Former President Bill Clinton, whose "I feel your pain" message became a personal mantra during his eight years in the White House, has rushed to defend his wife's sensitivity to the problems of struggling Americans.
The former president told NBC that Hillary Clinton is "not out of touch" even as she draws criticism for recent remarks that critics say showed she doesn't understand the plight of those who are down on their luck.
Clinton said his wife is committed to helping those in need, and has demonstrated this for many years. In any case, he said the political focus shouldn't be on his family's personal wealth but on "the central challenge of our time, which is the demise of the American dream."
Hillary Clinton, who is considering a run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, has been criticized for telling ABC News this month that she and her husband were "dead broke" when they left the White House in 2001.
What she didn't mention was that she and her husband were poised to rake in millions of dollars from book advances and paid speeches, which allowed them to amass a large personal fortune. Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state for President Barack Obama, also told the Guardian newspaper that she and her husband "pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names, and we've done it through the dint of hard work." A spokesman for the Republican National Committee condemned Hillary Clinton for "whining" about her personal economic situation.
Possibly more damaging to her, supporters of President Obama told The Washington Post anonymously this week that wealth could be a problem for Clinton if she seeks the Democratic nomination in 2016, as expected.
One Obama adviser said, "She seems completely out of touch and elitist. You can draw direct parallels between her comments on mortgages on multiple houses to [Republican presidential nominee Mitt] Romney talking about all the cars he owned...[and] between her talking about having to struggle [compared] with Romney's comments about being worried about pink slips."
Such comments indicate that senior Democrats, while they won't say so publicly, are privately worried about Hillary Clinton frittering away support from working-class and poor voters. Clinton lost the Democratic presidential nomination to Obama in 2008.
Bill Clinton said it is "factually true" that he and his wife were millions of dollars in debt when he left office, partly because of legal bills from defending him from the Whitewater investigation and from impeachment in the House and removal from office, which he avoided. CNN estimates that the former president made $106 million in speaking fees from January 2001, when his presidency ended, to January 2013. It's estimated that Hillary Clinton currently makes up to $200,000 per speech.
Bill Clinton gave the interview to NBC Tuesday while he was attending the Clinton Global Initiative America conference in Denver. He also told the Denver Post, discussing his wife possibly running for the White House, "I'm a bit player, and whatever she wants to do is fine with me."