Lately Bill Clinton has not been doing the president many favors. First, the "is" definition-challenged former president had some harsh words about Obamacare, and most recently in an overnight question-and-answer session before a standing-room-only crowd in a Beijing hotel ballroom, Clinton who was in Beijing for meetings with China’s President Xi Jinping as well as to promote the work of his New York-based philanthropic organisation, the Clinton Foundation, while withholding comments on Obama - whose approval rating has plunged to an all time low - refused to criticise Edward Snowden. Instead he said he believed it was "perfectly legitimate" for the US government to search “big data pools… to see if there are patterns of communication between certain numbers or sites and others known to be in the possession of terrorist groups”. But he went on, via AFP: “The question is when, if ever, is the government justified in going beyond the patterns to listen to telephone calls, read emails, read text messages, and who’s supposed to decide that? Mr Snowden obviously thought that it was excessive.”
The fact that Snowden was able to receive a top-secret security clearance despite having only been a contractor for several months “made me think that we are on the verge of having the worst of all worlds: We’ll have no security and no privacy”, Clinton added.
“I think the US and China and everybody else, we’re going to have to be more upfront with each other and probably with our own people about what it is we’re looking for and listening to,” he said.
Of course, it is unlikely that anything will change, much to the detriment of US companies with international operations such as Cisco, whose revenues are projected to tumble in big part due to the blowback resulting from the Snowden revelations. Whether this will be a limited, one-time event remains to be seen.
More amusingly, among Clinton's other comments was his speculation on the gender of the next US president.
Former US president Bill Clinton hopes there will be a woman in the White House in his lifetime and will support his wife Hillary in whatever she decides to do, he told a Chinese audience on Monday.
Hillary, who earlier this year stepped down as US secretary of state, has not yet said whether she plans another presidential run after her failed 2008 bid for the Democratic nomination.
“I hope we have a woman president in my lifetime, and I think it would be a good thing for the world as well as for America,” Clinton said at a conference organised by the respected Chinese financial magazine Caijing.
“But I do not know if she’s going to run, and there is no such thing as a sure thing in politics,” he added.
In a question-and-answer session before a standing-room-only crowd in a Beijing hotel ballroom, Clinton, who was president from 1993 to 2001, was asked whether he envisages becoming a “first husband” in the future.
“You know, if I knew the answer to that, I couldn’t say,” he responded. “But I can give you an honest answer: I have no idea.”
He called his wife “the ablest public servant I have ever worked with” and said that he would support her whatever decision she makes on a White House run.
“If that’s what she wants to do, I will support her,” Clinton said. “But if she decides for whatever reason she doesn’t, I will support that.”
“It’s very interesting for us; we still feel young and we still feel healthy,” he added, noting that compared with several decades ago, he believes his wife now is “less motivated… by a fear of failure”.
Naturally, it would only be logical that the first female Fed chair be followed by the first female president. One can only hope, however, that in both cases it is not some gender quota driving the choice but the candidate with the best credentials. Then again, considering the current sorry state of the US economy, one wonders what difference does it make just who the next US president will be.