Former President Bill Clinton appeared on “Late Show With David Letterman” last night and he discussed his thoughts on Occupy Wall Street, his admiration for the Tea Party and his new “close to a Vegan diet.”
Mr. Letterman, who introduced President Clinton as, “maybe something we’ll never see again—a two term Democrat,” queried the ex-Commander in Chief about his impressions of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.
“Let’s talk about the people down in Wall Street, do you know what they’re doing? Have you been down there? It’s like three weeks now and I am led to believe it’s getting bigger and bigger. Who are they and what are they protesting?” Mr. Letterman said.
“I think they have different things, but essentialy what they’re saying is that America, A), has become too unequal, and B), that some of the people that caused the problem are in good shape today and a lot of them aren’t. A lot of them have lost jobs, not been able to find new jobs, so that the country’s not really working for ordinary folks,” President Clinton said.
After giving his take on the message of Occupy Wall Street, President Clinton discussed whether he thinks the protests can accomplish anything.
“On balance, this can be a positive thing, but they’re going to have to kind of transfer their energies at some point to making some specific suggestions, or bringing in people who know more to try to put the country back to work, because, I dont think that many Americans resent the success of people who make a lot of money fairly earned. I think what bothers people is the country has gotten so much more unequal under the last–over the last 30 years,” President Clinton said.
The President went on to characterize that inequality as being fueled by the joblessness of many people in this country “who always worked hard, always paid their taxes, did everything they were supposed to do and made no contributions to the financial meltdown that caused their current distress.”
Mr. Letterman then asked about the increasingly common perception that “the fundamentals of the Tea Party parallel exactly the people protesting in Wall Street.”
President Clinton agreed that there are similarities between the two movements and went on to explain what he likes about the Tea Party.
“When the Tea Party started, I really admired what animated them, because they said that no one is being held accountable for their mistakes, not at the top of the economic pyramid or not people who took out mortgages they shouldn’t have taken out,” President Clinton said.
Though he admires some aspects of the Tea Party movement, President Clinton criticized the group’s push for smaller government.
“Their answer was the government should just stay out of it and let everybody live with the consequences. The problem was that if we had let the banking system collapse, everybody watching the show would be worse off today,” said President Clinton adding, “it really wasnt a bailout it was an organized restructuring.”
Mr. Letterman brought up another movement that has been compared to Occupy Wall Street–the Arab Spring.
“Did we get the idea to do this from watching what happened there?” he asked.
President Clinton said “you’d have to ask the people on Wall Street” about whether they were inspired by the mass protests in the Middle East, but he used the example of the uprising in Egypt to outline what he sees as the limitations of Occupy Wall Street:
“If you look at these poor Coptic Christians that were killed in Egypt in the last few days, you also see what the limits of mass protest are. The Egyptians who were interviewed in Tahrir Square were among the most impressive young people I’ve ever seen, but they didn’t have an organized political program, nor did they have a party, so what is happening is others are filling the vacuum. … So all I would say to the people in the Cccupy Wall Street crowd, even though I believe we have to resolve the housing debt and flush through it much quicker than we are to get back to a full employment economy, the program the President proposed would create another couple million jobs in the next year-and-a-half and they ought to be for that. They ought to be for some other things. They need to be for something specific and not just against something, because if you’re just against something, somebody else will fill the vacuum you create.”
Mr. Letterman closed by pointing out the “legislative change, cultural change” and “social change” the protest movements of the 1960′s caused for the country.
“It’s an energy that I think is welcome back in this country,” Mr. Letterman said.
President Clinton agreed, but reiterated his concerns about the lack of a clear platform in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“To make the change eventually, what it is you’re advocating has to be clear enough and focused enough that either there’s a new political movement which embraces it or people in one of the two political parties embrace it,” President Clinton said.
You can watch last night’s “Late Show” here, President Clinton comes on about fourteen minutes in to the broadcast.