'This Week' Transcript: Former President Bill Clinton

Transcript: Former President Bill Clinton

ByABC News
January 22, 2010, 2:35 PM

April 18, 2010 — -- TAPPER: You've made some news over this weekend. You gave a speech on Friday talking about -- on the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing which is coming up. How public officials have a responsibility to be careful with their words. This prompted a response from -- from Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh: "With this comment you have just set the stage for violence in this country. Any future acts of violence are on your shoulders, Mr. Clinton."

TAPPER: Do you have any response?

CLINTON: Doesn't make any sense. The only point I tried to make is that when I went back and started preparing for the 15th anniversary of Oklahoma City, I realized that there were a lot of parallels between the early '90s and now, both in the feeling of economic dislocation, and the level of uncertainty people felt. The rise of kind of identity politics. The rise of the militia movements and the right wing talk radio with a lot of what's going on in the blogosphere now.

And in the right wing media, and with Oath Keepers, the 3 percenters, the -- all these people, you know, who are saying things like, "If Idaho wants to succeed from the union," the militia group out there says, you know, "We'll back them." One leader of one of these groups said that all politics was just a prelude to civil war. And then the politicians of course have not been that serious, but a lot of the things that have been said, they -- they create a climate in which people who are vulnerable to violence because they are disoriented like Timothy McVeigh was are more likely to act.

And the only point I tried to make was that we ought to have a lot of political dissent -- a lot of political argument. Nobody is right all the time. But we also have to take responsibility for the possible consequences of what we say. And we shouldn't demonize the government or its public employees or its elected officials. We can disagree with them. We can harshly criticize them. But when we turn them into an object of demonization, you know, you -- you increase the number of threats.

But I worry about these threats against the president and the Congress. And I worry about more careless language even against -- some of which we've seen against the Republican governor in New Jersey, Governor Christie.

I just think we all have to be careful. We ought to remember after Oklahoma City. We learned something about the difference in disagreement and demonization.

TAPPER: You said that this time reminds you of -- of that time. Politically does this year remind you of 1994?

CLINTON: A little bit. We passed the bill which reversed trickledown economics by one vote. Close like the healthcare bill. And it led to an enormous flowering of the economy in America. And that bill was responsible for, take is more than 90 percent of the weight of the balanced budget. But people didn't realize its benefits.

I think the same thing is happening now with the healthcare bill. Where people are still reading into it all manner of dark things. And they haven't felt the benefits of it yet. But America is a different country now. We are culturally a different country. We are more diverse. We're more communitarian. That is, we understand we have to solve a lot of these problems together.

So I think that the dissent is just as intense, if not more intense. But I think the outcome of the election is likely to be far less dramatic than it was in '94.

TAPPER: So no Republican revolution -- no take over?

CLINTON: I don't think they will win either house. No. I think they'll -- you know, if history is any guide they should make a few gains. But I -- I don't expect them to win in either house. No.

TAPPER: Let's talk a little bit about why you're here. CGIU -- Clinton Global Initiative University -- what is different about it that changes on the previous models for national service for young people that -- that already exist?

CLINTON: Well what we did is to try to construct a college version of the Clinton Global Initiative that happens at the opening of the U.N. every year. Where we've brought in the college presidents and the student group leaders, and philanthropists and celebrities with college students. And try to create a network where these students could learn from each other and all make very specific commitments to make changes.

So we're trying to increase the number of people engaged in service. We're trying to increase the sophistication of their projects. And we're trying to create a -- a forum in which what they do will influence every campus in America so that more and more young people will be involved.

TAPPER: You have more than 950 commitments for projects for young people. Explain what a commitment is?

CLINTON: Well a -- a commitment is the very specific pledge to undertake and implement a project either on the campus, in the community, in the country, or half way around the world.

We've had commitments, to give you some examples, as diverse as a pledge by students at Brown to set up a micro credit program in Providence Rhode Island, because Rhode Island has the second highest unemployment rate in the country. That is going to help people to start again. A commitment in Syracuse to help promote nutrition and -- and learning. In inner city Syracuse because they have problems with childhood obesity.

We've had commitments to help empower Native American tribes -- still the poorest Americans -- to pull themselves out of poverty. And we've had commitments around the world. The commitments in West Africa to use the unique software to help the West Africans at very low cost keep out adulterated drugs. Sometimes as many as 30 percent of the drugs that are shipped in to very poor countries have been contaminated or diluted and they're not worth anything.