Bill's Comments Unhelpful to Wife's Campaign

Political strategists advise former president to keep quiet.

ByABC News
April 22, 2008, 12:12 PM

April 22, 2008 — -- Oops, he did it again.

With Sen. Hillary Clinton locked in a dogfight with Sen. Barack Obama for votes in today's crucial Democratic Pennsylvania primary, her husband and former U.S. president, Bill Clinton, stole the spotlight by loudly rehashing his controversial comparison of Obama to Jesse Jackson.

"He would do the [Clinton] campaign good if he would just stop saying stuff like this," said Bob Shrum, a former Democratic strategist who worked on both the Al Gore and John Kerry campaigns. "There are plenty of times when he goes out and is very effective, but then he pops off in other ways that don't help."

In an interview Monday with Philadelphia radio station WHYY, Bill Clinton was asked about comments he made after Obama's South Carolina primary victory in January when he compared Obama's win to Jackson's primary wins in the state in 1984 and 1988.

The comments created a furor in January as some critics considered the remark to be a way of bringing attention to Obama's race. Bill Clinton fired up the issue again Monday by claiming the Obama campaign had purposefully misinterpreted his words.

"I think that they played the race card on me. And we now know, from memos from the campaign and everything, that they planned to do it all along," he said in a telephone interview with WHYY's Susan Phillips. "I was stating a fact, and it's still a fact."

The former president says the comment was "used out of context and twisted for political purposes by the Obama campaign."

Then, after the interview had concluded but the microphone had not yet been turned off, he said, "I don't think I should take any s-- from anybody on that, do you?"

Bill Clinton is often more active in his wife's campaign that she is, making seven or eight stops a day, consistently holding fundraisers and giving interviews.

But today, when an NBC reporter asked about his comments on the radio during a polling stop in Pittsburgh, the former president urged him to go back and listen to the interview again.

"This is a day about Election Day. Go back and see what the question was and what my answer was," said Bill Clinton, as he continued to shake hands despite reporters' badgering. "You have mischaracterized it just to get another cheap story to divert the American people from the real urgent issues before us."