NBC's Curry to Bill Clinton: Does Gingrich Have 'Temperament' and 'Leadership Qualities' to be President?

During a fawning interview with Bill Clinton on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Ann Curry asked for the former President's thoughts on Newt Gingrich running for president: "You also, having worked with him, I'm wanting to know, putting aside politics, do you see Newt Gingrich as a man who has the temperament, the leadership qualities, to be President of the United States?"

Clinton took the opportunity to relish GOP infighting during the primary season: "That's what the presidential election is for....you find out a lot about people in the crucible of battle and they're all turning on him now and running all these negative ads. And basically, It's funny, they're basically doing to each other now, in a serial way, what they did to the Democrats in 2010."

Curry followed up by inviting to Clinton to refute one of Gingrich's accomplishments as House speaker: "Do you believe that Gingrich deserved the credit that he's taking for balancing the budget when you were president?" Predictably, Clinton replied: "Not really. But I think he did work with me to pass some good budgets....But the vast lion's share of balancing the budget was done by the budget in 1993 that he led the opposition to."

Here is a transcript of the December 20 exchange:

8:36AM ET

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ANN CURRY: But I want to also ask you about something that you said in September. You said when everyone else counted Gingrich out, you did not.

BILL CLINTON: No.

CURRY: You said don't count this – don't count him out. And you also, having worked with him, I'm wanting to know, putting aside politics, do you see Newt Gingrich as a man who has the temperament, the leadership qualities, to be President of the United States?

CLINTON: That's what the presidential election is for. You really never – you find out a lot about people in the crucible of battle and they're all turning on him now and running all these negative ads. And basically, It's funny, they're basically doing to each other now, in a serial way, what they did to the Democrats in 2010. And then they fight back and one rises and one falls. It's going to be interesting, because it appears that right now he or Governor Romney have the edge.

And the one with the greatest resilience, with the ability to come back from adversity, will probably prevail. Perhaps one of the others will rise. But I think that will be the test. That's what these elections are for. They tell you a lot about people. And when you're just getting the living daylights pounded out of you and people count you out and you're down, gosh, I was pronounced dead more times than a cat has lives in '92, that's when you find the something people want in a president.


CURRY: So as we move forward, then, you know, do you believe that Gingrich deserved the credit that he's taking for balancing the budget when you were president?

CLINTON: Not really. But I think he did work with me to pass some good budgets. We had the Balanced Budget Act in 1996 and we, unlike some often since then, we got our work done on time and I had a decent working relationship with him. But the vast lion's share of balancing the budget was done by the budget in 1993 that he led the opposition to. And 90% of the budget was balanced before the Balanced Budget Act was ever passed.

So I noticed the other day one of the Republicans was saying why from '96 on the government's tax cuts and investments actually added $10 billion to the debt. Well, that's true, but the reason is it didn't stop us from balancing the budget and running four surpluses is because of what we did in '93. But he's – if I were in his position, I would be saying that because it is true that we worked in a bipartisan fashion to pass five budgets and they worked out pretty well for the American people.

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Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC