- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hillary Clinton’s lifetime of public activism — not her recent comments on the family’s finances — should show Americans that she’s in touch with the struggles of the middle class, former President Bill Clinton said on Sunday.

“She’s not out of touch, and she’s advocated and worked as a senator for things that were good for ordinary people,” Mr. Clinton said on “Meet the Press.” “I remember when we were in law school, she was out trying to get legal assistance for poor people; she was trying to work on paid leave for pregnant mothers in the 1970s.”

Mrs. Clinton has been criticized for complaining that her family was “dead broke” after leaving the White House in 2001, despite each walking into a six-figure annual salary — he from his presidential pension, she from her pay as a newly elected U.S. senator — and each making millions for speaking engagements and in advances for their books.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said Americans who are out there working hard to get by don’t want to hear someone who is flying in private jets complain about struggling financially.

“I think people are kind of tired of this show,” he said. “There’s Hillary fatigue already out there — it’s setting in. People are tired of this story. I just believe this early run for the White House is going to come back and bite them.”

Mr. Clinton said people should focus less on a single comment and more on politicians’ views about the economy and the state of life in America today.

“The debate is the wrong debate,” he said. “You need to be able to show by their policies and their statements about current positions how both parties across the system feel about the problem of our time, which is the demise of the American dream.”

Mr. Clinton pointed to his wife’s actions and politics, which aimed to help lower- and middle-class Americans during her time in the Senate, and also noted that she “cleaned up” her comment once she realized it may have been insensitive.

He defended the comment, however, saying that it is “factually true” that the family was “several million dollars” in debt after leaving the White House, though he acknowledged Mrs. Clinton didn’t give “the most adept” answer when asked about the family’s finances. He also said that being wealthy doesn’t automatically mean being oblivious to the problems of average Americans.

“If you’ve been fortunate enough to be successful, are you now out of touch?” he said.

Mr. Priebus said Americans can get behind candidates who have worked hard for their fortune, but that speaking engagements and touring the country in private jets doesn’t cut it. “People respect people who work hard and become rich,” he said.

When asked about his wife making a possible run for the White House in 2016, Mr. Clinton said he thought she would do a great job, but that he is just a “foot soldier in an army” and will do what he’s instructed and help her in any way he can.

“Of all the people I’ve ever worked with, I think she’s the most gifted public servant I’ve ever worked with, even though we’re married,” he said. “But it has to be her decision.”

Many have speculated that her recent book tour for her memoir, “Hard Choices,” is an early start to campaigning for the presidency, but Mrs. Clinton has yet to announce whether she will run.

Mr. Clinton declined to say whom he thought would make the best Republican candidate for president in 2016.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t say. Why would I encourage them?” he said.

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