-life and he and Joe Lieberman, probably of all the people in the Senate, are most in favor of Bush’s foreign policy approach which is unilateral military action. So it’s not fair, necessarily, to say this is a char… you can say I disagree with him, I wish he hadn’t gone and here’s why, but why turn him into a cartoon? No one has been more cartoonized in the modern age than Hillary. She’s supposed to be some left-wing crazy for two reasons. One is she spent a lifetime working on children and family issues and two, she had this terrible idea that America should not be the only rich country in the world that didn’t have universal healthcare — dangerous idea. And we lost the fight just like Harry Truman did, it nearly destroyed his presidency, and we got further then Truman, Nixon and Carter, the only other Presidents who tried to do it. And Truman got further than anybody else, so Truman and I paid the biggest price. So Hillary became the fall person and the victors always get to rewrite history, so now they say she tried to have the government take over healthcare and how crazy it was, therefore, she’s a left-wing nut. When in fact if you look at what we proposed, our bill took out more pages of federal law then it put in, and was essentially a moderate version of what all the countries in Europe had, where all the providers were private and the funding was a mixture of government, employer and individuals. But nonetheless the cartoon sticks and so… therefore anytime she does something that’s not the most liberal thing in the position, it’s a character problem subject to calculation. Now you can say she’s right or wrong, but generally my experience has been that most people in politics do what they think is right — conservatives, liberals, Democrats, Republican — and it obscures our ability to debate these things if we see them as cartoons. The issues are the people. Let’s take this Iraq thing. I keep reading all the time that people who voted for the resolution granting the President authority to take force in Iraq, voted for the Iraq war as if they voted for what he did. And therefore the people who are opposed to our policy gave everybody a pass that says ‘I voted for it, that was a mistake’ and they’re fine. There’s also an assumption that if you think it was a mistake, then obviously you’re for immediate withdrawal or a withdrawal within the next six months or setting some hard and fast timetable. In fact, among our Democrats, there are four positions, or were, on this and they all deserve a hearing. There are those who were against the war and are for more or less immediate withdrawal. That’s Senator Byrd, Senator Feingold, maybe one or two others. There are those who were for the war and believe in the President’s unilateral, pre-emptive military policy, to hell with the UN and allies and everything else. That’s, as far as I can tell among the Democrats, only Senator Lieberman. But he believes that. The point is, that’s not a character problem, you can disagree with him, but he believes that. Then there are those, the rest of the people who voted against the resolution, who weren’t for what President Bush did, but who think it’s a mistake now that it’s been done, to set a timetable which might undermine the prospect that Iraq could stay together, protect its people and stop itself from becoming a base of new terrorist activity. That, interestingly enough, is the United Nations’ position, for all the people who are wrapping themselves in the UN flag on this issue. Then there are those like Hillary, about 20something Democrats, who voted for the resolution but not for the unilateral attacking of Iraq before the UN inspectors were finished, before we had any allies, before we had a plan for post-reconstruction and before we’d finished the job in Afghanistan. They voted for that resolution, ironically, for the same reason all but two members of the United States Senate voted for the Tonkin Gulf Resolution back in the ‘60s when I was a student and wrote a paper on this. President Bush went to Cincinnati before that resolution was voted on and he said, these inspections are the last chance to avoid war, essentially give me a stick to hold over Saddam’s head because he never did anything he wasn’t forced to do. So the Democratic Caucus split about 50/50 because they didn’t… they were afraid if they… the ones who voted for it, were afraid if they didn’t… if they didn’t pass it under these circumstances, after they all voted for a more moderate Democratic alternative, that it would ensure the inspections wouldn’t succeed. But that’s not true that… that block of 20something Senators voted for what President Bush did. However, they’re like the other people who voted against the resolution: Once it was done, they accept what has been the UN position since 2003, which is, the whole world would be better off if it succeeded because Zarqawi, in addition, for example, to killing all those people in Iraq, also murdered 100-percent Muslims in Jordan when he blew up those two hotels that you remember recently Hillary and I and Chelsea walked in the ruins of one of those hotels and saw the results of his handiwork. So none of this fits very well into a two-dimensional cartoon and therefore we have to think about… I think it’s better to say I think ‘she’s wrong’ or ‘Lieberman’s wrong’ or ‘Feingold’s wrong’ or whatever, but what really matters is, what are we going to do tomorrow? And the way this thing is debated in cartoon terms obscures what the facts are. And I could give you lots of other examples of that, one that tickled me the most was when Hillary gave this last climate-change speech she gave, aside from people criticizing for being too wonkish — which I loved, ’cause that’s what we need, we need wonks, we need to know what the heck we’re going to do. [laughter] We all know it’s real now, we need to know what we’re going to do. [applause] But interesting, the political spin on it was, she was desperate to give this speech at this time because Al Gore’s movie had just come out which showed… which now the press who said he was inauthentic in 2000 in trying to give President Bush the election, now says now he’s authentic again. Well hell, he’s been saying the same thing for 20 years. He’s always been authentic about the… give me a break here. So you know, he’s now benefiting from the cartoon shift, but it’s still a cartoon. The truth is, she gave 80 percent of that speech six months ago and I thought it was the finest speech she’d given since she’d been a Senator. It got no press, you know why? It was the same day Scooter Libby was indicted. Now that may have made a lot of Democrats happy, I don’t know, but the truth is, it doesn’t have one-tenth of one-thousandth of one percent the impact on America’s future, Mr. Libby’s indictment, as what we’re going to do about climate change. So then she was going to give it about a month before she did and the Democrats said ‘you can’t do that cause we’re announcing our whole caucus energy position.’ So she gave the speech on the first available day, which happened to be three days or something after the movie premiered. So the story is a political story rather than a substantive story. Now maybe her policies, you don’t like ‘em, but this obscures our ability to deal with this. Just one more example, this last Rove issue. This thing’s all been set up as, ‘would Rove be indicted or not’ and if he is, it’s the end of the world, and if he’s not, they’re scot-free and they can go on to just what the heck they’ve been doing for the last five years. Now let’s look at what they acknowledged in the decision not to indict him: that he had falsified testimony to the grand jury once, but wouldn’t be charged with perjury cause he didn’t do it more than once. Came in and told everybody what he had done and said it was a slip of memory. He had a good lawyer who was a Democrat by the way. [laughter] And they did the right things, telling all this. So now it’s like, ‘oh well if it’s not a crime, it must have been all right.’ Let’s remember what this is about: He acknowledged talking to reporters about the identity of an undercover CIA agent. And there’s no doubt that the reason the Republicans were talking to him about it is ’cause they were mad at her husband because he wouldn’t go along with the false claim that Niger had transferred Iranian yellowcake to the Iraqis. And there was no doubt that since the original story from Mr. Novak or one of the others, also covered what her cover was that they blew the cover of a lot of other CIA agents and compromised God only knows who other people they were dealing with because they wouldn’t toe a political line — not them, her husband. [Video clip of the next paragraph available here.]

And we were told, from the White House, that anybody who did such a thing would be fired. Now he can direct the election because he wasn’t indicted? But the cartoon says, it’s indictment or not and it obscures the fact that a woman’s career was destroyed, other people’s identities were blown, contacts with America were compromised and maybe endangered, we don’t know, and the commitment to get rid of anybody that leaked to the press about this, is poof, a distant memory. Now I think this is a serious issue and of course do the flip side. Can you imagine what would happen if I had done that? [laughter] Every Republican in the Congress would have called me and my ‘Karl Rove,’ Rahm Emanuel, a traitor. We would have had speech after speech after speech after speech after speech calling me and Rahm Emanuel traitors for cheap political reasons, wouldn’t we? But if we buy the cartoon… just like if we bought that cartoon, we wouldn’t have been able to examine exactly what had happened. So what I want to say is, there are… out in America people are more complicated than that, not just Democrats and liberals and progressives, but Republicans and Independents. You know that this is a very narrow slice of the Republican Party that has controlled both the Executive and Legislative Branches, making inroads in the Judicial Branch and has worked for 40 years to structure the debate in America in a way that benefits them because they have to win by division, split those bases then turn… get your turn out up and then try to find some fear factor that will get you enough swing voters to get over the top. But the nature of the problems we face do not lend themselves well to that kind of decision-making. And that’s why, you know, I’m doing what I can to work with former President Bush and others and why I think people that try to wade in to the complexity of these things, even though they risk being — not just Hillary, but a bunch of others — risk being determined to be inauthentic and try to reach out to people and pull things together, are doing the right things. And so I ask you to think about that in your coverage. Try to go at what people are advocating, try to go at the positions they’re taking, explain it to people. And if you editorialize about it, if you think it’s wrong, say it’s wrong. But don’t fall into the next step, don’t… don’t contribute to the cartoonization of American political issues and American political figures. Most of these people are doing what they think is right, including the people who are the crowd that’s in control. They really do believe the world works better when power and wealth are concentrated in their hands and their ideology prevails. And when they play politics it’s normally in the service of that, like not giving us a ruling from the FDA on Plan B, the emergency contraceptive pill, ’cause they know if they rule against it, it’ll hurt them politically but if they rule for it, it’ll hurt them with their base. So all the evidence is in, they just drag it out, that’s why they don’t want to vote on stem cell research, ’cause they know if they put the President in the position of vetoing it, we’ll probably win in the House of Representatives, but if they beat it, if they don’t, if he doesn’t veto it or they don’t beat it, then they’ll alienate their base. [Video clip of the next two paragraphs available here.]

This is not good. We’re just blocked from dealing with a lot of these things and you can help that by at least not contributing to seeing both the people and the issues as two-dimensional cartoons. We’re all right some, we’re all wrong some. America does need two strains of political thought, the progressives like me who are always pushing the envelopes and the conservative who says ‘well, change comes aching slow, let’s talk about a different means.’ But when we have different real goals for America about how we think America ought to work and we’re prepared to demonize and divide, then we can’t deal with the complexity of the issues we face. So whatever juice I’ve got left in my life, I’m trying to spend overcoming that. Thank you very much. [applause]


PC: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recently suggested that the Bush administration is considering prosecuting journalists who published unauthorized leaks pertaining to national security. You’ve just established your School of Public Service. What do you teach there about what is the responsibility of the journalists and the responsibility of people in public service to leak to journalists? WJC: Well first of all I think he… I don’t see how he can take that position since they’re avidly protecting the people in the Administration who leaked about the… I mean, Mr. Rove has admitted that he talked to a journalist about the identity of a CIA agent. So what they’re basically saying is, ‘we’re going to prosecute people who report stories that are leaks that we don’t want. If they’re leaks of confidential information we do want, we can’t.’ I think that… I think it’s an impractical solution because the government leaks stuff it wants to leak all the time and they’ve taken the position, for example, that the Vice President and the President could not have violated this law. It’s very hard by the way, I don’t mind… it’s very hard to prosecute anybody for… for leaking Valerie Plame’s name because you have to prove two things: you have to prove, one, that they knew that she was an undercover agent and you have to prove, two, that they knew the CIA was actively trying to preserve her cover. So I don’t think the criminalization of politics is the way to go here, but I think that, you know, they’ve got an unsustainable position. I don’t know what the… I don’t whether the School’s even dealt with this or not, I’d be surprised if they had. We just got started, we haven’t got into the niceties of this stuff. But my own view is that… it would almost be impossible for any administration to pursue that course because they’d look like hypocrites since they’re leaking stuff all the time to journalists that they want out. PC: This is definitely a crowd-pleasing question: What would be your role if Senator Clinton becomes President? [applause] WJC: Well… I’ll give my sort of automatic response here that has the virtue of being true. [laughter] I don’t know if she’s going to run. If she runs, I don’t know if she’d be nominated, if she got nominated, I don’t know if she’d be elected. My instinct is that a woman could be elected President now. I mean Chile elected a woman president, Liberia elected a woman president. I think you know… and it’s silly for us not to go to the talent pool that we have in the country. I think if she got elected she would be very good, she would be excellent because she’s been a better senator even then I thought she’d be. She has an understanding of Congress and relationships with Republicans that I didn’t have coming to Washington as a governor and she understands not only what we did right but the mistakes we made in the eight years I was President. So for all those reasons and because she cares a lot about the things that I think are most relevant to our future, I think she’d do a really, really good job, including and especially on the national security issues. Now having said that, I don’t know if she’s going to run. If she ran, my position with her ironically would be exactly what it is with the current President, with whom I disagree on nearly everything, [laughter] but I have… I have made it a point to develop a good personal relationship with him, not only because I care very much about his father, but because I think that when you’re mad you can’t think. And when you’re mad at somebody you can’t hear what they’re saying to you and they can’t hear what you’re saying to them. I think this whole thing is nuts, so… and I think the current President is an extraordinary politician and a man of great will and intuitive intelligence, what Daniel Goleman [applause and laughter]… no, no, no, no, no… Daniel Goleman wrote a whole book about this called Emotional Intelligence and if you haven’t read it you should. And it basically… it’s a very serious thing. But anyway, my position with him is, if he asks me to do something for the country and I can in good conscience do it, I do it. Now the two things I’ve done that you know about are these efforts with former President Bush, but there have been one or two other things I’ve been asked to do in dealing with other countries and places where I have better relations than he did, that I’ve done. Just little things, it didn’t amount to a great deal, but they were helpful. And if she were to become President, I would do whatever she asked me to do because I think that’s what I should do. And if she asked me stay at my foundation and keep doing what I’m doing, I’d be the happiest guy on earth too. I’ll do whatever she wants, and I have no idea what that is. [laughter] [Video clip of the next two paragraphs available here.]

And if she… if she asked me to… she has to decide whether she’s going to run first and then she’d have to get elected, we’re sort of superstitious about putting issues ahead of their normal development. You know I told everybody that we’ve got to focus on winning in New York cause if you look past the next election, you might not get past the next election. But I… you know I would do whatever she asked, including just be there, you know? Including… you know do ceremonial meetings, I’d do whatever I was asked to do and I would not do whatever I was asked not to do. [laughter] And that’s what every citizen ought to do when the President’s involved. And I don’t think I should treat her any differently and you know, our relationship is different and the way we think is different and if she asked me to do something, I would do it and if she didn’t, I’d be fine. I’m really happy doing what I’m doing. [applause] PC: That’s your automatic response, your unautomatic response would be the same? WJC: Yeah, I honestly don’t know whether she’s going to run and I honestly don’t know how the election will come out. But I honestly do believe the country would probably vote for a woman, but no one will really know until it happens and anybody that claims to know in advance, pro or con, is not right. And the idea of her being polarizing, I think’s a load of baloney. I mean if you look at New York, I just watched her convention film, we just got her nominated up in Buffalo a couple weeks ago, and the film is full of all these people saying, ‘you know I heard all these terrible things about her and I didn’t vote for her, but I sure am this time because she’s the only person that ever did anything for us in upstate New York.’ And if you look at all these Republican senators that like her, you know they basically thought they weren’t even going to talk to her. They’ve done a good job of demonizing her. We nominated John Kerry because we thought he was the most electable and by the time we got to the election he had a 48 percent negative. As long as their… their strategy of divide and demonize works, they’re going to work on whoever the top dog is. So it’s naive for us to think that we can nominate anybody running for office who won’t have a much higher negative on election day than they do at the time we nominate them. And Michael Dukakis was ahead but when he became the Democratic nominee… Al Gore and John Kerry both could have easily won those elections, they were characterized and caricatured, and they have been doing this ever since 1980 to great effect — except on me. They didn’t like me because I grew up in the South and I understood who they were. These were basically all ultra-conservative, White Southerners that do this and I’ve lived with this all my life, that’s who they… and that’s how they deal with people. And so I had an unusual understanding about it, not ’cause I was a Southerner, but because I’m part of that culture, which almost made them hate me more because I was an apostate, you know. But I… you don’t… we’re naive if we think that any… we can nominate anybody that won’t have a high negative and be somewhat polarizing by election day and she has proved that she can unite people who deal with her instead of dealing with a cartoon of her that’s embedded. There was a survey done here in Arkansas showing her winning a presidential heat against the governor who might enter the primaries here. This is the only red state in which she is not a cartoon, the only one. But the American people are fundamentally fair minded after the nominating process is over, they give everybody a shot. Let me remind you, in 1972 the biggest landslide they had was when Nixon beat McGovern, 61 to 39. In the Gallup poll before the Miami convention in 1972, Nixon was ahead 49 to 41. Now there was no way George McGovern was going to beat him that year, but even there the… a substantial percentage of the American people said you know, I owe it to take another look at this. So that’s what’s going to happen, we’ll nominate somebody, they’ll have a higher negative by the time the election comes around, but the American people will really take a serious look at whoever we nominate, and whoever they nominate, and then they’ll make their judgment. PC: [to the audience] I’m going to ask one more follow-up question, so be ready with your questions and make them shorter and more coherent then mine. [to Clinton] Talking about elections, Robert Kennedy Jr. just wrote an article in Rolling Stone claiming the Bush Administration stole the last election. Do you think it was, and how can we guard against something like that going on in the future? WJC: I must say I read Robert Kennedy’s article in Rolling Stone and I think all of you should if you haven’t. And before I read it, I was convinced that President Bush had won Ohio… I… I thought it would have been ironic if he had lost the election in the electoral college and won the popular vote, that is if he went out the same way he came in. But… but I think that… I think that — two things, I think there is no question that Al Gore would have won Florida if all the votes had been counted and the people who intended to vote for him had their votes counted. Between the people whose votes were thrown out for erroneous double voting instructions in Jacksonville and the 3400 Jewish Democrats who voted for Pat Buchanan in the butterfly ballot, and several others, there’s no question that several thousand more people in Florida intended to vote for Gore and showed up on election day. And I still believe that the two Bush v. Gore decisions will go down as one of the four or five worst decisions in the history of the United States Supreme Court. I think it was a disgrace. And I think if… if Gore had been ahead and Bush had been behind, the Supreme Court would have voted nine to nothing to count all the votes by uniform standard. That’s what I think would have happened. You may not agree but that’s what I… I used to teach that course, Constitutional Law. That’s what I think. In this case, I think… You know, I don’t have an opinion, but I thought Robert Kennedy made a very persuasive case and what was clear is that the Secretary of State, now their candidate for governor, was a world class expert in voter suppression and that he was doing everything he could to keep voters that he thought were Democrats from voting, in every way that he could. And I think that is wrong. And I hope that the voters of Ohio will repudiate it. I mean, you know, we ought to be in the business of getting more people to vote, not fewer. We don’t have as many people… heck they had 70 percent of the voters voted in Iraq in the last election, they had a better voter turnout than we did and a bunch of them were risking their lives. So I don’t think we ought to be ratifying the public service of anybody who thinks it’s his job to keep people from voting and that’s [applause]… but I don’t have an opinion because I didn’t know anything about it ‘til I read Robert Kennedy’s article. But he sure as heck raised a… he made a compelling case, those numbers that he said in some of those precincts, the probability of the vote total being that much at variance with the exit polls was one in 600,000. And it happened over and over and over again. So if you haven’t read the article, I urge you to read it and when you go back home I urge you to look at… you know, again this is without regard to party, I just don’t think we ought to be suppressing voters. We ought to be getting them to the polls and letting them vote and letting them have their say. PC: Okay, do we have questions here? And we have a hand-held mike that’s coming towards you… Dan. Dan Pulcrano: President Clinton, Somalia was obviously a factor in your presidency and is a subject that you know about. I was wondering if you could address the situation in Darfur, the genocidal behavior and what you think the United States and the international community can do about it? WJC: About Darfur? DP: Darfur, yes. WJC: Well… first of all I think in terms of their words, the Bush Administration’s had a pretty good policy here, in terms of what they’ve said and what they’re willing to do. I think they might have been able to do more if we didn’t have all of our own military assets tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan. We didn’t talk about all the reasons that I believe it was, we should not have done Iraq before we finished in Afghanistan, but, our preoccupation there has undermined our ability to devote a lot of energy to Latin America, to Southeast Asia, to other places and to deal with unforeseen emergencies like Darfur. So the President, I don’t think, has a lot more options now, military options. But here’s what his… here’s what the Bush Administration’s position is and where I’d like to see it go. Essentially we know the Sudanese government has lied to the world in saying that they were not supporting the Janjaweed in killing the people in Darfur and terrorizing them. We know that by and large most of the groups that are doing this, that are under the loose rubric of Janjaweed are Arab Muslims killing black Muslims, although there are some mixed groups that are involved in this. We know that… that the Sudanese government has taken a position that they would only allow African peacekeepers in and with a limited mandate, so there are about 7600 troops there. Now you should know that our government has taken a lot of those troops there and supported them. I was in Rwanda last year or ye-… I can’t remember whenever the last time I was there, and there were all these American Air Force personnel on the tarmac when I got to the airport because they were going to take Rwandan troops, who had the second largest contingent in… in the Sudan, next to the Nigerians, they were taking them there. So they’ve been very forward leaning. The Bush position is that there needs to be more troops there, the Africans can’t provide them all, NATO should provide a few… several hundred at least to do all the logistics and set up command and control operations. And then we should bring in UN forces from around the world, the same way we did in Haiti for example, where we had troops from, as I remember, two dozen countries in Haiti at one time. And there are lots of other Muslim operations like… I’ll give you one good possibility is the Bangladeshis who are… who could go in there and do a really good job. And they need the money, that helps to pay for their training. They might even be able to get the Pakistanis to go with Indian troops who are Muslims. Keep in mind India has 150 million Muslims or more. They might be able to get them to go together because they’re trying to, you know, work together. But you’re going to have to have about 20,000 troops there to protect those people and they’re going to have to have a much broader mandate, they’re going to have to be able to whack the Janjaweed. With 7600 about the most you can do is protect these people in these little hunkered-down places where they can’t even get out and move around and they’re in miserable circumstances. Now… the… we’re moving toward… there was an attempted accord you know, which two of the major groups didn’t sign off on and I hope that this political impasse will embolden the United Nations to basically overrule the Sudanese because if they did and the UN would act, we could go forward. The one… hickey in this if you will, is that the Chinese have been threatening to veto a more aggressive resolution if the Sudanese don’t go along ’cause they want a monopoly on the Sudanese oil contract, ’cause the competition for oil around the world is really heating up. But I doubt, based on my past experience with the Chinese, I doubt if it came right down to the lick log, the Chinese might abstain in the UN, but I doubt that they would veto because it would put them in a terrible position of looking like they were legitimizing the kind of genocidal conduct that has happened. So my view is that the Bush Administration has done about as good as they could possibly be on this given the limited resources they have, but that they should now go on and if we can’t get a deal with these groups in Sudan and I don’t know what the latest state of play is, I think they ought to go on and just take it to the UN and force the Chinese to make a decision. Because the Chinese will pay a big price if they vetoed this, and we can no longer, we know now that the Africans… Most of the troops I trained in Africa when I was President, something called the Africa Crisis Response Initiative to try to prevent another Rwanda, were in West Africa. And because of the problems within Nigeria, their continuing need in Sierra Leone and other places, it’s very hard to get a lot more troops out of West Africa. There aren’t enough… a lot of other people like Rwanda that have really pretty well-trained militaries that will send those people over there and we need 20,000, maybe 25,000. So that’s my view, they’re going to have to… if they don’t get a deal quickly, they should go to the UN with a more robust mandate and more forces and get ’em from elsewhere and try to be sensitive to bringing in more Muslims. Although you can overplay this. Let me… when we had Blackhawk Down in Somalia in ’93, that whole incident was provoked when Mohammad Aidid, a Muslim warlord, murdered 22 Pakistani Muslim peacekeepers. Everybody’s forgotten this. They murdered 22 Muslim peacekeepers and the United States is the most militarily capable country involved, was asked to try to apprehend Aidid and his major lieutenants in what was otherwise a peacekeeping mission. We now know that some of the early Al Qaeda crowd was involved there; there was not a shred of evidence at the time. And you may remember after Blackhawk Down where we wound up killing five or six hundred people and they killed 18 of our people, there was an overwhelming consensus in the Congress to bring the troops home next week, in both parties, including the conservatives that now say we cut and run. They were all singing a very different tune then and I demanded that we stay six months until we could effect an orderly transition and maintain the UN force there, because I was afraid once the UN mandate was over, the country would totally disintegrate, which is in fact what has happened, which is why there’s a vacuum there now, in Somalia. So that’s what I think should be done in Darfur. We can still save a lot of lives there if we could go in… and don’t, and the Africans have done as good a job as they could with the mandate they’ve had and the low numbers they’ve had. They’ve saved a lot of lives, it would have been a lot worse if they hadn’t been there. But we need to go ahead and bring this crisis to a head in my opinion. PC: Tim, sorry, you had had your hand up. Tim Redmond: Hi, my name is Tim Redmond from The San Francisco Bay Guardian. I really appreciate what you’re saying about politics of working together and trying to come up with a common vision and things we can work on together. There are some issues though that, where you can’t compromise, there are some issues, particularly civil rights issues, where I think you just have to stand there and say, this is right and this wrong. Out where I come from in San Francisco we feel very strongly that same-sex marriage is one of those issues and that this is a civil rights issue, this is not a, you can go half way, you can do this, you can do that. This is a very basic issue. We also are boggled that anyone, particularly conservatives, could be against people getting married. But this has put the Democratic Party in something of a tizzy ever since the mayor of San Francisco started offering same-sex marriage licenses. What do you think the Democratic Party should do about this issue? WJC: Well I don’t entirely agree with you about this, I think the Democratic Party’s position ought to be first of all… I think every Democrat should be against this gay marriage constitutional amendment, I think it’s… because… before… I’ve actually went back… I actually went back when all this came up and started revie… reading the history of this. There were some in pre… in Colonial America before we became a country and one state, I think it was Massachusetts, marriage was viewed as entirely a civil institution and people didn’t get married in church, they could only get married under civil law. In other places, marriage was viewed primarily as a religious rite and not a civil one. And you know that’s why I’ve always thought that… that… the states should not discriminate against gay people and should perform the civil unions and then people could call their union whatever they wanted. And one of my liberal Evangelical friends thinks that the states should stop, that all government authorities should stop performing marriages and marriages should only be performed in churches, then they could marry whoever they wanted. And if a religious institution wanted to have a marriage rite they could for gay people and if they didn’t, they wouldn’t and the state would have civil unions. But I basically think for over 200 years this has been a question of state law and religious judgment. And that civil rights battles have been fought over this and that basically the gay community is way ahead now of where they were 10 years ago. And remember, I removed all the discriminations against gays in national security positions, appointed more openly gay people to government than anybody ever had and tried to do the gays-in-the-military thing, and would have until a veto-proof margin of Congress threatened to reinstitute the absolute ban. [Video clip of the next two paragraphs available here.]

And so I’m very sympathetic with what you said, but my view is that the Democratic Party’s position should be that we don’t favor discrimination against gays in any way, we favor civil unions and the question of marriage should be left to the states and to the religions just as it has been since before the dawn of the Republic. And to… and that we should… it’s obvious why this gay-marriage amendment was brought up in a kind of half-hearted, back-handed way it was, it was just a way to distract people and try to convince people that they’re ‘values’ voters instead of ‘evidence and impact’ voters. I know that’s not what you think, but that’s what I think, that’s what I think… that’s what I think our position ought to be. PC: Okay, right over there, and shorter questions remember equals more questions. Chad Bleakley: My name is Chad Bleakley and I’m with the Oklahoma Gazette and this is kind of, I guess, a question also for our colleagues, but I’ll let you answer it. Since we’ve basically gotten a line from Cheney, Bush told him it was all right to tell Scooter and that was the deal, how come there’s no accountability for the amount of money that was spent on this investigation when it could have all just been… just said, ‘hey, I authorized the leak and I’ve got the right to do it,’ rather then drag us through two years of this? WJC: I’m sorry but your microphone was (unint.), how come there’s no accounting for the amount of money we spent on what? CB: Just on the investigation of Scooter Libby since kind of the… Cheney’s line is, ‘Bush authorized me so I authorized Scooter so there’s no issue here’ and he’s only being… Scooter Libby’s technically only being held accountable for not telling the truth about that discussion. WJC: About what discussion? CB: Or just whether or not it was all right to discuss Hillary Plame’s [sic] name with the press and what I’m basically asking is, nobody has discussed the expense and time that’s done on this investigation when the excuse they use now is what they could have used two years ago. WJC: Well the people who control the… the amount of money they spend on investigations and the accountability for it are the majority in Congress. You know they spent $100 million investigating me and my Administration and they… and they never found any example of official misconduct by anybody in my Administration and yet you still see people referring in a sort of off-handed way that there was all this scandal when I was President and they didn’t… we had zero people indicted in the White House, they’ve had two, with no special counsels that were militant Democrats doing political things. But you’re not going to get an accounting one way or the other on that, you just… I think what… you just have to focus on, what should be done now that we know for sure, that people in the White House did discuss the identity of an undercover CIA agent with members of the press, which they were not supposed to do? And nobody proposes to indict, and this goes back to the first question you asked about Alberto Gonzales, nobody proposes to indict any of these press members that used Valerie Plame’s name ’cause that’s something they wanted to do. They want to indict you if you talk about secret prison in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo or something like that. So I… I just… I can’t give you a satisfactory answer, but… it’s not about the money, it’s about the politics. PC: We have time for two more I think, Steve Buel, sorry. Stephen Buel: [Inaudible; reconstructed at a later date] Mr. President, many of the newspapers in this organization are supportive of candidates from the left wing of your party, or from third parties. Given the political dynamic you just described, and with the war in Iraq making the dynamics of the 2008 presidential election look more and more like those of the 1972 campaign, what would you tell those newspapers and candidates about what they need to do for the Democratic party to win in 2008? WJC: That we ought to be in the winning business, and that you know, I saw the other day, where one of these, you know they’re having this, you know, bloggers convention out in Vegas, you all been keeping up with that? And it’s fascinating to me and I’m really glad about all these bloggers and any kind of alternative way of communicating I think is good. But I think that… that sometimes the people who are to the left of our party fall into the Republican trap of evaluating all of us based on their perception of what our rhetoric is rather than what our policies and results are. ‘Cause one of those fellows wrote an article and said, you know, that Hillary had a problem with me and it wasn’t because I was a senator, it was because I was a moderate and I was terrible for America and nothing good came out of it. And I thought to myself, now what’s the liberal standard here? Good for the middle class, good for the poor, good for the environment, good for minorities, you know, what’s the standard? International cooperation as opposed to unilateralism, we moved 100 times as many people out of poverty in my eight years as in the previous 12 years, 100 times as many, public policy. And poverty’s gone up again, people without health insurance went down when I was president, they went up again. We had 43 million more people breathing clean air, now they’ve weakened the clean air and clean water standards. We had more minorities in more positions, did a lot to advance the cause of gay rights, and no one believes we lost the ’94 elections because I wasn’t liberal enough. They… what did they go after us for in the ’94 election, gays in the military, raising taxes — we raised taxes on rich people but they acted like it was a blanket tax increase — and we tried to give health insurance to all Americans. And got further then anybody ever had. I signed welfare reform but everybody ignored the facts that the two bills I vetoed would have taken away the guarantee of food and medicine to poor families and that’s why I vetoed them and the bill I signed drastically increased funds to poor families for child care, for education, for transportation. One man wrote a letter, wrote an article saying that I had done more to try to equalize incomes in America then anybody in over 30 years. So I think that by standard liberal results, that’s a phony attack, but we get so… It’s like on Hillary’s deal. If the left wants to attack her for not being for a six-month timetable to withdraw from Iraq, that’s a good debate to have. There are two issues that are really relevant here, for any member running for the Demo… for a Democrat or Republican running for the House or running for the Senate or in 2008 running for the White House. Question number one, do you believe in unilateral pre-emptive military action or do you believe that we should cooperate whenever we can and act alone only when we’re forced to? That’s Madeleine Albright’s phrase, not mine. I don’t want to crib her phrase. Question number two, what should we do in Iraq now? But all this thing has been morphed into how you voted on that resolution and if you voted for it, you have to say it was a mistake and therefore you get a pass on what we do now or by definition, if you were against it, you have to be for immediate withdrawal now. There are some of us who didn’t think it was a good idea, who still don’t think America’s interest and the fight against terror are best served by saying we’re going to withdraw in six months no matter what. Now that’s a legitimate debate. But again I think we ought to be in the winning business. If you look at what we have in common, look at what the Democrats said yesterday, what’d they say? We’re going to raise the minimum wage and start cuts in the college loan, give credits for that, you know, give middle class families credits to send their kids to college, implement the 9/11 recommendations, rewrite that Medicare drug bill so Medicare can do what the VA Hospital and every major employer does, which is bargain for discount prices for drugs bought in volume and make it simple. [applause] What the House did yesterday, that’s a winning message, ’cause that would unify all of our Democrats from liberal to moderate to conservative against the Republicans who are way over there. I think what I would say to everybody, all of our people is, ‘you have to decide whether you want to win or not, but normally unity wins and division loses.’ I mean if Ralph Nader hadn’t been on the ballot in 2000, Al Gore would have won in both New Hampshire and Florida with more then enough electoral votes to be president, never mind that the NRA beat him in Arkansas, had enough votes to beat him in New Hampshire and Florida, never mind the vote count in Florida, never mind anything else. So the people that really wanted to be for Nader opposed… our environmental record was the best in the 20th century, with the possible exception of Theodore Roosevelt, given what he was facing. And if you look, every data across the record and Gore had better environmental cruditions than I did to most people, but we were the greenest administration in the 20th century and Ralph Nader mounted a campaign that got enough votes to keep him from being president, in New Hampshire and Florida. And he wanted to keep him from being president, anybody who was paying attention could see that was what he wanted, he wanted George Bush to be president. And so I would just tell all those people, you just have to decide what you think politics is for and if you like what you’ve had the last five years, go on and do what you did before and you’ll get exactly the same results again. But I was in the winning business, I always figured that if I just wanted to talk and ventilate and emote, I ought to get in a different line of work. [laughter] But if you get in politics you’ve got an obligation to try to win. [applause] PC: Well, President Clinton, although I know you’ve held the most powerful position in the world, your aide seems to have more power right now and he’s saying we need to cut it close. So only you can override that. WJC: If you want to take another question or two, we can. PC: There. WJC: They probably think I’m saying something, if somebody’ll turn into a headline, it’ll be embarrassing tomorrow, I don’t know. As long as I don’t hurt Hillary I don’t care what you say about me. James Shannon: Hi, James Shannon from The Beat. President Clinton, let me ask you a question about torture. Are you in favor of torture, extraordinary renditions, secret prisons, are these the values of our party and our country and if not, why aren’t we opposing it more forcefully? WJC: Well as far as I know we have opposed that unanimously. I believe that John McCain’s bill, and I give him a lot of credit for this because he was tortured and he understands that — look, I disagree with everything they have done that tries to take us away from the Geneva Conventions and I’ve made that clear. But sir, I think it’s fair to say that at least, that our party has spoken pretty forcefully on that. I believe every member of the Democratic caucus in the United States Senate supported Senator McCain’s efforts to say that we had to follow the Geneva rules. I believe that’s right. And I think it’s important. I think it’s important for a lot of reasons not only for our own ethics and standards but for two other reasons. And let me say I sympathize with this, suppose you’re the interrogator and you’re interrogating some guy that you know has just been involved in bombs that have blown up 40 people, innocent civilians and half a dozen American military personnel. And you know he’s part of an organization that let’s say set off the bomb in Bali that killed all those people and it’s you and that person and you’re alone and you know they’ve got a plan to set off another bomb sometime in the next two weeks and kill a lot more people. And you’re alone in the cell with him. I get what this is about. For one thing, what they were doing had nothing to do with this. You look at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, it was indiscriminate, broad-based, humiliating and terrible. You know if somebody brought all of us that one case, at least we might have a different impact about how this person should be treated, that’s not what was going on. This was a broad-based thing that was wrong. Secondly, there’s another reason that even in that case, it’s virtually wrong 100 percent of the time for this reason. If you torture people, you can get… they are more likely to tell you what they think you want to hear rather then to tell the truth just to stop you from torturing them. Third reason is, once it gets out that you’re torturing people, you remove whatever limits there might be on your adversaries from torturing your people. And that’s… there’s a reason that its… serious military people have come up with these rules against torture and have supported the international political community in the Geneva Conventions. It’s not only something that… virtually 100 percent of the time would violate all of your morals qualms — and I tried to give you the hardest case here. You get bad information and you license torture against your own, it’s just a mistake. But I think the Democrats have been clear and unambiguous on this, I believe they have. I think what may frustrate you is — and it’s interesting because you keep up with it ’cause you’re in this business — is the same thing that frustrates all of us. All of us have a hierarchy of things we care more about than others. And yet everyday the news rolls over us like waves, so when we hadn’t heard anything about something in two or three weeks and then there’s another example of it or we see Rumsfeld fudging it again, as he was the other day, we get mad all over again. But the Congress spoke on this last year and I thought clearly and unambiguously from the point of view of the Democrats. Anything else? PC: John. John Weiss: [Inaudible; reconstructed at a later date] Given the limited focus of what standardized multiple-choice tests can accurately measure, what do you think of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative as well as your own efforts to promote national school tests? WJC: Well in theory I… I am for it, I tried to pass a national standards bill when I was President and the Congress, the same Congress that passed President Bush’s bill wouldn’t pass mine. But the difference was I had a hope… the way my plan worked was different from No Child Left Behind in this way. What I wanted to do was to set up a system where we would have national tests but not as many as they do, you know, at benchmark points along the educational system, but not every year. And if the schools, if the children were not performing, then I thought we ought to have a system to turn around the schools or put them under new management. North Carolina did that with great success. I thought we should provide proper funding for that and I thought the tests should mean something. I wanted them developed by a non-partisan group called the NAGBE, it’s an acronym and I’m sorry I can’t remember what it stands for. We had Republican, Democratic governors on it and educators and others, like the National Assessment of Education Progress except they don’t test all students, the NAEP doesn’t. Now what the Bush program did as I recall, was to say every state had to test kids every year in certain years, I can’t remember what years they covered. But that the state could pick the test and the passing score. So you ran the risk, much greater risk, of gaming and there was… then they were going to withhold federal funds if certain things weren’t done when all I thought we ought to do… we know what works in schools and we know you’ve got to have a good principal and be results oriented, but I didn’t think we ought to get into the micro-management of it and withdrawing funds for all those specific things that No Child Left Behind did. So I actually do think we should have a more… a higher national and more uniform standard of education. I think there ought to be a non-partisan test given to all of our kids. I think it ought to have the same passing score everywhere, I don’t think it needs to be given every year and the focus ought to be on what we know produces school improvement, and then we ought to fund that. So I support that but I would have designed a rather… quite a bit different design then the No Child Left Behind was. Yes. Mark Zusman: [Inaudible] WJC: I don’t… no. [laughter] He said can I share a few more insights into the current President, I said no, I think that would be a… a violation of confidence you know. All I can tell you is that first of all, I think he believes most of the stuff he says, both right and left, I think just like most politicians, he really does believe it. And I think one reason he’s got a more humane position, for example, on immigration than his House majority is he’s from Texas and immigration’s the only issue I know of where Texas Republicans are more liberal than other Republicans and it’s because of the culture of the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, the Mexicanos moving back and forth across the Rio Grande now for, you know, eons, and the level of comfort people have there. And I saw it when I was a boy going down there. And he really does believe this, and so you know, even though he normally will cater to his base on stem cell research or whatever, he just couldn’t get there on this. So what I’m telling you is, I think… I think he really did believe he was doing the right thing in getting more money for AIDS for example, it’s something I applaud. He got more money out of that Congress than I could, partly because the Christian Right came along and supported us. Do I agree with everything their AIDS program does? No. Is the world better off that we’ve got it? Yes. So only thing I’m saying is, it’s important and I completely disagree with their philosophy, the thing I’d most disagree with them on is the belief that if you concentrate wealth and power and elevate ideology over evidence, you get better policies and a better country and the idea that we should have a preference for unilateralism over cooperation, even though there are times he’s cooperated and on occasion I can think of times I’d take unilateral action. But I think that… that he’s a guy who… who gets people, he understands people, he knows how to make people kind of like him and go along with him and he’s very strong and determined in what he thinks is right, just like most of us are. And I just disagree with him most of the time, but I have really come to understand how he got elected and how he inspires loyalty among those who follow him, by the personal contacts we’ve had. And I think it is a… therefore I think clear, reasoned opposition to the things he’s doing that we disagree with is more effective than ridicule because you only ridicule people that you think you… you know, aren’t so smart or aren’t so this or aren’t so that. And the truth is that’s a trap. I loved it when the right-wingers were ridiculing me. I loved it whenever my opponents underestimated me. I believe in every… in every contest in life you should always assume your opponent is a genius and is staying up all night working and is smart as can be ’cause if they’re dumb you’re going to win anyway. [laughter] And so I think you should always… I think you should always assume that the people that are opposed to you are smart, full of conviction and they’re working hard and you should proceed accordingly. And so you know that’s why I speak of him… and I also have come…

[Video clip of the next two paragraphs available here.]

You know, I like him, I get him now, I get where he is, but I think it’s a bad thing for America. I think that… that culture out of which he comes has that sort of… you know, concentrate wealth and power in the right people, ideology over evidence, will, you know, you can… if your will is strong enough two and two won’t equal four anymore, that kind of stuff. There’s a whole culture of that in America that was particularly appealing after 9/11 but I don’t think it lends itself to good decisions in a complicated time when it’s hard enough to hold things together and all the pressures are to tear things apart. And what we need are people putting things together, not tearing things apart. [applause] PC: I think your staffer has collapsed because we’ve gone on… WJC: He’ll get over it, take one more. [laughter] Charlie Smith: [Inaudible] WJC: Did you all hear his question? He said do I believe that the OPEC nations have exaggerated their oil reserves and if so, what are the implications? Well first of all I’m not a petroleum geologist, but I can tell you this. If you read, there’s a book written by a man named Jeremy Leggett who is a petroleum geologist who was so alarmed by what was happening not only in climate change but oil depletion that he went to work for Greenpeace. That’s a pretty good leap. He’s written a book called The Empty Tank, if you want one book that is not as dark as a book called The Long Emergency which is much darker, but really deals with this and attempts to explain the complications of it, I recommend it to you. There’s a guy named Matthew Simmons who is a petroleum investment advisor, he’s made a fortune and has been a friend of the Bush family, who believes that we have passed peak oil production. And I don’t know if they’re overstating their reserves but I know this, they have said, for example, the Saudis have said they could go up to 12 million barrels a day in production to try to moderate price, and it doesn’t appear to me that they have or can. And keep in mind, most of the OPEC producers prefer oil higher than it was in my second term, but a little lower than this, because they know if it gets real high and stays there, even if we don’t impose gas taxes, America will get in gear and we won’t need as much anymore and the Europeans will do the same and others will do the same. And the Chinese and the Indians might figure out how to skip a step of economic development and not have to use as much energy going through from where they are now to where we are now, in the same… not get there the same way we did. So I actually believe that most of these oil producers would like it if oil were just a little lower or at least didn’t go to $100 a barrel in five years and everybody I know who knows anything about this business believes it’ll be $100 a barrel in five years or less. Now, the only evidence that we have, those of us who aren’t petroleum geologists, so the question you asked sir, is for example, in the biggest Saudi oil field which has about eight or ten percent of the world’s oil, but has been heavily drilled, they are now getting the more difficult to drill oil out by injecting sea water and filling the… the cavities and then pushing it all back up. Some of that retrievable oil is now 90 percent sea water, 10 percent oil, which dramatically increases the cost of disaggregating it and implies that there may be less oil there than we thought. We know that the depletion rate of the North Sea oil that the UK has, has accelerated more rapidly then anyone thought. Now the really important question is, what are the implications of this? Let’s say that the world reaches peak oil production, let’s say we haven’t done it yet, but we do sometime in this decade. That would mean that half of all the recoverable oil under planet earth has been sucked out. That’s what it means. And if that’s true, since the first oil wells for commercial purposes were either in Pennsylvania or in Central Europe, depending on whose account you believe, somewhere in the mid-1800s, would mean most of this oil has come out in the last 60 to 70 years, almost all of it. But at present rates of usage, given the growth of India and China, it would mean we probably have no more then 35 to 50 years of oil left. So the implications are… again I will say, no matter how green you are, almost all conversion technologies rest on an oil platform. If you look at the resilience for example of the most advanced ethanol production, and they’ve worked on it for years and The Wall Street Journal — I almost gagged today, did you read that where they were… they were… they said, ‘oh it really doesn’t count because they… the governments subsidize it,’ as if we didn’t subsidize oil and gas production in America at the same time. But anyway, they have a conversion ratio of about eight to one now, which is stunning, the conversion ratio for corn ethanol is no better than one-and-a-half to one, and that’s outside. So let’s say we could get there, you’ve still got to have the one to make the eight. So we don’t know how to run an economy without any petroleum. We know we can do what the Germans did in World War II because they had no access to oil, you can take coal and make petroleum out of it, but we also know that unleashes greenhouse gases, so that’s why we have to develop clean coal technology and the Norwegians, for example, are learning to bury it under the North… under the sea. Now we don’t know for sure whether it will stay there and if it stays there, we haven’t gotten any gain. But most scientists who study this believe that we do have quite a lot of cavities in the earth that we could buy coal gas, CO2 under and it would stay there. But the implications are clear, it means if we don’t change, we’ll either burn up the planet or go broke and they might both happen at the same time and they’ll both happen sometime in the next 100 years in a way that will change civilization irrevocably, that’s the implications. It means we need to get in gear. It means that the biggest threat to our economic future is also, I will say again, a bird’s nest on the ground, for our country and for every rich country. If you look at the United Kingdom for example, they have an unemployment rate about the same as we do, this is the last factoid I’ll drop on you. The UK has an unemployment rate about the same as ours and they have an economic structure most like America’s, that is they have the most free market system except for the healthcare deal which has the most socialized system, that is most of the doctors still work for the government as well as having the government pay for healthcare although wealthy people can buy outside the system. Now, the difference is that in the United Kingdom, wages are rising and inequality is declining. I would like to tell you that it’s all because Tony Blair has the same tax policies and social policies I do, did. That may have something to do with it. But the real difference is that unlike America the United Kingdom has found a source of new jobs in this decade. Now, you know where they got it, by meeting their Kyoto targets. Last time I was in London, I did a big deal with Gordon Brown and the papers were full of articles critical of the Blair government because it would not meet its own target of reducing greenhouse gas to 20 percent below 1990 levels. They then proceeded to say they would reduce them at least 15 percent below 1990 levels, which is 25 percent more then their 12 percent Kyoto target. In other words, we were told, you remember when I came… when our guys came home from Kyoto before I could even present it to the Senate, they voted 95 to nothing against it. They said what a terrible thing I’d done, I was going to… and then… then the Democrats started kind of hedging and coming back to us and… then President Bush said that he would never honor Kyoto because it would bankrupt the American economy. Look what happened, if — Gordon Brown has just issued a white paper for the next round of greenhouse gas reductions, and you know what it is? It’s a jobs paper. He says, these are the 20 things we’re going to do and here is how many new jobs will be produced by each of these 20 things. I’m telling you the implications are dire if we don’t do something, but the implications are… it’s like we are being hit over the head with our… our ticket to the future and we’re crazy if we don’t do it. You go to my Library, we cut the greenhouse gases by 34 percent with 300 and something solar reflectors… glass that keeps the ultra-violet rays out, compact bamboo floors with miles of piping under it that runs hot water in the winter and cold water in the summer and controlled lighting. Every one of those improvements created jobs in the United States of America. If you replaced every light in every home in America, incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb tomorrow, you would cut the greenhouse gas emissions from lighting by 50 percent. The lights cost three times as much, they last 10 times as long and within one year, and it’ll take me eight or 10 years to recover our investment, within one year, you would save 25 to 40 percent on your investment because of lower electric bills. This is… and then… and you’d create all these jobs in America making these damn lightbulbs. This is a gift, or a curse, depending on the choice we make. Thank you very much. [applause]