Monday, September 18, 2006

Bill Clinton on The Daily Show transcript

President William Jefferson Clinton was the guest on tonight's Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Here's what Bill Clinton and Jon Stewart had to say to each other:


Jon Stewart: [prolonged audience cheering] That is a lot of love. People are crazy about your Global Initiative.

Bill Clinton: I think they like it because we're actually doing something.

Stewart: What is the purpose? You've got together all these important world leaders, business leaders, they're donating money —

Clinton: And leaders of non-governmental movements in America and all around the world, including a lot of people from very poor countries who are doing remarkable things, and we come and meet for a couple of days, and we talk about four subjects:
  1. global warming
  2. alleviation of poverty
  3. global health challenges, and
  4. religious and racial reconciliation

Stewart: And then the conference closes with a comic. (Yeah.) Just to, you know, bring —

Clinton: That's my job. I tell jokes at the end. But you can't — the deal is, if you're a businessperson or a philanthropist or just an interested bystander, you can't come to this conference unless you commit to actually do something in one of these four areas. Last year, we raised about $2.5 billion from 300 commitments encompassing about 500 people, and so it's amazing. I think people like it because there's a very minimum of speeches: the speeches, the tiny number, are short, and most of it is conversation, and we talk about what we're going to do. Then people make commitments, sign on the dotted line, I give 'em a certificate, and we go out and do things. I think it brings people together — for example, I'm working on this climate change initiative with the biggest cities in the world, and its two main funders are Barbra Streisand and Rupert Murdoch; they never did anything together before. (Wow.) I like politics, and my differences with the current government are pretty clear, but I think that it is unrealistic to think that there's never anything we can agree on and actually get up in the morning to do something to make better.

Stewart: You've seen tangible results. (Oh, absolutely.) You're starting to see efforts paying off on the ground.

Clinton: Absolutely, yes, and we'll report. Some of them are not even the biggest dollar numbers. I'll give you an example: a doctor named Bruce Charash had an interesting idea, and it cost $300,000 to organize, to get all the medical professionals in the country and all the operating rooms in the country to donate sterile surgical equipment and materials and other medical equipment to him and let him distribute it to doctors in developing countries that otherwise wouldn't have it. He's generated millions and millions and millions of dollars worth of equipment that would've just been thrown away. In the operating room, sometimes there'll be a big package that's sterile and then inside there'll be five different packages of things that'll be used in surgery. Maybe only two of the five will be used, and under their rules of the hospital, they throw the other three away, but they're perfectly safe, perfectly good, perfectly sterile. Now they send 'em to Bruce, he gets 'em to some poor country, and they save lives.

Stewart: All right, so what, in your mind — you worked in government for most of your career, now you're out, you're doing private initiatives and these types of things. What's more effective? What are you having more fun doin', and what is more effective?

Clinton: Oh, well, this is more fun, and it's good because I can get people together and minimize the —

Stewart: Rupert Murdoch, you're good friends now with George H. W. Bush —

Clinton: Yeah, we're doin' work on the Katrina area and in the tsunami area, around the world.

Stewart: Is it — once you remove politics, do you suddenly think to yourself, Boy, that veil prevented us from doing so many of the things we wanted to do? Going back, would you change the way that you approach politics?

Clinton: I don't think I could have, because as governor, my vote and support went up among Republicans every year I was governor, every election, because I did reach out. When I was President, I tried to do it, and they had a different view: they believed that they could win by polarizing. That was Newt Gingrich's theory, and it was this White House's theory in a lot of the —

Stewart: No, no, he's a uniter, not a divider. I think I read it somewhere.

Clinton: On the other hand, you know, I made up my mind I was gonna have a good relationship with the President, and that I would be clear where I disagreed with him, and when he did something I agreed with, I would applaud that. So I'm tryin' to change the culture and the climate, but you asked me another question. I think I'll have to live a long time before I can do as much good as a former President as I did as a President, but when you're doing it — because, when you're President, you can get up every day and really do things that affect millions of people. On the other hand, you can also be paralyzed by events. So, when you're a former President, you can have a bigger impact in a narrower field. You can pick — you can say, I'm gonna work on these three or four things, and I don't have to worry about today's headlines diverting me.

Stewart: But you don't have the machinery behind you to effect the kind of change that you —

Clinton: That's right, but eventually you can. But I think politics and government are still very important. The point I would try to make to everybody when they ask me Which is more important? is, it's not either-or. If ever there comes a time when everyone you vote for wins, and they do everything you think they should do, there will still be a gap between what is and what ought to be, at home and around the world. It's just inevitable.

Stewart: That gap is inevitable. So, are we —

Clinton: So, people like you and me, private citizens, have more power to do public good than ever before, and we should step into the gap. And unlike previous times — it's great if you're rich, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett deserve the world's thanks and gratitude: it's amazing what they're doing — but you don't have to be rich. In the tsunami, Americans gave $1.2 billion, 30% of our households gave, over half of them over the Internet. That's stunning. So that means that if everybody that's watching The Daily Show decides tomorrow that they think the biggest thing in the world is to make America free of foreign oil, and they want us to go into biofuels, and there's a fund that promotes that, and everybody that sees this show gives $10 or $15 or $20 — not big money — if they all do it, you can change the world.

Stewart: You might want to cast a wider net. I've seen our —

Clinton: Well, I don't know. My daughter says it's the news source of choice now for all discerning young people.

Stewart: We'll see about that. We're going to take a break, and we're gonna come back. The former President will be on The Daily Show's Seat of Heat.

[commercial break]

Stewart: Welcome back to the show. We're sitting with President Bill Clinton, and this is — I know you've faced some perilous times as President, as ex-President you've had, obviously, surgeries (You look great, by the way, your health is very good.), but this is — I don't know if you've ever faced something.... This is the Daily Show Seat of Heat.

Clinton: I could have another heart attack right here. (No! Don't have another heart attack, please.) It's all your fault.

Stewart: Mr. President, Hillary Clinton may be running for President. If so, what is the key to defeating her? [laughter] Your move.

Clinton: Getting more votes.

Stewart: Getting more votes? Is she running for President?

Clinton: I don't know. She's not now running for President. I don't know, I don't know if she will or not. I don't, and that's the truth, and I think I would know if she were, if she had decided.

Stewart: There'd be a Post-It®, probably, on the fridge.

Clinton: Yeah, you know, we talked last night a long time about Ann Richards, and her book being reissued, we talked about a lot of things. (Unbelievable.) Unbelievable. I loved her very much, and so did Hillary, but I don't know. I do know this: if she did run and win, she'd be great, she'd be really good. I do not know if she's gonna run, I don't know if she'll win if she does, but if she ran and won, it would be good for America. That's what I believe.
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