Transcript: Fox News' Major Garrett Interviews Former President Bill Clinton

FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT MAJOR GARRETT: So, we're ready, Mr. President, if you're ready.


GARRETT: President Clinton, always a pleasure to see you. Thanks so much for joining us on Fox.

CLINTON: Thank you, Major.

GARRETT: How are you feeling?

CLINTON: I feel fine. I'm still trying to sleep a little more than normal because I'm just kind of getting used to it, but I have no pain. I feel great, my oxygen level's good, my energy level's good. I think it's fine.

GARRETT: You're 63 years old, you self-diagnosed both your lung problem a couple years ago and this most recent problem. For someone of your age, what would you tell them about listening to your body and the process of self diagnosis? What did you go through and what would you suggest to people who are in your situation, perhaps your age, to listen to their body?

CLINTON: Well, I think that it's important to realize that the, you know, when you get to be my age -- and I might live to be 85 or 90, I might not, but I was always sensitive to it because most of the men on my side, on both sides of family, did not live very long. You had to go back to my great grandfather on my mother's side to find somebody who lived to by long -- over then 63 years old. So I have always been sensitive to this.

But my advice is to keep doing regular exercise. That you walk a lot and you're used to staying active and you have a certain rhythm to your day, then when there's a variation, you can feel it. And you're not being a hypochondriac once you're over 60 to respond to something that's just different. And in America, most mortalities related to heart attacks, strokes, things that relate to your circulatory system, when your heart/lung system not working very well.

GARRETT: You mentioned that you're trying to get more sleep, what does that mean? Four hours? Six hours?

CLINTON: Oh, no, no. I try to sleep at least seven hours now. I used to sleep five to six, and I need more now.

GARRETT: Is that a doctor's order?

CLINTON: Yes, he -- well, it's a strong suggestion, yes. That and not letting my obsession with Haiti get in the way of trying to exercise for an hour a day, which I am trying to do now.

GARRETT: The nations of the world don't want you to be a casualty of the earthquake.


CLINTON: Yes, thank you.

GARRETT: Oftentimes when a health situation arises, the doctor doesn't ask a patient to change 20 things, because that's too difficult. They ask him to change one thing. Is the one thing you're trying to change either your eating or your sleeping?

CLINTON: Well, he wants me to sleep a little more and to do -- he said it would be better for me to exercise six days a week even if I didn't do it for an hour, an hour and a half. You know, he'd say, six days a week, 30 minutes a day is better than three days a week, an hour a day. He thinks that it's very important to -- to, you know, regulate my system again at a higher level of activity. So I'm going to try to do six days a week for an hour. I hope I can.

GARRETT: Very good.

Let's talk about Haiti for a moment. What's the most important need now? Is it tents? Is it clothing? Is it shoes? Is it money? What, no that we're a bit distant from the catastrophe, is the most pressing need right now?

CLINTON: I think the most pressing need right now is one that most donors can't do a great deal about, it's for sanitation. There are -- because it's a warm climate, people can survive if they're living under a sheet of tarpaulin, you know. We're trying to get tents there. Tents are a very pressing need. It's hard for people in Haiti to understand why with all the tents for sale around the world we can't get more there. It took me longer than I thought to take a shipment that Wal-Mart gave us. They had ordered 27,000 tents from Bangladesh, which were really good because they were built for campers in hot weather, so it has mesh and it breathes. So I'm trying to get that -- those 27,000 should be there in the next day or so, and then we're going to order a lot more. So that's a big problem.

Clothing is a need now. We need to get basic things like t-shirts and pants or jeans and socks and shoes for people. And we'll need that for another few weeks, then I hope we'll be producing more of it in Haiti. But --

GARRETT: And Americans can do that on their own.

CLINTON: Oh, absolutely. You can give it through your church and they can send it down there to -- I recommend, for example, churches do it and they give it through, let's say, World Vision, a big Christian NGO. Or if other religious institutions do it, they can do it through the World -- through the Red Cross. But -- or they can send it through OxFam, a big international NGO based in the United Kingdom but they operate in America too. Or they can send it through us and we'll distribute it through Dr. Paul Farmer's network, through Partners in Health.

But we are desperately trying to get the sanitation issue solved because --

GARRETT: And when you say sanitation, what do you mean?

CLINTON: They have no place to go to the bathroom, and as a result, particularly for little kids, is they're out there -- they may be contaminating every piece of standing water. And that could lead to diarrhea, it could lead to dysentery, it could lead to cholera, it could lead to tetanus, and we could have a huge second wave of casualties there because of the public health problem.

So from the day after this happened, I started working trying to get toilet facilities in there. It's amazing what -- how limited the production capacity is, because they're normally -- they don't think about an actual disaster. We are digging some. The military's dug some, some of the big NGOs are digging some. And you can do that, but you have to do it to spec phase, you have to know what you're doing. They have to be dug deep enough, they can't be dug on the slope, they have to be dug at the bottom of a hill -- there are all kinds of things that have to be done.

And we're also looking at some emergency, low-cost ways we might be able to detoxify standing water. But what happens is, when the rainy season comes, even if there are no tornadoes, there's standing pools of water everywhere. And most of these folks are going to be living outside for some time. Keep in mind, in America, after Hurricane Andrew, it took three years before everybody was back in a home. When I worked in the tsunami area, it was the most frustrating thing. It took me longer to get people out of the tents then I thought, six months longer.

So we've got to solve that problem and that's the responsibility of the international community. And all the people that are working on the ground, everybody's working on it, but I'm -- every day I push on this because I don't want any children who survived this earthquake to die because of dirty water.

GARRETT: Speaking of children who survived, what do you make of the orphan situation involving the folks here in the United States. There was confusion -- is that a way for Americans to help? Is that something that you advise? What's you take on that whole situation, because it obviously touched the hearts of a lot of Americans?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, I think there's still a great need for adopting Haitian children who are unquestionably orphans. Keep in mind, before the earthquake hit, there were more than 300,000 orphans in Haiti.

And what happened in the highly publicized case was that these kids, apparently most of them, did have close relatives who didn't feel they could support them. Apparently, the woman in question did not pay for the children, apparently there was no commerce involved, so far. But the Haitian government, understandably, doesn't want Haiti because it's poor to come up a haven for child trafficking, so they're super-sensitive to it.

It looks like the judge made the right decision releasing 10 of those people who seem to be completely innocent and were actually over there on a church mission doing what they thought was right. And the others may or may not be released; they're just asking them questions.

But I don't want people to be discouraged because I think that within a fairly short time, the speeded-up approval process, which was in place before this incident, will be reinstated because there are -- a lot of these orphanages were badly damaged, weren't in great shape before the earthquake. So I -- my sense would be, if you care about this and you're willing to adopt a child, don't give up on it and just -- we're working with the Haitian government, we'll try to get this thing up and going again. There are lots of people who need a permanent home, little kids, and this incident should not be allowed to cloud what is that fact for, you know, 99 percent of the other kids.

GARRETT: Seven million raised so far, as I understand it, by the Clinton-Bush Foundation. Is there a more --

CLINTON: Oh, no, we've raised more. Our fund has raised probably $28 million.

GARRETT: Twenty-eight million dollars.

CLINTON: I raised about seven or eight in this little find I set up before I started with President Bush, and I'm trying to use all mine to meet the emergency needs now. President Bush and I are using ours -- we're trying to divide it between the emergency needs and what might be needed in the middle term to induce more businesses to come in here and put people to work. In the end, the only answer is to build a sustainable economy for Haiti, so we're trying to focus on that.

GARRETT: When's your next trip?

CLINTON: In a few days. We're trying to work it out now. I try to go only when I have something to contribute by physically being there. I mean we're -- I've got a big part of my staff doing this full time now. We're working on it every day from here, and I'll go back in the next few days.

GARRETT: I want to ask you about something that struck me, it happened numerous times. First there was a survivor who stayed seven days, then there was one eight, then there was one 10, and I think there was one almost 20 days.


GARRETT: And it struck me in this way, Mr. President, there would be many in the world and many in America that would say there's not much to live for in Haiti and yet these people living a life that many would say is not all that great and not much to fight for, fought in ways I've never seen before. What does that tell you about the people of Haiti and what should it inform Americans about the kind of spirit that is there?

CLINTON: Well, first, you know I love the place. It has a remarkable, remarkable spirit. And I think it's important for us not to patronize or make assumptions about poor people. Most people believe that life is very much worth living if they can bring children into the world and feed them, and if they have something useful to do. And so you saw what they did there and they are people of very strong faith. It would seem strange to a lot of Americans, but there are many Haitians who both practice their Christianity through Catholicism or increasingly through Evangelical churches, and observe the rights of Voodoo, which is a spirit-based religion that came out of Benin in West Africa. But they harmonize them in much the way that Indians in Goa harmonize their Catholicism with Hinduism.

But they have strong faith and they believe in the power of life and they find joy in small things, and they're very brave. When I was there last, on the way to and from the airport there -- you pass an area that has two wrought iron fences on opposite sides of one another. And on one side, behind that, there's a park. Typically, both fences are covered with Haitian art and the whole park is full of artists, over a hundred. So when I was there, I saw that there were 10 of them that had bravely stuck their art up. So I stopped the caravan, said all --everybody out, everybody buys at least one thing and don't bargain over the price this time, because these people are brave enough to come out, they're starting their economy again.

So I bought a little piece of Haitian art from three of them, and another guy said, you have to buy from me, we have a picture together. And I recognized that this man, I had taken a picture with him in 2002 when I came down to start my AIDS program in Haiti. And I said, boy I admire you for being out here and doing this. And he said, oh, you shouldn't. He said, I have nothing else to do, my wife and children were killed in the earthquake. I lost everybody, I'm alone. But her said, the only way I can honor them is by coming back out here. We're a family, they all know what I lost and they see that if I can do it, they can.

Now that kind of spirit deserves our support.

GARRETT: Which, talking just a bit, Chelsea turns 30 on Saturday. I'm the father of two daughters, I think every father of daughters imagines the day that their daughter gets married. That'll be coming up soon. Have you reflected on that? Have you thought about it?

CLINTON: Oh, a lot.

GARRETT: Tell -- tell the country what's going through your mind as this day approaches.

CLINTON: Well, I always thought being Chelsea's father was my most important job. And one of the rare arguments I had with her when she was a child, and they were very rare, I said, you know, you might be right, I might be wrong, but being president's my second-most-important job, so if I'm making mistakes, it's a mistake of the mind and not the heart. And I've always believed that. And she's been an incredible blessing to my life and Hillary's life. You know, she's our only child, she's -- and we're happy for her. I think my son-in-law to be is a remarkably fine human being. I feel very fortunate in that. And --

GARRETT: Does it make you misty-eyed thinking about it?

CLINTON: Little bit, but you know, all I'm supposed to do is walk her down the aisle -- and pay for the wedding, of course -- and that will be one of the great honors of my life. I -- I'm looking forward to it. And you know, I wouldn't mind being a grandparent and her mother really wants to be a grandparent.


GARRETT: Harry Truman wrote one of his friends before his daughter got married saying, "The role of a father at the wedding is the most useless role a man can know." Because, as you said, you walk down the aisle and then everything goes away.

CLINTON: I don't --

GARRETT: It's a transition point.

CLINTON: Yes, but I don't think it is useless. I think it is -- it is a ritual which symbolizes the fact of the passing of the bride out of her family's house and into her own house. It's a coming of age ceremony. It is a recognizing a passing of a generation ceremony. It's a profoundly important thing, I think. And not that my role matters, but the idea of acknowledging that this is a, you know, most important day in her life probable.

GARRETT: Let me talk to you about some current events.

There's quite a bit of concern in New York about having the KSM and this whole conspirator trial there. A good idea? Can New York handle it? Should New York handle it? Is that the appropriate venue?

CLINTON: You know, I don't know. It's interesting, I have to confess, because my life is so caught up in other things, I hadn't given it a lot of thought one way or the other until it was obvious that the local officials were opposed to it because they thought New York had been through enough and we shouldn't do anything to heighten New York's position as a target and if there is any intelligence that indicates that could happen, that's a risk they don't want to run and I respect that. And because it costs so much more to provide security in New York just because it's big and crowded and densely packed, if they can find someplace else to have it, maybe they should.

I don't have a bad feeling about him being tried in the civilian justice system because in my administration and in President Bush's administration, American juries are really tough on terrorists. They gave them on average, you know, longer sentences, harsher penalties than the military tribunals, and they were quite successful in making the convictions.

But I hope that this can be worked out so that he can receive a prompt trial in a place where everyone can live with it.

GARRETT: So it can happen in Guantanamo?

CLINTON: I don't know. I don't know what their options are. You know, I just haven't been involved in it enough to know what the options are. And like I said, 'til the mayor and the others started speaking about it, I confess, I honestly hadn't thought about it. And I think that they've all raised good objections and I hope it can be worked out.

GARRETT: Some say this political season is like 1994, does it feel that way to you?

CLINTON: Little bit. I think -- I think that the same thing happened. The health care is hard to do, but I thought it would happen this time because all the trends that prompted me to act are worse. We're now spending 17.2 percent of our income on health care, nobody else is over 11.5, and that's tiny Switzerland. Canada's at 10.5; Germany and France are generally rated the highest in overall health outcomes, they're between 9 percent and 10 percent of income. Which mean, in effect, we spot every other country in a global economy a trillion dollars a year in healthcare costs. And it's not designed -- it would be different if we were giving better health care to everybody, but we don't cover 16 percent of the people and that country rises to 30. At some point during every year, 30 percent of Americans are without health care coverage. So -- and there are lots of things we could do to cut the costs. So I thought it would happen, but --

GARRETT: Was it an overreach?

CLINTON: I don't know if it was an overreach. I think that they either needed to move faster or slower. That is, if they had a bill that the Senate and the House should have reached a grand center and set about implementing it so that all the fears that were raised could either be disproved or if they turned out to make a mistake, they'd have time to start correcting them. Or -- either that or you have to deal with all the economic, other economic issues first.

But the problem is, it's very hard to see how America can be a leading economy in the world, in the 21st century, if we spot everybody else a trillion dollars before we ever start to work. And that's essentially what we're doing with healthcare costs.

GARRETT: When you say it feels a little bit like 1994, do you think this Democratic Party could lose control of the Congress? And would that be such a bad thing?

CLINTON: I don't think that will happen because I think that, first of all, they've in effect got more advanced notice.

GARRETT: There was little or none in 1994.

CLINTON: No, we were only -- Saturday before the election, we were only two points behind in the polls. But our turnout was low and the Republican turnout was high, and that took a two-point gap to a six-and-a-half-point gap.

And also, and they -- they're big impetus then -- the NRA does not get enough credit for winning in '94. They were mad about this whole weapons ban and the Brady Bill, and they probably took 15 of our House members out. That was their number, they said between 15 and 20, and I'd say, at least on the low side, they were right.

But they have a lot of advanced notice now. I think the biggest problem that the president's got is that the lifetime -- it's the -- the danger that people who want health care will be disappointed and stay home; that happened to me. But there's also a lifetime between starting an economic progress and having people feel it. In our case, interest rates went down and the deficit went down, but it was going down for three years before the majority of the people believed it was going down. And it takes time for the economy to really pick up again. And that's certainly true here because it went down so low. But I think this year if a lot of this stimulus money that hasn't been spent, particularly on roads and bridges and water and sewer and the energy projects, if the rest of it goes through the pipeline, we may see a real employment pickup this year.

And banks are starting to loan money again, that's the key. We're not going to -- there's not enough government money to do this. All the government can do is sort of keep the bottom up until the banks lend. We are a private economy, we should be. We got to get bank lending back.

GARRETT: One other difference the president noted between the cycle in 1994, he's said to have said this to some democrats in the White House, never denied it. He said, a big difference between 1994 and now is you have me. What do you make of that?

CLINTON: Well, I don't know, but he's a persuasive man and I hope he helps. I think the main thing is they've got a lot of advanced notice and I think the -- if they really focus and catch a break or two, I don't think it'll be as bad as it was in '94. But they -- but the problem with all midterm elections is if that there's a disparity in turnout, then whatever the real difference is is exaggerated. Like, we won some seats in 2006 no one thought the democrats would win because the Republicans were dispirited and Democrats were inflamed, it was just the reverse of now.

So if, if we get any breaks on the economy and my party's rank and file of leaders, you know, kind of keep their heads on straight and keep focusing on the need to show up and get counted, I don't think it'll be as bad as '94. I think we'll do much better.

GARRETT: Two quick questions about (INAUDIBLE). Ken Starr has said, if he was in your presence, he would say to you, "I'm sorry." What would you tell Ken Starr?

CLINTON: Well, I'm sorry too. I'm sorry it happened. But I thought that -- I haven't read (INAUDIBLE) book. I read a few newspaper articles about it, I did talk to him. But I never thought -- I thought Starr was caught up in a system that he was a willing participant in, but it was really bad.

When President Nixon was investigated, Leon Jaworksi had supported Nixon for president. When President Reagan was investigated, Lawrence Welch had supported President Reagan. When I was investigated, Bob Fisk was a career Republican, but he was a career prosecutor, first special prosecutor. So I didn't mind being investigated -- I knew there was nothing to Whitewater, everybody else did too. And so, I was fine about it.

Kenneth Starr was put in that position because he was politically opposed to me and Henry Cisneros, the HUD secretary, and Mike Espy, the Agriculture secretary, they both were opposed by people who were not only ardent republicans, investigated by people were ardent republicans, and had a personal conflict. So you had three of them there and they got to predictable results. They're the only special counsels in the history of the special counsel law -- every one has jury trials. They all got waxed when they went to court, and it's because they politicized this whole thing to an extent never seen.

But I always through Starr was just an actor in a play that had been scripted for -- to get the exact results it got, and I am sorry. I'm sorry it happened.

GARRETT: In an interview with my colleague Greta Van Susteren, Starr said that the investigation was done with honor and integrity, do you agree?

CLINTON: No. There are at least four people who have testified who have said that they were told in no uncertain terms that if they would say something damaging about me, that they wouldn't go after them. And then, when they said, we don't know anything, they were told it didn't have to be true, they just had to say it. That is not honor and integrity.

There were things done in Arkansas by Mr. Ewing (ph) under Mr. Starr's direction that were unforgivable, lots of them. And so no, I don't not agree that it was done with honor and integrity. When you tell someone that -- one person even said, Susan McDougal, they told her they should say something that was damaging to me even if it wasn't illegal, just tell them anything and it didn't have to be true. Now that's not honor and integrity.

GARRETT: Last question, Mr. President, an yet, before you left office, you admitted to giving evasive answers and you gave up your law license ball lists (ph). What does that tell America about sum total of the investigation?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, this was an investigation about Whitewater. Kenneth Starr was put in for one thing, to make sure it went past the '96 election. Mr. Gromley talks about how it was unbelievably slow. And they were desperate to find anything. I made a mistake, they tried to legalize it. What I did was wrong and I said it was wrong. Being evasive to them I thought was the only thing I could do at the time, but I regret very much the underlying misconduct which caused it. And I am sorry about that and I said it many times.

But it's a great mistake to look at that whole thing and think that's all it was about. This thing went on for years and years and years. I mean, on the day my mother died, the republican leaders were calling for a special counsel, and they never stopped. I went from my mother's funeral to an important meeting in Russia and all they talked about was how we had to get to the bottom of this Whitewater thing. A deal that I lost money on, by the way.

There was -- the whole thing was, if there had been a special counsel law in place, ironically, there never would have been a special counsel, because it didn't meet the standards of any law every passed. And I trusted the justice system and I trusted the press to cover it right, and I didn't realize what the real game was. I was my fault as much as anything else for agreeing to be investigated, but I knew I hadn't done anything wrong. And so they just kept it going on and on and on. It was a nightmare. And I think, as a result of it, we'll never have it again. The only good thing to come out of it was, it killed this whole system. I don't think there'll ever be another one like this again.

GARRETT: Mr. President, thank you very much for your time.

CLINTON: Thank you.

GARRETT: I appreciate it very much, sir.

CLINTON: You're welcome.

GARRETT: Good to see you as always.

CLINTON: Thank you.