Clinton: Global warming an opportunity
ASPEN, Colo. – Former President Bill Clinton has what may be some sage advice for his party’s next presidential nominee, but it was his thoughts on global warming and energy independence that most resonated with a packed crowd at Aspen’s Harris Hall.
The United States ought to recognize the future of clean energy not only as the means to avert climatic disaster, but because it presents a huge, untapped opportunity for job creation and economic growth, Clinton said on Friday.
A last-minute addition to the roster of high-profile speakers in town for the Aspen Ideas Festival, Clinton sat down for an hour-long chat with Aspen Institute President Walter Issacson. They touched on topics ranging from partisan politics to terrorism and an even bigger threat to national security – global warming.
“We’ve got to make it a national security argument and we’ve got to make it a jobs argument and we’ve got to make the price of oil irrelevant,” Clinton said, suggesting the country could create millions of jobs if alternative energy efforts received a fraction of the tax incentives that go to “old energy.”
“This is a lay-down economically and it’s nuts that we’re not doing it,” said the former president, earning a round of applause not just in Harris Hall, but in nearby Paepcke Auditorium, where an overflow audience and members of the press watched a simulcast of the interview.
Dissecting John Kerry’s loss to President Bush last year, Clinton blamed the Democratic candidate’s soft stand on security and the party’s inability to reach out to rural, white America.
In the final days of campaigning on Kerry’s behalf, it was clear even Kerry’s supporters weren’t clear on the candidate’s position on national security, according to Clinton.
“I think, in the end, he lost in a close race because of the security issue,” he said.
But beyond that, the Democratic Party wasn’t able to reach out to much of rural America even though it increased voter registration and participation among groups that had previously shied from the polls.
Kerry won Cleveland by a huge margin but lost Ohio, Clinton noted.
“My advice is, get on a bus and go to rural Ohio.
“You can’t win an election in this country unless you talk to people who you think aren’t for you,” Clinton said. “A person who wants to be president has to be at home with issues and people when he knows he’s on the losing side.”
Switching gears and geography, Clinton said he found a lesson in his relief work for tsunami-ravaged countries that could help fight terrorism. In the wake of the natural disaster, a poll indicated the United States made great gains in the eyes of Indonesians, while Osama bin Laden’s image suffered, even though the Afghan rebel did nothing to Indonesia. But he did nothing to help, either.
“Sometimes the best politics is a human contact, not a political one,” Clinton said.
On the inevitable issue – the war in Iraq – Clinton advocated U.S. involvement for as long as it takes to help the fledging government there establish itself and until Iraqis can defend their country. Iraqis are dying in big numbers, but they turned out to vote in bigger numbers than Americans do, he noted.
“We are where we are,” he said. “I wouldn’t give it up yet. I think we ought to stick in there and make it work.”
– Janet Urquhart is a staff writer for the Aspen Times.
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