Please credit any usage to “CNN’s FAREED ZAKARIA GPS”
The following transcript is of an interview by Fareed Zakaria with former President Bill Clinton. They discussed the current presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton’s run for president, Donald Trump and the GOP brand, the civil war in Syria, good news on the United Nations’ development goals and Clinton Global Initiative accomplishments, the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, and Russia’s interventions in Ukraine.
MANDATORY CREDIT for reference and usage: “CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS”
Former President Bill Clinton on Hillary Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton on Donald Trump
Former President Bill Clinton’s on the P5+1 deal and whether he believes President Obama is maintaining the U.S-Israel relationship: “Well, he certainly maintained their qualitative military superiority. And there have certainly been some very public squabbles, not all of which are his fault. Mr. Netanyahu's trip to the Congress was rather unprecedented… I think the most important thing is we'll have a new president in 2017. And I believe the nuclear agreement with Iran is, on balance, the right thing to do, because I don't believe that an Iranian nuclear capacity now would be just Iran. …I also think that 10 years is a very long time. A lot of people say 10 years from now, they're just going to do what they're doing now. In 1979, if somebody had told you that the Berlin Wall would fall, the Warsaw Pact would collapse, the Soviet Union would come to an end in 10 years, nobody would have believed that. So a lot can happen in 10 years. …I think, on balance, this is going to be a good thing. But it's very important to be tough in enforcing it.”
President Clinton on whether the U.S. should host more Syrian refugees: “President Obama just said we would take 85,000 this year, and I think 100,000 next year, which I think is a good start. …We should take more, but - We need to satisfy the American people that we have a good screening system, because one of the things that's raising tensions in Europe, they can say, OK, 99 percent of these people can be great. It doesn't take even 1 percent to wreak havoc...the Syrians have basically done very well in America - have made major contributions. So - and a lot of the Iraqis have. So I think we can take more and I think the American people will want to take more, but they will want to know, A, we're not going to wreck the American economy in one place or another, and, B, we've taken appropriate steps for safety.”
President Clinton on why he seems to feel ISIS will ultimately not succed: “..there's a silver lining. ISIL has a model of how they want the world to work and how they want the Middle East to work. They want to redraw all the boundaries set after World War I that they say were colonially-imposed and reestablish the caliphate that was last centered in Istanbul. And the Ottomans fell, and they want it back. People are voting with their feet. They're voting for a normal life, for decency for their children. They don't like it when the Yazidis and the Samaritans are butchered. And that means there's a fundamental decency there that the rest of us have to respond to."
President Clinton on whether the Obama Administration should be more forceful militarily to solve the Syrian crisis: “I don't think we need to put a lot more boots on the ground, but I think we're going to have to back groups that will have enough influence that they can be part of a negotiated settlement...our first priority is to put the brakes on ISIS... If we want to have that kind of influence - the people we want to support have got to have enough stick to be taken seriously in the negotiations... …no one knows for sure if what others had recommended, including Petraeus, Hillary, and others, had been done in terms of arming people. Suppose they had collapsed and all their arms had landed in the laps of the people that we most distrust there? This is not an easy thing. If it were easy, it would have been solved. But I think if we want leverage, we have to have somebody we're backing that has a chance to be at the table and be a part of the solution.”
FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN GPS: Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to interview President Bill Clinton at the offices of the foundation he started after leaving the presidency in 2001. The Clinton Foundation's big event of the year - the Clinton Global Initiative - kicks off this weekend in New York.
We'll get to its work in a moment. But before we do, I wanted to talk about something we have to get President Clinton's views on - politics, of course.
President Clinton, thank you so much for joining us.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Glad to do it.
ZAKARIA: There will be a new president in 2017, January. You're, some would say, the most skilled student of American politics Why do you think Hillary Clinton is having a tougher time than many imagined? The lead in the national polls has narrowed. Iowa and New Hampshire seem tough...
CLINTON: Well, I think you know why. I think you know why. In 1992, I received a call before - in '91, before I started running for president - from the Bush White House, from a man, he said we've looked at the field, you are the only one that can win. The press has to have someone every election - we're going to give them you. You'd better not run.
So all of a sudden, something nobody thought was an issue, Whitewater, that turned out never to be an issue, winds up being a $70 million investigation, and all the hammering happened, and you asked voters, do you really believe this amounts to anything? No. But do you trust him as much? No. There must be something. So this is just something that has been a regular feature of all of our presidential campaigns, except in 2008 for unique reasons.
Ever since Watergate, something like this happens. And so I'd rather it happen now than later. And it was always going to happen. The other party doesn't want to run against her. And if they do, they'd like her as mangled up as possible. And they know that if they leak things and say things that that is catnip to the people who get bored talking about what's your position on student loan relief or dealing with the shortage of mental health care or what to do with the epidemic of prescription drugs and heroin out in America, even in small towns in rural America, or how you're going to get jobs into coal country given how much they've lost in the last 20 years.
CLINTON: So that just happens. It always happens. We're seeing history repeat itself. And I actually am amazed that she's borne up under it as well as she has. But I have never seen so much expended on so little.
And, you know, the difference is now, you know, when it happened in - before, nobody knew anything about land in Arkansas, so I didn't have many defenders. There have been a shocking number of really reputable press people who have explained how you can't receive or transmit classified information, how the government has no central authority for classification and that Defense, State, and the intelligence agencies have their own. I mean, there have been a lot of really fine things. It's just that they don't seem to show up on television very much. And it is what it is.
But I think she, you know, she went out and did her interviews, said she was sorry that her personal email caused all this confusion. And she'd like to give the election back to the American people. And I trust the people. I think it will be all right. But it's obvious what happened. You know, at the beginning of the year, she was the most admired person in public life. And she earned it. Why? Because she was being covered by people who reported on what she was doing: the new START Treaty, the Iran sanctions, tripling the number of people on AIDS getting medicine for no more tax money. America was - when she left office, our approval rating was more than 20 points higher than it had previously been. What happened? The presidential campaign happened. And the nature of the coverage shifted from issue-based to political. And it happened. You can't complain.
This is not - this is a contact sport. They're not giving the job away. And people who want a race wanted her to drop some, and the people in the other party desperately wanted it because she's already put out more positions on more issues and said how she would pay for it than, I think, than all the others combined, based on the two - the Republicans, based on the two debates I saw.
ZAKARIA: But you think it's a Republican plot, really?
CLINTON: No, I'm not going there, because that's what the - it's not a - a plot makes it sound like it's a secret. No, I think that - that there are lots of people who wanted there to be a race for different reasons. And they thought the only way they could make it a race was a full-scale frontal assault on her. And so this email thing became the biggest story in the world.
So - but - just suppose there were no presidential campaign, and you didn't know any names. And the State Department said for anybody who used a personal device in the era of inter-office email, would you please look and see if you have any emails that may not have been captured by the system? That is, if you send one to somebody else, it's already in there. One person replied. That person said, yes, about 5 percent of mine weren't. Here they are. And I heard you had some record problems, so here's all the rest of them, too.
And then the State Department said to that person, you gave us 1,200 too many. Then that person said, I'd like to be the first secretary of state in history to actually have you make public inter-office emails. I want people to see what we do at the State Department. Have at it. And then they said, well, these are our documents, we've got to make sure nobody will be invest - embarrassed. Then everybody else said, well, we want to look and see if we would have classified this. All this is a fight that goes on every day in government; it's just the American people never saw it before, because no secretary of state ever said do that and did that.
And then said, oh, by the way, you know, I'll testify before this eighth Benghazi hearing. The other seven, all led by Republicans, concluded she did nothing wrong. This has never happened in the history of our republic before - an eighth committee. She said but I want to do it in public. So they finally agreed to that. And all the other people, too, said can we please testify in public? We'd like the American people to know. They said no. They said, well, then would you please release our testimony? No. We'd rather leak out selective things to the press.
So who's being secretive here? Obviously, the only person who turned over emails, the only person who asked for them to be made public, the only person who held out for public testimony, the only person who asked that her aides be able to say - I'm very proud of her. She's borne up under this and she's the most honorable person I've ever known and the ablest public service I've ever known. And I'm fine about it. I feel this was going to happen, so it happened. I'd rather - I'm glad it happened this year.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, President Bill Clinton on the Donald Trump phenomenon. What does he make of it all? And could "The Donald" really be the GOP nominee? When we come back.
ZAKARIA: Again, as a great student of American politics, what explains Donald Trump?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, he's a master brander. And when you've got a lot of people running, and people are trying to make distinctions, being able to put a personal stamp on it so people identify with who you are counts for something, certainly in the beginning.
So I think that - then he said to the working class supporters of the Republican Party, that have largely shifted over for cultural reasons, I'll give you economic reason to vote for me, I'll build a wall around the southern border of America, and I'll stop buying Chinese imports so your incomes will go up. Now, that will all have to be fleshed out in the course of time. And I'm sure the other future debates will do it.
But he's got a lot of pizzazz and zip. He's branded himself in a clear way and he's generated some excitement. And it remains to be seen what's going to happen. It's an unusual election. You know, there's - there doesn't seem to be much interest yet on their side - I think there is on our side, because both Hillary and Senator Sanders have laid out pretty detailed, positive policy positions, talked about what they would cost, and, you know, you can actually have a debate there where you could discuss the relative merits of their positions on health care or generating jobs or lifting incomes or whatever. But over there, it seems to be more about resentments and one-liners. I don't know, it's interesting…
ZAKARIA: Could Trump be the nominee?
CLINTON: I think so.
CLINTON: I mean, how do I know? I don't understand - I don't understand any of it very well. Look, I've been out of politics a long time. I haven't run for office in 20 years. And also, I'm not mad at anybody. I mean, you know, I'm a grandfather. I love my foundation. I'm proud of Hillary. I'll do what I can to help her. But I'm not the best pundit anymore. I don't have a good feel for this. All I know is what I think is good for the country. And I think the country needs somebody who can give us broadly shared prosperity, help families and kids, try to reduce the impact of all this huge anonymous money in our political system, and in a world full of challenges, keep big, bad things from happening and make as many good things happen as possible. That's how I would define the job of the next president. That's what I think. And so I think Hillary would be a great president. But I have - I have no confidence in my political feel anymore. I've just been out of it a long time and I'm not - I'm not mad at anybody, so I'm just happy to be here.
ZAKARIA: When we come back, I'll ask President Clinton what his thoughts are on the nuclear deal with Iran. Will it make the world safer or more dangerous?
ZAKARIA: The Middle East - President Clinton arguably came closer than any other president has come to finding peace there. So what he does he think of President Obama's managing of the U.S./Israeli relationship? I asked him.
ZAKARIA: There are a lot of people who are very fierce supporters of Israel, both in Israel and in the United States, who think President Obama has not been sufficiently supportive of Israel and that there are unnecessary tensions that have been created between Israel and the United States. What is your view?
CLINTON: Well, he certainly maintained their qualitative military superiority. And there have certainly been some very public squabbles, not all of which are his fault. Mr. Netanyahu's trip to the Congress was rather unprecedented. On the other hand...
ZAKARIA: And unwise?
CLINTON: Well, you can ask him that. But here's what I think. I think the most important thing is we'll have a new president in 19 - January of 1917 - I mean, 2017. And I believe the nuclear agreement with Iran is, on balance, the right thing to do, because I don't believe that an Iranian nuclear capacity now would be just Iran. I think there’d be one to four other states that would get nuclear power in the Middle East. Then I think you'd have a race on by all of these various non-state actors to get fissile material and it could be a nightmare.
I also think that 10 years is a very long time. A lot of people say, well, 10 years from now, they're just going to do what they're doing now. In 1979, if somebody had told you that the Berlin Wall would fall, the Warsaw Pact would collapse, the Soviet Union would come to an end in 10 years, nobody would have believed that. So a lot can happen in 10 years. Furthermore, even with the sanctions on, the Iranians kept supporting their conventional military buildup and the terrorist capacity of Hezbollah. So I think, on balance, this is going to be a good thing. But it's very important to be tough in enforcing it. And the snapback provisions of the sanctions, it's really important that the United States work clearly, aggressively to keep all the countries on board with the snap back.
ZAKARIA: Ukraine - you've studied it very carefully. You also have dealt with Putin. Do you think Putin will finally blink, in a sense? There's a lot of pressure on him. Oil prices have collapsed. European sanctions have so far held. You think he's looking for a way out?
CLINTON: Yes and no. I was very disturbed when he blithely tore up the agreement I signed with his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, promising to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity. He said it was an agreement, not a treaty, he never ratified it by the Duma. But the good news is he says he will always honor the new START Treaty, which was negotiated when Hillary was Secretary of State in the President's first term, which makes the world a safer place at a time when very few things do. So that's good.
But my guess is that he's keeping his options open. I know the President is meeting with him during UN week. I personally think that's a very good thing. I don't think you ought to ever stop talking to try to work this out. And we'll just see. I don't know yet. But I think the U.S. ought to be four-square on the side of Ukraine. And it's not just atta boy. And it's not just military support, although I do feel we should give an appropriate level. I think we have to get everybody involved in helping them to make the changes necessary to grow their economy more. It's a very resource-rich country. They can do a lot with agriculture. They can do a lot with other things. And if we can get them the energy they need, they can be somewhat freed up from the monopolistic position that gave the Russians to put the squeeze on them.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, the Syrian civil war. It's into its 4th year with no end in sight. What is the solution? I'll ask President Clinton, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: Refugees - what do you think is going to be the solution to these refugees coming out of Syria, because they're neighboring in the hundreds of thousands into Europe, into - already they're in the millions in the neighboring countries? The Syrian civil war isn't going to end any time soon. What will happen?
CLINTON: Well, first, even in this, there's a silver lining. ISIL has a model of how they want the world to work and how they want the Middle East to work. They want to redraw all the boundaries set after World War I that they say were colonially imposed and reestablish the caliphate that was last centered in Istanbul. And the Ottomans fell, and they want it back.
People are voting with their feet. They're voting for a normal life, for decency for their children. They don't like it when the Yazidis and the Samaritans are butchered. And that means there's a fundamental decency there that the rest of us have to respond to.
Now, to be fair, it is the largest number of refugees since the end of World War II. It is coming at a time when growth is still halting across most of Europe; when, in a lot of those countries, they've had very tough debates on immigration because of the incidents in France, the Charlie Hebdo …the other things that have happened. And so there's a lot of angst. President Obama just said we would take 85,000 this year, and I think 100,000 next year, which I think is a good start.
I think the most important thing we can do is to try to bolster the countries in the region that have taken a lot of immigrants and that we know are stabilizing forces. And particularly, I'm concerned about Jordan and Lebanon. Lebanon has held together against all the odds since the mid-'70s, because they had such a searing experience in their own civil war. They've developed inclusive requirements for governance. So far, a lot of the Arab countries, with money and without many refugees, have given money to Lebanon and Jordan, and others have.
The U.S. has given over $4 billion, enough to feed and clothe and house people, but we need to make sure that all the kids are in school and that there are investments there that need to be made anyway that will create jobs, not just for the refugees, but for the Jordanians or for the Lebanese. I mean, look at Jordan. Jordan's a majority Palestinian country now. They had 66,000 Egyptians before getting - I think they now have well over a million Syrians.
ZAKARIA: And the Iraqis.
CLINTON: And the Iraqis. So my view is - and I’ve tried to do this at CGI. I put together a Friends of Jordan working group, like we did for Haiti. And I'm hoping we can get more interest there. But here's a stable country, a friend of the United States, an ally of Israel, committed to peaceful co-existence in the Middle East. We ought to help them get through this and we ought to do more than we're doing, and so should their neighbors. And I feel the same way about Lebanon. Lebanon has been so buffeted by the tensions with where it is located - Israel, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah. So I think the next step is for all of us to do more. That's what President Obama announced. Europeans will figure out who can best afford it and who can best handle it.
But we really ought to emphasize stabilizing the countries in the region that don't have their own oil revenues and aren't filthy rich so that we do more than just maintain people. We need to create more employment there, more education there, more opportunity there. And if we give that level of assistance to the Jordanians and the Lebanese - they've proved they can make the most of it. They'll actually do something with any extra aid we give them.
ZAKARIA: Germany says they're going to take 800,000 refugees. Should the United States take a lot more than we're taking?
CLINTON: We should take more, but what we have to do and what the Germans will do, I think - and they're used to this, because they have a lot of, you know, for decades and decades, they've had all the Turks moving in and out, in and out, and they had to work through all that in their EU membership issues. We need to satisfy the American people that we have a good screening system, because one of the things that's raising tensions in Europe, they can say, OK, 99 percent of these people can be great. It doesn't take even 1 percent to wreak havoc. So we need to have a good screening system.
But, you know, if - when I was a boy growing up and while in high school, we moved to a house where my neighbors down the street were a Syrian-American who married - who fought for America in World War II and married an Italian war bride because he was in Italy. And they had four kids that were half Syrian, half Italian. I loved them all. And the Syrians have basically done very well in America - have made major contributions. So - and a lot of the Iraqis have. So I think we can take more and I think the American people will want to take more, but they will want to know, A, we're not going to wreck the American economy in one place or another, and, B, we've taken appropriate steps for safety.
ZAKARIA: On this program last year, you said that you thought we needed to do more militarily in order to solve the political crisis at the heart of Syria. Do you think - General Petraeus is now saying the same thing. Do you think the Obama administration should, even now, be much more forceful militarily?
CLINTON: Well, I don't think we need to put a lot more boots on the ground, but I think we're going to have to back groups that will have enough influence that they can be part of a negotiated settlement. If you want to have a negotiated political settlement, which is what I think we want, at least until we get - you know, our first priority, I think, is to put the brakes on ISIS, even though I agree that we need a more inclusive, different kind of government in Syria. If we want to have that kind of influence, we've got to have - the people we want to support have got to have enough stick, enough swat to be taken seriously in the negotiations. That's the same...
CLINTON: - reason I think we should be aggressively supporting the government in Ukraine, because if we want democracy and territorial integrity and ethnic reconciliation, the government has to be able to not only defend itself, but to produce more employment, more business opportunities, more education and training opportunities. And I think that the two things go hand in hand. So it's hard for us to be advocating for a position X, Y, or Z if there's not some group on the ground that is advancing that position who can be trusted to embody it in some reconciling process. I'm all fine with negotiating a - particularly a temporary solution in Syria to try to staunch the flow of refugees, stop the internal bleeding, and get a hold of the ISIS problem. But we have to have somebody who can do that for us on the ground.
ZAKARIA: Do we? I mean we've been searching for these moderate Syrians.
CLINTON: Well, they come and go, you know, and we don't know because we never - look, I have to - I always - last year I said this - no one knows for sure if what others had recommended, including Petraeus, Hillary, and others, had been done in terms of arming people. Suppose they had collapsed and all their arms had landed in the laps of the people that we most distrust there? This is not an easy thing. If it were easy, it would have been solved. But I think if we want leverage, we have to have somebody we're backing that has a chance to be at the table and be a part of the solution.
ZAKARIA: OK, enough with the bad news. When we come back, President Clinton on the good news in the world. And there happens to be quite a lot of it.
ZAKARIA: In the year 2000, just 15 years ago, world leaders gathered at the UN to set some serious goals for themselves. They said that by this year, they wanted to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce child mortality, ensure environmental sustainability, and much more. Unlike most of what the UN sets out to do, the progress that has been made on these is actually quite remarkable. According to the UN, the number of people living in extreme poverty has been halved, as has the under-five mortality rate, as has the proportion of hungry people in the developing world - all in the last 25 years. These are some of the issues that the Clinton Foundation works on. I asked President Clinton about them.
ZAKARIA: So you're marking your - marking your 10th anniversary for CGI. The UN, 15 years ago, set out some very ambitious development goals, which you, among other foundations, have tried to help along. You're looking at your next 10 years. What have you learned? What are the best ways to try to alleviate poverty, eradicate disease? Is there - have you come up with some kind of a set of, you know, best practices?
CLINTON: Well, what I've learned, I think, what works best, which is why we're doing this one on what we call “the Future of Impact,” which is saying we spent 10 years trying to get everybody to actually make commitments, report on their progress, and measure their impact. Now, we want to talk about what works best.
CLINTON: What works best basically are networks of people that work together across their lines of contacts and knowledge in the NGO community, and also when government, business, and the non-governmental sector work together. We find...
ZAKARIA: Give me an example. What is…
CLINTON: All right, I'll give you - if I could, I'll give you a couple of examples. In CGI, because we're about to have CGI, one of our best partners has been Procter & Gamble. They developed a little packet that would clean dirty water in a very simple, inexpensive way. The packet now costs a dime or less. They've now - they knew that. In the process of doing this, they realized once they got enough partners, they could commit to saving at least one life an hour every hour of every day as long as the company is in existence. They have now given out seven and a half billion of these packets. Each one will clean enough water to take care of a family of three for three or four days. The Starkey Hearing Foundation always, for more than 40 years, they've given away 10 percent of their profits from their commercial hearing aid business in the United States.
But when I met them, they were giving the gift of hearing to 50,000 people a year in poor countries. And we were in Haiti together, and I was so struck that they thought they were just going to replace the hearing aids. Then they got the kids from the deaf school in, 225 of them - all but two left with hearing. And Bill Austin looked at me and said, you know, this is true all over the world. Most people that are given up for deaf could hear if they had help. So I said, well, I looked at this model. You can do better than this. So they promised they would double to 100,000 a year by 2020. Last year, they did 165,000. This year, they're over 200,000. That's what's exciting. In America, let me just give you one other example. I talked to the AFL-CIO, four or five years ago. I said, you know, you've got all these pension funds that are solid, that are in good shape. You should invest - they have to have diversified holdings - you ought to invest in building retrofits, in building energy efficient buildings and creating new jobs, training people to do that.
So they put together, under the leadership of Randi Weingarten at the AFT, a $10 billion commitment. They have deployed $5.6 billion of that money. They've created about 50,000 jobs. They've trained 900,000 people to do this work. They just got 15,000 more jobs, because they have a piece of the LaGuardia Airport extension. They're just building affordable housing in super expensive San Francisco for teachers. And they've added $4 billion. So now their commitment if $14-plus billion because it's good for the retirement funds. And it's an empowerment issue. Nobody’s a victim here. They have actually gone into the business of earning money by creating jobs and training people.
ZAKARIA: What are you most optimistic about going forward? What do you think will be - you know, we hear so much bad news. What's the good news that will surprise us?
CLINTON: I believe that we will get better and better and better at alleviating extreme poverty. I believe that we will learn how to create more jobs and more businesses than we have. You know, there's a lot of skepticism in the world today about this. Carlos Slim gave a speech saying someday all the rich countries would have to have a three-day work week, because we're now moving closer and closer to artificial intelligence driven world, so that there's no way in the wide world to create enough businesses and jobs to take care of the people that are now in their working years.
But I think we’ll work through that. And I basically think there's more good news than bad news; it's just that the bad news captures the headlines. And I think that there is a newfound appreciation for not leaving people out. You look at this - one of the hopeful bipartisan things going on in America is the desire to reduce the prison population and the jail population for non-violent offenders and to make sure they're actually trained to do something when they get out so they can succeed. I think this whole develop-people's-potential movement is going to be even more powerful in the next 10 years than it has been in the last.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, I have a mystery guest who will recommend the book of the week. Can you guess who it is?
ZAKARIA: Normally in this space, I give you a personal recommendation for a book I’ve read that I think you would enjoy. Well, this week, I’ll let President Clinton do the honors.
ZAKARIA: What book have you read recently that you'd recommend to the viewers?
CLINTON: Well, of course, I like Chelsea's book. And she honored me, as she has since she was a little girl, and let me read what she turns in in school or turns into the publisher in advance. I think it's remarkable. But I like David McCullough's book on the Wright brothers. It's a great book for Americans who want insight into the kind of obsession we saw with Steve Jobs and his work and the belief in innovation and what it can do and understanding what the risks are. I think that Wright brothers book is a good book. I think any American would love reading that.
ZAKARIA: President Clinton, thank you.
CLINTON: You're welcome. Thank you.