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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

President Bush Addresses Nation; Interview with Bill Clinton

Aired September 24, 2008 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, HOST: Thank you, Gloria.
In just a minute, President Bush speaks about -- I'm sorry, Campbell.

President Bush speaks about the White House calls our once in a century financial crisis and his plan to fix it.

After he's done, we're going to have our interview with Bill Clinton. And he'll talk about economic troubles and Sarah and Hillary and Obama and who he thinks will win the election.

Now let's go to Washington and CNN's Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Thanks very much, Larry.

The president about to present a very dire warning to the American people. He will suggest that unless the Congress approves a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street, and approves in within a matter of only a few days, there are going to be ominous consequences for the entire U.S. economy and for millions of Americans.

At stake, a loss of an enormous number of jobs, homeownership around the country, savings and retirement plans, and a deep recession.

His aides insist this is the worst economic crisis facing the United States since the Great Depression of the 1920s and '30s. That's why they call what we're about to hear from the president -- and I'm quoting now -- "a national rescue plan rather than a bailout."

He's invited the Congressional leadership over to the White House tomorrow, Republicans and Democrats, including Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. They all have agreed to attend.

But as we know, the president now facing an uphill challenge to convince the American public he knows what he's doing.

Let's get ready to go over to the White House.

Here's the president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening. This is an extraordinary period for America's economy. Over the past few weeks, many Americans have felt anxiety about their finances and their future. I understand their worry and their frustration.

We've seen triple-digit swings in the stock market. Major financial institutions have teetered on the edge of collapse, and some have failed. As uncertainty has grown, many banks have restricted lending, credit markets have frozen, and families and businesses have found it harder to borrow money.

We're in the midst of a serious financial crisis, and the federal government is responding with decisive action.

We boosted confidence in money market mutual funds and acted to prevent major investors from intentionally driving down stocks for their own personal gain.

Most importantly, my administration is working with Congress to address the root cause behind much of the instability in our markets.

Financial assets related to home mortgages have lost value during the house decline, and the banks holding these assets have restricted credit. As a result, our entire economy is in danger.

So I propose that the federal government reduce the risk posed by these troubled assets and supply urgently needed money so banks and other financial institutions can avoid collapse and resume lending.

This rescue effort is not aimed at preserving any individual company or industry. It is aimed at preserving America's overall economy.

It will help American consumers and businesses get credit to meet their daily needs and create jobs. And it will help send a signal to markets around the world that America's financial system is back on track.

I know many Americans have questions tonight: How did we reach this point in our economy? How will the solution I propose work? And what does this mean for your financial future?

These are good questions, and they deserve clear answers.

First, how did our economy reach this point? Well, most economists agree that the problems we're witnessing today developed over a long period of time. For more than a decade, a massive amount of money flowed into the United States from investors abroad because our country is an attractive and secure place to do business.

This large influx of money to U.S. banks and financial institutions, along with low interest rates, made it easier for Americans to get credit. These developments allowed more families to borrow money for cars, and homes, and college tuition, some for the first time. They allowed more entrepreneurs to get loans to start new businesses and create jobs. Unfortunately, there were also some serious negative consequences, particularly in the housing market. Easy credit, combined with the faulty assumption that home values would continue to rise, led to excesses and bad decisions.

Many mortgage lenders approved loans for borrowers without carefully examining their ability to pay. Many borrowers took out loans larger than they could afford, assuming that they could sell or refinance their homes at a higher price later on.

Optimism about housing values also led to a boom in home construction. Eventually, the number of new houses exceeded the number of people willing to buy them. And with supply exceeding demand, housing prices fell, and this created a problem.

Borrowers with adjustable-rate mortgages, who had been planning to sell or refinance their homes at a higher price, were stuck with homes worth less than expected, along with mortgage payments they could not afford.

As a result, many mortgage-holders began to default. These widespread defaults had effects far beyond the housing market.

See, in today's mortgage industry, home loans are often packaged together and converted into financial products called mortgage-backed securities. These securities were sold to investors around the world.

Many investors assumed these securities were trustworthy and asked few questions about their actual value. Two of the leading purchasers of mortgage-backed securities were Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Because these companies were chartered by Congress, many believed they were guaranteed by the federal government. This allowed them to borrow enormous sums of money, fuel the market for questionable investments, and put our financial system at risk.

The decline in the housing market set off a domino effect across our economy. When home values declined, borrowers defaulted on their mortgages, and investors holding mortgage-backed securities began to incur serious losses.

Before long, these securities became so unreliable that they were not being bought or sold. Investment banks, such as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, found themselves saddled with large amounts of assets they could not sell. They ran out of money needed to meet their immediate obligations, and they faced imminent collapse.

Other banks found themselves in severe financial trouble. These banks began holding on to their money, and lending dried up, and the gears of the American financial system began grinding to a halt.

With the situation becoming more precarious by the day, I faced a choice, to step in with dramatic government action or to stand back and allow the irresponsible actions of some to undermine the financial security of all. I'm a strong believer in free enterprise, so my natural instinct is to oppose government intervention. I believe companies that make bad decisions should be allowed to go out of business. Under normal circumstances, I would have followed this course. But these are not normal circumstances. The market is not functioning properly. There has been a widespread loss of confidence, and major sectors of America's financial system are at risk of shutting down.

The government's top economic experts warn that, without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic and a distressing scenario would unfold.

More banks could fail, including some in your community. The stock market would drop even more, which would reduce the value of your retirement account. The value of your home could plummet. Foreclosures would rise dramatically.

And if you own a business or a farm, you would find it harder and more expensive to get credit. More businesses would close their doors, and millions of Americans could lose their jobs.

Even if you have good credit history, it would be more difficult for you to get the loans you need to buy a car or send your children to college. And, ultimately, our country could experience a long and painful recession.

Fellow citizens, we must not let this happen. I appreciate the work of leaders from both parties in both houses of Congress to address this problem and to make improvements to the proposal my administration sent to them.

There is a spirit of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans and between Congress and this administration. In that spirit, I've invited Senators McCain and Obama to join congressional leaders of both parties at the White House tomorrow to help speed our discussions toward a bipartisan bill.

I know that an economic rescue package will present a tough vote for many members of Congress. It is difficult to pass a bill that commits so much of the taxpayers' hard-earned money.

I also understand the frustration of responsible Americans who pay their mortgages on time, file their tax returns every April 15th, and are reluctant to pay the cost of excesses on Wall Street.

But given the situation we are facing, not passing a bill now would cost these Americans much more later.

Many Americans are asking, how would a rescue plan work? After much discussion, there's now widespread agreement on the principles such a plan would include.

It would remove the risk posed by the troubled assets, including mortgage-backed securities, now clogging the financial system. This would free banks to resume the flow of credit to American families and businesses. Any rescue plan should also be designed to ensure that taxpayers are protected. It should welcome the participation of financial institutions, large and small. It should make certain that failed executives do not receive a windfall from your tax dollars.

It should establish a bipartisan board to oversee the plan's implementation, and it should be enacted as soon as possible.

In close consultation with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and SEC Chairman Chris Cox, I announced a plan on Friday.

First, the plan is big enough to solve a serious problem. Under our proposal, the federal government would put up to $700 billion taxpayer dollars on the line to purchase troubled assets that are clogging the financial system.

In the short term, this will free up banks to resume the flow of credit to American families and businesses, and this will help our economy grow.

Second, as markets have lost confidence in mortgage-backed securities, their prices have dropped sharply, yet the value of many of these assets will likely be higher than their current price, because the vast majority of Americans will ultimately pay off their mortgages.

The government is the one institution with the patience and resources to buy these assets at their current low prices and hold them until markets return to normal.

And when that happens, money will flow back to the Treasury as these assets are sold, and we expect that much, if not all, of the tax dollars we invest will be paid back.

The final question is, what does this mean for your economic future? Well, the primary steps -- purpose of the steps I've outlined tonight is to safeguard the financial security of American workers, and families, and small businesses. The federal government also continues to enforce laws and regulations protecting your money.

The Treasury Department recently offered government insurance for money market mutual funds. And through the FDIC, every savings account, checking account, and certificate of deposit is insured by the federal government for up to $100,000.

The FDIC has been in existence for 75 years, and no one has ever lost a penny on an insured deposit, and this will not change.

Once this crisis is resolved, there will be time to update our financial regulatory structures. Our 21st-century global economy remains regulated largely by outdated 20th-century laws.

Recently, we've seen how one company can grow so large that its failure jeopardizes the entire financial system. Earlier this year, Secretary Paulson proposed a blueprint that would modernize our financial regulations. For example, the Federal Reserve would be authorized to take a closer look at the operations of companies across the financial spectrum and ensure that their practices do not threaten overall financial stability.

There are other good ideas, and members of Congress should consider them. As they do, they must ensure that efforts to regulate Wall Street do not end up hampering our economy's ability to grow.

In the long run, Americans have good reason to be confident in our economic strength. Despite corrections in the marketplace and instances of abuse, democratic capitalism is the best system ever devised.

It has unleashed the talents and the productivity and entrepreneurial spirit of our citizens. It has made this country the best place in the world to invest and do business. And it gives our economy the flexibility and resilience to absorb shocks, adjust, and bounce back.

Our economy is facing a moment of great challenge, but we've overcome tough challenges before, and we will overcome this one.

I know that Americans sometimes get discouraged by the tone in Washington and the seemingly endless partisan struggles, yet history has shown that, in times of real trial, elected officials rise to the occasion.

And together we will show the world once again what kind of country America is: a nation that tackles problems head on, where leaders come together to meet great tests, and where people of every background can work hard, develop their talents, and realize their dreams.

Thank you for listening. May God bless you.

BLITZER: The president of the United States issuing a dire warning to the American people right now. He says our entire economy -- let me repeat that -- our entire economy is in danger right now. And unless Congress acts and acts quickly, the country could face, in his words, and I'm quoting now -- "a long and painful recession."

The president says these are not normal circumstances, that he took action over the past few days to avert what he called what would be a financial panic around the country, with banks failing and all sorts of other dire, dire circumstances.

Millions of Americans, he says, could lose their jobs unless Congress takes action and takes action quickly. About as dire a scenario as can be envisaged right now, Larry, by the president of the United States.

Clearly, he believes the stakes are enormous.

KING: Thank you, Wolf. Wolf Blitzer right on top of the scene. And don't forget him in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow. He will be covering all of this, as we will tomorrow night in major degree with panel discussions and the like.

And now Bill Clinton. He's got a lot of experience with tumultuous political times.

I interviewed him yesterday and we began. And I asked him if he has answer for this financial mess.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, we should all be here. No one knows for sure what all the answers are. No one knows for sure what is going to work. No one knows for sure whether any of us who were in positions of responsibilities in the past could have done something we didn't do to change the outcome of this.

But I will tell you what I think.

First of all, I think we do have to do something to rescue the financial system. And it's not Wall Street versus Main Street now. More than half the American people have a direct or indirect stake in the stock market. So we need the basic -- and we need -- all of us want steady money market firms -- funds and stable bank accounts and the availability of credit.

So this is about saving the very financial system.

So, in general, I would give marks to Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke for getting out here and fighting all this political heat and when people are mad, frustrated and disoriented and trying to figure out what to do.

Secondly, I do believe the bill they have presented is not detailed enough in terms of the citizens of the country. Over a year ago, Hillary tried to get a moratorium on home mortgage foreclosures and then a mechanism in place to do individual mortgage workouts, because you save money by losing less if you rewrite a mortgage down a little bit and keep a person in their home than if you have to foreclose on the house. That costs the economy a quarter million dollars.

So I think what she has said, using this Depression-era mechanism isn't always a good thing. And we're already doing it on a smaller with a few banks.

The third thing is, there should be Congressional oversight so we can keep asking questions.

And the fourth thing I would say is it would be a good thing -- I think there's a fair chance, if this is done right, the taxpayers will get all their money back, maybe even run a profit. Keep in mind, when I loaned Mexico money, you remember that? KING: Yes, I do.

CLINTON: We got paid back three years early and made $600 million. When we bailed out Chrysler, we made money. And in the Depression, when we saved a million homeowners, we made money. Because America will come back.

So I think it has to be done, but it ought to be done in the right way.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

KING: More of my interview with Bill Clinton coming up.

He's ticked off some Democrats by praising John McCain. Wait until you hear his opinions on Sarah Palin.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LARRY KING, HOST: A great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE -- it always is. I feel like calling him an old friend, we go back so many years already.

Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, who established the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation after leaving the White House.

He also launched the Clinton Global Initiative back in 2005. And he's is hosting the fourth CGI annual meeting here in New York. And we'll talk about that in a little while.

What do you make of this race?

I mean, we've never had anything like it -- a black running, a woman running.

But the reality TV, the ads -- what's your read on this?

CLINTON: Well, I -- first of all, it's been an exciting and unprecedented race. And in the Democratic primary, the two people that basically split the popular vote -- our first serious African-American candidate, our first -- with a chance to win, you know -- and our first woman candidate with a chance to win.

And Senator McCain emerged when everybody had written him off for dead. He was the only Republican with a chance to win. I think we all -- at least most of us who are Democrats think that.

And then you had just this rolling series of events -- the health care crisis that we started off with, and then gasoline went to $4 a gallon, and underlying it all is the frustration of Americans without a plan to terminate the Iraq War. And then all of a sudden, boom, the financial system blows up.

So -- and all of this shows the kind of up and down nature of the 21st century world and the difficult challenges America faces.

KING: Is that...

CLINTON: So I think it's amazing, but it offers us a sober responsibility as Americans.

The American people really need to think through here what is the right thing to do for themselves and their families and for our country.

KING: Does it make nothing predictable?

CLINTON: Well, I think sometimes -- I told somebody when Katrina hit and when I was working in the tsunami area that I was raised in my church as a child to believe that it is arrogance to think we are fully in control of our own lives. And these natural events remind us of that. And it may be that when we get brought low a little bit by being too clever by half with the financial system and other things, it reminds us of that in the same way.

But it means that we can be in greater control and we can certainly affect the events that will shape our lives for the better if we do the right things. We just need to learn from the current circumstances and do the right thing.

KING: You said you think that Obama will win.

CLINTON: I do.

KING: Shouldn't he be, by all logic, way ahead -- Iraq, the financial situation, the unpopularity of the Bush administration.

Why isn't this over already?

CLINTON: Well, I think, first of all, presidential elections -- a lot of voting is cultural and identity-based. If you go back through the whole 20th century, we've only had one landslide election, Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, where both candidates didn't get at least 39 or 40 percent of the vote.

That is, the typical race was 40-40. Twenty percent could go either way.

Then you got to the 1968 election and all of those upheavals 40 years ago. And after that, the Republican base got to be about 45 percent, ours was about 40.

That's why it was so hard for Democrats to win the White House for a long time.

Some time in my second term, it started evening up. And then we had a couple of races where the bases were about 45 and 45.

If you go into a race where you're going to get 45 percent of the vote, then those races are going to look close until the end. But what I think -- and what I've always thought would happen here is that because of the condition of the economy, because of the demographics of America growing more diverse, younger, more open to the diversity of the Democratic Party, and because Senator Obama is, I think, not only charismatic, but really smart and a very disciplined candidate who has handled himself, I think, by and large, really remarkably well. I've always thought that in the end he would come out ahead.

And he's running in a year when what John McCain sought to parlay against him, the experience issue, at least in the Democratic primary, was virtually irrelevant to people. And I think it came because at least the Democrats were disillusioned with the current administration.

So they...

KING: Took it out on him.

CLINTON: Well, they began to think, well, you know, maybe prior public service and hard effort, making hard decisions, maybe doesn't amount to anything. And now, because of the way of the tickets have shaken out, the Republicans can't really use it against him and we can't use it against them.

So we're going to have to make this election about something real.

Who's on your side, who's for your future, who would be best for America and for the world?

Who is going to bring back the American dream and define it in 21st century terms so that it's really achievable for people?

And who's going to restore our standing in the world?

KING: And you're going to vigorously campaign -- is that a correct word, vigorous?

CLINTON: Yes, I think that's fair. I wanted to get, first to after Hillary concluded her campaign, except for the convention. I needed to go back to work for my foundation. You know, we had this Global Initiative coming up and I have projects all over the world.

I just got back from my annual trip to Africa. And so I needed to go back to work. And I wanted to really deal with the Global Initiative in the context of all of these economic challenges, to try to make it non-political.

I invited Senator McCain and Senator Obama to both come. They are both making appearances there.

And I've done everything I could to try to get everybody there without regard to party or philosophy to think about what we should all be doing in America and around the world.

But when this is over, and after the Jewish holidays, which follow close on it, I intend to go to Florida, to Ohio, to Northeast Pennsylvania and to Nevada, at a minimum. I may do events in Arkansas, depending on what the Democratic Party does down there. And I have some fundraising for them in California and New York.

KING: Do they ask you, go here, go there?

CLINTON: Yes.

KING: All right. (INAUDIBLE). Why are you -- are you kind of feeling Jewish, that you're waiting until after the Jewish holidays?

CLINTON: No. But I think it would be -- if we're trying to win in Florida, it may be that -- you know, they think that because of who I am and where my politic base has traditionally been, they may want me to go sort of hustle up what Lawton Chiles used to call the cracker vote there.

But Senator Obama also has a big stake in doing well in the Jewish community in Florida, where Hillary did very well, and where I did very well. And I just think respecting the holidays is a good thing to do.

KING: I was just having a little fun.

CLINTON: I know.

KING: We'll be right back with Bill Clinton.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with President Bill Clinton. Some people, particularly hard core Obama backers, think that you're not strong enough for him, that you're sort of quasi for him, and also that you praise McCain too much. How do you respond to that?

CLINTON: Well, if you look at the speech I gave in Denver and the speech Hillary gave, I think it would be hard to question the depth of our feeling and the fact that we gave good reasons for why we were supporting Senator Obama and Senator Biden.

You know, I also would like to say that if you look at what Hillary has done, she has already done more for him, notwithstanding the unusual circumstances of this primary, than any runner up has in a nominating process in 40 years.

I think you can argue that she has done more than all other runner-ups have in the Democratic Party in 40 years. We have been quite clear on this. We're not party-wreckers, and we believe that the country needs to take a different course.

Now some of them, as we all know, are so enthralled, as all of our strongest supporters are, that they don't think you're for them unless you're dumping on somebody else. I personally think that is not a good strategy to win this election.

That is, everybody wants Hillary or me or, for that matter, Senator Obama or Senator Biden just to say bad things about Senator McCain or Governor Palin. Those people are already for us.

We've got to go get some votes here of people who voted for Hillary in the primary and are undecided, or people who didn't vote in the primary. By and large these people are not political junkies. They are having a hard time paying their bills. They want a change. And they are listening very, very careful.

I saw an amazing special on television on the home mortgage foreclosure crisis. And they were just interviewing middle class people in neighborhoods where there are a lot of houses that have been foreclosed on. And it was amazing what they said.

They said, I don't want to see the attack ads, I don't want to hear that you're on my side, I don't want to -- I want to know what you're going to do.

So my position here is that what I'm trying to do is to help him win, because I do believe that he would be better to restore the American dream and he has got better economic and energy and health care policies, and I think he would be better for America and the world.

KING: Why?

CLINTON: And I just don't believe that, you know, getting up here and hyperventilating about Governor Palin or Senator McCain, for that matter, is a product use of a former president's time, and is not a vote-getter.

KING: You genuinely like Senator McCain, though, right?

CLINTON: I do. I admire him. I like him and I admire him. And you know, he helped me normalize relations with Vietnam. He has been out front sticking up for the little folks in Georgia, for the whipping they've taken over there and trying to stand up for them.

He has got a lot of -- he helped me stand up against ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo. But I think that I disagree with him about Iraq. And I really disagree with him about the economic policies of the last few years.

I think -- and strong disagreements on health care, Senator Obama's plan is much closer to what I believe should be done and what Hillary has advocated. And I think his energy plan is better.

And I think energy is the key to national security through energy independence to fighting global warming, and most important of all to the people that are listening to this, to more jobs and higher incomes.

So I'm for Obama and would I say that if I -- just because I'm a Democrat? Yes. But I also really believe this. I give the reasons that I think are relevant to the American people. That is far more important than having one more guy sitting at the television with a lot of bad mouthing the other person.

We should be able to like, admire, respect the contributions of people and still vote in another way.

KING: What about Governor Palin? By the way, do you know her?

CLINTON: Never met her.

KING: Were you shocked at the selection?

CLINTON: I was surprised. I just -- you know, apparently some people who were following it more closely than I were not surprised. But look, I get the down side that the people who criticize her give her, but I can only judge how I think this is going down in a state like Arkansas where I am from, where we have half the people live in communities of less than 2,500 and there are people who are pro-choice and pro-life and more than half the people have a hunting or fishing license. But they like families that hang together, that deal with adversity, that are proud of all their members, that don't let off from life's vicissitudes.

So I think that she and her husband and their kids come across gutsy, spirited and real. I have significant disagreements with her about any number of social and economic issues but I find her an appealing person and I think that it's best to say that Senator McCain looks like he knew what he was doing. He picked somebody who gave him a lot of energy, a lot of support.

And by the way, she also helps Senator Obama. That is when the Obama supporters, the Democrats found out she lit a fire under the right and got McCain more money and more volunteers, then in turn, there was a reaction and Senator Obama started raising more money and getting more volunteers. So it turned up the heat and the energy but to me, maybe it's just the point where I am in life, I want to know what we're going to do to turn this economy around, make it work for ordinary people deal with this horrible health care mess and get where people can pay their bills and then get the soldiers home from Iraq and rebuild the military and restore our standing in the world.

If you ask me who is going to do a better job of that, I'd say on the overwhelming number of those issues I think Obama and Biden would be better.

KING: Right.

CLINTON: And I think that's what we should all do. We should all focus on how this election is going to affect the American people and our common future.

KING: We'll be right back with Bill Clinton, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I want to ask about the financial crisis. I want to move to CGI. A couple things on Sarah Palin. She has invoked your wife's name. You think she's there to get that vote? Your wife's vote?

CLINTON: I think that Senator McCain nominated her partially because she hoped she would excite women who thought a woman who ought to be on a national ticket and on a national stage. But they disagree on an awful lot of things.

I think she also is there because she excited the conservative base of the Republican Party. He's always been a little more iconoclastic, even though he's been pro-life as a matter of conviction his whole career, he's never really thrilled the right wing of the Republican Party. So she lit a fire under them and now they have more volunteers and they're closing the enthusiasm gap.

So I think there were mixed reasons. And I think he tells the truth. I think he liked her because he thought she represented the kind of reform that he represents which is different from the kind of reform that Senator Obama and Senator Biden and Hillary and I and most of our crowd think we need.

We think we need to make the economy work for ordinary people.

KING: Here's Sarah Palin at the convention. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION: I think as well today of two other women who came before me in national elections and I can't begin this great effort without honoring the achievements of Geraldine Ferraro back in 1984, and, of course, Senator Hillary Clinton, who did so, determination and grace in her presidential campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How did that make your wife feel?

CLINTON: I don't know. I thought it was a smart move for her to do that. I thought she has good political instincts and I think a lot of women identified with and liked Hillary more at the end than at the beginning because she wouldn't quit.

KING: Right.

CLINTON: And when so many people were telling her to quit and the longer she stayed, the better she did, I think that was good. But I would say once the smoke clears, can you get beyond the emotional appeal of that, I think you - I would hope that her supporters, Hillary supporters, would think about what she said about the convention and what she says every day she's out there campaigning for the Obama-Biden ticket. And for Senator Obama in particular that this is not about me or my feelings or you or your feelings. This is about who is in it for the American people and their future.

And that's the question you ought to ask. You may draw a different conclusion than Hillary and me. You may decide that we're not right. But at least that's the question. The question shouldn't be, how do you feel about this? Or do you wish this, that, or the other thing had happened to Hillary? It's not about us.

We're going to be fine. You and I, Larry, we're going to be fine whoever wins this election. We're going to be all right. And even if we're not all right, we've had such good long lives it won't amount to anything.

But this election is about all those people who desperately need to make the right decision for president and that's where Hillary and I are and why we're doing what we're doing in this election.

KING: And we'll talk about the Global Initiative right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: On a personal note, I've attended the Clinton Global Initiative each year, the panels, the get-togethers, the whole idea.

Do you think that this might be a greater part of your legacy? Or the greatest part of your legacy?

CLINTON: I think it'll be an important part. People ask me all the time, do you think you would do more good as a former president than you did as president. And I try to give an honest answer which is, in order for that to happen I'll have to live a long time. Because I think a lot of people were better off when I quit than when I started as president.

But I think that I may have a significant role to play in changing the way people think about citizenship in this 21st century interdependent world. That is, what I've tried to do is first go get all these people with money not to spend it on one more voter, one more car, but put it into the needs of America and the rest of the world, to build a world of shared opportunities and shared responsibilities.

Secondly I tried to give ways to highlight what people of much more modest means are doing now, giving their time, their money, their skills, their new ideas. Thirdly, I tried to match money with ideas so that we could get more of this stuff done and finally, and last year we started web-casting the CGI and letting people who saw it on the Internet make a commitment as small as five or 10 dollars over a Web site, mycommitment.org. But in the end I'm not only trying to do what we're doing this year which is affecting 200 million lives in 150 countries with all these commitments.

I want people to change the definition of citizenship in the 21st century.

KING: From what to what?

CLINTON: Well, if you ask somebody, what do you think - somebody our age -- someone around your age or my age. What constitutes a good citizen? They would probably say, well, you have to obey the law, you have to pay your taxes, you should be a responsible parent and worker. And you should register and vote and you should be an informed voter.

KING: True.

CLINTON: OK. Then that's what you do. This is program is a lot about that, helping people make better decisions. I want something added to that. I want people to say, and in addition to that, you have to try to advance the public interest as a private citizen, either through your religious congregation or civic club or a non-governmental organization or over the Internet, at any number of these Web sites where you can give modest amounts of money and do good.

But the truth is we live in an interdependent world where your fate and mine are bound up with people half a world away and also just down in Harlem and Brooklyn and the Bronx.

And the government can never solve all these problems because they won't be able to raise enough money to deal with all of them and the market, as we have seen all over again this week, no matter how well it functions and how much money it makes for some people, it won't solve all of these problems.

So that's where people come in as private citizens, the so-called non-governmental civil society sector. I want, when my work here is finished at the Global Initiative. I would -- what I would love is if you gave a civics test to kids in every school in America, and you'd say, define all of the things you're supposed to do to be a good citizen. If an overwhelming majority of those children could say, "and I have to give something back to my community, my country, or the world, no matter how young I am or old, no matter how rich or poor, no matter what I know or don't."

That's really -- now that could have a lasting impact, because then we would become our brothers' and sisters' keepers in a fundamental way.

KING: What does this economic tumult do to CGI?

CLINTON: Well, we don't know yet. I think -- I will be very surprised if it doesn't lead to a cutback in the spending of either individuals or companies that have been particularly adversely hit here.

On the other hand, keep in mind, a lot of our money comes out of family and public foundations. That is, people have already given their charitable contributions, put it in the foundation, and they have to give away a certain amount of that money every year.

A lot of these companies that are working with us in these non- governmental groups have been working on this stuff for years. This is part of a multi-year commitment.

So I think while we may have some cutbacks, they won't be significant as far as I know. And I believe a lot of the business people, particularly, are already saying, well, if the government has to come up with 700 billion dollars on this financial bailout, they may not even be able to spend the money they intended to spend on some of these programs at home and abroad, the politicians.

And they may not be able to, because they have no control over these circumstances. And if that's true, then what the rest of us do is -- for public good as private citizens, is more important than ever.

That is, it wouldn't surprise me if we didn't get some extra commitments in this time of economic adversity because they know that whether Senator Obama or Senator McCain wins this next election, that they may be constrained in fulfilling all of their commitments in the first year or two because of this big whack we're taking out of the federal government's potential to raise money.

KING: We'll have our remaining moment and more on the Clinton Global Initiative with President Bill Clinton right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with President Clinton. You launched the Global Initiative back in 2005. What's the most important lesson you learned from it?

CLINTON: That you can make a difference, because intelligence and effort and dreams are even -- are equally distributed throughout the world. But systems investment and opportunity aren't, and that people who are given the chance to make something of their lives and to rebuild their countries and communities will more often please you than disappoint you if they have a system where there is a predictable connection between the effort they make and the result they get.

In other words, this stuff works, that's the most important thing I learned. The second most important thing I learned is that almost all of us are happier giving this kind of help than just living to please ourselves with one more material possession.

KING: How much money do you raise?

CLINTON: Well, we think in -- if you count the private investments in clear energy, which is a lot of money, we have over the last -- the first three years of this, we have raised 30 billion dollars in commitments to unfold over a 10-year period. From -- and over a thousand commitments affecting over 200 million people in 150 countries. Everything from small loans to start businesses to medical clinics in the treatment of HPV and malaria, and maternal and child health, to dramatically new and cost-effective education programs, to fascinating new ways to reduce global warming and create jobs and clean energy, and just an amazing array of things.

KING: Anything about it disappoint you?

CLINTON: Well, no, I've not been disappointed. I would that the more success we have, the more impatient I get. We've had just a very few people not keep the commitments they've made.

And of the thousand-plus commitments that have been made, 239 or 240 have already been completely finished. A lot of them were multi- year. And when you come this time, you look at what happened in the open public areas, we got reports of what actually happened.

This is what they promised to do, they did it, here are the results. And the only thing that frustrates me is I wish were even better organized and could do more and more quickly and get more people the chance to serve.

Because I do think that this is infinitely expandable. And I think that in the years ahead you're going to have more partnerships with governments like this. I mean, I can -- I worked with the Bush administration, believe it or not, on the -- AIDS and other things. And we can do things faster, less expensively because we're not a government agency.

KING: The diversity of people involved is extraordinary --

CLINTON: Yes. You've got everybody from people who think they are conservative Republicans to people who think they're liberal Democrats, and it turns out when it comes to saving a kid in Africa or giving a kid in Latin America an education or making a loan to a woman in a poor country in Southeast Asia, there is not much politics there.

People can see that we all have a common interest in allowing people to live their dreams.

KING: It is always great to see you.

CLINTON: Thank you. I'm glad to see you.

KING: Thank you, Bill.

It's been a busy political news day. John McCain announced that he's decided to suspend his campaign. Take a look at what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It has become clear that no consensus has developed to support the administration's proposal. I do not believe that the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands, and we are running out of time. Tomorrow morning, I'll suspend my campaign and return to Washington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative. I have spoken to Senator Obama and informed him of my decision. And I've asked him to join me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Senator Obama responded and here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the message is if you need us, if I can be helpful, I am prepared to be there at any point. Keep in mind again, I'm talking to Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, the Congressional leadership, Hank Paulson. I'm talking to them every single day. We've been working around the clock. Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time. It is not necessary for us to think that we can only do one thing and suspend everything else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In case you missed it, both Obama and McCain will meet tomorrow with President Bush and Congressional leaders at the White House. Join us tomorrow night. My guest is Chris Rock. He's got some strong thoughts on the election. And Anderson Cooper, "AC 360" is happening right now. Anderson?

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