Late Night: Bill Clinton: Occupy Wall Street is 'a positive thing'
Former president Bill Clinton paid a visit to "The Late Show" last night, where he expounded on subjects as wide-ranging as the benefits of a vegan diet and the Chinese appetite for American debt.
But the majority of his appearance (which is worth watching in full here, if you're willing to do a little fast-forwarding) was devoted to a discussion of the growing Occupy Wall Street movement. Clinton thinks that the protests are "on balance...a positive thing," but worried about the nebulousness of the cause.
"They need to be for something specific, and not just against something because if you're just against something, someone else will fill the vacuum you create," he said. Clinton suggested the protesters get behind President Obama's jobs plan, which he claimed would create "a couple million jobs in the next year and a half."
Letterman wondered why so many Americans, even those who are struggling financially, are reluctant to raise taxes on the super-rich. Clinton suggested that many of them had bought into "this sort of anti-government line that's been dominating our politics for the last 30 years."
"It's just not true that government's always the problem," Clinton said.
He also balked at the idea that the protesters are animated by jealousy: "I don't think that many Americans resent the success of people who make a lot of money fairly earned. I think what bothers people is that the country has gotten so much more unequal over the last 30 years."
Letterman suggested that it's only natural for those who are "struggling financially" to want the wealthy to contribute more. "I'm always looking to blame somebody," he joked. "Isn't that human nature?"
Clinton disagreed. "Not really. One of the best things about Americans is we don't really resent other people's success."
"Well, what about Leno?" Letterman asked, laughing at his own joke.
"There's an exception to every rule," Clinton replied.
— Meredith Blake
Photo: Bill Clinton speaks during the 2011 Clinton Global Citizen Award ceremony on September 22, 2011. Credit: Eduardo Munoz / Reuters