LONDON, United Kingdom – In an extraordinary intervention in British politics, former US President Bill Clinton today called for Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom – and then insulted the EU and members of the European Parliament by calling attention to the low voter turnout in last week’s elections, claiming that “they [the parliament] don’t have any power, so it might just be a way to vent steam.”
Clinton was speaking in London at a conference on Inclusive Capitalism. Neither Prince Charles nor IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, who spoke at the conference earlier today, stayed to hear the former U.S. President speak.
Federal financial records show that Clinton earns on average $195,000 per speech. Today he spoke for an hour, though said very little during his 60 minutes at the microphone.
Rather, he repeated platitudes (“Here is our job: we are defining the terms of our own interdependence”) about cooperation, telling anecdotes about his time in the White House, and even going back to the 1980s when he was Governor of Arkansas for anecdotes about the wise management of a steel plant.
Somehow he wandered onto Scotland, and said: “In the UK you’re having probably the most benign example I can think of, the Scottish referendum, although I strongly favour your hanging in there together”.
Clinton revealed his lack of knowledge, and grossly underestimated the structures of the European Union when he said: “All these people got elected to the EU Parliament. I don’t know what it means. You got a low voter turnout and they don’t have any power so it may be just a way to vent steam”.
At one point he held up a piece of paper with a grey and yellow chart on it, claiming this showed how much better Americans did under his administration than under Ronald Reagan’s.
“This is the chart I’m proudest of,” he said. “Reagan had a good run because we had never run big deficits before… we went on an 8-year sugar high and created a lot of jobs. Mainly in defence.
“A hundred times as many people moved out of poverty [during my tenure]… that’s government’s job!”
Clinton also said: “I was really proud of the fact that when I left office, the government was the smallest it has been since Dwight Eisenhower was President”.
He spoke about “defining the terms of our interdependence.” He spoke about termites, ants and bees. He talked about NGOs in Haiti. He talked about working with Nelson Mandela. Bill Gates. He talked about generic manufacturing of AIDs medicine India using ingredients from China.
Clinton name-checked Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who apparently stayed for his speech. He mentioned Tahrir Square, Malala Yousafzai, and the Nigerian schoolgirls being held in captivity by Boko Haram. He named-checked former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who, unlike HRH and Madame Lagarde, hadn’t headed out the door before he stated his speech.
It was impossible to judge the reaction of the remaining audience to Clinton’s speech, which was interspersed with his trademark finger wagging.
The conference was closed to the press, with just video coverage available from one camera which was kept at all times on Clinton.