WASHINGTON — Former President Clinton acknowledges there are some things "I wish I hadn't said" during the Democratic presidential nomination fight, but denies he made racist statements about Barack Obama.
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Clinton, who is in Rwanda attending to work he does with a private foundation to fight AIDS, charged that a double-standard was applied by news organizations in the campaign that Obama won over his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Clinton told ABC's "Good Morning America" that it would be "counterproductive" for him to talk about his misgivings over things said and done. He had been criticized for disparaging Obama's victory in the South Carolina primary. Clinton said that talking about incidents harkening back to the days of the primaries would deflect attention from the question of who should be elected in November.
"I bragged on Sen. Obama hundreds of times," he said. "Now, I will be glad, as soon as this election is over in January, to have this conversation with you and everybody else. I have very strong feelings about it."
Clinton cut a controversial profile throughout the Democratic delegate-selection process, championing his wife's cause and vehemently defending her on the campaign trail. But he also at times seemed an angry surrogate and he was harshly criticized for apparently disparaging Obama's early-season victory over his wife in the South Carolina primary. Clinton noted at the time that Jesse Jackson had won there 20 years earlier.
Asked in the interview whether he blames himself for his wife's loss, Clinton replied, "I've heard it from the press and I will not comment on it. ... There are things I wished I said. Things I wished I hadn't said, but I am not a racist. I never made a racist comment and I didn't attack him personally."
Shades of experienceNevertheless, Clinton did say he thought news organizations covered his wife more harshly than Obama. "A different standard was applied to the finest candidate I ever supported," he said. Clinton declined to comment on whether he thought Obama should put his wife on the ticket and he said he admires how she handled the loss. "She went right back to work," he said.
Sen. Clinton conceded to Obama in early June after the primary season concluded and he'd locked up sufficient Democratic National Convention delegates to become the party's standard-bearer against presumed Republican nominee Sen. John McCain this fall.
"I never was mad at Sen. Obama," the former president said. "I think everybody's got a right to run for president who qualifies under the Constitution. And I'd be the last person to begrudge anybody their ambition."
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