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Clinton offers words of wisdom to fellow Democrats

From the "Wolf Blitzer Reports" staff

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Former President Bill Clinton answers a question from the audience after speaking at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York on Tuesday.
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Wolf Blitzer Reports
Bill Clinton

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Bill Clinton jokes that since he's not the president anymore, nobody listens to him.

"I can't run for anything," Clinton said Tuesday. "The good news is I can say whatever I think."

But since he's the only Democrat who's been elected president in the past quarter century, many Democrats are willing to listen when Clinton talks about how to win.

Speaking at Hamilton College in upstate New York, Clinton congratulated President Bush and the Republicans on what he called a brilliant campaign.

He said many voters decided against changing leaders in the midst of terrorism threats and the war in Iraq, but there were other factors too.

"There was an astonishing turnout among evangelical Christians who said they were voting on the basis of moral values," Clinton said.

Clinton said no party has a monopoly on morality or truth, but Democrats have to make that clear to the voters.

"I do not believe that the Democrats cannot seek to be a truly national party. They may win some more national elections but we cannot be nationally competitive unless we feel comfortable talking about our convictions," said the former president.

Clinton said that during his eight years in office, he protected abortion rights but also worked to promote alternatives to abortion.

He also signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which stopped short of amending the Constitution, but preserved the right of every state to make its own decision on same sex marriage.

"I think the current divisions are partly the fault of me ... of the people in my party for not engaging the Christian evangelical community in a serious discussion of what it would take to promote a real culture of life and what the best strategy for reducing abortions is, or an open discussion of where we are on the issue of gays in America," said Clinton.

But in the wake of John Kerry's defeat, Clinton also had words of reassurance for his fellow Democrats:

"I'm old enough now and I've run enough times and I've governed enough, succeeded enough and failed enough to know there is a limit to how much any election can repeal the underlying tides of history."


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