Fox News claimed that in comments former President Clinton made about the pending default crisis and the associated negotiations over the issue, Clinton attacked President Obama for his handling of the talks. In fact, Clinton was sharply criticizing Congressional Republicans and said he was "proud" of Obama.
Fox Claims Clinton "School[ed]" Obama On "The Budget Mess"
Kilmeade: "Did Bill Clinton Just School President Obama ... Saying The Budget Mess Could Have Been Avoided If Only The President Read 'Debt Limits For Dummies?' " During the July 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade teased an upcoming segment about President Clinton's remarks on the debt limit talks by saying: "Hey, did Bill Clinton just school President Obama? ... Saying the budget mess could have been avoided if only [Obama had] read 'Debt Limits for Dummies?' " [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/20/11 via Media Matters]
Camerota: "Bill Clinton Keeps Offering Up Suggestions For What To Do With Obama's Presidency." Later during the show, the co-hosts discussed Clinton's comments and suggested that Clinton was criticizing Obama's handling of the pending default crisis. From the broadcast:
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CO-HOST: So one opinion that, as Brian said, [Obama is] collecting, but he may not want to have, is President -- former President Bill Clinton's. Bill Clinton keeps offering up suggestions for what to do with Obama's presidency, and the latest thing that he's said, he was interviewed on Monday night, he said that what he would have done in this debt ceiling crisis, is he would have just threatened to use the 14th amendment, or really use the 14th amendment, to raise the debt ceiling over any objections -- that that was his prerogative as a president, and that that's basically what President Obama should do. And it's hard to know how the current White House feels about President Clinton when he, unsolicited, offers up advice to how they should be handling it.
KILMEADE: Here's an ex -- here's what the president exactly, the former president, actually said. Bill Clinton said this: "I think that the Gingrich Republicans figured I'd be smart enough to explain to the American people if they tried it" when he was president "that they were refusing to pay for the expenses they had voted for when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were president and that would make 'em look bad." So he would couch it in a way that would be politically advantageous to his position.
STEVE DOOCY, CO-HOST: Right. Exactly right. E-mail us -- what do you think is going on there, dynamic-wise? [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/20/11]
But Clinton's Criticism Was For GOP -- And He Praised Obama
Clinton "Sharply Criticiz[ed] Congressional Republicans" And Said Lifting Debt Ceiling "Is Necessary To Pay For Appropriations Already Made." During a July 18 interview with The National Memo, Clinton criticized Congressional Republicans, saying that lifting the debt ceiling "is necessary to pay for appropriations already made ... so you can't say, 'Well, we won the last election and we didn't vote for some of that stuff, so we're going to throw the whole country's credit into arrears.' " From The National Memo:
Former President Bill Clinton says that he would invoke the so-called constitutional option to raise the nation's debt ceiling "without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me" in order to prevent a default, should Congress and the President fail to achieve agreement before the August 2 deadline.
Sharply criticizing Congressional Republicans in an exclusive Monday evening interview with The National Memo, Clinton said, "I think the Constitution is clear and I think this idea that the Congress gets to vote twice on whether to pay for [expenditures] it has appropriated is crazy."
Lifting the debt ceiling "is necessary to pay for appropriations already made," he added, "so you can't say, 'Well, we won the last election and we didn't vote for some of that stuff, so we're going to throw the whole country's credit into arrears."
"Here's what happened, as I remember - but let me back up a second," Clinton said. "I have read accounts of that time where people at Treasury have been interviewed, and they say they did look into [the president's authority to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval]." As for the Republicans, "they did think about doing that" -- withholding approval of a higher limit -- "and I knew they were thinking about it." But the question ultimately did not arise for Clinton, he says, because his opponents in Congress decided "they didn't want to get caught" in a position where they appeared to be repudiating the debt incurred by their own party's two previous presidents.
"The reason that raising the debt limit is so unpopular is that people think you're voting to keep [increasing] deficit spending, instead of voting to honor obligations that were already incurred," he said. "I think [the Gingrich Republicans] figured I'd be smart enough to explain to the American people that they were refusing to pay for the expenses they had voted for when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were president. And that would make 'em look bad." [The National Memo, 7/19/11]
Clinton Said He Is "Proud" Of Obama's Handling Of Debt Limit Talks. Later during his interview with The National Memo, Clinton praised Obama's handling of negotiations to avert a default crisis. From The National Memo:
Praising President Obama for his willingness to confront Congressional Republicans over the debt and deficits, former President Bill Clinton warned against excessive spending cuts in a slowly recovering economy. If the Republicans and Democrats achieve a deal before the August 2 deadline for a national debt default, he told The National Memo in an exclusive interview this week, they can all be winners -- even the Tea Party.
Clinton expects that the President and Congress will ultimately work out a budget deal before August 2, and that "everyone will win" as a result.
"The President will win because a terrible thing was averted," he said. "Even if people agreed with him -- just like they agreed with me on the  government shutdown --the consequences of not paying our bills could be so great that [voters] could blame everybody. That was his risk. But he's proved willing to take it and I think he should have and I'm proud of him for doing that." Likewise, he said, both Republican and Democratic Congressional leaders will win because they helped to avoid a global economic crisis.
"And I think the Tea Party will win because they won't be outed," he said ruefully. "In other words, if this thing happened, you might have a successful third party candidacy for President -- if our credit got down-rated and everybody's interest rates went up. But I think the Tea Paty [sic] would be toast, because they've been going around telling everybody this is no big deal." [The National Memo, 7/19/11]