Bill Hillary Clinton
Bill Clinton: Running is Hillary's choice
01:31 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Hillary Clinton "really does need some time to think through this," he tells CNN's Anna Coren

He says he's "fine" with her decision either way on a 2016 presidential run

Ex-President on his wife: "She is the ablest public servant I have ever worked with"

Bill Clinton says he makes no apologies for the millions they've made from speeches

Washington CNN  — 

Former President Bill Clinton says that Hillary Clinton, his wife and the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, needs time to not only decide whether she will run, but what she would bring to the race if she did.

In an interview with CNN in Vietnam, Bill Clinton said that although Hillary Clinton hasn’t asked him for advice on her 2016 decision, he thinks that the former secretary of state “really does need some time to think through this.”

“We’ve reached a point in our life when we think you really shouldn’t run for office if you don’t have a clear idea of what you can do and a unique contribution you can make and you can outline that,” Clinton told CNN’s Anna Coren. “Now that the book is done, she wants time to think about that and work through it. I think so much of politics is background noise, and we don’t need the background noise anymore.”

The former President was in Vietnam as part of the Clinton Foundation’s work on global health in Southeast Asia.

Hillary Clinton’s latest memoir, “Hard Choices,” published earlier this summer to much fanfare and a frenetic book tour. While sales of the 600-page-plus tome have not hit publishers’ expectations, the book tour has put Hillary Clinton on the forefront of political conversation and raised the specter of her likely bid for the presidency in two years.

Hillary Clinton has also become more comfortable with acknowledging that she is considering a run at the presidency during the book tour. While months ago Clinton would not entertain questions about a run, more recently she has answered questions without pretense and speculated about what her campaign would look like.

“We have to make a campaign about what we would do,” Hillary Clinton said about a possible 2016 run last week. “You have to run a very specific campaign that talks about the changes you want to make in order to tackle growth, which is the handmaiden of inequality.”

Bill Clinton ‘fine’ with her decision either way

Bill Clinton told Coren that he is “fine” with whatever decision Hillary Clinton eventually comes to on 2016.

The former President did say, however, that his wife would be a “really good” commander in chief.

“She is the ablest public servant I have ever worked with, even if she is my wife,” Bill Clinton said. “She’s smart, but she’s also uncannily able to move from A to B to C. She gets things done and she is strong, she’s just good, she is just really good. She would be really good. But it’s a decision that only she can make, and I’m not going to try to jump the gun and if she decides not to do it, I’ll be happy too.”

Bill Clinton has long been careful to not weigh in too forcefully on what he hopes his wife will do in 2016.

In an interview last week with India’s NDTV, he said Hillary Clinton “will have to make the decision and I am not going to put my thumb on the scale either way.” Last month, during an interview with NBC, he described himself as only a “bit player” when it comes to her presidential decision.

In his interview with CNN, Bill Clinton said that now is his time to take a back seat to his wife’s ambitions.

“When I left the White House and Hillary went into the Senate in New York, I told her, I said, ‘For 26 years you have made a lot of sacrifices for my public life. So I’ll give you the next 26 years and if I’m still around we will fight about what we are going to do after that,’ ” Bill Clinton said. “So we are just over a little half way through the second 26 years and whatever she wants is fine with me.”

Hillary Clinton spent much of the couple’s first decades together helping her husband’s political ambition. In 2000, after eight years in the White House and five terms as first lady of Arkansas, Hillary Clinton became the first first lady to win elected office when she successfully ran for New York’s open Senate seat. She would later unsuccessfully run for president in 2008, but serve as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

A cloud over the book tour

It is what Bill Clinton did after the White House, though, that has clouded much of the last month for Hillary Clinton’s book tour.

In the first interview of the tour, Hillary Clinton told ABC that her family was “dead broke” when they left the White House. Although the family was in debt because of mounting legal fees, Clinton failed to mention her family’s post-presidential windfall of book deals and speaking fees.

A CNN analysis of the family’s financial records in early 2013 showed that Bill Clinton had earned $106 million from paid speeches since leaving the presidency behind. Since leaving the State Department in 2013, Hillary Clinton, too, has cashed in on being a highly sought after speaker by charging upwards of $275,000 a speech.

Republicans seized on the storyline and tried to make the argument that Hillary Clinton is out of touch with most Americans. Democrats close to Clinton pushed back, but some admitted in private that the attacks hurt the former secretary of state.

Bill Clinton told Coren that the storyline was a “fabricated” one that “shows you how desperately, sadly we are dependent on a new level of political gossip every week.”

“Most people would think that being 16 million dollars in debt would qualify as being dead broke,” Clinton said, citing a number higher than the $2.28 million to $10.6 million figure that was cited on their federal financial records.

Defending his time on the paid speaking circuit, Bill Clinton said that after leaving the White House and paying his debts, he “wanted to try and save enough money so that if anything happened to me, Hillary and Chelsea could both be in public service if they wanted to be, and I don’t apologize for that.”

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing to make money,” Bill Clinton said. “I think it’s bad if you live in a system that’s rigged against the poor and the middle class. That’s a very different thing and the purpose of politics is to create a system of shared opportunities and shared responsibilities.”