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Candid Conversation With Former President Bill Clinton on Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and the Palestinian-Israeli Issue

Aired July 3, 2010 - 18:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States, and around the world. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

This hour, a candid conversation with Bill Clinton. Wolf Blitzer interviewed him in South Africa at the Fortune Time CNN Global Forum. The former president, who was compensated for his appearance, opened up about everything from the economy to his daughter's wedding. Stand by now for Wolf and President Bill Clinton.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Let's talk about some of the global security challenges right now. The war in Afghanistan, from the U.S. perspective, is it winnable?

BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If it becomes a home game -- let me explain that. Most people think America had great success with the surge in Iraq. That's true. But it's important not to forget why the surge worked. We concentrated resources in an area where we had the ability to have an impact and increase security. We did it in the aftermath of the local Sunni leaders turning radically against the Al Qaeda in Iraq because they overplayed their hand and they went around decapitating tribal leaders that didn't agree with them on things like putting women in boxes and hiding them away in life. So our surge became the home team.

The reason every counterinsurgency has failed, since World War II, except what the British did in Malaysia, where the insurgents were native Chinese, not Malays, and they stayed 14 years. Is that it's still an away game. And look at the debate. If you -- if you listed any of the talk shows today, the problem with an away game is you can always go home. And they don't have any place else to go. So I don't care how much bigger your forces are, how much bigger your bombs are, how much more powerful your guns are, if they're willing to stay and play until you get tired, they win.

So I think General Petraeus, and before him General McChrystal, I think they had the right idea, they're trying to turn into a home game. If they do, it is the same point I made to you. If this becomes about building the Afghanistan that the Afghans want and are willing to take responsibility for, instead of just shoving a bunch of money there goes out the door in corruption and doesn't help ordinary people-yes, they can prevail. They have the intelligence, the skills, and the technology, and this raw courage to prevail. But it -- we've got to turn it into a home game. If President Obama can make it a home game, we'll do all right. But our objective there is to hem up Al Qaeda so they can't blow up America or Cape Town, or any place else outside of their neighborhood. However, that's not the objective of the Afghans. Therefore, we got to marry our objective to theirs, and make it a home game. If it becomes a home game, we can win.

BLITZER: How long will it take?

CLINTON: Nobody knows. I think that it's OK to have them on -- I'm sort of in a middle position here on this debate about whether the president did the right thing by saying when we're going to start to draw down, and the other side we'll just wait us out. I think that- keep in mind, converting it into a home game, requires us to get-to help create a government in Afghanistan with the level of confidence and honesty that has historically not been the case. So if they think they got a blank check, there's no pressure on them. I think we have to be prepared to do it for a few more years.

BLITZER: A few more years, three, five?

CLINTON: I don't know. I'm not close enough to it anymore. I just tell you if I were running it every day, you know, McChrystal, I don't want to get into it. I think the president did what he had to do. That's not -- but before, the idea that with were sending all these soldiers out to try to relate better to the people in the villages and do what they wanted to do, and making deals with them, that was the right strategy. It can't be just what we want. It has to be, we have to incidentally benefit by strengthening their ability to do what they want. He was trying to turn it into a home game. And we'll either do it, or we won't.

BLITZER: McChrystal -- the president from your perspective had no choice. He had to fire him.

CLINTON: First, it was his decision. And secondly, I -- I don't know that he did have a choice. Not so much because of what he allegedly said about the president. Presidents have pretty thick hides. But this is about civilian control of the military and about what he and his aides improvidently said about everybody else. When you're president, you've got to -- you know, you feel the team too, and you are the home team. You're the leader of the home team. If you're not taking up for your folks, that's a problem.

So, you can't let somebody, no matter how important they are, dump on the vice president and the ambassador, and God only knows everybody else. I think everybody got scalded but Hillary and Secretary Gates. And so I think that he -- he did what he had to do.

BLITZER: We haven't paid a lot of attention on Iraq lately. I don't know about you, but I'm still very worried that this is by no means going to have a positive outcome. Iran's influence in Iraq, the failure to even have a new government after the elections. How worried are you about what we're seeing in Iraq right now. CLINTON: I'm quite worried but -- you know, the deal we made there was to give them a chance. We had a legitimate election that turned out to be very tight. Tight elections are harder to deal with in the aftermath than landslides. I'm very worried about it. But I don't think there was much we can do from a military point of view, until they recognized that they -- they got to find some accommodation.

It's hard for them. This is the first time they have had a government that was elected. So if you narrowly loose, you spend a whole lot of time trying to figure out how to turn your narrow defeat into a narrow victory, by getting somebody else to side with you, or cause enough problems that people have to do what you want. That's all natural. I still think they have an excellent chance to have a successful enterprise, if someone can succeed in reminding those who didn't win there's another election just up the road. And if they honor this one, their ability to be honored, if they win the next one will be quite good.

And since they have a lot of economic problems, after all these years of war, it's more likely than not that the people that are a little bit on the short end this time, will be on the long end the next time. That's what -- I'm very worried about it, but I don't think it can be fixed by sending a bunch more soldiers in there. This is a political problem. We need to be talking to them and reminding them that this is what they wanted, control of their own destiny. They so the election proved to what they all knew, the country was still divided. They need to figure out a way to hang together, in Benjamin Franklin's immortal phrase, so they don't hang separately.




BLITZER: Is there any way from stopping Iran from building a nuclear bomb?

CLINTON: I don't know. I thought you were going to ask something else. So, I thought you were going to ask is there a way to stop Iran from being very influential in Iraq. The answer to that is, no because of the number of Shia in the population, and because they're neighbors, and because they have got to get along. When they didn't get along, they fought a war, and it was terrible for both of them. It was horrible. Including child soldiers getting killed by the thousands. They have to get along.

BLITZER: Because I was going to make that point that-

CLINTON: I think you're saying-I know


CLINTON: Go back to the bomb--go ahead.

BLITZER: On that point, there are some who say the big winner in Iraq, right now, so far is Iran.

CLINTON: Could be. But if you look at the history of the Iraqis, even the Iraqi Sunnis-I mean, Shia, who have taken help from Iranians, various elements in Iranian society, has shown a remarkable stubbornness when it came to preserving the sovereignty of their country, and their own decision-making power.

So, I'm not-I don't buy into this that if Iran has a relationship with Iraq, they'll be in the tank with Iran every time some issue comes before the U.N. for the next 50 years. I just don't buy that.

On the bomb, I think that, first of all, let's be honest. This is the toughest issue the world faces. See the story of a massive demonstrations in France yesterday, with the Iranian pro-democracy, pro freedom forces, and they're saying I wish you had tougher sanctions. It's -- look at where Iran is -- where Ahmadinejad had to steal this last election. The first one he won fair and square because the Iranians when I was president voted six times. The were the only country in the world to vote six times by a vote of 2/3 to 70 percent for the most progressive people they could vote for. The people who wanted to be reconcile with the West, the people who wanted to be reconciled with their Arab neighbors, the people who wanted to build a positive force. The people who wanted to prepare for peace in the Middle East with the Israelis. They won the mayors, they won the parliament twice. They elected the most progressive president twice.

The problem is under the Khomeini era constitution, the other 30 to 33 percent is represented by the mullahs, and the body of the Ayatollah Khomeini. They control the money for terrorism, for security, for foreign policy generally. And they have the right to strike candidates from the ballots and laws from the power of the marjalays (ph), the parliament that passed it.

So, if we -- so if the sanctions don't work, then the question is could we stop them from having a bomb by taking military action? The answer to that is probably but not certainly, yes. Probably but not certainly, because of the hollowed out -- the North Korea on steroids, with all of the stuff going on in the mountains, hard to reach. What is the price of doing that? And what is the danger of their having a bomb? Keep in mind, if Iran had a bomb, the first thing we need to be doing now is conducting vigorous diplomacy, and saying, look, you we can get one of these, but if you can use it and apologize and not be toast, you're wrong. They have to know that if they ever use it, they're done.

We have to know that if we take preemptive military action, then the 70 percent of people who want to be our friends may flip and become totally alienated. It's a hell of a hard problem. It's the toughest problem in the world today.

The major danger of Iran becoming a nuclear power, I believe, is that the fusion (ph) material they would have to amass to make these bombs would become the most -- the juiciest target in the world for non- state actors who would like to have suitcase nuclear bombs. And will the Iranians sell it to them? Will they give it to them? Can it be stolen? Can some corrupt person in the supply chain give it to some other group? And, so, I still think there's a chance, by the way, that we could get them not to do it. But we're going to have to cut a deal with everybody to keep them on the sanctions path. And they're going to have to show the Iranians, repeatedly, that there's a better way to a normal life with other countries.

And we have to trod a very delicate line because we don't want to basically gut the forces of democracy and freedom by strengthening the reactionary forces and control by making a deal with them. On the other hand, if we could make a deal, that would be enforceable, it would be worth doing. So it's a terrible problem. I'm not prepared to say we can't stop it. But I think you all need to know why it's so hard. There are no good options here.

BLITZER: What about a revolution in Iran? Is that out of the question?

CLINTON: No, I don't think it is out of the question, but it would have to have -- on the day's facts, you'd have to have either the defection of the significant portion of the military and security forces, or you'd have to have all those kids that were in the street at election time, a lot of them would have to be prepared to die. I mean, let's just-one of the two things is going to happen. If the whole world saw large numbers of them dying, I think the government would not survive. The system would not survive.

But keep in mind, it is a profoundly dysfunctional system. Because the Iranians are patriotic. None of them want us to bomb-I say none, very, very few-even the ones that agree with us, and don't give a rip about Ahmadinejad and the mullahs. But if-but if they are in a system where they keep getting trapped, all their hopes for change are thwarted because of the religious constitution, which lets the minority tail wag the majority dog on the things that the rest of the world cares most about.




BLITZER: When you left office, you were close to a deal with the Israelis and the Palestinians. I know you have a lot on your plate right now. If the president of the United States, and the Israelis, and the Palestinians said to you, President Clinton, get back involved and negotiate a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, would you accept that challenge?

CLINTON: Well, let me answer you this way. Anything I say about that is a loser for -- for my whole life now, in terms of my public utterances to cause no problems for the president or the secretary of State. And believe me, there's a significant price if I do that.


But, look, I'd do anything I could to help there. But that's not really what's going on. My involvement would not make that much difference one way or the other. They have known, since I offered an agreement in great detail in 2000, the then-government of Israel headed by Ehud Barak took it. And the Palestinians basically didn't say yes or no, they continued their negotiation by non-negotiation strategy in the most colossal diplomatic era in my lifetime.

Now I know there are all these apologists who say there was something else going on, it's just not true. And there are people in Arafat's entourage, including Arafat, who told two Arab leaders they were going to take the deal. And he told me he was desperately determined to make a deal before I left office, otherwise it would be five years before he could make one. Instead, they took the bait and started the second intifada when Ariel Sharon went up on the Temple Mount. And we're living with it.

Now let me say what I think here; Prime Minister Netanyahu is a highly intelligent man who understands the historical stakes. Even though he's not supported by 59 percent Israel, 59 percent of the Israelis have said, in poll after poll, that they would support virtually any peace agreement he agreed to. Because even the people who don't vote for him think he wouldn't do anything to endanger Israel's security.

President Abbas and his prime minister, Mr. Fayed, on the West Bank, have become good partners for Israel on security and Fayed has done a good job running that government. It's the strongest, most confident, least corrupt government the Palestinians have ever had in their own home ground.

The problems are-and by the way, one other thing they've got that I didn't have is all of the Arab leaders, they would give me an "atta boy" privately, but never wanted to get out there publicly and say, we're going to be for this. Now you've got the King of Saudi Arabia has gotten more than 20 other Muslim countries including - well, more than 26 others I think now. Most of and all the countries in the area, except Syria and Iran, to say, if you make this peace with the Palestinians, we will immediately proceed to have a diplomatic, political, economic, and security relationship with you. They're worried about Iran.

They don't want Israel to kick around anymore. They don't need it anymore. They can't make up with them unless there's a Palestinian state. That's the good news. The fundamental thing that has happened since I left office, is-well, basically twofold. Number one, Israel is different. It's different. There are now a million Israelis that they call the Russians, that came from Russia and other places in the former Soviet Union. They have little sense of the historic - any historic obligation of the Palestinians, and they're highly territorial. So that on domestic political issues, they might vote left of center. But they don't think they should give up any land. They're embodied by - Natan Sharansky, the great human rights activist was in the Netanyahu cabinet in 1998, when I made a deal with him at Wye River, Sharansky was the only one who wouldn't support it. He said, I come from the biggest country in the world to one of the smallest. And you, pointing at me, wish me to cut it in half, no thank you.

In other words, don't tell me about the history, don't tell me about the Palestinians being here 2,000 years. Don't tell me about nothing. It's ours, why should we give it up? That complicates Israeli politics enormously.

The other thing that I warned Arafat about is the pressure to expand the settlements. In 2000, when we offered this peace agreement, you could get 97 percent of the West Bank settlers on 3 percent of the land. Which meant it was an easy deal to work a land swap out with Israel acre for acre, so they got, in effect, 100 percent of the West Bank. Today, you have to give up 6 percent of the land to get just 80 percent of the settlers. And going to get the other 20 percent means there will be hell to pay.

So, the politics of this are much more difficult. Mostly because of the changes which have happened in Israel. The Palestinians problem, obviously, is the division between Hamas and Fattah in the West Bank and Gaza. But at least -- unless this blockade imbroglio has changed it, you need to remember, Hamas refused the request to have an election just in the last few months. Because those people in Gaza know how well Fayed has done in the West Bank. If they had an election with one Fattah person, and one Hamas person, running for every single seat, Hamas would lose a free election on the West Bank, unless the embargo stuff has changed it.

So that's what I think-basically-and finally, right now Israel is doing great economically. They're going to have 100,000 people on electric cars pretty soon. They'll be probably the first country in the world to have an all electric fleet. They feel secure. They feel they have a security partner on the West Bank. They don't feel the pressure that is surely going to be there. Now I think that it is the lull before the storm. Keep in mind it won't be long before Israel will no longer be a majority Jewish country, if they don't hold the West Bank. Guys like Yitzhak Rabin worried about it. I think they should worry about it. Because the problems they have in international legitimacy, today, will pale compared to what the world will think then. If they try to hold on and basically disenfranchise huge numbers of people and they claim the land.

The second problem that no one ever talks about is the missiles. Remember when the missiles went into-from Gaza into Israel. There's was a lot of sympathy when Israel said we're going to go clean that out. Keep in mind, there were a lot of missiles that killed a few people. One thing is that never changes is the trajectory of technology. It is only a matter of time until those missiles have GPS systems on them. Then you have a few missiles killing a lot of people.

And no matter how good their security is, there may be never a time when they can fly 400 missiles again, but maybe now they only need four, for all hell to break loose. So I still think they should do this. But they don't need me. They know what the deal is within two or three degrees. Nothing has changed. And Netanyahu can make the deal if he can figure out a way to survive politically, and if he believes that it should be done. And I think what we all ought to do is keep saying, make the deal, make the deal, make the deal. And try to hold the Arabs to where they are, because their fear of Iran has driven them into almost pleading for a partnership. And one of the great-you know this-but one of the great untold stories in the Middle East today is the rampant commitment to modernization all over the Middle East, not just in the UAE and Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and the rest of the UAE, and Bahrain, but also in Saudi Arabia where there are now more women than men in institutions of higher education, where the first coeducational institution has been built, where men and women not only go to class together but the women don't have to be all covered up when they go to class.

There's a sense in the Arab world that they need to take a different turn. But they know they can't get there without making peace with Israel. They know they can't make peace with Israel until the Palestinians have their state.

BLITZER: I recognize the sensitivity. But I think the president of the United States and the secretary of State would be grateful if you could broker a deal.

CLINTON: But I don't know if the Israelis want me to do it. I mean, the public trusts me because they know I would never do anything to imperil their security. But the current government would probably, you know, rather drink contaminated water than have me do it. I just don't know -- I say that as a -- I consider Prime Minister Netanyahu a friend of mine. I have a good, open, totally honest relationship with him. We just see the world in a different way right now.

And what they should be doing now, I am desperately worried about Israel's future, if they stay on this path. So, yeah, I'm committed to the Palestinians, but I actually believe it's part of my religious - as well as my philosophical convictions that they should share the Holy Land. And we're moving to a point where there will be more and more people on both sides who don't believe that anymore. And that bothers me.



BLITZER: The U.S. economy - is it on the verge of a double dip recession?

CLINTON: I don't know. I can tell you what - what I believe should be done. They're having this G-20 meeting now and it's dominating all the news. You pick it up, that's all you'll see. They're arguing about whether the biggest problems are continued slow growth and jobless recovery on the one hand or the massive assumption of debts by the wealthiest countries on the other.

The traditional - the conventional economic answer to that is that economics contraction is a bigger problem because inflation is low. And we should still keep stimulating the economies.

The U.S. Congress doesn't want to do that. The Europeans seem even more hard over. The new British prime minister has presented this very austere budget. The problem is, he's not going to be able to balance his books if the austere budget prevents investment and job creation and then the revenues will drop so much that the budget wouldn't mean anything.

On the other hand, all these countries are right to be concerned about this, because in this last decade, especially, so much of the world's cash has been concentrated in the export surplus countries like China so that America now has to borrow from other countries one half of all of its deficit financing. It's the reason I opposed President Bush's tax cuts.

I never had any money until I got out of the White House, you know, but I've done reasonably well since then. And I thought it was outrageous for us to be fighting two wars and giving me five tax cuts. I thought it's the dumbest thing I ever heard, and borrowing the money from China to do it.

And the we're at where we couldn't enforce our tax - our trade agreements, so trade enforcement dropped by 80 percent, giving rise to legitimate objections through expanded trade by the labor unions in America and others, because we had 20 percent of the enforcement actions we had in the previous eight years. So the debt is a problem.

If there is a way out of this, I would say it as this, I don't think we should move to austerity too quickly because you could trigger a second recession. That's what happened in 1937 with Roosevelt.

And I hate these deficits. Remember, I had four surplus budgets out of my eight (ph). I'm - I'm a very - I'm a very fiscally conservative person. But, you can't get milk out of a turnip, you know? It wouldn't - you've got to have - somebody's got to be there making money to pay taxes.

So here's - America could lead - in my opinion, could lead the world out of a lot of this if we were more like Willie Sutton who robbed banks because that's where the money was. Our budget is broken, but we have more than $1.5 trillion in American banks uncommitted to loans.

So what I think government policy should be designed to do is to make it easier and more secure for banks to make legitimate loans. I'm not talking about subprime mortgages. I'm talking - for example, we have 25 percent unemployment rate in America among construction workers, 2.5 times the national average. For obvious reasons, right? Because this whole thing started with the housing collapse.

So what should we do? We ought to have a loan guarantee program for anybody who will do energy retrofits on big buildings that aren't about to close and it wouldn't cost the taxpayers anything really because all of those big projects are already guaranteed by the energy service companies that put in the technology. So we could get half of our green house gas reductions in America through efficiencies, most of them in buildings, starting with big buildings that are certainly going to be here five years from now and you'll get savings between 20 and 45 percent, all of which will be paid off within five or six years.

And if you have a loan guarantee like the SBA, the Small Business Administration loan guarantee for 90 percent of it, then banks will loan money to do that. You could put a million people to work in six months in every place in America. That's the sort of thing we need to be thinking about.

What other things do we need to do to get the business community to invest and borrow to make the banks feel comfortable doing what they could normally do, not doing great (INAUDIBLE) to this stuff. That's the answer. That's the best policy we could follow that would help lead the world out of this recession.




BLITZER: President Obama's been criticized for not showing enough passion or emotion. You, on the other hand, when you were president, felt everyone's pain as we all recall. What is the best strategy when you're president of the United States? Do you feel people's pain? Or are you better off as a cool, calm force?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, I think it's interesting - the same people that made fun of me, now they go after him and making me look like a paragon, which I ought to tell you something about both sets of criticisms.

But, look - you know, I did everything I could to defeat President Obama and I wanted Hillary to win, but I think he's done a better job than he's given credit for. And I - I really - I feel very strongly about this. And I think that insofar as he's responsible for any of his - part of this is, by the way, not avoidable. I went through this.

Until people feel better about their own lives, they're not going to feel good about their president. There's nothing you can do about that. Because the American people hire you to win for them, and if they don't feel like winners, then they're not going to give you very much credit even if you've done good things. So some of this credit will come.

But on the empathy issue, I personally think it's a bum wrap. That is, you know, we're a - he and I grew up in different cultures. We're in different generations. We express ourselves in different ways. He is a brilliant, articulate and I think exceedingly empathetic person, but his whole - and, look, when he got into politics, he didn't want to sound like a fire-eating preacher for fear of being racially stereotyped. I mean, he couldn't win for losing on that.

So I - I think that my advice is for everybody in public life, the most effective public persona is the one which is true and has integrity. And the only thing I wish about this whole gulf deal, you know, is that I think the federal government's position ought to be very straightforward. The most important thing is to fix leaks. If anybody can help us fix the leak, I'm for it.

The second most important thing is to keep the oil away from the shores. The third most important thing is to minimize the damage of the oil that reaches the shores. The fourth most important thing today is to figure out who did what wrong and hold them accountable whether it was somebody in British Petroleum or somebody in the U.S. government. And I'll do that.

But let's do one, two, and three first. And then, yes, he should show empathy, and, yes, he should feel their pain and all that, but what people want is to fix the leak. So that one of the best things that they've done is deployed massive Naval and Coast Guard resources and finally start taking help from other countries.

But unless we send the Navy down deep to blow up the well and cover the leak with piles and piles and piles of rock and debris, which may become necessary - you don't have to use nuclear weapons, by the way, I've seen all that stuff. Just blow it up. Unless we're going to do that, we are dependent on the technical expertise of this people from BP. They have 11 of their folks killed in that explosion. The people who are working on this, whatever their managers did wrong and didn't, they're good people. They're trying to do the right thing.

So I think we ought to just row in the same boat for a while. So we plug the leak. Keep the stuff away from the shore. Minimize the damage of what's on the shore. There are 20,000 Vietnamese immigrants who came to this country who are making a living off of the shrimping business, all of who are thinking about their family facing bankruptcy now.

Let's just fix the problem and then we can hold everybody accountable and emote or not emote or whatever. But I think the president's gotten a bum wrap on this emoting deal. I think that you've got to who you are. You've got to be who you feel comfortable with. And whatever your personality is, it is. But I don't find him lacking in empathy just because he doesn't blow his top at a slightest provocation. I think it's a bum wrap.

BLITZER: But, just one clarification. Are you concerned that those two relief wells that they're drilling right now are supposed to be ready in August and stopped this leak might now work?

CLINTON: Yes. At some point I think we'll have to ask ourselves. I just I'm not into this, you know, I've not been part of the decision- making process. I'm not second-guessing anybody. I understand it's a - this is a geological monster.

And I tell you one thing, whoever did the citing for BP, they know what the heck they were doing. It's one heck of an oil well. There's more oil down there than I ever dreamed, and it can't wait to find its way into your car, because it just keeps gushing up, you know? And it's a geological nightmare.

The Navy could probably stop it, but there are all kinds of consequences that would have to be considered. That is, you can't basically put in a huge amount of explosives down there. You could shut that well, but what else would you do that might upset the ecostructure of the gulf. So, I don't know the answer to that. But until that happens, until he makes that decisions to the best of my knowledge, we have no tool that belongs to the federal government to shut that well down, which means we are dependent on these people that are killing themselves day and night who work for BP or for other oil companies or engineering affiliates that are working on this.

And so, I just like to see us calm down and work on those three problems I said, and which is great. Most interestingly enough, most of the help we've been offered from other countries is designed to put out booms and do other things. One of the countries, Norway or another, has some sort of automatic sort of wing that comes off of a ship and scrapes up oil that we don't have. I think we ought to get all of this stuff over here and just work on solving the problem.

And - and he's going to be plenty empathetic and he's going to have a lot of opportunities to do it. And if we've got 20,000 immigrants that have done great honor to our country whose families go down, we're going to have to empathize with them and all my fellow Scotch- Irish red necks that are making a living down there and figure out what we're going to do to put their lives back together. There's going to be plenty of opportunity for empathy. Let's plug the leak and - and stop the damage.




BLITZER: The final question and this is - this will be a tough one for the president, but I know he's got a good answer for it.

First of all, all of us here want to wish you and Secretary Clinton congratulations. Your daughter is about to get married, and we wish you only, only happiness. You have to get ready as the father of the bride, to walk her down the aisle. Can you do that without crying?

CLINTON: I don't know. And one of the rare - arguments I had with my daughter in high school, and they were rare. She always did great honor to our family. I - I looked at her and said, you have to understand I consider being president my second most important job. I - I think anybody who has ever had a child believes it is the best thing that's ever happened to them, and I don't know.

But I'll tell you this, I'm profoundly grateful for not only for her life, but I - I like my son-in-law to be, and I admire him very much. He's a remarkable human being, so I feel very blessed. But I'm going to try not to cry, because this is not about me, it's about her. And if I'm crying then it becomes partly about me, I don't even want to be mentioned in the story, except that I didn't stumble walking her down the aisle. So I'm going to try. I may not be able to do it.

BLITZER: I suspect you wouldn't.

CLINTON: Thank you. BLITZER: Congratulations, Mr. President.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: We'll be sure to follow up and find out if Bill Clinton can hold back the tears at Chelsea's wedding. Well, thanks Wolf for that terrific interview.

Next, we're going to explore the prospects of a political solution in Afghanistan. What if Taliban leaders were willing to sit down for peace talks?


MALVEAUX: A change of command is underway in Afghanistan now that General David Petraeus is on the ground as the war's new military leader. But, what if a political solution could be hammered out with the Taliban?

Our pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr has been looking into that. And, Barbara, what do we know?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you know, even President Obama knows it might be a time for a political discussion with the Taliban, bringing them back into the fold, but what would that look like?


STARR (voice-over): Taliban attacks across Afghanistan have killed thousands of Afghan civilians, U.S. and coalition troops in nearly nine years of war. So it seems inconceivable, but President Obama says there's good reason to consider peace with the Taliban.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're going to have to have a political solution and not simply a military solution.

STARR: But what if Afghans and Taliban came to the peace table?

OBAMA: You know, we have to view these efforts with skepticism, but also openness.

STARR: The Taliban ranging from top leaders like Mullah Omar to young men in villages fighting to earn money. So, what would peace look like?

TERESITA SCHAFFER, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The concept in Mr. Karzai's head, I would guess, is that he would continue to be in charge and that he would work out an arrangement with some elements of the Taliban who would recognize that they were the subordinate part in a government that he was continuing to run.

STARR: So far, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is skeptical.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The opportunity for a political solution in Afghanistan for a reconciliation will only come when the momentum of the Taliban has been reversed and - and they see that the chances of their being successful are diminishing day by day.

STARR: The U.S. wants reconciliation to be led by the Afghan government, but that's not to say the U.S. doesn't have its own conditions such as the Taliban must lay down arms, support Afghan law and reject al Qaeda, something many say is unlikely.

General David Petraeus knows he has to convince everyone reconciliation is at least possible.

GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS, CMDR., U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: We cannot kill or capture our way out of an industrial-strength insurgency like that in Afghanistan. Clearly, as many insurgents and citizens as possible need to be convinced to become part of the solution rather than a continuing part of the problem.


STARR: Now, one of the reasons Gates is so skeptical is he says the Taliban need to suffer a lot more reverses in the battlefield, a lot more injuries, a lot more taking apart of their networks before they believe that they're going to lose. Right now, they have no real incentive to come to the peace table - Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Barbara.

The funeral for Senator Robert Byrd is scheduled for Tuesday in Arlington, Virginia, where he'll be buried. The service will culminate five days of mourning for the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history. It started Thursday with the body of the West Virginia Democrat lying in repose in the U.S. Senate chamber, only the third senator since WORLD WAR II to do so.

From the U.S. capital, Byrd's casket was flown to West Virginia's capital where a memorial service was held yesterday. President Obama and Vice President Biden were among those paying tribute.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Eleven presidents knew Robert C. Byrd. He served, as he pointed out, concurrently with them, not under them. And 11 presidents where they all here and two are here can attest to the fact that he always showed respect, but never deference and he stood in awe of none.

OBAMA: And as I reflect on the full sweep of his 92 years, it seems to me that his life bent towards justice like the Constitution he tucked in his pocket like our nation itself, Robert Byrd possessed that quintessential American quality, and that is a capacity to change, a capacity to learn, a capacity to listen, a capacity to be made more perfect.


MALVEAUX: Byrd died Monday at age 92. He'll be buried beside his wife, Emma, who died in 2006 after 62 years of marriage.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 5:00 to 7:00 P.M. Eastern and every Saturday at 6:00 P.M. on CNN and at this time every weekend on CNN International. The news continues next on CNN.