Mr. Clinton comes to Aspen |

Mr. Clinton comes to Aspen

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado
Former President Bill Clinton listens to a question Saturday afternoon from Time Magazine managing editor Richard Stengel in front of an overflow crowd at the Benedict Music Tent. (Jim Paussa/The Aspen Times)

ASPEN Sporting a “Hillary 2008” lapel pin, Bill Clinton received a standing ovation Saturday when he took the stage at the Benedict Music Tent as part of the Aspen Ideas Festival.And, from the global economy to global warming, the former president outlined the broad strokes of his vision for interdependency.He challenged the next U.S. leaders to communicate to the world that “we’re back in the diplomacy and cooperation business” – a sentiment that earned a round of applause.But Clinton said he and his wife have “switched positions,” and he is busy doing humanitarian work with his William J. Clinton Foundation.During his visit to Aspen, Clinton has been visiting stores and restaurants. He made an appearance at Belly Up for an AIDS benefit Friday, and joined Hillary, a U.S. senator representing New York, for two Aspen-area fundraisers Saturday in the run-up to her bid for the Democratic nomination for the 2008 presidential election.”I’m proud of her. I think she’s doing a great job. I hope she wins; I think it’ll be good for the country,” Bill Clinton said.And, in response to the question whether he’d like to be “first man” or “first gentleman,” Clinton offered the Scottish suggestion of “first laddie.”In his introduction, Richard Stengel, managing editor of Time, said he is reinventing what it means to be an ex-president.”We have developed a global economy without a global society,” Clinton said.In a one-hour forum, Clinton offered broad answers and his vision of change, a discussion Stengel compared to “reading the Cliff’s Notes of [Clinton’s] mind.”

With today’s record number of millionaires and billionaires who want to make a difference, and the Internet connecting the average Joe to philanthropy, Clinton said there is an “explosion of action.” He pointed to the 30 percent of Americans who donated to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as an example.”There’s a big tidal wave where capacity is meeting need,” Clinton said.Clinton created the William J. Clinton Foundation at the end of his term to tackle causes such as HIV/AIDS treatment, global warming and obesity in America. “We have a rich tradition of [public service] in our country,” Clinton said – a legacy dating back as far as Ben Franklin founding the first volunteer fire department 40 years before signing the Declaration of Independence.

And, since Clinton’s presidency, the number of humanitarian organizations has doubled in the U.S., grown from zero to 500,000 in Russia – and increased to more than 250,000 in China. Clinton urged international “interdependency” among nations over everything from security, culture and sharing information.”Divorce is not an option. We can’t get away from each other,” Clinton said.

Accepting the problem of climate change as “a given,” Clinton said going green is good for the U.S. economy. With a projected growth in global population from 6.5 billion to 9 billion by midcentury, combined with resource depletion, such as the loss of fish stocks, trees, topsoil and species, Clinton said the situation could lead to global food and energy shortages.Clinton said converting to alternative energy sources and building or retrofitting buildings efficiently will not only help the U.S. environment but create jobs and industry. He cited the situation in New York, where sod roofs and efficient windows and heating could replace tar roofs and massive, inefficient apartment buildings.”You can’t outsource those jobs to India,” Clinton quipped.”There is no job in America that was like it was 10 years ago,” Clinton said. The “explosion of information technology” changed the workplace, and Clinton advocated the same push with green and energy-efficient initiatives as a way to raise median incomes and decrease inequality.And despite a healthy economy and record-high stock market, middle-class salaries are going down, and many are losing health insurance.”We need to start promoting wellness as well as treating sickness,” Clinton added.

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“Congratulations on speaking for the Republican National Committee,” Clinton told a member of the audience who asked about allegations he failed to stop Osama bin Laden before 9/11. “Let’s just go through the facts,” he said.The snap of temper was reminiscent of the September interview when Clinton accused “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace of carrying out a “hit job” when he criticized Clinton for his handling of al-Qaida.”Did I fail to get him? Yes. Did I try? Yes,” Clinton said. “I did not turn down one request for use of force.”Clinton said he would have gone after bin Laden at the end of his presidency but couldn’t get support, and the Bush administration was focused on Saddam Hussein.Clinton said no one should blame others for 9/11, and though he admitted some mistakes, said, “Being more concerned about Osama bin Laden wasn’t one of them.”Charles Agar’s e-mail address is

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