ABC's Kate Snow to Bill Clinton: Feel Free Not to Answer My Question
On Monday's "Good Morning America," weekend host Kate Snow interviewed Bill Clinton in Rwanda and at one point told him he didn't have to answer a quasi-tough question. Towards the end of her interview, she prefaced this query by almost apologizing: "Pretty simple question. And maybe you don't want to answer it right now and I respect that fully. But, if you want to answer it, do you personally have any regrets about what you did campaigning for your wife?"
She also allowed the ex-president, who is touring Africa in support of his charity, to get away with a total non-answer about Barack Obama's competency. After Snow asked if the Illinois senator is ready to be president, Clinton spun, "You could argue that no one is ever ready to be president." He went on to discuss how he learned things on the job, how the presidency is full of pressure. Clinton finished his evasive response by admitting that Obama can "inspire" and by observing in a a tone that sounded slightly condescending, "And he's smart as a whip, so there's nothing he can't learn."
Now, you would think that Snow would realize that she just asked Bill Clinton if Obama was qualified and the ex-commander in chief declined to say yes. But, there was no follow-up.
Snow offered up a real mixture of her typical softballs and some actual hard questions. She began by tenderly stating, "When your wife, the senator, finally gave that speech on that Saturday in June, I was there. Watched you a little bit, saw your face. Kind of looked like you'd been crying."
However, later comments resulted in clear agitation by Clinton. Such as when she suggested, "And a lot of people, including your supporters, your donors, say that they blame you at least in part, for her loss. I know you've heard this." The former president suggested he heard such things only in the media. After Snow cited South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn as a supporter of Hillary's campaign and then a friend (Snow was mistaken on the first part), Clinton snapped, "Used to be. He is not my-- He was not Hillary's supporter. Never. Not ever. Not for a day."
At one point, after reflecting on things he wishes he hadn't done, Clinton blurted, "But I am not a racist. I never made a racist comment and I didn't attack him personally."
Snow, has had a long history of bubbling over Bill and Hillary Clinton. On July 24, 2007, she followed the former commander in chief to Africa to report on charity work and gushed, "In Africa, they seem to be on a first-name basis with the former president, shouting ‘Bill! Bill!’" In relation to being a possible first husband, Snow cooed, "He may redefine the role of first spouse in America."
Regarding Mrs. Clinton, Snow raved on October 1, 2007, that the New York Senator is skilled at "disarming her critics with a gleam in her eye and a roar straight from the belly." For a round up of Snow's pro-Hillary bias, see a November 30, 2007 NewsBusters posting.
A transcript of Snow's August 4 interview with Bill Clinton, which aired at 7:03am, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: Now, though, to our exclusive interview with former President Bill Clinton. He has said he does not want to talk about his wife's loss in the primary until after the election. But "Good Morning America" weekend anchor Kate Snow talked with him in Rwanda, in the middle of his four nation Africa tour for his foundation where he's working on nutrition programs to help HIV-infected children. He spoke to Kate about his Africa trip and reflected on what happened in his wife's run for the White House.
ABC GRAPHIC: '08, Obama & More: One on One with Bill Clinton
SNOW: When your wife, the senator, finally gave that speech on that Saturday in June, I was there. Watched you a little bit, saw your face. Kind of looked like you'd been crying.
BILL CLINTON: I hadn't been crying. I was just very proud of her. She has always been a great public servant, but she became a great political leader in this campaign. There is a big difference between being a great public servant and a great political leader. I thought she was magnificent that day. I was really proud of her. I still am.
SNOW: It's been about eight weeks. Your friends tell us that you're angry.
BILL CLINTON: I'm not. And I never was mad at Senator Obama. I think everybody's got a right to run for president who qualifies under the Constitution. And I would be the last person to ever begrudge anybody their ambition. And he was a superbly gifted candidate in this election and had a great operation. They thought this thing through. And it's a contact sport. And, you know, he hit her hard a couple times. And they hit us a few times and weeks before she ever responded in kind. The only thing I ever got mad about was people in your line of work, pretending that she had somehow started negative stuff. It's a contact sport.
SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: I'm used to taking the incoming fire. I've taken it for 16 years, but when you get into this arena, you can't expect to have a hands-off attitude about your record.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Hillary, I opposed that bill and you know I did.
BILL CLINTON: It was an amazing election. We never had one quite like it. Never had one that close.
BILL CLINTON: Never had one that was, you know, that kind of shook out the way it did. It was-- You know, people will be studying that thing for years and years and years.
SNOW: Yeah. Well, people are already studying it. And a lot of people, including your supporters, your donors, say that they blame you at least in part, for her loss. I know you've heard this.
BILL CLINTON: No -- I've heard it from --
SNOW: Do you blame yourself at all?
BILL CLINTON: I've heard it from the press. And I will not comment on this because it interferes with the issue, which is who should be elected in November. I made hundreds and hundreds of speeches, Kate. I bragged on Senator Obama hundreds of times. Now, I will be glad, as soon as this election is over in January, to have this conversation with you and everybody else. I have very strong feelings about it.
SNOW: But, I don't understand why you say it's bad for him to go over --
BILL CLINTON: I live out here in the fact based world -- Well, first of all, you say I don't like this type of modern reporting that says, so-and-so anonymous says this. You know they all say this.
SNOW: Jim Clyburn. Not anonymous. New York Times came out--
BILL CLINTON: Not my supporter. Jim Clyburn
SNOW: A long friend of yours. A longtime friend.
BILL CLINTON: Used to be. He is not my-- He was not Hillary's supporter. Never. Not ever. Not for a day.
SNOW: He said you said you lost a lot of African-American support?
BILL CLINTON: No. The people who were--
SNOW: He said you severely damaged your standing with African-American support?
BILL CLINTON: First of all-- Yeah. That may be by the time he got through working on it, that was probably true. But that's not the same thing. You said I hurt her.
SNOW: I said, your supporters are saying --
BILL CLINTON: No, you said my supporters and then you cited Jim Clyburn.
SNOW: I take your point. But there are supporters of yours who are saying --
BILL CLINTON: You did. But here's what you can do since I don't want to talk about it.
CLINTON: Go get yourself a map. Look where I went and look what the vote was. Look at Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky.
SNOW: You helped in a lot of places.
BILL CLINTON: Yes.
SNOW: Rural places.
BILL CLINTON: No, not just rural places. Cities. Indiana. So, I got bad press. Why? Because I told the truth. That there was a different standard applied to the finest candidate I ever supported.
SNOW: Pretty simple question. And maybe you don't want to answer it right now and I respect that fully. But, if you want to answer it, do you personally have any regrets about what you did campaigning for your wife?
BILL CLINTON: Yes, but nothing like you think. And it would be counterproductive for me to talk about it. There are things that I wished I urged her to do. Things I wished I had said. Things I wished I hadn't said. But I am not a racist. I never made a racist comment and I didn't attack him personally.
SNOW: Clinton insists the hard-fought primary season made Barack Obama a stronger candidate. Is he ready to be president?
BILL CLINTON: You could argue that no one is ever ready to be president. I mean, I certainly learned a lot about the job in the first year. You could argue that even if you've been vice president for eight years, that no one can ever be fully ready for the pressures of the office. And that everyone learns something, and something different. You could argue that. He's shown a keen strategic sense in his ability to run an effective campaign. He clearly can inspire and motivate people and energize them which is a very important part of being a president. And he's smart as a whip, so there's nothing he can't learn.
SNOW: He won't comment on whether he thinks his wife ought to be Obama's running mate.
BILL CLINTON: It's up to him. It's none of his business. This is my life now.
SNOW: His life now is his foundation. All weekend long he and Chelsea visited projects from the mud huts that community healthcare workers visit to fields planed with new crops. He in hiking boots and khakis, she in cropped jackets and designer heels. Believe it or not, Bill Clinton said he was never looking forward to the idea of living in the White House again.
BILL CLINTON: I loved-- Look, I was honored to live there and I was honored to do the job, and I loved every day of it. But I love what I'm doing now. And that's why I really admire how Hillary's handling this. You know, she went right back to work. You have to live in the moment. Time is passing. You can't make yesterday again. You have to live in the moment and go forward. And at least for people like us what you do and whether people are better off when you quit than started is a lot more important than whether you navigate the prevailing story line.
SNOW: Mr. President, thank you so much.
CLINTON: Thank you.