Bill Clinton Defends Advocacy Of Hillary

Former President Bill Clinton hands the microphone to his wife, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., after introducing her at a rally in Charleston, S.C. in this Jan. 25, 2008 file photo. AP Photo/Elise Amendola, file

Former President Clinton says he's learned a lesson from the dustup over his remarks on the campaign trail - he can promote his wife's presidential candidacy, but he's not free to defend her.

Bill Clinton also said that everything he said in South Carolina about Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was "factually accurate," but a lot that has been said about what he said is "factually inaccurate."

"I think the mistake that I made is to think that I was a spouse like any other spouse who could defend his candidate," Clinton said, referring to his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is waging a hard-fought contest with Obama for the Democratic nomination.

"I think I can promote Hillary but not defend her because I was president. I have to let her defend herself or have someone else defend her," Clinton said in an interview with NBC affiliate WCSH-TV as he was campaigning in Portland, Maine, Thursday.

On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, Clinton called Obama's celebrated opposition to the Iraq war "a fairy tale," suggesting that while Obama had spoken out against the war in 2002 while he was an Illinois state senator, Obama had moderated his anti-war stance during his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign.

Later, campaigning for his wife in South Carolina, Clinton suggested an Obama victory there would be a racial one, like the Rev. Jesse Jackson's twenty years ago.

Critics accused Clinton of injecting race into the Democratic campaign.

"A lot of the things that were said were factually inaccurate," Clinton said. "I did not ever criticize Senator Obama personally in South Carolina. ... But I think whenever I defend her, I, A, risk being misquoted, and, B, risk being the story. I don't want to be the story."

While he's toned down his defense of his wife, Clinton said he doesn't intend to stop campaigning for her even though some critics have suggested it's inappropriate for a former president to take sides in a nomination race.

If his wife is elected president, Clinton said he will not interfere with her work or her advisers.

"I will do what I'm asked to do," Clinton said. "I will not be in the Cabinet. I will not be on the staff full-time. I will not in any way interfere with the work of a strong vice president, strong secretary of State, strong secretary of Treasury.

"I will do what we've always done for each other," he said. "I will let her bounce ideas off me. I will tell her what I think."
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