Bill Clinton Gives Obama An "A" With Caveats

(AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Former President Bill Clinton thinks that President Obama is off to a great start, but he just wishes he sounded more optimistic. In a wide-ranging interview this morning on ABC's "Good Morning America," the former president said he thinks that the new Oval Office resident deserves an "A" for getting his massive stimulus bill passed into law, but needs to be more optimistic.

"I just would like him to end by saying that he is hopeful and completely convinced that we're gonna come through this," Mr. Clinton told "Good Morning America" anchor Chris Cuomo. "It's worth reminding the American people that for more than 230 years everyone who bet against America lost money. It's a mistake to bet against this country over the long run."

Yet Mr. Clinton stressed that he believed that Mr. Obama's sobering talk about the state of the economy was a responsible move.

"The last thing you want to do when you take office in a time like this is give people lot of inane happy talk and false promises about how quickly we can get out of this," Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton also endorsed the rationale behind Mr. Obama's economic stimulus package and swatted off Republican charges that it amounted to wasteful spending.

"I view the stimulus plan as a bridge over troubled waters," said Mr. Clinton.

"I might have even proposed more money," he added later.

While pointing the finger of blame for the current crisis squarely at former President George W. Bush, Mr. Clinton admitted that his administration should have done more to regulate derivatives.

"I think we should have moved a little more aggressively on these derivatives," Mr. Clinton said. "Alan Greenspan and others thought we shouldn't regulate, didn't need to regulate derivatives, because they would only be bought by very large, very wealthy, very sophisticated institutional buyers."

Yet he said that the root of the problem had to do with subprime mortgages that were given out from 2004 to 2007.

"I personally believe, based on my experience over the years with the economy, that if we moved aggressively on this home problem a year and a half ago, even a year ago, as much as 90 percent of the current crisis could have been avoided," Mr. Clinton said.

One decision that Mr. Clinton had no quibble with was Mr. Obama's selection of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as secretary of state.

"That's an A-plus-plus," Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton has been making the rounds lately. He also appeared recently on CNN's "Larry King Live" and was interviewed last night on Fox News' "On The Record with Greta Van Susteren."