Bill Clinton regrets off-message comments

President Clinton attends the Center for Global Dialogue and Cooperation's annual meeting May 18, 2012, in Vienna. Getty Images for 2nd CGDC Annual Meeting 2012

President Clinton attends the Center for Global Dialogue and Cooperation's annual meeting May 18, 2012, in Vienna.
Getty Images for 2nd CGDC Annual Meeting 2012
Former President Bill Clinton said Thursday that he is "very sorry" for breaking with the Obama administration and suggesting that the Bush-era tax cuts for high earners should be extended into next year, telling CNN he did not fully understand the situation at hand.

"I'm very sorry about what happened," Mr. Clinton told Wolf Blitzer. "I thought something had to be done on the 'fiscal cliff' before the election. Apparently nothing has to be done until the first of the year."

Earlier this week, Mr. Clinton described extending all the Bush-era tax cuts as "probably the best thing to do right now" in an interview with CNBC. President Obama wants to extend the cuts for families making less than $250,000 per year but let them expire on income above that level.

The former president quickly walked back the comments, with a spokesman saying that Mr. Clinton "supported extending all of the cuts in 2010 as part of the budget agreement, but does not believe the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended again." Republicans nonetheless pounced.

"Bill Clinton and I disagree on many things, but when it comes to stopping this massive tax hike on Jan. 1, we agree," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Added House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio: "Extending all of the current tax rates for at least a year is really important if we're going to help job creators gain a little more confidence to put Americans back to work. Even Bill Clinton came out for it before he was against it."

Mr. Clinton's reference to the "fiscal cliff" is to the simultaneous expiration of the tax cuts and automatic spending cuts that are also set to take place at the end of the year. The situation is the result of a 2010 compromise between the White House and congressional Republicans over the nation's legal borrowing limit.

The former president said Thursday that when he made his initial comments he wrongly thought action on the "fiscal cliff" needed to come before the November election.

"I really was under the impression that they would have to do something before the election, and I was trying to figure out how they would kick it to last [through] the election," he told CNN.

"Once I realized that nothing had to be done until the first of the year, I supported [Mr. Obama's] position," added the former president.

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