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Clinton Chides 'Separatists' In Washington For Alleging 'Secret Plan'

Luke Johnson   |   May 3, 2012   11:06 AM ET

By Ronald Grover

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.--U.S. and European politicians are squabbling over austerity measures to resolve deep-seated economic problems, but instead need to set aside entrenched views and take a longer-term approach to find real solutions, former President Bill Clinton told a financial conference.

In Europe, the key to battling its economic malaise is in taking the long view: promoting growth instead of a current plan to pare debt by cutting spending and raising taxes, Clinton told the Milken Institute Global Conference.

"The prescription of austerity continues to be pushed in the face of evidence that it won't work," said the president who held office before George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He called on leaders in both Europe and the United States to work on a strategy "of what would work in a five-year period, a 10-year period, instead of three or six months."

U.S. politicians similarly are hunkering down in ideological positions to either cut spending or tax high-wealth individuals, neither of which "has a chance of working without creating jobs."

"We're about to have a presidential race and 70 percent of what Americans will hear won't make a lick of sense as a strategy for what can actually be done to make a difference," he said.

Clinton, whose foundation works in foreign countries on health, environmental and other issues, compared the current U.S. political impasse to two meetings he attended in Brazil on whether to continue destroying the rain forest or promote alternative energy use.

"Not one person screamed at another, no one called each other names," he said. "They recognized that no one is perfect but that these were all highly intelligent individuals who had come together to solve a problem."

He chided what he called "separatists" in Washington who see government involvement in any program as "a secret plan by government to take away something from them."

"They've confused liberals and conservatives with communitarians and separatists," said Clinton, who said Silicon Valley is again creating new jobs because of what he called "creative networks of cooperation" dedicating to solving shared problems.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

  |   April 30, 2012    2:32 PM ET

PITTSBURGH -- The National Park Foundation says two former presidents and the Speaker of the U.S. House will host a fundraiser in Washington for the Flight 93 National Memorial.

The foundation said Monday that former President Bill Clinton, former President George W. Bush and House Speaker John Boehner (BAY'-nur) will host the benefit on May 15. The bipartisan event aims to secure funding for the complete memorial, including a learning center and a Tower of Voices containing 40 large wind chimes.

  |   April 28, 2012    3:33 PM ET

WASHINGTON, April 27 (Reuters) - Former President Bill Clinton will join President Barack Obama on Sunday to raise money for the Democrat's re-election campaign, the first time the two U.S. political heavyweights have campaigned together in 2012.

Obama and Clinton have had a sometimes strained relationship since the former Illinois senator beat the former president's wife Hillary Clinton, now secretary of State, for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

The former president remains very popular with Democratic supporters, however, and Obama's campaign is eager to get his fundraising support for the 2012 election.

The two men will appear together at a fundraising reception and then a dinner, both hosted by Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of the Clintons. Five hundred people will attend the reception, with tickets starting at $1,000, and 80 are to attend the dinner, for which tickets cost $20,000, the official said.

The money will go to a joint fund to support Obama's re-election campaign, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties.

Clinton's profile in the Obama campaign appears to be rising. On Friday, the campaign released a video of Clinton praising Obama for his decision to approve the raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. (Reporting By Jeff Mason; editing by Todd Eastham)

Paige Lavender   |   April 21, 2012   11:44 AM ET

Despite photos showing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drinking and dancing in Colombia, Madeleine Albright -- the first female Secretary of State -- said the job is no party.

“I don’t know whether you’d call what she’s doing fun,” Albright told Politico.

"The truth is that you would never believe this -- the things that one does as secretary state," Albright said. "I sang at meetings at the ASEAN regional forum, or played musical instruments. ... And we all have our own definition of fun."

Clinton accompanied Obama to Colombia for the Summit of the Americas. During his visit, Obama put major focus on the economy, the top issue for voters ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

Clinton's night out at the Cafe Havana wasn't the only event making headlines from Colombia. A prostitution scandal involving Secret Service members overshadowed Obama's visit, with several employees resigning in the week that followed.

PHOTO: Hillary Clinton Drinking

Alana Horowitz   |   April 15, 2012   12:25 PM ET

Hillary Clinton took a break from texting Mark Zuckerberg to have a drink with colleagues at a Colombian bar.

Clinton has been in Cartagena, Colombia to attend the Summit of the Americas.

Check out a photo of Clinton below.

You're on Your Own, Kids

Robert Scheer   |   April 12, 2012    4:45 AM ET

Who will speak for the rights of the unborn now that Rick Santorum is gone from the race? Let me give it a whirl from the perspective of one whose own unwed mother had several abortions before yours truly was permitted to emerge.

My arrival came during the U.S. economy's previous great crash, back in 1936. My father, who was already supporting an earlier family with two teenage children, had every intention of providing well for me, but he was laid off that very day and informed my mother of the unhappy fact within moments of setting eyes on me in a Bronx hospital. My father held on to part-time jobs in garment industry sweatshops (where my mother, too, worked), but it would be four years before he had a full-time paycheck again. He stood by both families during that dark period, seizing every opportunity to work, mostly in government-sponsored employment. And yes, we lived in part on government welfare -- or home relief, as it was then called. All of which made President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the New Deal he fashioned to save tens of millions of impoverished folks just like us throughout the country, objects of veneration.

So why am I bringing all this ancient history up now? Because I was dumbfounded by a headline Saturday in the New York Times that reminded me of how far we have gone wrong: "Welfare Limits Left Poor Adrift as Recession Hit." And by "we," I mean not only the heartless Republicans who love the fetus and then shun the child, but also the "progressives" who dare not use the word "liberal" because concern for the poor conflicts with the opportunism that defines their politics.

The death of American liberalism as a significant moral force can be traced to the point in 1996 when President Bill Clinton signed legislation that effectively ended the main federal anti-poverty program and turned the fate of welfare recipients, 70 percent of whom were children, over to the tender mercies of the states. With a stroke of the pen, Clinton eliminated what remained of New Deal-era compassion for the poor and codified into law the "tough love" callousness that his Republican allies in the Congress, led by Newt Gingrich, had long embraced.

The ensuing wave of state-imposed eligibility restrictions was designed to replace the war on poverty with a war on welfare recipients, with the result that in this time of economic crisis the poor have nowhere to turn. It also allowed states to play in a meanness derby, cutting the welfare rolls and forcing many of the desperate to cross state lines to locales where they might survive. "My take on it was the states would push people off [the assistance lists] and not let them back on, and that's just what they did," said Peter B. Edelman, who resigned from the Clinton administration over this issue and who told the Times for the recent article, "It's been even worse than I thought it would be."

Edelman, now a law professor at Georgetown University, was a close friend of the Clintons. His principled resignation was a rare exception to the cheerleading by Democrats who celebrated President Clinton's betrayal of the poor as shrewd triangulation. Clinton himself had to be fully aware of the depth of that betrayal because he had governed one of the poorest states. In an interview I did with him for the Los Angeles Times when he was still the governor of Arkansas, he was very clear on two points concerning socially responsible welfare reform: It required federal standards, and it would cost more money because the well-being of children was at stake. "To do it, you need more money ... for education, training, transportation, and child care."

Calling the shots on spending for the most vulnerable since the Clinton revisions went into effect, the states have diverted funds for the poor to filling other holes in state budgets. Consequently, as the New York Times piece noted last week, "Just one in five poor children now receive cash aid, the lowest level in nearly 50 years."

The response of the right-to-life Republicans has been typical -- indifference to the fate of the fetus once it's born. Paul Ryan, House budget leader and rumored to be Mitt Romney's pick for vice president, judges the current welfare program "an unprecedented success," and Romney himself wants to extend the welfare-cut model to "all these federal programs," including Medicaid and food stamps.

During his campaign, Santorum, who on Tuesday dropped out as the standard-bearer for pro-life family values, turned to Clinton's draconian welfare law as a source of deep spiritual guidance: "It didn't just cut the rolls, but it saved lives" and granted the poor "something dependency doesn't give: hope."

Well, glory be, hope is on the rise. A recent and well-documented Indiana University study concludes that the number of Americans living beneath the poverty line has risen 27 percent during the recession, leaving 46 million former fetuses living large on a new hope diet.

MATTHEW PENNINGTON   |   April 10, 2012    7:59 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- French director Luc Besson's biopic of Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has won an unusual endorsement.

Hillary Rodham Clinton says she watched the movie, "The Lady," as she flew to the military-dominated country in December on the first trip there by a U.S. secretary of state in 56 years.

Obama By Default

Robert Scheer   |   April 5, 2012    3:50 AM ET

The Republicans are a sick joke, and their narrow ideological stupidity has left rational voters no choice in the coming presidential election but Barack Obama. With Ron Paul out of it and warmongering hedge fund hustler Mitt Romney the likely Republican nominee, the GOP has defined itself indelibly as the party of moneyed greed and unfettered imperialism.

It is with chilling certainty that one can predict that a single Romney appointee to the Supreme Court would seal the coup of the 1 percent that already is well on its way toward purchasing the nation's political soul. Romney is the quintessential Citizens United super PAC candidate, a man who has turned avarice into virtue and comes to us now as a once-moderate politician transformed into the ultimate prophet of imperial hubris, blaming everyone from the Chinese to laid-off American workers for our problems. Everyone, that is, except the Wall Street-dominated GOP, which midwifed the Great Recession under George W. Bush and now seeks to blame Obama for the enormous deficit spawned by the party's wanton behavior.

Without a militarily sophisticated enemy anywhere on the planet, the United States, thanks to the Bush-bloated budget, now spends almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. Yet the GOP honchos dare claim they are for small government even as their chosen candidate chomps at the bit to go to war with Iran.

They obviously learned nothing from the disasters of Bush the Second, who hijacked the tragedy of 9/11 to launch the most wasteful orgy of military spending in U.S. history in his failed effort to take out an al-Qaida enemy that had no significant military arsenal. That enemy was later eliminated by Obama, whom the Republicans still obstinately refuse to credit for accomplishing what Bush failed to. Can you imagine the explosion of preening self-congratulation that would have resulted if a GOP president had done the deed?

The red-ink deficits that had been stanched under Bill Clinton came to gush uncontrollably because of the swollen military budgets, compounded by the severe costs of the recession that occurred on Bush's watch.

But the Republicans refuse to take ownership of the collapse resulting from their longstanding advocacy of radical financial deregulation that led to the derivatives bubble, hundreds of trillions of dollars of toxic junk, now a permanent, nightmarish feature of the world's economy. Romney, who made his fortune through such financial finagling, even has the effrontery to call for more of the same and blame Obama's tepid efforts at establishing some sane speed limits for the financial highway as a cause of our ongoing crisis.

So insanely gullible are Republican voters that they buy Mitt's line that bailing out the auto industry to save the heart of America's legendary industrial base was an example of big-government waste. Yet to them the almost unimaginable sum spent on the Wall Street bailout represents prudent small-government fiscal responsibility.

The incumbent president has his failings, but compared to Mitt Romney he is a paradigm of considered and compassionate thought. As Obama put it in a speech before a journalism group this week, we are saddled with a national debt "that has grown over the last decade, primarily as a result of two wars, two massive tax cuts, and an unprecedented financial crisis, [and] that will have to be paid down." But instead of dealing with the causes of that debt, Romney has called for an increase in military spending, continued tax breaks for the rich and reversal of the very limited restraints on corporate greed that Obama managed to get through Congress. He has endorsed the House-passed Paul Ryan budget, which, as Obama noted, even Newt Gingrich once derided as "radical" and an effort at "right-wing social engineering."

Such radicalism leaves Obama as the "moderate" choice in the coming election, defending centrist programs that Republicans in the past helped originate. Indeed, the big attack on Obama will involve what the Republicans call Obamacare -- which was modeled in every important respect on Romneycare, enacted when the GOP candidate was governor of Massachusetts.

The overarching lesson of this primary season is that Romney and the Republicans he seeks to win over are incapable of embracing the very moderation that, particularly in the golden era of Dwight Eisenhower, defined the party. Instead, they are now a reckless force bent on destroying the essential social contract that has been the basis of America's economic and social progress.

As Obama said Tuesday in addressing the editors and reporters: "... We're going to have to answer a central question as a nation. ... Can we succeed as a country where a shrinking number of people do exceedingly well, while a growing number struggle to get by? ... This is not just another run-of-the-mill political debate. ... It's the defining issue of our time."

Barbara Lee Pushes to End U.S.-Iran Silent Treatment

Jamal Abdi   |   March 23, 2012   11:23 AM ET

Here is one of those policies that makes you scratch your head and wonder how its taken this long for things to get this bad between the U.S. and Iran: American and Iranian diplomats are actually BANNED from making ANY contact with one another without prior authorization.

That's right--while the entire foreign policy establishment in Washington is running around in circles trying to figure out the magic solution to crack the U.S.-Iran riddle--Is it sanctions? Is it more war threats? Is it strikes? Dare we enter negotiations?--the two governments aren't even talking to each other at the most basic levels.

Thankfully, a commonsense and long overdue proposal has been introduced in Congress by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and nine other Representatives to dispense with the absurd "no contact" policy on the U.S. side. The bill, the Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons and Stop War Through Diplomacy Act (H.R.4173) would finally lift the ban on talking to Iran. Not only would eliminating this policy put us in a much better position to resolve the standoff, it will put the onus on the Iranians to take the necessary steps to end their own restrictions on contact with the U.S.

While the silent treatment may be a good tool for passive aggressive teenagers to resolve tiffs with their siblings, it's utility as a tool of statecraft on the world stage is pretty dubious. When you're trying to prevent war, nuclear proliferation, and human rights abuses, it can help to have diplomats who are allowed to do their job rather than a policy of righteous indignation.

Former Ambassador James Dobbins--who has directly negotiated with Iran--argued for lifting the ban in 2009, saying it could "enable both sides to more accurately gauge the other's real intentions, interests and possible areas of flexibility" and eliminate some of the pressure and hype that has undermined high-level diplomacy. "No negotiation can yield results if the two sides feel compelled to hold a news conference every time they meet," wrote Dobbins.

To that end, H.R.4173 would also appoint a high-level U.S. envoy to lead and sustain direct, bilateral and multilateral talks with Iran. The goal would be to actually invest in pursuing our interests that are only achievable through direct diplomacy. These include not just resolving the nuclear standoff and preventing war--pretty important goals in their own right that have no military fix--but also delving into the equally critical issues like human rights that have never been on the table because we're not talking (and when we do, it is for 45 minutes and never broadened beyond the nuclear issue).

Ask Iranians who are actually on the ground whether sanctions and threats of war are doing any favors for Iran's human rights situation. Unlike what you'll hear from neoconservative "experts"--who want to bring freedom to the Iranian people even if they have to kill every last one of them--the current standoff has choked off Iranian civil society. For the grownups in the room, direct talks can ratchet down tensions and open up space within Iran for the human rights and democracy movement to flourish.

H.R.4173 also has another component that makes perfect sense but will upset the pro-war crowd: it takes war of choice with Iran off the table. The bill states clearly that--in lieu of an actual Congressional authorization for war--no U.S. government funds may be allocated to a war with Iran. This may be commonsense and technically already the law of the land; unfortunately, amidst the threat inflation and demonization of diplomacy occurring in Washington and Tehran, commonsense has been altogether too uncommon.

To tell your Member of Congress to sign on to the Lee bill, you can send a message here.

By MATTHEW LEE   |   March 20, 2012    8:54 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- A new clue in one of the 20th century's most enduring mysteries could soon uncover the fate of American aviator Amelia Earhart, who went missing without a trace over the South Pacific 75 years ago, investigators said Tuesday.

Enhanced analysis of a photograph taken just months after Earhart's Lockheed Electra plane vanished shows what experts think may be the landing gear of the aircraft protruding from the waters off the remote island of Nikumaroro, in what is now the Pacific nation of Kiribati, they said.

At Last, Some Decency on Wall Street

Robert Scheer   |   March 15, 2012    3:10 AM ET

By the time you read this, the PR hacks of Goldman Sachs will be vigorously pressing their efforts to destroy the reputation of whistleblower Greg Smith, a former Goldman executive director whose exposé in Wednesday's New York Times op-ed page was so devastating that the 143-year-old firm might actually, finally, be held accountable.

Smith, a wunderkind who spent the 12 years after he graduated from Stanford University rising through the ranks at Goldman, has revealed the firm's culture to be so fundamentally venal that were financial industry shenanigans not generally exempt from effective legal regulation, Goldman's executives could have been rounded up Wednesday morning on organized-crime charges.

The law that exempted what would have been illegal trading in the murky derivatives that the Smith article denounced was the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, enthusiastically signed by Bill Clinton in the waning months of his administration. The legislation shielded from any regulatory law the very activities that led to the financial meltdown from which Americans are still reeling.

Back in the Clinton era, it fell to the president's last press secretary, Jake Siewert, to justify the freeing of Wall Street investment houses to do their worst, and in one of those delicious ironies Siewert was appointed as a managing director and the global head of corporate communications for Goldman Sachs the day before the devastating Smith exposé broke.

Who better to quickly concoct a strategy of explaining away Goldman's deceit in the sale of those derivatives? Predictably there was the quickly leaked memo by Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein shooting Smith, the previously highly valued young messenger, as a "disgruntled" employee for daring to describe the culture within Goldman "as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it."

Smith's charge about Goldman "routinely ripping their clients off" resonated widely on the Internet because of prior exposures of suspect derivatives deals in which Goldman explicitly bet against the products it was selling. Slightly less than two years ago the Securities and Exchange Commission filed fraud charges against Goldman that resulted in a $550 million fine over such double-dealing.

But what is so damning in Wednesday's article is Smith's insistence that the culture of Goldman has only gotten worse since then: "Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence."

In addition to heading Goldman's equity derivatives trading in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Smith was involved in recruiting new talent for the company. It was his supervision over recruits being exposed to the increasingly corrupt Goldman culture -- amid routine reference to clients as "muppets" and chortling about "ripping eyeballs out" -- that finally turned him off.

At the heart of the rot were those derivatives, the collateralized debt obligations [CDO] and credit default swaps [CDS] that were made legal by the legislation Clinton signed and Siewert defended. In his piece, Smith referred to the selling of those designed-to-be-toxic products as the essential avenue of Goldman's greed, saying you "find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym."

Contrast Smith, who announced his resignation from Goldman in the op-ed article, and Siewert, who has just joined up with the greed merchants after working in the administration that made that greed legal. Clearly, people like Siewert, comfortable in the Washington-Wall Street axis, have no sense of shame. They know all too well what Goldman and the other financial swindlers have been up to, causing so much misery for tens of millions throughout the world.

After a stint with Alcoa in the private sector, Siewert returned to government as a top aide to President Barack Obama's treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, who worked in the Clinton Treasury Department before becoming head of the New York Fed. Former Clinton Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs executive Robert Rubin recommended Geithner for that position. In his Fed job, Geithner choreographed the bailout of AIG, which compensated Goldman Sachs for its toxic derivatives.

Because Siewert is obviously without a moral compass, he can, as have so many in the elite from both parties, move easily without any hesitation through the platinum revolving door between Washington and Wall Street, becoming filthy rich in the process while betraying the public trust. Hail Greg Smith, and thank the New York Times, for his cri de coeur, a rare example that decency is not always for sale.

  |   March 12, 2012   11:00 AM ET

NEW YORK, March 12 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday of cynically launching new military assaults while meeting with U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan over the weekend.

"We reject any equivalence between premeditated murders by a government's military machine and the actions of civilians under siege driven to self-defense," Clinton told the U.N. Security Council.

"How cynical that, even as Assad was receiving former (U.N) Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Syrian Army was conducting a fresh assault on Idlib and continuing its aggression in Hama, Homs, and Rastan," she said. (Reporting by Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols)

Hillary in a Sweater Vest?

David Boaz   |   March 9, 2012    1:06 PM ET

To the casual observer no two politicians could be more different than Hillary Clinton and Rick Santorum -- the career woman who calls herself a "government junkie" and the "true conservative" whose wife home-schools their seven children. But look a little closer, and you'll find some surprising similarities.

  • They're the only two national politicians who actually criticize the fundamental American idea of "the pursuit of happiness." Running for president in 2007, Clinton scoffed, "We can talk all we want about freedom and opportunity, about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but what does all that mean to a mother or father who can't take a sick child to the doctor?" Santorum denounces "this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do," and laments that "we have a whole culture that is focused on immediate gratification and the pursuit of happiness . . . and it is harming America."
  • Hillary wrote a book called It Takes a Village, Santorum wrote It Takes a Family. What they agree on is that individuals can't manage their own lives, and that what "it" really takes is an expansive, nurturing government telling individuals what's best for them. Clinton envisioned a federal government constantly advising, nagging, hectoring parents: "Videos with scenes of commonsense baby care -- how to burp an infant, what to do when soap gets in his eyes, how to make a baby with an earache comfortable -- could be running continuously in doctors' offices, clinics, hospitals, motor vehicle offices, or any other place where people gather and have to wait," she wrote. Santorum proposed such federal programs as national service, promotion of prison ministries, publicly financed trust funds for children, community-investment incentives, strengthened obscenity enforcement, covenant marriage, assorted tax breaks, and economic literacy programs in "every school in America."
  • Both oppose gay marriage. As first lady, Clinton supported the Defense of Marriage Act to override state marriage laws and refuse any federal recognition of same-sex marriages (though she has softened her position). Santorum has made opposition to gay marriage a signature issue. And he supports a constitutional amendment to overrule state marriage laws, which Clinton opposes.
  • As senators, both tried to raise prices for American consumers by supporting protectionist legislation for industries in their states. Santorum had a better overall record on free trade, but he often supported direct subsidies, trade tariffs and import quotas for American steel companies.Clinton opposed many trade agreements as senator and presidential candidate, and in life-imitates-parody echo of the free-trade economist Frederic Bastiat, she even supported 100 percent tariffs to protect New York candle makers.
  • Both think America would be a "cultural vacuum" in the absence of government arts funding. Bucking fellow conservatives in Congress, Santorum regularly supported full funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, saying in 1997, "The arts foster a strong sense of community and bring new ideas and cultures to many individuals and families all over the nation. Elimination of such programs would create a cultural vacuum that could not be easily filled." A year earlier, Clinton said, "This is an ominous time for those of us who care for the arts in America. A misguided, misinformed effort to eliminate public support for the arts not only threatens irrevocable damage to our cultural institutions but also to our sense of ourselves and what we stand for as a people." As I pointed out at the time, no one was proposing to "abandon" the arts. Some Republicans were proposing that of the $37 billion then spent on the arts in the United States (according to the American Arts Alliance), the $167 million that is coercively extracted from taxpayers should be eliminated. Who could view such a cut as "threatening irrevocable damage" or a "cultural vacuum"--except someone who looks at the bounty of civil society and sees a barren wasteland enlightened only by the activities of the federal government?

Clinton and Santorum disagree on a great deal. But in their view of adult Americans as helpless without the all-embracing support of the federal government, their disdain for the founding idea of America, and their curious notion the most dynamic culture in the world would be a "vacuum" without modest taxpayer funding, they are siblings under the skin.

David Boaz is executive vice president of the Cato Institute.

Jeffrey McCracken and Hans Nichols   |   March 6, 2012   12:40 PM ET

Former President Bill Clinton has agreed to make joint appearances with President Barack Obama at a series of campaign fundraisers, according to three people familiar with the matter.