"Remember, his wife’s in the Cabinet. He is a loyal Democrat. What is he going to say? 'Oh I like Newt Gingrich a lot and I’d vote for him over Obama?’ I mean he can’t do that, he’s clearly committed to President Obama,” Gingrich, who has claimed he wants to run a positive campaign, told Fox News' Bill O’Reilly.
The two men -- whose political lives were inextricably intertwined in the '90s and fraught with personal drama -- were both guests in the "No Spin Zone" on Tuesday night.
In separate interviews, O'Reilly asked each man whether he respected the other. Clinton issued a long and telling pause before saying, "I respect his ability to think and do. And I eventually hammered out a really productive relationship with him."
These days on the campaign trail, Gingrich – the man who led the impeachment proceedings against Clinton before resigning from his congressional seat (and before the 42nd president was acquitted by the Senate) – paints a rosy portrait of bipartisanship from his time as speaker.
He repeated that theme to O’Reilly.
"If you compare him to Barack Obama, there’s no comparison," he said about both presidents' negotiating skills. "Bill Clinton had been governor for 12 years. He knew how to work with the Legislature, he tried to move his party closer to the center with the Democratic Leadership Council. We had, we had a relationship where I had to pass a bill or it couldn’t get to his desk. And he had to sign it or it wasn’t going to become law. We negotiated welfare reform and it worked. We negotiated (a) tax cut and we brought down unemployment to 4.2 percent. We negotiated four consecutive balanced budgets, so I think you’d have to say that that there was something going on there that allowed a liberal Democrat and a conservative Republican to put the country first."
Earlier in the day, Clinton had said Gingrich takes more credit than he should for those achievements, but speaking to Fox News, Clinton was more diplomatic, though he did squeeze in a critique about his former rival's political style.
"I don’t disrespect anybody who works with me in good faith," Clinton said. "I think he was way more political than I would have been. He’s defended what he calls 'scorched earth politics' and I certainly was the beneficiary of it."
At a town hall meeting in Knoxville later in the day, Gingrich offered his positive assessment of the interviews.
"O'Reilly had Clinton on tonight and Clinton said some semi-nice things about me, which is about – if your wife's in the Cabinet, it's about the most he can get to. But he wasn’t, in any way hostile, you know. He was basically very nice. And he said things in his memoirs that are pretty nice about me. And, and we got a lot done."