CBS Plays Softball with Bill Clinton on Hillary's Future, Global Initiative Questions

Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell broke out the kid gloves for Bill Clinton on Tuesday's CBS This Morning. Rose and O'Donnell failed to press the Democrat on the possible conflicts of interest surrounding his Clinton Global Initiative, as well as his wife Hillary's possible 2016 presidential run. The two anchors granted over 12 and a half minutes of air time to the former president.

Rose played up the "human side" of Clinton, and wondered if Hillary would "rather be – today – she can do both – president or grandmother?" O'Donnell pointed out that Mrs. Clinton "said you guys are watching movies together and taking long walks. And so, how is life different now?" [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]

The CBS morning show split the pre-recorded interview into three segments. Rose began the first segment with the terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya, and how an employee of the Clinton Global Initiative, along with her husband, were killed by the Islamist attackers. He followed up by asking about the possibility of President Obama and Iranian President Rouhani having a "conversation" at the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting. O'Donnell also raised how "the Israeli prime minister believes that no deal is better than a bad deal with Iran – that this could be a trap. Do you agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu?"

The former NBC correspondent led the second segment with the issue of Hillary's potential run for president: "Your wife Hillary Clinton said...that she is going to take her time deciding whether to run for president. Do you think her work here at the Clinton Global Initiative could be a stepping stone...for a future run for president?" O'Donnell, along with Rose, then spent the rest of the segment playing softball with Clinton:

O'DONNELL: ...[Hillary] said you guys are spending a lot more time together. And I think she recently said you guys are watching movies together and taking long walks. And so, how is life different now?

CLINTON: ...Hillary is on a constant self-improvement project, you know? She's always trying to improve me. So, I'm having to get used to being improved more regularly.

O'DONNELL: (laughs) is she trying to improve you?

CLINTON: Well, you know, she's just on me all the time to, sort of, tone up my exercise program, or do this or do that. (O'Donnell laughs) It's – but we have – we have so much fun. We still have a lot of fun together.

ROSE: She can do both of these things, clearly-

CLINTON: What things?

ROSE: I'm going to tell you now. Do you think she'd rather be – today – she can do both – president or grandmother?

CLINTON: (laughs) If you ask her, I think she'd say grandmother. (Rose and O'Donnell laugh) But I have found it best not to discuss that issue. (Rose and O'Donnell laugh)

ROSE: Sounds like Chelsea may have influenced you.

CLINTON: I'm just trying to – my goal is to live to be a grandfather. (Rose and O'Donnell laugh) The rest of it's out of my hand.

The CBS anchors brought up the financial questions surrounding the Clinton Global Initiative and the possible conflicts of interest surrounding the organization (the New York Times spotlighted these concerns in an August 2013 item). But Rose and O'Donnell still kept up the chummy atmosphere with former President Clinton. Rose got the closest to asking a tough question when he raised the issue of transparency:

O'DONNELL: This is a sprawling philanthropic organization, and you have helped hundreds of millions of people. However, as you know, there have been reports about financial mismanagement, infighting-

CLINTON: Which have been clearly disproved, I might add.

O'DONNELL: No deficits?

CLINTON: No! There was never a deficit....

O'DONNELL: And the reports that Chelsea was coming in to clean things up. (O'Donnell laughs)

CLINTON: No. Chelsea came in – first of all, Chelsea's been working around the foundation for two or three years now, and she did suggest and – something that I warmly embraced – which is that we have a – a review of where we were – which is typical for a new organization at age 10 –  and several years of our first decade, we were the fastest growing foundation in the world.

ROSE:  But is this a reminder – when you've got fundraising for the foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative and some of the same people are doing both – that it's important to be both transparent and vigorous in the accounting, so that the impression doesn't develop?

CLINTON: Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely – but we are transparent. I – I believe in – in transparency. But if you are transparent, then you have to depend on the good faith of people who are looking at your documents.

ROSE: You and I were on stage at Davos when you announced this [in 2005] – the Clinton Global Initiative – and it was a surprise to people at that time. What has it not done that you believed it could do?

CLINTON: Well, actually, it's grown bigger – faster than I thought it would. But I think we just have to keep working on it. But one of the things we started doing last year – that we'll do more of this year – is to give more progress reports on the commitments already made. And I'm hoping if we highlight the progress reports on an equal footing with the initial commitments – that maybe that will attract more interest. That's the only thing that I thought would happen that hasn't. Otherwise, C.G.I. itself has affected more lives in more countries than I ever dreamed it would.

After the third pre-recorded segment, Rose and O'Donnell, along with co-anchor Gayle King, spent over a minute and a half discussing the interview. King raved about Clinton and the entire interview in general:

GAYLE KING: He [Clinton] seemed very relaxed, and it was such a wide-ranging interview, guys. I loved, Charlie, when you said, will it be president or grandmother? And it almost looked like he was choking on his drink of water at that particular time. (O'Donnell laughs) But you all covered everything, and he was very comfortable in answering anything you had to say.

Back in August 2013, correspondent John Blackstone boosted Hillary's possible presidential run on CBS This Morning, and minimized the ongoing questions about her leadership before, during, and after the attack in Benghazi. Rose and O'Donnell also have a record of softball interviews of liberals/Democrats, while hounding conservatives/Republicans.

The full transcript of the Bill Clinton interview from Tuesday's CBS This Morning is available at

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center