WASHINGTON – Former President Clinton says the bull market of the 1990s bred corporate corruption but that President Bush's laying blame on his predecessor twists the truth.
"There was corporate malfeasance both before he took office and after," Clinton told a Washington television reporter. "The difference is I actually tried to do something about it, and their party stopped it" in Congress.
"And one of the people who stopped our attempt to stop Enron accounting was made chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission," Clinton said. "That is a fact; an indisputable fact."
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel would not respond Sunday to Clinton's specific comments but said: "There is a long-held tradition of former presidents acting in the national interests, not their own partisan interests. That long-held tradition has served the nation well, and President Bush is looking forward, not backward."
Clinton's interview was aired Friday on WJLA-TV Channel 7.
Bush was asked at a July 8 news conference whether Clinton had contributed to corporate excesses of the 1990s that have shaken the stock markets and slowed the nation's economic recovery. "No," Bush said. Asked later about controversies surrounding his new SEC commissioner, Bush said: "I think Harvey Pitt was put in place to clean up a mess."
Other White House officials have criticized the Clinton administration for letting underhanded corporate practices flourish.
Clinton also noted that Bush had blamed his effort to push Israel and the Palestinians into an overall settlement for violence that began in September 2000 and has become steadily worse.
"These people ran on responsibility, but as soon as you scratch them they go straight to blame," Clinton said in the interview. "Now you know, I didn't blame his father for Somalia ... I didn't do that.
"And I think that's not a real mark of leadership, and it's the wrong thing to do. But in this case, it's factually wrong."
Clinton said he began warning in 1998 about a gathering problem with corporate accounting practices, and when his SEC "tried to stop the Enron accounting practice of accountants being the consultants, the other party stopped us. And their main lobbyist was Harvey Pitt."
On the Middle East, Clinton said: "We had seven years of progress toward peace in the Middle East, and they tried to blame me for trouble in the Middle East. That's just what they do. Republicans have always done that. But it's bad form, and it's bad for America, and they should stop it."
The interview was taped after Clinton attended an observance to commemorate the 10th anniversary of passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.