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Inside Politics

Clinton: Kerry gives voters a choice

Former president says he'll give speech, get out of town


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Former President Bill Clinton: Signing books and talking up Kerry's chances.
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BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Former President Bill Clinton, who is scheduled to address the Democratic National Convention on Monday night, spent part of Sunday afternoon autographing his book, "My Life," as more than 1,000 people waited in line at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in downtown Boston.

According to publisher Alfred A. Knopf, the 957-page tome has sold more than 1.5 million copies since it went on sale a month ago. In that time, Clinton has matched the domestic hardcover book sales achieved in one year by his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, with her memoir, "Living History."

Later, the Clintons attended a party in their honor by longtime supporters.

The former president talked to reporters about the convention as he signed books and about what he thinks of Sen. John Kerry's chances against President Bush this fall.

Q: Do you expect the Kerry campaign to embrace your presidency in a way [former Vice President] Al Gore did not when he ran [in 2000]?

A: Senator Kerry supported our economic, educational, welfare reform policies and foreign policies...

I think that you're going to see here a big difference between the president and Senator Kerry on what they think should be done for the future. And you know, obviously, I agree with Senator Kerry.

I like what he said about the economy, about energy policy, which I think is very, very important for economic and political reasons, about health care, about education, about homeland security, about national security. I think this is what this is going to be about.

The American people now have a choice. We tried their way for 12 years, our way for eight years, and they had four more years. Our way works better. And I think that's all we have to do.

Senator Kerry just needs to go out there and say, "Look, here are my ideas, we now have a lot of evidence that their way does not work as well as our way does." If that's an embrace, he's been doing that.

Q: Do you think Kerry should ask you to campaign side by side with him?

A: I don't know. I don't think it matters much. I've been to -- all that matters to me is whether he wins or not. ... I'll do whatever he wants to do. But I think he should do whatever makes the most votes. This is about addition, not subtraction.

Q: Some say Kerry has a charisma deficit. Are you going to overshadow him this week?

A: No. I am going to give a talk and get out of town.

Q: Kerry charisma gap?

A: First of all, I disagree with that. If you look at it, he won this year against a very strong field more quickly than I won in '92. So I simply disagree with that. I think it's factually inaccurate.

Secondly, in this year, after all we've been through since 9/11, I think his sort of strong, solid demeanor is something the country might be looking for. I feel good about the way he relates to the voters, and I think we'll see that in November.

Q: What do you think about the 9/11 commission recommendations and the report's criticism of you, including the release of the 1998 presidential daily briefing alerting you to al Qaeda plans to hijack airplanes?

A: The 9/11 commission staff said when we got the PDB in '98 that bin Laden was thinking about hijacking a plane and holding hostages to force us to release [Omar Abdel-Rahman], who was responsible for the World Trade Center bombing [in 1993] and had been apprehended and jailed, that we went into high gear and either stopped it or forced him to call it off.

The commission made a decision to focus on specific recommendations for the future. And I actually got the whole report and am in the process of reading it. I think a lot of the things they recommended are quite good. I need time, you know, to absorb it all before I say I absolutely support everything they recommended.

But the most important thing I'd like to say is: Even though it's an election season, they tried to put their report beyond politics by not looking backward and giving relative grades and that sort of stuff. They tried to say, "Here's what we need to do for the future." So I'd' like to see Congress take these things up and begin seriously considering them as quickly as possible and before the election.

CNN's Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.


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