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Republicans' "Pledge to America"; Bill Clinton Expects A Middle East Peace Agreement, Sets The Clinton Global Initiative To Solving Economic, Logistical Obstacles To A Lasting Peace

Aired September 25, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Former President Bill Clinton fighting for embattled Democrats ahead of an election that could cost the party control of Congress. This hour, his advice to President Obama and candidates in peril.

Also in our interview, Clinton's take on the Tea Party. He is warning that underestimating the movement could be a huge mistake.

A lot of people want to know how Clinton slimmed down for his daughter, Chelsea's, wedding. Stand by as he reveals his weight-loss secret that he says is now a way of life.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Obama challenged the United Nations this week to seize the moment and embrace Middle East peace. He spoke at length about the conflict in his speech before the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Peace must be made by Israelis and Palestinians, but each of us has a responsibility to do our part as well. Those of us who are friends of Israel, must understand the true security for the Jewish state requires and independent Palestine. One that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity. And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will be won only through peaceful means, including genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel.


BLITZER: I spoke this week with a veteran of Middle East diplomacy, the former President Bill Clinton, as he was hosting his Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York. We covered a wide range of topics, but, first, listen to his take on whether the Israelis and the Palestinians are finally ready to give peace a chance.


BLITZER: You have a session that you are hosting here during this current CGI, on the Middle East. I know you worked really hard, and we discussed this in Cape Town, South Africa recently. If there's any hope for an Israeli/Palestinian deal. But you are going to be meeting with the Israeli president and the Palestinian prime minister. Is this doable, do you think, in the next year, realistically? Or is this just, you know, false-a false hope?

BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. I think it's imminently doable. I have always expected that in this period the Israelis and the Palestinians would make an agreement, number one, because everybody knows it was a really bad move not to do it 10 years ago.

BLITZER: You had that moment.

CLINTON: Yes, and Arafat just, flaked out. He didn't do it. But they know they made a mistake, I think. They might not ever admit it, but they know it. And secondly, both sides are genuinely worried about what's going to happen if they pass up another opportunity. And thirdly, for the first time we got real support among the Arab states who are trying to modernize themselves and want an economic, political, and security partnership with Israel, for the first time they really want it.

BLITZER: But they're not showing it publicly.

CLINTON: No, but they want it. They've offered this peace plan and a partnership. And they're pushing for it. But they can't give it unless there's a peace with the Palestinians and a Palestinian state. I think you've got -- I think Syria and Lebanon, both, for different reasons want to be totally reconciled with Israel. So I think this whole thing is slightly more likely than not to happen.

Now, there's a lot of slips along the way, the enormous pressure to resume settlement building, but that's a really short-term deal. If they make a deal on the territory, how much of the West Bank the Palestinian state gets, what kind of land swap is there, then all the settlement difficulties will be, you know, resolved by the agreement.

BLITZER: Have you seen these reports, speaking of settlements of Israel today, that if the Israelis would continue their freeze on West Bank settlements, if the U.S. released the convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, a subject you dealt with at the Wye River Plantation, if you recall, in the '90s.

CLINTON: No, I haven't. But they really want him out of there. The CIA really doesn't want him to get out of there because the CIA believes that he never expressed any remorse for what he did. And they believe that we shouldn't establish a principal of differential treatment based upon who you spied for. So there's a big dispute.

I'm not going to get into that. Whatever the president and those people decide, the people, you know, in charge of the advising him decide, you know, I'll support them on it.

I would like to talk about why we're going to have this session here, just very briefly.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

CLINTON: Because I think it's important that our fellow Americans understand this.

BLITZER: The session on the Middle East peace.

CLINTON: Yes, on the Middle East, and the citizens around the world who watch CNN. Let's assume -- and this is what we're going to do for this service-we make an agreement.

BLITZER: Who makes an agreement? The U.S. brokers a deal?

CLINTON: The U.S. brokers an agreement made in good faith by the Israelis and the Palestinians and they are determined to keep it. And let's assume the Israelis, you know, have to move somewhere between 55,000 and 80,000 settlers out of the West Bank, depending on what the territorial line looks like. And they go about doing it. We know there will be enemies to peace. We know there will be people who will try to undermine the new Palestinian state. In fact, the Palestinians may be subject to more physical attacks than the Israelis are, as a result of this agreement.

So the question we're dealing with-a narrow question here. None of us, including me, wish to be on record inadvertently saying anything that makes the job of the Palestinians, the Israelis, the secretary of state, harder. We don't want to do that. We're not negotiators. It doesn't count what we think about the settlements, or anything else. What we are going to do - is say, let's assume they make an agreement, what can our members do to help it take hold?


CLINTON: What can we do to help move Palestinians out of the camps?

BLITZER: Are you already thinking post-agreement.


BLITZER: When most people don't even think there's going to be an agreement.

CLINTON: But I do. I'll be surprise if they don't make it this time. They got -- for one simple reason, or two reasons. One, I think Abbas and with support of Prime Minister Fayyad are more decisive and more clear-headed than Yasser Arafat was at that point in his life. I mean, he basically told me many times he was going take a deal.

BLITZER: Do you have confidence that Netanyahu can deliver?

CLINTON: I know Netanyahu can deliver. It may cost him this coalition, but Lieberman and his crowd will have a decision to make. But 60 percent of the Israelis trust him on security. They'll stick with him, and I think the Kadima Party, under Tzipi Livni, will vote with him in the Knesset to ratify an agreement. That's why I think we can get one. But, be that as it may, if they get it, we got to make it work. How do we make it work for ordinary people? Is there something-we clearly have to have help the Palestinians grow more and more broadly. We have to help the Palestinians who might pour out of the camps and come into the new state of Palestine to make a living. We have to deal with, will there be any adverse economic consequences to displaced Israelis. I mean, we need to just talk about it. So what we're going to do is just assume they make a deal and then ask what we can do to help it hold.


BLITZER: Stay tuned for much more of my big interview with former President Bill Clinton. I'll ask him whether he agrees with those who say his Global Initiative has become more powerful in some respects than the United Nations General Assembly.

Plus, what is his Initiative is now doing to try help fight poverty right here in the United States? And his advice for President Obama. I'll ask him what the president can do right now to turn the ailing economy around. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A decade after Bill Clinton left the White House he is certainly a powerful influence around the world, on everything from politics, to disaster relief, to peacemaking. More now of my interview with the former president at the annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York.


BLITZER: This is the sixth CGI that you've hosted. Did you see the piece in "The Daily Bee Sting"? It's become much more important than the annual United Nations General Assembly?

CLINTON: No, I haven't seen that yet.

BLITZER: It's really amazing what you have accomplished over these six years.

CLINTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: What are you proudest of?

CLINTON: I think -- I'm more proud of the phenomenon than any specific thing. I'm proud that we proved there was a hunger over the world, without regard to region, income, religion, to go to a meeting where you actually talked about the real challenges. But then you had to do something about them. So that-I think it's amazing. Now we have raised over $60 billion worth of commitments and already helped almost 300 million people in well over 170 countries, because people were dying to be asked to do something, And to be given enough information and enough contacts and partners to actually do something effective. That's the thing I'm most proud of. There's now a global network of doers. So that we're not just talking. We're doing.

BLITZER: Do you ever think about how many lives you may have saved?

CLINTON: Uh-huh. All the time, I mean, you've got 75 million more people doing maternal and child health. You have 15 million more kids getting better education. You've got 10 million more poor people that got micro-credit. You got almost $2 billion in loans for small and medium size businesses that would not have been available in the poor countries without it.

You have projects on the street in America, and elsewhere, that have really changed lives. So, yeah, I think about it all the time. I am very, very grateful. And 20 million more people are getting clean water. You know, water-borne illnesses kill millions of people a year. So, yes, I think about it.

BLITZER: There was a U.N. study that came out about a decade ago that said several goals to be accomplished by 2015, which is only five years, if that, down the road, including cutting poverty and hunger rates by half. Is that going to happen?

CLINTON: I think some of them will be achieved. Some will not. I think some countries will surprise everybody by achieving them all. It will be uneven because the Millennium Development goals were always dependent on more than donors. There were always dependent, in part, on what happened within the country; the capacity and the commitment within developing countries to meet these goals.

But I think they have been extremely useful and I think in 2015 to whatever extent we haven't met them, they should be modified, and we should keep them. I think it's a disciplined thing that keeps us focused on the big stuff.

BLITZER: I was shocked the other day, and I think you probably were too, when the new poverty numbers in the United States came out. We're not talking about Asia or Africa or South America. We're talking about the United States of America; 14 percent of the U.S. population now live in poverty.

CLINTON: I don't see how we can be surprised. You've got, what, 40 percent almost of America eligible for food stamps.

BLITZER: 40 million Americans, 45 million Americans.

CLINTON: Yes, 45 million Americans, which is like 15 percent, 16 percent of our people eligible for food stamps. There are actually more eligible. That many are drawing.


CLINTON: No, it didn't surprise me because just look at the facts. In the eight years that I was president, we had 22.7 million jobs, and about 8 million moved from poverty up into the middle class. All those numbers went way down.

Then in the next eight years, before the financial meltdown, we only produced 2.5 million jobs, not enough to keep up with new entrants in the work force. And income started dropping and poverty went up, again, before this meltdown. And then this meltdown hit people like a ton of bricks.

BLITZER: These numbers now are the highest since 1994, when you were president.

CLINTON: Yes. That's right. The highest than when I took office and the middle of that last recession. Now, it really doesn't surprise me. I mean, they could have even been worse because we've had -- we don't have enough employment, and we've had -- we followed policies that were absolutely designed to increase inequality. I mean, if you have no jobs and you have -- you double the debt of the country, an enormous percent of it goes to tax cuts for upper income people like you and me. How are the - and health care costs go up, and housing costs go up, and college costs go up. Real incomes have to go down. Poverty has to go up. We've got to -- we could turn it around again, but I'm not surprised.


BLITZER: The former president certainly enjoying his newfound wealth after so many years of public service, but he remains focused on the plight of the poor, especially during these difficult economic times. We spoke about that during my one-on-one interview. More of that, right now.


BLITZER: Explain to me how the Clinton Global Initiative can help create jobs and reduce poverty in the United States?

CLINTON: Well, it is interesting. Because we asked people this year to think about that.

BLITZER: That's why I'm asking you the question.

CLINTON: And we are perfectly well aware that in a big country like ours we can't lower the unemployment rate substantially, or raise the income substantially, but we can show the projects that if the private sector, or the government, are a partnership, or the government gave tax credits, the private sector did it, would.

So, I'll give you one -- we'll start with a small example. Last year was a tough year. Last summer for our young people because a lot of them couldn't get summer jobs who needed it, for family income, or to pay for college. So we have one commitment this year that promises to hire 200 young people for after school jobs, and summer jobs, to make these buildings in Upper Manhattan more energy efficient, in Harlem and Washington Heights. They might be putting in new lighting or new windows, or just painting the tar roofs white instead of black. The point is they can lower the utility bills a lot, save a lot of energy, and provide jobs for people.

Now, this is a model that could easily be adopted in every other urban area in America, and it's not very expensive. It's the kind of thing that any state in the country can pick up.

BLITZER: This is a new priority for the Clinton Global Initiative. CLINTON: Yes, yes.

BLITZER: And you focused on creating jobs. Not only in Haiti or Pakistan, but here in the United States?

CLINTON: Here, yes. And there will be a lot of others, as you go along. We talked earlier today about closing landfills. If America -- last year we had a commitment that we're going to highlight the progress on this year. A guy promised to close the landfill and create fuel, biogas, out of the organic matter in the landfill. It would create an enormous number of jobs in America. If the mayors of the country with the support the federal government, and the private developers, say we're going to close every landfill in America and put people to work recycling the materials and creating energy out of the landfills, and giving the land back to developers or schools or whatever, playgrounds.


BLITZER: Could Bill Clinton's powerful Global Initiative become a model for replacing the United Nations? Mary Snow is going behind the scenes.

Plus, could Democrats be underestimating the power of the Tea Party Movement? What Bill Clinton says, and I'm quoting him now, "We shouldn't be cute here." Stand by with more of my interview. A lot more coming up.


BLITZER: At the United Nations General Assembly this week the Iranian president holding true to form unleashed some fiery attacks at the United States. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the United States was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks, prompting delegates from the U.S. and other Western nations to walk out. U.S. Officials are calling Ahmadinejad's remarks abhorrent and delusional. Here's a taste of what he said.


MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): That some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East, in order to save the Zionist regime.

The majority of the American people, as well as most nations, and politicians around the world agree with this view. Third, it was carried out by a terrorist group, but that the American government supported and took advantage of the situation. Apparently, this viewpoint has few opponents.


BLITZER: President Obama responded in an interview later in the week saying -- and I'm quoting now - "It was hateful. And particularly for him to make the statement here in Manhattan just a little north of ground zero, where families lost their loved ones, people of all faiths, all ethnicities who see this as the seminal tragedy of this generation, for him to make a statement like that was inexcusable."

Each year it spends billions of dollars working to improve the lives of millions of people around the world, much like the United Nations. But what if, what if the Clinton Global Initiative, founded by former President Bill Clinton is becoming more influential than the United Nations? CNN's Mary Snow has more on the Clinton Global Initiative.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): To get an idea what is done at the Clinton Global Initiative, meet Jacob Lief, who runs an education fund in South Africa. He is here to network with people like former NBA star and philanthropist Dikembe Mutombo, who runs a foundation in the Congo where he's from.

DIKEMBE MUTOMBO, FMR. NBA PLAYER: CGI brings folks together, organizations, people from different backgrounds together.

SNOW: Among the crowd of roughly 1,300 people former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Barbara Streisand, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, dozens of current or former heads of state, along with leaders of business and nonprofit groups, all brought together by former President Bill Clinton.

CLINTON: Thank you all.

SNOW: This is the sixth year of the Clinton Global Initiative. The president touts $57 billion worth of commitments to date, helping improve the lives of 220 million people.

CLINTON: Reducing the burdens of illness and dirty water, increasing access to education. Whatever it is, I hope you will have an idea of what is most needed in the places you care most about.

JACOB LIEF, UBUNTU EDUCATION FUND: Everyone has a name tag on. You can literally walk up to anyone you want, and you can introduce yourself, and just starting telling them what you're doing.

SNOW: For Lief it's a chance to talk about the Ubuntu Education Fund he runs in the Port Elizabeth Townships in South Africa, where there is an 80 percent unemployment rate and a high number of AIDS cases. Lief tells us his program helps an estimated 24,000 children, with the goal of having them attend college. And he just opened a $7 million community center.

SNOW (On camera): You met people here who helped you?

LIEF: Fund it.

SNOW: Fund it?

LIEF: Yeah.

SNOW: And now, as a result? LIEF: It's coming -- we opened it two days ago.

SNOW (voice over): Along with seeking investments, the other major exchange, ideas. In this room, for example, the focus is on education. Where Lief's project is highlighted and educator Jeffrey Canada shares his story.

In another room a session on empowering women which drew Rosana Silva E Souza of Brazil. Souza manufacturers and sells stainless steel sinks in Brazil. Because her family was so poor, she didn't get an education, but she was able to learn business skills through a program called 10,000 Women.

ROSANA SILVA E SOUZA, FOUNDER, UNIVERSO INOX (through translator): It increased my profit in 30 percent.

SNOW: Souza tells us she now funds scholarships for her workers. The goal, says Dina Habib Powell of Goldman Sachs, which runs the program, is to invest in 10,000 women globally.

DINA HABIB POWELL, PRES., GOLDMAN SACHS FOUNDATION: Investing in women, especially by giving them opportunities to be more economically independent has an affect on all of society.


BLITZER: CNN's Mary Snow reporting from New York. Former President Bill Clinton tells Democrats, and I'm quoting him now, "Don't play games" when it comes to dealing with the Tea Party Movement.

Plus, his advice on what President Obama can do right now to fix issue number one for American voters, the ailing U.S. economy. Much more of my big interview ahead.


WOLF BLITZER: More now on my interview with the former President Bill Clinton, we spoke about the upcoming election here in the United States, the Democrats vulnerability, and the momentum of the Tea Party Movement.


BLITZER: Are the Democrats underestimating the Tea Party Movement?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I don't know. I think it would be a mistake -- I think what we should say is those Tea Partiers, 20 percent of them, by the way, say they vote for Democrats if there are no Tea Party candidates on the ballot.

In their purist form, the Tea Partiers are saying I've been let down by big business and big government. I have been let down because the big banks were bailed out, but nobody helped me, and the government that bailed them out, they're doing fine.

They all have a job, make their mortgage payments, have health care, send their kids to college. I want reform in both. But the funders of the Tea Party Movement tend to be pretty far right extremists who want their goal is to destroy the power of government to mediate the power of corporations.

I don't really think that's a sustainable position. My advice for the Democrats is don't play games. Make this about the American people. Tell them what we need to do and what you would do about it, and ask them if they really think you're more likely to do it than your opponent.

I think we should just play it straight. If they got a Tea Party opponent who says something weird like the guy running for senator from Alaska who says unemployment compensation is unconstitutional or a man running for senator from Arkansas who says that we should have a 23 percent across the board sales tax instead of an income tax, which would raise taxes for 85 percent or the governor running in Colorado who says Denver's bike paths are U.N. plot to take the sovereignty of Denver away from the United States.

They might want to comment on it, but we shouldn't be cute here. The American people are scared to death, and they're angry, and they want to know where we're going. My advice is answer throw them out after 21 months, say no, no, give us two years. That will give us half as much time as you gave them, and if it's not better, throw us out.

You have to give what you say out. Throw us out if it's not better and then say, now, let's talk about what we're going to do and who is more likely to do it? Treat the American people with respect.

Tell them what you're going to do, ask them who is more likely to do it. If it's a choice, we can win. If it's a referendum, it's not good.


BLITZER: New numbers show unemployment on the rise in dozens of states as the U.S. economy continues to suffer. I'll ask the former president what he thinks the White House needs to do to turn things around.

Also, the Republican Party unveils its so-called "Pledge to America" with a list of promises. Some voters, though, are already zeroing in on what's not on the list.

Is he a lean machine, former President Clinton tells me about the diet that helped him shed 24 pounds.


BLITZER: First-time jobless claims ticked up in the last unemployment report this week underscoring the limping economy and the threat it poses to Democrats in the upcoming midterm election on November 2nd. Former President Bill Clinton had some specific advice for President Obama, as our interview continues.


BLITZER: A few quick questions, a few quick answer on some domestic issues right now. What's the single most important thing President Obama can do to turn the economy around?

CLINTON: I think the quickest thing he can do is to recognize the stunning report that just came out last week -- the unemployment rate came out and said that the one to 9.6 because we had more private sector jobs and the census workers were laid off.

Buried in that unemployment rate was the stunning finding that for the first time since World War II we are coming out of recession where posted job openings -- that is, they'll hire us tomorrow, you or me -- posting job openings going up twice as fast as stop hires.

Because a little bit of the here's the number of Americans living in homes worthless and their mortgages, so they can't move, but mostly because of the skills mismatch, so I think the quickest thing you could do is to accelerate the transfer of discretionary training money to states or to the local labor department, direct to employers so that people while they're drawing unemployment can get trained and move into those jobs.

That's what Michael Thurmond, the labor commissioner in Georgia is trying to do, train several thousand people on the job.

BLITZER: You see some silver -- you see some light at the end of the tunnel.

CLINTON: Yes. If we were just -- first of all, let's look at the facts here. According to this report, these are the jobs that are posted all over America, I will hire you tomorrow. If we were filling those jobs, if we had been since last June filling those jobs at the same rate we were filling them in the early months of my presidency and the early months of coming out of every previous recession, there would be five million more Americans at work, unemployment would be -- so that's the quickest thing.

Then you have to create more jobs, and small business manufacturing, clean energy and we have to find ways to get the banks to loan money because they have $1.8 trillion in cash uncommitted to loans, and to resolve whatever doubts the corporations have about investing the $1.6 trillion they have in cash.

BLITZER: It's easier said than done, but the president will have to show leadership and here's the question, has he lost his mojo?

CLINTON: No, no, no. Their argument, the Republican argument is that we should throw him out because he had 21 months to get us out of the hole, 21 months and we're not out of the hole so, we should put them back in.

Our argument should be two-fold. And they have a larger argument, which is all this strategy, the stimulus, the student loan program, the financial oversight bill and the health care bill are part of some vast conspiracy to have government choke off our life, but our argument should be two-fold.

We should say they dug this hole over eight years. We had big problems before the financial meltdown. They want you to throw us out over -- after 21 months and put them back in so they can do what they were doing before. They promise.

They've been very honest. I give the Republicans credit. They promise to repeal financial oversight and repeal the student loan reform, which is the best thing in my lifetime to get kids in school and in community colleges and help them stay there.

They want to repeal health care and not improve it, which would be crazy because the system they advocate with the health insurance companies running it, the health insurance of 26 percent -- insurance companies 26 percent increase in profits last year taking us over 70 percent of income for health care for the first time, spending $1 trillion more than all of our competitors, and every other rich company has the lower infant mortality rate and longer life expectancy.

So we need to fix it, not make it better. I think that the Democrats' argument should be give us two more years. We got our ideas underway. If it's not better, you can vote against us all.

BLITZER: In 2012?

CLINTON: Yes, they gave us -- you gave them eight years to dig the hole. Just give us four to get out of it. If it's not better, go ahead and throw us out. But for goodness sakes, don't bring back the shovel brigade, and then I think they should pivot to saying what should we do now?

We need more jobs, more financing, more training. Here's what our position is. Compare it with theirs. In other words, if this election is a choice about the future, we have a chance to do quite well. If it's just a referendum on people's frustration, it's a bad deal for us.


BLITZER: The Republican leaders throw down the gauntlet with their pledge to America to cut taxes and spending. Will it push the GOP over the top in the midterm elections?

We'll hash it out with representatives from both sides. Former President Clinton slims down dramatically as you can tell. He tells me a secret for taking off 24 pounds.


BLITZER: Less than six weeks ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans are hoping to tap into voters' frustration with an updated version of their successful 1994 contract with America.

The new pledge to America contains 20 promises, including a freeze on domestic spending at least most of it repealing health care reform, and permanently extending the Bush tax cuts, but there's no plan for controlling the cost of social security, Medicare, and Medicaid and no mention of lawmakers' spending on pet projects, the earmarks.

But will the pledge help propel the GOP to an election victory in November?


BLITZER: Joining us, two members of Congress, Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Thanks very much to both of you for coming in. Let me start with you, Congressman Ryan. This pledge to America, you were obviously deeply involved in putting it all together, but look at the very sharp negative reaction from a prominent conservative Erick Erickson. He is a CNN contributor from He says this.

It is a series of compromises and milk toast rhetorical flourishes in search of unanimity among House Republicans because the House GOP does not have the fortitude to lead boldly in opposition to Barack Obama.

Go ahead and respond to Erick Erickson who says these are just words, but you don't deliver substance.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN: OK, so I guess I'll put him down as a critic.


RYAN: First of all, Wolf, we think it's important that we don't make promises we know we can't keep in the next session. If we have the privilege of serving the majority, we're going to have divided government.

So we don't want to go out and there and promise pie in the sky things that we know won't be signed into law because we know Barack Obama is going to be the president. What we want to do is declare what our principles are.

More importantly say we're not going to be like the Republicans that got kicked out four years ago, big spending, earmarks, all of those things, and these are the things we could do right now to get this country right on the right track.

Cut spending, create jobs, clean out the way Congress works. This is not meant to be an exhaustive redo of the party platform or a complete comprehensive agenda.

This is meant to be a current governing agenda to fix the problems that are right in front of us, knowing that if we do get the republican majority, we will be in a divided government situation.

BLITZER: Well, what's wrong with any of that, Debbie Wasserman Schultz? REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D) FLORIDA: Well, what's wrong with it is that they've made a pledge today to the special interests rather than to America. I mean, what's particularly going, Wolf, is that on September 23rd, the day that Patients Bill of Rights Reform is actually could go into effect -- and as a breast cancer survivor, I can tell you that's particularly disturbing to me that.

For example, someone like me is one job loss away from being dropped or denied coverage because of my preexisting condition. Yet, the Republicans would repeal health care reform, make sure that insurance companies put back in the driver's seat. That's part of their pledge to America.

Their pledge to America also includes repealing Wall Street reform, putting Wall Street back in the driver's seat, instead of focusing on balancing our policy between consumer protection and making sure that business can thrive.

They also want to pledge to America that we hold middle class tax breaks hostage so we can give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires that add $700 billion to the deficit.

BLITZER: You run through three points. Let's go through those three points. Let's talk about -- this is six months right now, Congressman Ryan, and health care reform has been enacted.

A lot of folks are happy that their college age family members that are going to be able to stay there, kids on the family plan, until age 26. You want to repeal that. Why?

RYAN: The chief actuary of this administration has already told us that this bill is not meeting what they've already said it would do. Bigger deficits, higher health care costs. The CBO is already telling us this thing is a massive deficit.

It's not that we don't want to reform health care. Health care need reforming. We don't want this bill that reforms health care by having a government takeover of health care. What this bill will do is make health care less accessible, lower quality, more expensive, and give us a massive deficit when we have huge deficits.

Here's the problem, Wolf. The Democrats here, they didn't even do a budget this year for the first time since 1974. We have to get the spending under control. We got to create jobs. Raising taxes on the successful small businesses is not going to create jobs.

According to the CBO, it's going to cost us 1.2 million jobs. So obviously we have a different opinion on these things, as you can see.

BLITZER: Well, let's go through the tax - the tax cuts that the Bush administration implemented. They're going to expire, Debbie Wasserman Schultz at the end of this year unless legislation is passed in both the House and the Senate.

Looks like the Senate is punting until after the November 2nd midterms. The House -- is there going to be a vote on this between now and November 2nd in the House?

SCHULTZ: Well, we're still talking about when that vote will take place. But what we want to make sure and the clear contrast between Democrats and Republicans here is they're pledged to special interest today came out with preserving tax breaks for the wealthiest individuals, for millionaires and billionaires.

Holding middle class tax breaks hostage and adding $700 billion to the deficit. They talk out of both sides on their face. On the one hand they talk about cutting spending but they ignore and treat the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals adding $700 billion to the deficit like it's not spending. They're equivalent.

BLITZER: Let me ask Congressman Ryan to respond to that. Because if the wealthiest, those making more than $250,000 a year, get to keep the same tax rate as it has been in business now since the Bush administration --

RYAN: Seven years.

BLITZER: Yes, 35 percent as opposed to going up to the Clinton administration's 39.6 percent that will cost the American taxpayers $700 billion over the next 10 years. You want to cut the debt, the national debt. There's $700 billion, Congressman Ryan, right there.

RYAN: Wolf, not only do I disagree with what Debbie just said, 41 Democrats in her own caucus disagree with what Debbie said. We have the votes to pass this if the speaker let this come up.

You mention a good point should we just raise taxes on rich people? Do you know who pay these taxes? These tax rates hit 50 percent of all small business income. About 900,000 small businesses, 70 percent of our jobs come from these small businesses.

The CBO just put on the report saying, if this happens we could lose 1.2 million jobs. Here's the point, to get our fiscal situation under control, we need to do two things, grow the economy, create jobs and cut spending.

Raising taxes defeats those purposes, those objectives. Don't want to go down this economy, we want to cut spending.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, a lot of economists say they agree with Congressman Ryan that if you raise taxes on those making $250,000 a year or more at a delicate moment in the economy right now that could -- that could perhaps even trigger a double-dip recession.

SCHULTZ: Wolf, the overwhelming majority of economists agree that the tax cuts that Mr. Ryan and his colleagues want to extend for the wealthiest Americans would do nothing to turn the economy around.

That it's middle class tax breaks and the work families that we need to reenact because most wealthy Americans don't use that windfall and put that money right back into the economy. They sit on it. They sit on it and society their investments and it doesn't help at all. All it would do is add to the deficit.

And I certainly agree and Democrats agree that we should be targeting our assistance when it comes to tax policy to small businesses, which is why the Republicans should have voted with us today on the small business lending and jobs bill, but unfortunately they all voted against it.

They have no interest in getting capital out, into the hands of small business owners. They could have vote for that bill today and gotten that credit to be available, but instead all that they're focused on is victory, returning to the same tired old tax policy of the past and the American people are going to reject it on November 2nd.

BLITZER: Are you just a party, Congressman Ryan, the party of no to whatever the Democrats raise. Even if there are issues, these are proposals that Republicans supported in the past.

RYAN: Look at the thing we just put out today. These are a party of pro active ideas to get this country back on track to replace government-run health care with patient-centered consumer-directed health care. To get this debt and deficit under control, to create jobs this in this country.

They actually make members of Congress actually lead the legislations they're voting on before they vote for it. These are commonsense solutions that are anchored in our founding principles.

But going back to this tax cut issue, even the president's advisers Peter Orszag, Mark Zandi are telling us you should not be raising taxes at this moment. We put out a list of 314 economists yesterday saying, do not raise taxes at this precarious time in our economy.

It is very left of center to be suggesting we should have these tax increases. Moderates, Democrats, and Republicans are saying we should not be raising these taxes.


BLITZER: Paul Ryan, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a good debate earlier in the week. How many people in their 60s can say they weigh what they did in high school? Former President Bill Clinton can say that now. He tells me how he lost 24 pounds by changing his diet.


BLITZER: More now of my interview with former President Bill Clinton. It concluded with the subject that seems to be on so many people's minds, his dramatic weight loss.


BLITZER: My last question and it comes to me in a lot of my followers as recalled on Twitter sent me this question. They wanted me to ask you a variation of this question. How did you lose so much weight? What kind of diet are you on?

CLINTON: Well, the short answer is, I went on essentially a plant- based diet. I live on beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits. I drink a protein supplement every morning. No dairy. I drink almond milk mixed in with fruit and a protein powder.

So I get the protein when I start the day out and it changed my whole metabolism and I lost 24 pounds and I lot back to basically to what I weighed in high school.

But I did it for a different reason, I mean, I wanted to lose weight, but I never dreamed this would happen. I did it because after I had this stent put in, I realized that even though it happens quite often that after -- yes, bypasses you lose the veins because they're thinner and weaker than arteries.

The truth is that it clogged up, which means that the cholesterol was still calling buildup in my vein, that was part of my bypass and thank God I could take the stents. I don't want it to happen again. So I did all of this research and I saw that 82 percent of the people since 1986 who have gone a plant-based no dairy, no meat of any kind -- no chicken, turkey, I eat very little fish.

Once in a while I'll have a little fish. Not that often. If you can do it, 82 percent of the people have done that have begun to heal themselves. There are arterial blockage cleans up. The calcium deposit around their heart breaks up.

This movement has been led by a doctor named Caldwell Eserstein at the Cleveland clinic, Dean (inaudible) in California, the doctors, Campbell, father and son, who wrote the China study and a handful of others, but we now have 25 years of evidence.

And so I thought, well, since I needed to lose a little weight for Chelsea's wedding, I'll become part of this experiment. I'll see if I can be one of those that can have a self-clearing mechanism. We'll see.

BLITZER: I hope you're healthy for many years and get to see grandchildren for many years to come.

CLINTON: Me too. That's really the big deal. You know, Hilary and I -- we're happy, we love our son-in-law and we admire him but -- and we'd like to be around if there's grandkids, we want to be there to do our part.

BLITZER: Mr. President, good luck.

CLINTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks for what you're doing.

CLINTON: Thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: That's all of the time that we have today. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern, every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN, and at this time, every weekend on CNN International. The news continues next on CNN.