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Inside Politics

Clinton: Democratic Iraq could promote reform

Says Kerry psychologically 'well-suited' for presidency


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Former President Bill Clinton speaks to CNN's Larry King.
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Former president Bill Clinton explains to CNN's Larry King how he kept his personal life from influencing political decisions.

Bill Clinton shares his regrets from his time in office and explains why it is hard for presidents to say they are sorry.

Bill Clinton tells how the Monica Lewinsky incident affected his state of mind and his marriage.
'My Life'
  • By Bill Clinton
  • Alfred A. Knopf
  • Autobiography
  • 957 pages
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    "The greatest speech of my lifetime"
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    LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Although he doesn't agree with the way President Bush invaded Iraq without waiting for weapons inspections to be completed, former President Bill Clinton said Thursday a democratic Iraq could be a catalyst for reform in the Middle East.

    "It may take four or five years, but if they [Iraq] can succeed at self-governance and observing basic human rights and treat the Sunni, the Shia and the Kurds fairly, if they can do this, it might be a positive thing to promote reform throughout the Arab world," Clinton said on CNN's "Larry King Live."

    The former president indicated he might have played things differently regarding Iraq if he had been in office.

    "I think we should have let Mr. [Hans] Blix finish the inspections," Clinton said.

    "I knew this was going to be quite a project, so I [would have] preferred to let the weapons inspection play out and put more military personnel and more effort into Afghanistan to stabilize Mr. [Hamid] Karzai and try to get [Osama] bin Laden."

    He said a top priority should be turning over sovereignty to a representative government in Iraq as soon as possible.

    "On the other hand, I wouldn't just pull up and leave there if I thought it was going to cause the whole thing to disintegrate," Clinton told King.

    "Would it?" King asked.

    "Probably," the former president replied. "Unless there were a multinational force to go in and take our place."

    Clinton's interview came two days after the launch of his memoir, "My Life," which sold 400,000 copies the first day, according to Knopf Publishing Group.

    Knopf, which originally shipped 1.5 million copies to stores, has ordered a second printing of 725,000 copies.

    In his memoir, the former president recounts his life growing up, his presidency and -- what many critics and fans alike wanted to read -- his explanation of his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

    Clinton has already sparked criticism for writing that he had the relationship with Lewinsky "because I could."

    "Everybody who reads it in the book will see that I was rebuking myself, not being flippant," he told King.

    "I knew better than to do it. I didn't really want to do it at some level, but I could do it. It was there, and I did it," Clinton said.

    "So when I say I did it because I could, ... if you take it out of context, it sounds jolting, it's snippy, arrogant and unfeeling toward Monica Lewinsky, or my family, or anyone else; that is not what I meant.

    "I said that hoping that a lot of young people ... would guard against making decisions just because they could," Clinton said.

    Besides promoting his book this summer, Clinton said he might do some more campaigning for presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, if he is asked.

    "I know John Kerry well, and I believe he'd be a good president," he said. "I think he has a lot of good qualities, not just because he agrees with me, but psychologically he's well-suited to be president."

    "I would do everything I could -- that I was asked to do. I think there's a certain amount that's appropriate and a certain amount that might be counterproductive," Clinton said.

    Clinton and former President Jimmy Carter have already appeared at a "unity rally" for the candidate, he said.

    Clinton ticked off a list of attributes he said make Kerry fit for the presidency.

    "He's not afraid to be around people who know more than him on certain subjects. That's good. He's always trying to learn more and do better. That's good," Clinton said.

    "He won't punish people who sit in the Oval Office and look at him dead in the eyes and say, 'Mr. President, I think you're wrong about this. I disagree.' And that's good. Especially now."

    He went on to explain that because the world is in such a state of change and turmoil, the president should be open-minded and seek a variety of opinions.

    "When you have a lot of things up in the air, it's very important that the president encourage difference of opinion, honest debate and keep looking for more truth," he said.

    The comment was an apparent jab at Bush, who presents himself as unwavering and consistent amid the complexities of a post-September 11 world. The attribute is perceived as one of Bush's strengths.

    The former president is embarking on a monthlong book tour that will take him during the next week to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, and San Jose, California.

    Clinton also will visit Seattle, Washington; Chicago, Illinois; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; Denver, Colorado; Atlanta, Georgia; Miami, Florida; and his home state of Arkansas.

    The tour comes before the Democratic National Convention, which begins the last week of July.


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