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One on One Interview with Former President Bill Clinton; David Axelrod Responds to Clinton Interview; Eric Fehrnstrom Answering on David Axelrod's Interview

Aired June 9, 2012 - 18:00   ET



My candid one on one interview with former president Bill Clinton, that's coming up. What he tells me he's sorry for, why he doesn't think he has to be hostile to Mitt Romney and what trait he says his daughter Chelsea got from him.

Plus, President Obama's chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod on allegation's the White House deliberately leaked classified intelligence to score political points.

Then, the Romney campaign gets its chance to respond to all of this, my interview with the junior advisor to the Romney campaign, Eric Fehrnstrom.

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 sounding an urgent note about the U.S. economy and the new risks it faces from Europe's growing cries. He warns that so- called head winds from Europe can setback the recovery in the United States. President says the U.S. businesses are improving and creating jobs but he's pressing Congress to take action on the public sector.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The big challenge we have in our economy right now is state and local government hiring has been going in the wrong direction. You've seen teacher layoffs, police officers, cops, firefighters being laid off. And the other sector that's still weak has been the construction industry.

Those two areas we've directly addressed with our jobs plan. The problem is that it requires Congress to take action and we're going to keep pushing them to see if they can move in that direction.

The truth of the matter is, as I said, we've created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy had to do with state and local government.


BLITZER: The president of the United States speaking at a hastily news conference on Friday.

Now my in depth interview with former president bill Clinton. And aside of this political mastermind, we rarely get to see, I sat down with him this week at the Clinton global initiative back in Chicago and he began by repeatedly apologizing for comments he made about the so-called Bush tax cuts that seemingly contradicted the president.


BLITZER: Mr. President, thanks very much for allowing us to come here to your CGI, once again, the Clinton Global Initiative. And we're going to talk about that. I know you've got major initiatives you want to help four million Americans as a result of what you are going to today and tomorrow. We'll talk specifically about what you have in mind.

But let's get to the issues right now, the economy, jobs. That's what you are talking about. You are at CGI.

You've caused a stir, as you know, by appearing to suggest that you would be open to temporarily extending the Bush tax cuts even for the wealthiest Americans in that CNBC interview. You backed off of it a little later, but where do you stand right now, if necessary, to keep the economy robust?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, I don't think it's necessary to keep the economy robust. What I was saying yesterday, which is apparently not accurate, is that if this fiscal cliff comes through the president and the Congress and the country before the election, he can't afford to give up his position, and he shouldn't, that we're going to have to have some new revenues to deal with this debt long term and we ought to begin to ask those in high income groups to pay taxes. I support that position, I always have.

And -- but the Republicans may not feel they can afford to indirectly ratify it. So, I was talking about whether they need to put it off after the election, and then -- but they still have until the first of the year now. If they had until the first of the year in any case to deal with this, there's no problem. They both have their positions. And they'll have to decide how to resolve it by the first of the year, but the election won't intervene and therefore I regret that all this stirring up is happening, because that's what I was thinking about. I was under the impression somebody had to be done before the election.

BLITZER: As you know, the president has flatly said he would veto any extension of the Bush tax cuts for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families making more than $250,000 a year. He's extended it a few times now, but that was the last time. He says he won't do it again.

CLINTON: I support his position, and I think on the merits upper income people are going to have to contribute to the long-term debt reduction. You get the debt down with three things, economic growth, appropriate spending restraint and adequate revenue stream. And what he's trying to say is that we've got to have all three. And so, I support his position.

But we really -- I'm very sorry about what happened yesterday. It was what I thought something had to be done on a fiscal cliff before the election. Apparently nothing has to be done until the first of the year. So I think he should just stick with his position and negotiate what (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: During the lame duck session, after the election if he's re- elected or if Romney wins, that's when they'll have to deal with the Bush tax cuts, because all of them, including the middle class, and I will go back to the rates that existed during your admission if they don't do something.

CLINTON: And those rates, the problem with that is, and why I think they should be extended for the bottom 98 percent, is that median income after inflation is lower than it was the day I left office.

So, those people who would be affected by that, many, many of them have had no income increases in a decade while their costs have gone up. So, you really would have a construction area economic impact. It would be bad for the economy if those folks in the bottom 98 percent had to shoulder a tax increase now. It would be difficult.

BLITZER: President, I just want to be precise. What you're saying is that you would not extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. You left those laps, go back to the race that existed when you were president, even though some economist say that could slow down economic growth during these troubled times.

CLINTON: Yes, because I think it would precipitate a long-term debt reduction deal. And I think if we phase it in slowly, so as Simpson- Bowles plan were commence, you don't have too much bite on the front end, that will actually help us long term.

And keep in mind, the Congress in saying this has to account for the fact that we have, in the last 27 months, 4.3 million more private sector jobs, but we've lost 600,000 public sector jobs in part because they declined to pass the president's jobs plan which would given some money to slice in small county so they wouldn't have to lay off the teachers, the firefighters, police officers and others who have been laid off.

BLITZER: So, on this issue and I'm going to move on, there's no daylight between you and the president?

CLINTON: No. I really was under the impression that they would have to do something before the election. Once I realized nothing had to be done until the first of the year, I support his position. I supported him last year, but I think his position is the right one and necessary if we're ever going to get a confidence deal.

BLITZER: The other issue that caused the Obama friends' some heartburn was when you told Harvey Weinstein that Mitt Romney had a sterling reputation as head of Bain Capital, that he was qualified to be president, this coming after all the ads, the Obama campaign ads going after him on his record of Bain Capital. CLINTON: That's two different things. You can be a successful business person. And if you're governor of a state and you're 35 years old and you're born in America, you're by definition qualified to be president.

BLITZER: You suggested his qualifications were good.

CLINTON: Yes. But in the same sentence, --

BLITZER: That's correct.

CLINTON: Very cleverly, in the same sentence, I said he shouldn't be elected because his ideas and policies I don't think are good for America.

BLITZER: And then, you later said it would be calamitous if he were elected. That's sterling pretty far.

CLINTON: If he was elected and implemented the policies that he's advocated. Keep in mind, from my point of view, the best thing he did when he was governor was sign that health care bill that he's now renounced.

BLITZER: He hasn't renounced hid health care but he renounced the president's health care bill.

CLINTON: Yes, with the same idea in it.

But if you look at it, that's a pretty -- that splitting a pretty thin hair. And the experience of Massachusetts proves that if you have an individual mandate and you take the sand out of the gears of people shifting cost, it will slow down inflation and we can get a-hold of health care costs better.

But I think that it's not what he's running on. He's running on repealing the president's bill, on repealing the commitment to clean energy, which is a big part of why we're getting manufacturing jobs back in American today on basically a budget that every bias person says add one or $2 trillion to the debt over the next decade. And on having austerity now and bigger deficits in the odd years which is exactly the reverse of what he should be doing.

So, if he actually implemented what he says, it would be very, very bad for the American economy. That's what I think.


BLITZER: We're going to have much more of my interview with the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton. That's coming up next.

I'll ask him what he really thinks about Mitt Romney. Stand by for that.

Also, the chief strategist for the Obama campaign, David Axelrod, he is in the SITUATION ROOM. We will talk about allegations swirling around Washington that the White House deliberately leaked classified intelligence information for political gain.

Then it's the Romney's campaign turn to respond is to all of this. My interview with Romney campaign senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom, that's come up this hour as well.


BLITZER: Former president Bill Clinton is never afraid to say what's on his mind even if it might makes some of his fellow Democrats uncomfortable from time to time. We talked about that and more in my interview.


BLITZER: Some of your critics have said you know the former president is undermining the current president for whatever reason.

CLINTON: Well, look. In 2008, when he ran for president, and defeated Hillary in the primaries, I did 40 events for him, 40 in the election. In 2012 I have done these major fund raisers. I have spoken up for him whenever I could. I have told people repeatedly. I think he's done a good job, a really good job under very trying circumstances. And better than some people give him credit for. And I strongly committed to his re-election.

And I just regret that I -- you know, my instinct. You know me. I don't think I should have to say bad things about Governor Romney personally to disagree with him politically. The fact that I was complementary of his success as a business person doesn't mean that I think that he should be elected and President Obama shouldn't.

And if you look at this book I wrote, "the American economy," it's the one reason we're here, you can be successful in business and this has been true for 35 years, if your shareholders do will. You can only be successful as president if the shareholders, the employees, the customers and the communities do well. All the constituencies of American market economics.

BLITZER: I covered your presidency for eight years, and you worked with business. You wanted to bring them.

CLINTON: I did. And I still.

BLITZER: You're doing that here at the CGI. You've got a lot of representatives, major fortune 500 companies. They are here trying to help create jobs and do important work. But the criticism of a president is that he's alienated some of these same big business types. Wall Street saying things that weren't favorable, many of them who supported him in 2008 are running away from him now.

CLINTON: But if you look at what he's actually done, if you look at the tax policies, the regulatory policies he's actually pursued, they were either necessary. We had to have higher capital requirements on bank lending after that financial meltdown. You can't have people taking the kind of risks that were taken. But he has -- even now he's got another small business tax cut pending before Congress as part of his economic plan for people that are hiring new employees.

BLITZER: I don't think much is going to happen between now and the election.


BLITZER: Any of this industry.

CLINTON: But he's had this out there for more than a year. It's just if you look at his record as opposed to what people say, what the Republicans say about him, I think he has been, you know, quite moderate and very interested in getting business input.

Look at the business counsel he's got on it with jobs counsel. I worked with him on this building retrospect. I'm quite impressed by the range of businesspeople on this council. He's obviously interested in their opinions, their input and what their policies' suggestions are.

So, I just -- I don't buy that he's anti-business. He's, he has some differences from people who believe that the financial crisis we went through, and the burdens the American people still bear because of it, these things don't justify any increased requirements of oversight.

I think they do. I think that we know, about the capitalism tendency to implode. This will be good for the market. This will be good for the economy to minimize the kind of risks that cause the meltdown last time.

BLITZER: What do you think about Mitt Romney?

CLINTON: I told you what I thought. I've said many times I had a good encounter with him when he tried to save the America care program. I don't feel that I have to - have personal hostility with him to disagree with his idea. But, listen very carefully to what these Republicans said in the primary and to Mr. Norquist, the anti- tax activist when he said it would be fine with him if Governor Romney got elected because all he needed to do was sign his $9 million and run things out of the tea party house.

It is troubling to me because I think that if you look at Greece, if you look at the United Kingdom, if you look where the world is today, the people who say austerity and unemployment now and then will balloon the debt later and have higher interest rates and will never recover, that's basically the Republican platform. It's the same platform, the Euro zone which the Europeans are now trying to get out of.


BLITZER: More of my interview with the former president later this hour. Bill Clinton gets personal about his daughter, Chelsea, saying she has her father's energy and her mother's brains and character. And is the White House allowing leaks of sensitive classified information in order to score political points to try and help the president get re-elected? I'll ask the chief strategist for the Obama campaign, David Axelrod.

Stay with us. You are in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Computer attacks on Iran, a presidential hit list of terror targets and a foiled bomb plot. The FBI, now, is investigating a series of leaks about covert U.S. operations. The White House strongly denies Republican claims that it was behind the leaks. But there's outrage on both sides from the aisle of Capitol Hill. Now, the House intelligence committee chairman says the media have been allowed in classified briefings.

I spoke about that and more with David Axelrod, the top campaign strategist for President Obama.


BLITZER: Mike Rogers, the chairman of the intelligence committee, the congressman, he's suggesting very pointedly, like other Republicans, that the Obama administration is leaking sensitive classified information to help the president get re-elected. I'll play a little clip for you.

REP. MIKE ROGERS, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The committee has material suggesting that the agencies were directed to expand the scope of classified information they gave to the press. We know in some cases someone from a segment of the media was present in a classified setting.

BLITZER: All right. That's a pretty sharp statement, and John McCain a statements along those lines, Lindsey Graham and others. What do you say?


This administration has no interest in leaking classified information. We don't want to see it leaked from Capitol Hill. We don't want to see it leaked from the administration. It's not helpful.

So, now the fact is that there are leaks. And sometimes we're confronted with those leaks and we're asked about those leaks. That's a different situation. But I wholly discount that.

BLITZER: And you totally reject this notion that there have been authorized leaks of classified information in order to help bolster the president's chances, to make him look strong --

AXELROD: I would reject that, but the intonation is the story is been helpful to the president.

BLITZER: What story is that?

AXELROD: That story had been helpful to the president. I will let other people judge that but there's certainly not -- we're not the source of those stories.

BLITZER: And this notion that John McCain wants a special council, like Ken star for example, to come in and start investing?

AXELROD: I think that nobody benefits from leaks of classified material. And, you know, it shouldn't happen. And, you know, we would welcome anybody to look at anything.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton. He's now apologized. He's expressed regret. Said he didn't fully understand the nature of the question then he said the Bush tax cuts even for the wealthiest Americans maybe temporarily should be extended even though the president says they shouldn't be extended any longer. That this is good enough for you?

AXELROD: I'm not asking for an apology from Bill Clinton. I have deep admiration for him. And I watched this parade of Republicans saying, we all listen to Bill Clinton. They should listen to Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was the president in the early '90s who said we have to do something about the deficits and it's going to mean the well think will have to pay more. Not one Republican supported him. He went and got it done and we had a decade of growth and expansion, left with the surplus. In the next decade, we have two unfunded wars an unfunded Medicaid prescription program, unfunded tax cuts and they left for this president a huge deficits and an economic crisis.

So they should listen to President Clinton. He was right back in the '90s. He's right what he says now. We should be investing in education and research and development and energy and the kinds of things that will grow our economy, not going back to the policies of the last decade.

BLITZER: But did he cause your campaign, the re-election campaign, some heartburn by suggesting that Mitt Romney's sterling reputation at Ban Capital coming off the heels of the ads when you are going after Mitt Romney at Bain Capital.

AXELROD: Well, the question he answered, Wolf, and I said this before was, is he qualified? No one is doubting that Mitt Romney is qualified to be president. The question is, is he qualified himself to call himself a job creator, is he qualified to call himself the economic oracle that he does when he ran a business that doesn't reflect that and his record in Massachusetts was so poor in terms of job creation. That's what we're questioning. Not whether he has the technical qualifications.

BLITZER: But you're not suggesting that Bill Clinton did have a sterling reputation.

AXELROD: I think he had a great record for making money for himself and his partners. He did not have a great record on job creation. When you take companies to bankruptcy, load them with debt, take them to bankruptcy, walked away with millions of dollars while the workers are left holding the bag, and the creditors are left holding the bag. That may look good in terms of your balance sheet, but it's not good economic policy and it's not right.

BLITZER: In fairness, there were some companies that he helped establish, sports authority --


AXELROD: He made minor investments in these companies, and walked away from them with a profit and then later they created jobs. But here are companies that he went in, his group took over, loaded them with debt and in several cases took them to bankruptcy, and yes, he profited from that. But certainly the work certifications didn't, the community didn't, the economy didn't.


BLITZER: David Axelrod from the Obama campaign. We're going to get reaction to what we just heard from Mitt Romney's senior campaign advisor, Eric Fernstrom. He will also react to my interview with former president Bill Clinton.

And we will go in depth about Clinton's apology for going off message. Our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley is standing by.

Plus, what was Mitt Romney like as governor of Massachusetts? We'll hear from some of his former colleagues.


BLITZER: My in depth interviews with former Bill Clinton but also with Obama campaign chief strategist, David Axelrod. The Romney campaign also is joining us with a reaction. I spoke about both interviews with senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom.


BLITZER: Eric, thanks very much for coming in. I want to give you a chance to respond first of all to what David Axelrod said here in the situation a little while ago. I will play a little clip.

AXELROD: I think he had a great record for creating - for making money for himself and his partners. He did not have a great record on job creation. When you take companies to bankruptcy, load them with debt, take them to bankruptcy, walked away with millions of dollars while the workers are left holding the bag and creditors are left holding the bag, that may look good in terms of your balance sheet, but it's not good economic policy and it's not right.

BLITZER: He was talking about Mitt Romney when he was at Bain Capital. Let me give you a chance to respond to Axelrod.

ERIC Sure, Wolf. Thank you for having me on.

ERIC FEHRNSTROM, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Well, I can tell you that governor Romney is proud of his business record. And by the way, so is Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton called Mitt Romney's career in the private sector sterling. We agree with him.

Today, the governor was in St. Louis. He gave a speech defending free enterprise. He said it's not just a moral imperative in this bad Obama economy. Governor Romney wants to do what he can to promote a friendly business environment that is conducive to economic expansion and job growth.

BLITZER: President Clinton did indeed say here on CNN that Mitt Romney had a sterling record at Bain Capital and he also said he was qualified to be president of the United States. But then he went on to say the next day or two that it would be calamitous for the United States if Mitt Romney were to become president because of the policies he is pushing for right now.

FEHRNSTROM: I can tell you, Wolf, that when the president came out and said that Mitt Romney's business career was sterling, I think he was speaking from the heart. At the end of the day, Bill Clinton is a good Democrat. He's endorsed the president. He's going to be with the president.

But I think his voice and the voice of other leading Democrats are significant in that they have signaled their unhappiness with the president's re-election strategy of attacking Bain Capital and attacking risk taking and profit and free enterprise. That's one of the reasons why Governor Romney thought it was important to go to St. Louis and give a strong speech in defense of free enterprise.

BLITZER: In the interview we've been airing with the former president, Bill Clinton, he did say nice things about Mitt Romney on certain issues. He liked what he did on America care, for example. And he also liked what then-governor Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts in promoting health care reform. Listen to what Clinton just said.

CLINTON: The best thing he did when he was governor was sign that health care bill that he's now renounced.

BLITZER: He hasn't renounced his health care bill. He's renounced the president's health care bill.

CLINTON: Yes, with the same idea in it. But if you look at it, that's a pretty -- that's splitting a pretty thin hair.

BLITZER: You just heard the former president Bill Clinton say he liked what Governor Romney did in Massachusetts as governor in promoting health care reform because he says it's basically the same thing that President Obama did in promoting health care reform for the nation.

FEHRNSTROM: Well, what we did or what Governor Romney did in Massachusetts represented a state solution to a state problem. Under our federalist system, we encourage states to experiment and to come up with solutions to the unique problems that they face. But what works in Massachusetts doesn't necessarily work in Texas or California. What President Obama did, by imposing a one size fits all health care solution out of Washington on the entire country was wrong, and that's why governor Romney has pledged from day one of his administration, if elected, to repeal Obama care and the higher taxes that go along with it, the $1 trillion entitlement and of course the intrusion on the sovereign right of states to come up with solutions to their own problems.

BLITZER: You also heard President Clinton really express his frustration and irritation that Mitt Romney and other top Republicans have not condemned Congressman Alan West for saying that there are 78 to 81 members among the communist parties among the house Democrats.

Why is Romney silent on that?

FEHRNSTROM: Well, that's not a point of view that's shared by Governor Romney. I can tell you that. But, look. This election isn't about what Allen West said. This election is about 23 million Americans who are either out of work or underemployed. And they're looking for a president who has the right policies, the right qualifications and experience to lead on the number one issues facing us, which is jobs and economy.

You saw what happened in Wisconsin just recently. That was first and foremost a vote of confidence in Scott Walker's leadership as governor, but what Scott Walker did in Wisconsin was to take on some big issues, and as a result of doing that successfully, he got the budget on the right track, he's got the economy moving in the right direction.

When Governor Romney says that election echoes beyond the borders of Wisconsin, what he means is that Americans are going to be looking for that same leadership on the budget and in the economy in Washington.


BLITZER: Eric Fehrnstrom speaking to me from the Romney campaign.

We're going to go in depth that all of this hour's politics with our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley. She's standing by.

Also, more of my interview with former president Bill Clinton. Wait until you hear what he has to say about his daughter, Chelsea.


BLITZER: Let's discuss what we just heard. Our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley, the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" is here.

Candy, I want to dig deeper on this whole uproar that has developed over the leaks, whether they were authorized, unauthorized. The president on Friday was adamant. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It's wrong, and you know, people I think need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me here approach this office.


BLITZER: All right. You know, he's firm on that, but the other side is insisting John McCain among others, these are deliberately designed to try and make him look good.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A couple of things. First of all it seems like something personal is going on between John McCain and the president. I mean, this rhetoric has heated up over these leaks.

And second of all, a leak not coming from the White House, which in paper says it did not, doesn't mean it didn't come from someone in the administration. It's a big place. And the president is right to take offense at that. Because everyone has said, Democrats and Republicans, as you know, had a news conference this week together, the chairman of the intelligence committees said this has to stop. This was dangerous.

So, the president, I think, you know, both politically and practically speaking, you're sending a message, not just to boat that are going with us. I take this job seriously, that's offensive. You are also sending it to your White House.

BLITZER: Yes. When you have Diane Feinstein, the chair of the senate intelligence teaming with Mike Rogers, the chair of the House intelligence committee, a democrat and Republican, they are furious right now. You know you've got a problem they have to deal with.


BLITZER: All right. On the economy, on Friday when the president called this hastily arranged news conference at the White House briefing room. You know, he came out and he spoke about the urgency but he said past legislation that he's introduced a long time ago. I didn't hear any new additions because I wonder if you did.

CROWLEY: No. And not only that, the president understands that this isn't going to happen. These are things that he introduced in September.

BLITZER: But he's just doing this for political points?

CROWLEY: Well, look. Listen. I mean, I think he wants some passed, if that's the question, yes. But I think he also knows they're not going to. So, you're out there and saying to America and to Congress, listen, I'm trying, but they are not, or you are not. I think one of the slip ups that we find is the president saying the private sector is doing OK because that's what the Republicans all left on from that news conference. BLITZER: Yes. When he says the private sector is doing fine. I'm not so sure that's true. But that's an issue --

CROWLEY: But, the Republicans loved that in particular.

BLITZER: Yes. They were immediately pounced on that.

Bill Clinton, asset or liability in this re-election campaign for the president of the United States?

CROWLEY: He's an asset. First of all he has very high numbers nationwide, much less in a Democratic party.

BLITZER: Much higher than the president.

CROWLEY: Yes, higher than the president and much higher probably the Democratic Party.

And - listen. He's the former president of the United States. He gets to say what he wants. I don't buy that he didn't know when these tax, the Bush tax cuts would expire. I mean, also like when would you think tax cuts would expire? At the end of the tax year which is the 31st at least for normal people, not for businesses, always.

But nonetheless, he gets to say what he wants. He clearly felt the need and the pressure to try and clean it p. But I think he is one of those folks as a former that, you know feels free to say what he thinks. And what he thinks is that a, that Bain was a good company and Romney ran it well and he doesn't think the president ought to be going after Bain. I think he is very clear on that. I think he probably does thinks that the tax cuts given the economy, ought to all be renewed.

BLITZER: Did you notice the pivot from the Obama campaign after Bill Clinton said he had a sterling record, Romney, at Bain. All of a sudden, they're focusing on Romney's record in Massachusetts. Not too much Bain jobs.

CROWLEY: True. And I think this was in the plan, though. They were going to - you know, this is very methodical. We're going to go after Bain, then, we are going after his record as governor. Then, you know, there will be repeat.

But I suspect the Bain stuff because it didn't just come from former president Clinton. A lot of Democrats are - wait a second. This is -- let's not attack the private industry. Let's not attack Bain. Let's go after these other things.

BLITZER: We'll see you Sunday morning 9:00 Eastern, noon eastern on "STATE OF THE UNION."

CROWLEY: I will be there. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

They say Mitt Romney ran his fate like a business. So, is that a good thing, a bad thing. We are talking lawmakers who worked with Romney when he was Massachusetts' governor.

And, Bill Clinton says, she has her father's energy and her mother's brains and character. The former president gets personal about his daughter, Chelsea.


BLITZER: Mitt Romney's record as Massachusetts governor has been a target for the Obama campaign, but what was his term really like?

We sent our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, to Massachusetts, to talk to people who worked with Romney.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Mitt Romney has held down his business experience as a corporate executive to say he can create jobs and get the economy moving.

But here in Massachusetts, state law makers say Romney's CEO style sometimes worked for him, but sometimes worked against him.


ACOSTA (voice-over): It's one of Mitt Romney's favorite selling points, that as governor of Massachusetts, he worked with a mostly democratic legislature to tackle his state's problems.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It did not take a rocket scientist to figure out if I was going to do anything as governor. I had to have a working relationship with the Democrats.

ACOSTA: But inside the Massachusetts state house, down the hallway from where Romney's portrait now hangs on the governor's office, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle don't see it quite that way.

ROB HEDLUND (R), MASSACHUSETTS SENATE ASSISTANT MINORITY LEADER: It was all business, it was all about policy.

ACOSTA: Rob Hedlund the number two Republican in the state senate says Romney was more of a CEO Governor. He brought a more corporate culture with him. Romney carried out his agenda, such as cutting programs and raising fees to balance the budget using a staff filled with outsiders from the business world.

HEDLUND: Some Democrats up here begrudgingly, maybe not publicly on camera, but privately will admit that. He had a lot of great talented people around him that he surrounded himself with who got the job done.

ACOSTA: Legislators in Massachusetts agree Mitt Romney made plenty of changes around the state house, but not all of them were in the law. Take the elevators.

FRANK SMIZIK (D), MASSACHUSETTS STATE HOUSE: He took over the elevator for the west wing of the building because he kept it only for his staff and him.

ELLEN STORY (D), MASSACHUSETTS STATE HOUSE: I'm positive it was always this elevator.

ACOSTA: This was the elevator.

STORY: Because it's the closest to his office.

ACOSTA: Democratic lawmakers are still miffed to this day that Romney belonged off one state house elevator specifically for his office, something that hadn't been done before.

STORY: When Romney came in, he treated government like the only thing he knew, which was business big, and he was the CEO of a big business.

JOHN SCIBAK (D), MASSACHUSETTS STATE HOUSE: Many people said good riddance. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

ACOSTA: That's what they said around here?

SCIBAK: Absolutely.


ACOSTA: Mike Widmer with a non-partisan Massachusetts taxpayers' foundation says Romney did set aside that CEO style to pass health care reform. A law so important to his legacy, it's visible in his state portrait. But Widmer says other efforts like job creation sputtered.

WIDMER: Health care, I'd give him an "A." On economy and as job creator and that entire effort, "C-minus."

ACOSTA: On the state house steps, Romney's successor, Democrat Deval Patrick, noted he has his own approach.

You re-opened the elevator and took down the velvet ropes?

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I'm a governor of, for, and with the people. So we have a very different style in that respect.


ACOSTA: The Romney campaign says security concerns after 9/11 were also part of the reason for giving the former governor his own elevator when he was in state house. As for those hard feelings among some state Democrats here in Boston, the Romney campaign chocks that up to election time loyalties to the president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thank you.

Children changing the environment. That and more, coming up in out hot shots.

Also, Bill Clinton's secret to staying fit and healthy after his heart surgery.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's hot shots. In Poland, Warsaw residents, at a bus stop, take up a moment to pray during the annual Corpus Christi celebrations.

In Colombia, a spotter helps a man lift a makeshift concrete weight in a park.

In Brazil, children help transform an old dump into an ecological park by planting trees.

And in Kenya, look at this, two orphaned cubs are held in captivity after being rescued by wildlife changers.

Hot shots, pictures coming in from around the world.

My interview with former president Bill Clinton wasn't just all about politics and policy. It was also a little bit about his family. And when we talked about his daughter, Chelsea, his face lit up.


BLITZER: Let's talk about the Clinton Global Initiative. This is an important meeting that you're having. You do a lot of work around the world. Now you're doing work here in the United States. And I was intrigued that Chelsea, your daughter, she's here now, too. What do you want her to do here? What is her role?

CLINTON: Well first, she is an active producer in our foundation of activities. She's on a number of the foundation boards overseeing, you know, health care. She's very interested in CGI. She knows a lot about the economy. She's done a lot of work in it.

And so, we tried to get her involved in all of our things. Her role is always something that's to discuss between her and our CGI staff. But she knows a lot about work force preparedness. She knows a lot about saving companies in trouble and re-opening them, and, you know --

BLITZER: I raise the question because I've known her since she was 13 years old when you guys came to Washington. And last night, I was at the Kennedy center at the vital voices event, which helps women around the world. And she made a presentation there.

And I looked at her and I saw in her eyes as I was watching her, she was very impressive. I saw the best of Bill Clinton and the best of Hillary Clinton in Chelsea Clinton. And you've probably seen that as well. I wonder if you want to talk a little bit about that.

CLINTON: I'm really proud of her. I think she's a fine person, the most important thing to me. And she's smart, caring, able, and determined. I think she's terrific. And I've got a great son-in-law, which is always a good thing to like your in-law, you know. So, I want her to do whatever she wants to do.

But I'm really grateful now with this work she's doing on television and the work she does at NYU and the college course she's teaching at Columbia, that she's still willing to be so act initiative our foundation activities. She really cares about this stuff and she's helped me do a lot of work at the foundation, tried to improve the management, you know, and just managed our massive growth. It's fun. I'm grateful to her.

BLITZER: She's got the best of her mom, the best of her dad.

CLINTON: Yes, she got her father's energy and her mother's brains and character. She's something.

BLITZER: We're out of time. How do you feel?

CLINTON: Great. As far as I know, I'm doing fine. I really feel good.

BLITZER: Still on that diet?

CLINTON: Still on the diet. Yes, I'm trying to make it, you know, as long as I can here.

BLITZER: No meat, no chicken --

CLINTON: No dairy.

BLITZER: No dairy.

CLINTON: And I'm trying to eat less white --

BLITZER: What does that mean?

CLINTON: No processed bread, fewer potatoes, less rice. You know fewer carbs that turn into sugar in your body. When you get older and particularly if you've had heart problems, you got to be really sensitive to things you eat -- not just sugar, but that turn into sugar in your body, because this diabetes problem, people become more vulnerable to pre-diabetic conditions when they get older, and of course, now because of childhood obesity, we have a lot of kids who are developing type 2 diabetes.

So, I watch that all pretty carefully. I try to, you know, exercise as much as I can with this crazy life I've got. But I really try to watch the diet. It makes a difference. And, you know, I'm having a good time in life. I'd like to stay around a little longer.

BLITZER: We'd like to have you around for a little longer. A lot longer, I should say.

CLINTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: You look great. You're thinner than I've seen you in a long time, but you feel healthy.

CLINTON: I feel great.

BLITZER: I'm glad you're doing what you're doing.

CLINTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Mr. President, thanks very much.

CLINTON: Thank you, Wolf.


BLITZER: That does it for me, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues next on CNN.