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Voters Are Being Deluged With 'Designed Clamor,' Bill Clinton Says

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today, former President Bill Clinton convenes an event that's been a big part of his post-presidential life. It's the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, where Clinton challenges the rich and powerful to put up money to attack global problems. It will be the final such annual meeting. Clinton has said, if Hillary Clinton is elected president, he will also take other steps to scale back his involvement in his charitable Empire and the big donors who support it.

Elsewhere in today's program, we questioned Bill Clinton about potential conflicts between that private work and his family's public life. When the former president came to the phone at his home in Chappaqua, N.Y., yesterday, we also asked about his wife's increasingly close campaign against Donald Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

INSKEEP: Mr. President, I want to ask about something you said to Charlie Rose the other day in a TV interview. You were talking, I believe, about the campaign and the media environment, and you referred to, quote, "the designed clamor of every day, which doesn't allow people to really make a judgment." What is the designed clamor, and who's designing it?

BILL CLINTON: Well, what I mean by that is these guys are under - all the media people, even those that are not particularly ideologically oriented, are under enormous economic pressure today. We're living in a time where there has been such widespread dissatisfaction with the economic and political order for so long and there's a lot of social upheaval, not only in our country, but around the world, what grabs people's attention is something that may be important and may not be, but is almost certainly going to be more negative than positive.

INSKEEP: And are you saying that people are being deluded in some way, that voters are not in a position to make the right choice?

CLINTON: All because they're deluded - they're being deluged. Most people only have so much bandwidth to devote to politics. Our political discourse is basically devoid of that, and we're growing more and more isolated from one another, looking for outlets on the Internet or on the television that fit our preconceived notions. And everybody that doesn't fit in that is struggling to try to get its share of the pie and claiming - and so that's - it's just a more negative environment.

INSKEEP: Let me just mention, we spend a lot of time listening to voters, as you would imagine, interviewing voters. And our correspondent Asma Khalid sent along this observation - she said that she has spoken with a lot of voters this year who said, I voted for Bill Clinton. I like Bill Clinton. I don't like Hillary Clinton. What do you make of people who say that?

CLINTON: They're responding to the fact that this email thing was treated like the most important event since the end of World War II. And then, when Secretary Powell's email to her came out explaining not only that it was a good thing to do to use her private device, but explaining how he had to do it in an earlier age of technology.

And you would have thought, since billions of dollars of coverage were spent on it, that it would have been better headlines everywhere. People would have talked of nothing else. And, you know, the way Donald Trump and his supporters have treated her, I wonder if there's a man in America that could have taken what she's been through in the last year and a half.

INSKEEP: In the end, there was a...

CLINTON: All I know - let me just say this. What I think - I would ask you a question. If that is true, and I think there is some of that, why are her strongest supporters the people that have known her all her life and have worked with her at every step of the way, followed closely by the people who have done business with her opponent?

INSKEEP: I guess I have to mention, since you mentioned...

CLINTON: I mean, the Dallas Morning News endorsed her. It's the first time they've endorsed a Democrats since World War II. And all these Republicans have endorsed her and have done - the vast majority of them have endorsed her because of national security reasons.

INSKEEP: Mr. President, I want to ask one more thing. Robert Gates over the weekend, the former secretary of defense, put out an op-ed. He was extremely critical of Donald Trump, said he was totally unqualified to handle national security matters, but was also critical of Hillary Clinton and said, among other things, neither candidate has seriously addressed how he or she thinks about the military, the use of military force, the criteria they would apply before sending that force into battle. Do you know Hillary Clinton's thinking on that?

CLINTON: I do, and I don't think that's a fair criticism, but I can understand why he thinks that, since, you know, I was talking to the guy at my local deli today, and he said, all I want to know is what they're going to do to make the economy better, and it's never reported on (laughter). So I understand why Bob Gates thinks that, but he's got a pretty good idea of what she thinks because he worked with her for four years. I do think...

INSKEEP: He said he didn't.

CLINTON: But he did. He got - oh, he said he didn't have much of an idea. He did work with her.

INSKEEP: Right.

CLINTON: And because he trusted her, he actually went to the Congress with her and said the State Department should be given more development resources, that it was an important part of national security. And she's talked a great deal about what she would do with the ISIS problem and how she would approach that. The difference in her and her opponent is he'll either ridicule or attack Gates. She'll read it seriously and see if there's something else she needs to do (laughter), which I think is what you want in a president - the grownup in the room.

INSKEEP: Mr. President, thanks very much. Always a pleasure talking to you.

CLINTON: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.