Bill Clinton Goes 'On the Record'
This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," September 27, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Former President Bill Clinton is in New York for the three day annual brainstorming session of his Clinton Global Initiative.
His new book "Giving: How each of us can Change the World," is number two on the New York Times Bestseller list. And his wife, you may have heard of her, just happens to be running for president.
Former President Bill Clinton went On the Record earlier today.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Mr. President, nice to see you, sir.
BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. President, this year at the Clinton Global Initiative, do you have some estimate on how much pledges you are going to get?
CLINTON: Oh, I don't. It will be several billion dollars, like last year. But we are trying to change that emphasis this year, because some things are inherently more expensive than others.
For example, the commitment that was announced yesterday by the Florida utility to spend $2.5 billion on solar power, it is a magnificent commitment. But if you are a utility and you do those things, it is inherently more expensive.
The commitment that Duke Power and the others made this year—I mean, today, to try to finance energy efficiency in every home, every office— every government office, every factory in their state, you are talking about tens of billions of dollars.
So — but there are other things that don't cost nearly as much, which will also affect millions of people. So we are trying to also emphasize this year how many lives will be touched, how many people will be helped by the health initiatives or the education initiatives?
Because I don't want it to be totally about money. I think it ought to be about lives touched.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is there way to tell, though, because this was the third year of the Clinton Global Initiative. Is there a way to say how you have grown from the first year to the second to now what you anticipate this year?
CLINTON: Well, we know that we raised $2.5 billion the first year in multiyear commitments. And last year we had $7.5 billion. And this year we will probably be there, maybe even a little more.
But each year the projects that have been adopted are affecting more people. We now know that when all the commitments that have been made just in the first two years are fully implemented over a multiyear period, about 80 million lives will be positively affected. That is a lot of people.
VAN SUSTEREN: Last year, one of my favorite ones was the one that Mrs. Bush came here and it was the children's marry-go-round. And as they went around and around and around, they drew up water. Now is there some project this year that is particularly fun?
CLINTON: For me there is. The — that I think is really fun there is a project this year to create small businesses in developing countries by providing micro-credit finance to people who sell reading glasses.
And it is so simple, but according to the research, only 5 percent of the people who live in lower-income countries, poor countries — who can read but need reading glasses to read, only 5 percent of those people get those reading glasses.
So there is a credit organization that is here that does nothing but raise money to set people up in business to provide these reading glasses. So they are going to provide reading glasses to hundreds of thousands of people who need it, create thousands of small businesses, and help the economy as a result.
I mean, it is a really interesting idea I never would have thought of.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that is a little bit like the one of the organizations you talk about in your book, in the new book "Giving," is, Kiva.org, which, incidentally, we put on our blog yesterday, because we thought it was such a great idea.
VAN SUSTEREN: Kiva.org is what? That lets everybody contribute, not just the fat cats.
CLINTON: Kiva.org gives you a chance to do what Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for last year. And for 30 years he was one of the world's great micro-credit lenders. He made over 7 million loans, 97 percent to village women with a 98.5 percent payback rate.
And over half of the people he loaned money to worked their way above the international poverty line so that per capita income in his native Bangladesh moved from less than a dollar a day to about $570 a year, largely driven by the Grameen Bank and other projects like that in good times and bad.
So with Kiva.org, Greta Van Susteren and Bill Clinton can get on their Web site and we can see people that need money all over the world.
VAN SUSTEREN: How much money are you talking about?
CLINTON: As little as $25. You are talking about a lot of this money is loaned to people in countries with a per capita income of less than a dollar a day. You can see basket-makers and weavers in Africa. You can see a guy in Kabul, Afghanistan, who repaired radios.
VAN SUSTEREN: So if I go on Kiva.org and give $25, I can actually track to see how it changes someone's life?
CLINTON: Yes. If you go on Kiva, you can give as little as $25, almost nobody gives more than $300 or $400. And you may — let's suppose you pick a basket cooperative in Rwanda, and they want to get together after the horrible problems of a decade ago and bring people together across ethnic lines and make baskets and market them.
Let's suppose they need to borrow $400, well, you can either — you can give them $400, but you can give $25 and then eventually, let's say, 10 or 15 together will provide the $400. Then you loan them the money through a local group in Rwanda, and they report back in and pay the money back.
And every couple of weeks you can go back to Kiva and get a report as if you were their banker. They will report in, how are we doing with your money? How is our business doing? Are they repaying the loan?
Then when the loans are paid, you can take your money back or turn around and pick someone else to loan it to.
VAN SUSTEREN: It is an extraordinary program.
CLINTON: And it is all on the Internet. And it makes you feel like you know these people. I mean, they are — you see their picture. You know the facts of their business. You know what their lives are like.
And you know whether you are doing it alone or — and you can have like a virtual cooperative bank because you wind up — you may be joined by people all over America or all around the world in helping this particular business, whatever you pick.
VAN SUSTEREN: We're with former President Bill Clinton.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Hillary Clinton is leading in the polls in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination as it heats up. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, is an important part of her campaign.
We spoke with the former president earlier today.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, when people think of Clinton Global Initiative, a lot of people think that it is about helping people outside of the United States. A lot of this also helps people in the United States.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I'm not sure that people truly understand that.
CLINTON: Oh, no. We have health initiatives, for example, to help deal with the problems of childhood obesity. We try to deal with kids that don't have access to basic health services. We do some impressive education and economic initiatives here.
One of our best programs last year involved a partnership between an organization called Sustainable South Bronx and a New Jersey businessman who gave them $150,000 to hire and train young people to work in the South Bronx, the poorest congressional district in America, with the least amount of green space per person.
They used this money to hire and train people to maintain and build up a park along the water in the South Bronx, to give people some green space and to create jobs in the environmental movement in a place where most of the jobs were created managing waste dumps.
It is the total desire to flip the way they think about their neighborhood and the basis of the economy. And so we do a lot of interesting things like that in America. You can help America. You can help the rest of the world. It is your choice.
VAN SUSTEREN: When you talk about obesity, and it is a very unpopular topic for a lot of people. I mean, it has health consequences, self-esteem consequences. What can the Clinton Global Initiative do for the kids? I mean, because it is a terrible crisis.
CLINTON: Well, first of all. It is not just that it raises the likelihood of heart attack and stroke and other problems like that over the long run, changing the way we eat and exercise, how much we consume and what is in the food has led to a dramatic and troubling rise in diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes, we each call it adult onset now in children. So we have to do things about that. What can be done about it?
Well, you get people to — you reduce the caloric content of food. What we have done is to try to get agreements with the beverage and the food industry on the vending machines in the schools. We are trying to get an agreement with people that supply cafeteria lunches and breakfast on the content of those.
You can have more community and school exercise programs and you can get — work with fast food people to change not just sizes of the portions, but actually what is in the food. We know that the more processed the food is, the more chemicals that are in it, the more it slows down your metabolism.
So if you and I ate the same amount of calories and exercised the same amount, but mine is more processed than yours, you will metabolize your food far more efficiently than I will, and add less fat, even if we eat the same calories and do the same amount of work.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Question on the election—in the event that Senator Clinton becomes president of the United States — when I disagree with my husband, I lobby him all the time, are you going to lobby the senator who will then be the president if she wins?
CLINTON: Well, first, I'm going to do — in terms of serving America, I will do whatever I'm asked to do. And I hope I can still run my foundation. She says she wants me to and we think it is good for the country, both here and around the world.
If I feel strongly about something, of course, I will tell her I do. But as she made perfectly clear on the debate last night, she will have the final call, and that is the way it ought to be.
And I think that, you know, husbands and wives, ever since the United States has existed, they have discussed everything under the sun. And advisers have been working for presidents from the day one, and the best of them are free to give their own advice.
But in the end the president has to decide. And she won't have a problem in the world with that, and she never had a problem disagreeing with me when she thought I was wrong.
VAN SUSTEREN: It is fun to disagree once in a while, isn't it?
CLINTON: Oh, yes. But it is fun in the sense that if you really trust someone, you tell them what you think. And then you understand that in the end that that person has to make the decision.
The worst thing that can happen to a president, the absolute worst is if people surrounding her or him believe they can't say what they think, believe they will be fired or banished or ignored or whatever.
You should want everybody to say what they think and then realize if it were easy, the decision would have already been made, and then just make the best call you can.
That is what she will do. She will do it fine.
VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, sir.
CLINTON: Thank you.
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