Former president Bill Clinton, a Barack Obama campaign surrogate, apologized Thursday for creating controversy earlier this week with his comments about extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
"I'm very sorry about what happened," Clinton said in an interview on CNN's "The Situation Room with 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."
On Tuesday, Clinton addressed the Congressional Budget Office's recent warning of a looming "fiscal cliff," telling CNBC that the president and lawmakers should approve a temporary extension of the current rates. He cited the CBO's alarm about the potential effects of enacting scheduled spending cuts while allowing the Bush tax cuts, including those for the wealthy, to expire.
The Obama administration, for its part, has been insistent that it will not, under any circumstance, push for a reauthorization of the Bush tax cuts for upper income Americans.
And while Clinton clarified that he believed a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts would be an "error," Republicans were quick to jump on the interview as a sign that the former president backed their view, not Obama's, about allowing for a temporary extension of the cuts on January 1.
In his interview with CNN on Thursday, Clinton sought to further explain his initial remarks.
"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 said, according to CNN's advance transcript. "Once I realized that nothing had to be done until the first of the year, I supported [Obama's] position. I supported extending them last year, but I think his position is the right one and necessary for working out a comprehensive [deficit reduction] deal."
On Wednesday, the administration and Clinton attempted to smooth over any potential rough patches that may have arisen from the earlier comments. According to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, there is "no daylight" between Obama and Clinton regarding the Bush-era tax cuts.
Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod reiterated that point in an interview with Blitzer Thursday.
"I'm not asking for an apology from Bill Clinton," he said. "I have deep admiration for Bill Clinton, and I watched Republicans saying, 'oh, we ought to listen to Bill Clinton.' They should listen to Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was the president in the early '90s who said, 'We had to do something about these deficits, and it's going to mean the wealthy will have to pay a little more.'"
Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that the CBO's report was based on an expiration of the entire Bush tax cuts, not just those for the wealthy.
Below, more Obama surrogates to keep an eye on this election cycle:
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell
Newark Mayor Cory Booker
N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.)
Former President Bill Clinton