AIF Blog

In Conversation: President Bill Clinton at Aspen Ideas

Jul 02, 2011

President Bill Clinton made a special appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival Saturday afternoon. Interviewed by The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein, Clinton spoke to crowd of nearly a thousand guests including Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and many of AIF’s 2011 speakers.

Clinton answered questions on a wide range of issues including clean energy, healthcare, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, toxic partisanship, and whom he thinks is strong in the Republican field for 2012.

Here are a few of his thoughts on the economy and debt ceiling — a topic that has been trending here at AIF and across the country.

Brownstein asked Clinton what President Obama should do about the most pressing issue in Washington right now. Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling, says Clinton, because if they don’t, “It will make the deficit problem worse and make it much more difficult to recover because it will be harder for people to get credit — even harder than it is now.” He pointed out that we have a strange system unique to the United States: Congress voted to assume the debts and then they get to vote again on whether or not to pay the debts they assumed.

Clinton went on to say that Obama’s tactic on the debt ceiling should be to “not blink” between now and August second. But what if Republicans hold to their view of adding no taxes to any deficit reduction scheme, asked Brownstein.

“There are some spending cuts they agree on,” says Clinton, and Obama could take those and an extension on the debt ceiling for six or eight months. “But if they are really going to reach a mega deal, you cannot reach a mega deal without doing something like what the Bowles-Simpson Committee recommended.”

Clinton closed with passionate remarks about the country’s health care spending and how getting it under control would go a long way in reducing the deficit.

President Bill Clinton and Alan Greenspan