Bill Clinton opens up about wife's struggle to appeal to voters

Ahead of the Clinton Foundation’s final Clinton Global Initiative Conference in New York City later this month, former President Bill Clinton opened up to “CBS This Morning” co-host Charlie Rose about his wife’s struggles to resonate with voters.

“When you go a long time without a pay raise, when you think your future is bleak, when you worry that you can’t provide for your children, and at the same time, your borders seem more like nets than walls in a negative way, you have these terrorist incidents occurring, you have the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II and massive cultural change, you have a period of disorientation where people are often just reacting serially,” Clinton said.

“But why are they attracted to Donald Trump? Who lives high above Manhattan in a luxury penthouse?” Rose asked.

“Well, because he promises… look, because he told them that -- he’s brilliant at rubbing salt in their wounds,” Clinton said. “He makes them dislike other people and says, ‘I’ll fix it all and make it the way it used to be.”

“But why is Secretary Clinton, who has an agenda, an economic agenda, having less appeal to working class Americans than you did?” Rose asked. “They were your constituency. And she has a program, and Donald Trump is getting more of their vote. Why is that?”

Clinton put the blame partly on “cultural” factors. 

“Well, that’s been steadily the case, started in the 1960s,” Clinton said. “And it’s just kind of going on. But you’ve got to understand, a lot of this is cultural. She’s the first woman candidate for a major office. She’s trying’ to get the third term of a party. Winning a third term in a row is difficult. And I will say again, the level of disillusionment with the economic, political, and social orders all over the world is very high.”

“Yeah, but you know how to speak to these people. Why doesn’t she?” Rose asked.

“Oh, I think she – she’s done fine, where she got a chance to. But nobody hears most of this,” Clinton answered. 

Bill Clinton last ran for office in 1996, after which he was elected for a second term. He made the Democratic Party a centrist party, which many say has now shifted left. 

“People say they witnessed that in the primaries of this Democratic process in which Bernie Sanders seemed to move Hillary Clinton to the left on trade-- on healthcare, and on other issues. Has the Democratic Party become a much more leftist party than you believed in as president?” Rose asked.

“I think, not much more. It’s slightly further to the left than it was,” Clinton said. “The Republican Party has moved way more to the right than the Democrats have moved to the left.”

“True, too. But we’re talking about the Democratic Party…” Rose said.

“I know it. I know, but I just want to point out there-- this is like physics,” Clinton said. “Every reaction inspires an opposite reaction. But I think there are reasons, good reasons, why the Democratic Party should be more populist than it was. And I’d like to explain why.”

“I want you to, because that’s the word they apply to Donald Trump – populist,” rose said.

“Yeah, but there’s all kinds of populism. There’s positive populism and negative populism,” Clinton said. “The Know Nothing movement was a populist movement. You know, it was-- basically gave birth to the Klan and all that. But it was a populist movement.”

“But in part, populist says, ‘Throw the rascals out,’” Rose said.

“Yeah, throw the rascals out but -- and play on popular passions. But Bernie Sanders, I think, was a much more positive populist,” Clinton said. “That is, he wanted to do things. He had an affirmative agenda, and so did Hillary. And they argued about which one’s was better.”

Still, the race for the White House is close, which Clinton said was, “partly because of the time we live in.”  

“Partly because it’s hard for any party to get a third term, partly because of the designed, clamor of every day which doesn’t allow people to really-- I hope the debates will cure this -- to make a judgment,” Clinton said. “If you look at what she’s advocated and what he’s advocated, she’s advocating positive change. How do you build on the good things that have been done in the Obama years to go well beyond it? He’s advocating a return to trickle-down economics on steroids, which got us in trouble in the first place.”