Clinton addresses nation's newest problems
Belly Up Aspen
Troy Hooper - Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
Fri 07/07/2006 10:01PM MST
Back in Aspen, former President Bill Clinton sounded off on a multitude of problems confronting the nation Friday that included disease, destruction and Karl Rove.
As for Rove, who is scheduled to speak at the Aspen Institute on Sunday, Clinton didn't hold back when Atlantic Monthly national correspondent James Fallows asked him what one question he would ask President Bush's highly controversial political operative.
Always the overachiever, Clinton didn't invent just one question he would ask Rove, he came up with three. The 42nd president said he most wanted to know what Rove would do had Clinton's senior advisor blown the cover of a CIA agent who happened to be married to the man who refused to falsify findings about nuclear transactions taking place between Niger and Iraq (see Valerie Plame). And he openly wondered whether Rove would instruct Republican congressmen to call a White House official who would do such a thing a traitor. Lastly, Clinton wanted to know why it is that, if the Bush administration is as concerned with national security as it claims, why it would spend 20 times the amount of money it would take to shore up gaps in port security to repeal the estate tax for the nation's elite, which consists of less than one percent of the population.
Speaking to the first question he'd ask Rove, Clinton said; "I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he'd say that's exactly what I'd ask (Congress) to do, and I don't know why they didn't. I mean this guy is good. You don't understand this strip of the Republican party that controls everything basically," Clinton said. "These people are all white Protestant males. They don't do anything that surprises me. I've seen this my whole life."
Clinton, who routinely makes trips to Aspen for a blend of business and pleasure, also offered up ideas on the potential threats posed by North Korea and Iran. The former, he described as "a perplexing country because they can't make rice but they can make missiles and bombs and things. When they do these things, they want someone to notice them. They don't get noticed unless they disobey (authority like children)," he said. "I don't want to minimize this. It's a bad thing they have reached this level of technology. But I don't think we should reward their misconduct. I think we ought to not overreact to this. I don't think we need to freak out." Iran is harder. "If they develop nuclear capacity and whether or not by accident or by design some of the material is given to terrorists groups, (they could make) smaller explosives that could kill lots and lots of people. There is no option but to negotiate."
He added: "This whole thing that there are some people we shouldn't talk to because they're bad is nuts. I don't think Americans should put too many preconditions on talks with the Iranians. We shouldn't try to cook it too much in advance. I also think it would be a matter of serious consequence to think we can attack them militarily."
Clinton also said there should be no set date on when to withdraw troops from Iraq, and he cautioned Democrats from fighting with each other over the topic. "We ought to be whipped if we allow our differences over what to do now over Iraq divide us," he said, saying that the Republicans, via Rove's advice, are trying to win offices with stale but emotionally driven issues such as flag burning and gay marriage.
The former president also said that the problems of AIDS and global warming have, in his view, changed since he left office. He credited the Bush administration for financing efforts to stomp out AIDS, saying his nonprofit organization, the Clinton Foundation, has worked hand-in-hand with some of the president's program.
Clinton also saw his former Vice President Al Gore's new film about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," and "thought it was terrific. I loved it. But I don't think it would be nearly as compelling if we didn't have $70 (barrels) of oil, do you?" He went on to say that global warming is "a lot worse than I thought it was when I was in office" and that there are many opportunities, which Britain has embraced, to use environmental sustainability to drive up wages, lower unemployment and increase the nation's quality of life.
"They (Britain) took climate change seriously and because of that they created hundreds of thousands of jobs by creating new clean energy in the future. This decade's new jobs are in clean energy and we haven't seized them," he said.
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