Ann Curry Lofts Softballs to Bill Clinton on 'Today'

NBC's Ann Curry traveled down to Texas to speak with former President Bill Clinton, on Monday's "Today" show to talk to him about his Global Initiative but never asked Clinton about all the troubles his Initiative, and his foreign ties, caused and could potentially still cause his wife in her role as Secretary of State. Instead Curry asked Clinton mostly softball questions about how Barack Obama and Hillary are doing in their first few weeks: "Your wife is front and center as Secretary of State at a time when this world, this country is in a world of hurt. What's your faith in her?" When Clinton gave Obama, not surprisingly, a positive review Curry called it, "A major vote of confidence."

ANN CURRY: How is President Obama doing on this greatest near-term crisis facing the United States, the economy?

BILL CLINTON: I think he's off to a good start. I think he's got a good team. Given the fact that they had to do it in a hurry and he had to deal with Congress and the inevitable compromises I think he got quite a good bill out of this. This package that he's gonna sign is our bridge over troubled waters.

CURRY: That's a major vote of confidence.

The one time Curry got a little tough with Clinton was when she asked him about a Time article citing him as one of the 13 people to blame for the current economic crisis, which only served to allow Clinton to puff himself up and slam George W. Bush's record all at once as Clinton whined: "But let me ask you this, my question to them is, do any of them seriously believe that if I had been President and my economic team had been in place the last eight years, that this would be happening today? And I think they know the answer to that is, no."

The following is the full interview as it occurred on the February 16 "Today" show:

DAVID GREGORY: Now to "Today's" exclusive one-on-one with Bill Clinton. With his wife embarking on her first overseas trip as Secretary of State, the former President spent the weekend in Texas at an event for the Clinton Global Initiative aimed at the world's college students. That's where Ann Curry caught up with him and she began by asking the former president about his take on the economy.

ANN CURRY: Do you agree the greatest threat to the United States today is this global economic crisis, even more than terrorism, as we heard just a few days ago from the new head of national intelligence?

BILL CLINTON: In the short term. In the medium term, because I think we'll come out of the economic crisis, terror and the spread of weapons of mass destruction are. In the long term, the prospect that the climate will crater and we won't be able to preserve civilization.

CURRY: How is President Obama doing on this greatest near-term crisis facing the United States, the economy?

CLINTON: I think he's off to a good start. I think he's got a good team. Given the fact that they had to do it in a hurry and he had to deal with Congress and the inevitable compromises I think he got quite a good bill out of this. This package that he's gonna sign is our bridge over troubled waters.

CURRY: That's a major vote of confidence. When you saw him recently, did you give him any advice?

CLINTON: I did, but I think it should remain private. I talked more about like the nuts and bolts of how the White House is set up and how decisions get made and make sure that things don't fall within the cracks and I hope I gave some good advice.

(Clip of Clinton at a podium)

CLINTON: Thank you!

(End clip)

CURRY: Exactly a year ago you were stumping from, for Hillary Clinton here in Texas, and you were criticized for some comments that you made about Obama during the primaries, but it hurt you. It hurt you based on your record, what they said about you in terms of-

CLINTON: Well I didn't, I didn't like it, but I, but what I was stunned by is the way that much more about the way that media seemed to take it seriously, since it was obviously a political moment. But it's over, and the main thing is, none of us have time now to look back.

CURRY: Your wife is front and center as Secretary of State at a time when this world, this country is in a world of hurt. What's your faith in her? Any advice for her?

CLINTON: Oh I'm very proud of her. If I know something that I think is helpful to her, I share it but she knows more than I do about it now. And she's doing great. I'm very, very proud of her.

CURRY: You know this week people are gonna be reading this article in Time magazine that lists you as number 13 as, on the list of who to blame for our current economic crisis in the United States. Should you be 13 on the list, is what I'm asking?

CLINTON: Oh no! But let me ask you this, my question to them is, do any of them seriously believe that if I had been President and my economic team had been in place the last eight years, that this would be happening today? And I think they know the answer to that is, no.

CURRY: Mr. President you spent the weekend speaking with young people about the global issues and specifically trying to help them engage in what they might be able to do to help, what are you hoping that these young people will take away?

CLINTON: In the 21st century, it's got to be important for every citizen not just to be an active, informed voter but also to do some kind of citizen service and that's what we're trying to do here.

CURRY: You know people are pretty down about the world today and yet you seem to, from these young people, feel a sense of optimism. Why is that?

CLINTON: Well, first because they realize that in any difficult time, there are always seeds of opportunity. The most important thing I can do now at this point in my life, besides try to save as many lives as possible, is to try to empower other people.

GREGORY: President Bill Clinton with Ann Curry.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.