Former President George Bush said on Sunday that President Bill Clinton had been through a lot and expressed no desire to see his former adversary indicted after he leaves office.
In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Bush also defended his son’s intellect in the face of criticism that President elect George W. Bush is not smart enough to be chief executive, and said he would stay out of the way when the younger Bush takes office on Jan. 20.
On Clinton, Bush said he holds no animosity toward the man who defeated him in 1992 and does not derive vengeful satisfaction that his son defeated the Democrat’s vice president, Al Gore, to win the White House.
Asked if Clinton should be indicted, Bush said the legal system should examine any evidence of potential wrongdoing but signaled his distaste for extending the saga that led to Clinton’s impeachment for obstruction of justice and perjury. He won acquittal in the Senate.
“Do I hope that something bad happens to President Clinton? No, I really don’t,” said Bush. “I don’t want something bad to happen. He’s been through a lot. The country’s been through a lot. Let’s heal and forget.”
A spokesman for the president-elect said the younger Bush has no plans to pardon Clinton for any alleged crime stemming from the Monica Lewinsky case, and Clinton has said he would neither seek nor expect such clemency. He said he would “stand and fight” any indictment.
Bush, who served from 1989-93, said the president-elect has gotten a “bum rap” over criticism that he is incurious and intellectually detached, and adds that those who say those things do not know him.
The former president cited the incident that crystallized the issue during the presidential primary campaign when his son failed to identify certain international figures during an interview.
“He was blindsided by some idiot reporter (a Boston TV correspondent) … who said give me the name of the prime minister of this or the newly appointed general in Pakistan. I’m saying to myself, ‘people don’t know the answer to this.’
“So people played off that and say ‘this makes this man less than intelligent.’ It’s a bum rap. Do you think if a guy was dumb he would have been reelected governor of the second biggest state in the nation by 70 percent of the vote? It speaks for itself.”
The elder Bush said he and former first lady Barbara Bush would be there for the new president “if he gets hurt or wants us,” but said he has no intention of “pining all the time” about his son’s administration.
“The heck with that. I had my chance, now it’s his,” Bush said.