Former President Bill Clinton gives President Barack Obama an "A" grade for his first month in office, but tells ABC News that Obama needs to put on a more positive face when speaking to the American people about the economy and must keep pressure on Republicans who try to obstruct his plans.
"Look, the American people, I think, know the president has tried to reach out to Republicans," Clinton told ABC News' Chris Cuomo. "And it takes two to tango. I think there are some of them who really believe that just-say-no politics is good politics.
"It was -- briefly, only briefly -- in the '90s. It isn't anymore," he added. "So, sooner or later, I think if he just keeps chugging along, just keeps the door open, invite 'em to every economic conference, invite 'em to every meeting, eventually, he'll start getting some votes" in Congress.
Clinton gives former President George W. Bush a harsh review on the economy, however, blaming the Republican for the current fiscal crisis by not moving sooner to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.
"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," he said.
In a notable early showdown over a $787 billion economic stimulus proposal, only three Republicans in the Senate and none in the House of Representatives voted for the Obama-endorsed bill.
Regarding Obama's bleak warnings that "the economy could get worse before it gets better," and that the economic stimulus program is only the beginning of the end of the economic crisis, Clinton said, "I like the fact that he didn't come in and give us a bunch of happy talk. I'm glad he shot straight with us."
But he added, "I just want the American people to know that he's confident that we are gonna get out of this and he feels good about the long run."
Clinton thinks Obama should talk to the public in greater depth about the economy.
"I like trying to educate the American people about the dimensions and scope of this economic crisis," Clinton said. "I just would like him to end by saying that he is hopeful and completely convinced we're gonna come through this."
He added that though the economic problems are large, he expects the stimulus money to help.
"I think you will see some good economic news from the stimulus fairly soon," Clinton said. "I think you'll start to see people express gratitude for getting the unemployment benefits, the tax cuts and the food stamps. And you'll see the money flowing through the economy. Then I think you'll see every state be able to quantify how much better shape they're in, because of the education and health money."
Clinton, who presided over a balanced budget as president, said he views the $787 billion stimulus program as a "bridge over troubled water." He said he's not concerned with the massive amounts of spending in the legislation, because something needs to be done to revive the economy.
"I think it's absolutely the right thing to do," he said. "And I'm a fiscal conservative. You know, I balanced the budget. I paid $600 billion down on the debt to the American people. I don't like deficit spending. He has no choice. The economy is contracting. He has to prop it up."