Magazine conference gets political


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Harry Tuttle
October 27, 2004, 11:40 PM
Magazine conference gets political
http://uk.biz.yahoo.com/041026/323/f5cwt.html

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AFX) -- The Magazine Publishers of America's annual meeting has turned political.
Former President Bill Clinton -- in remarks that the trade association had sought to afford off-the-record status -- said he thinks Sen. John Kerry will win the Nov. 2 presidential election, though the outcome figures to be extremely tight.

Clinton had kind words for President George Herbert Walker Bush, whom he defeated in 1992, and measured praise for the doggedness and common sense of his son, President George W. Bush -- though he did lament that Bush backers have turned the election campaign into a 'culture war' in which one might think guns, gay marriage and partial-birth abortions were the only issues of import.
He criticized Bush for the way in which he led America into war in Iraq, and the manner in which the war has been conducted.

He needled the current Bush television commercial that features a team of wolves, in the guise of terrorists, ready to prey on a defenseless country. 'They gave the wolves all that ammunition in Iraq,' Clinton quipped, referring to a recent discovery that hundreds of tons of explosives had likely been stolen.

The former president, though, said he would have voted to give Bush the right to use force in Iraq -- based on what the president incorrectly, as it turned out, told the nation about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. He chided the administration for rushing into war before the United Nations' weapons inspectors could complete their mission. He said he is convinced that the administration was predisposed to overthrow Saddam from the beginning, 'whether he had weapons [of mass destruction] or not,' and was, in fact, 'terrified' that U.N. inspector Hans Blix would determine no such banned materiel existed in Iraq.

He said the junior Bush -- 'a genuine West Texas ultraconservative' -- had been all but put into office by the National Rifle Association in the 2000 election that saw Clinton's vice president winning the popular vote but losing a contested battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court. 'The NRA damaged Al [Gore] so badly in Arkansas,' Clinton said of his home state. 'I don't think the NRA has gotten the praise it deserved for electing George Bush.'

He spoke highly of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's political instincts, observing, 'Oh, he's good,' and said he wouldn't have a problem with a constitutional amendment that would allow non-U.S.-born candidates to win the presidency, as long as they had lived in the country for 20 to 30 years beforehand, as the Austrian-born Schwarzenegger has done.

Clinton, interviewed for 75 minutes by James Kelly, the managing editor of Time magazine, appeared tired at times. His voice was husky. He was house-bound for seven weeks until Sunday, recovering from emergency bypass surgery. His dramatic return to the political stage this week has featured Kerry rallies in Philadelphia and Florida, as well as the magazine conference.

Tackling other topics, Clinton said he wouldn't have pardoned Martha Stewart but added that he wasn't convinced she should be serving time in prison. He said he regretted pardoning Marc Rich, a politically connected convicted tax evader, in the final hours of his presidency because of the grief he caught for that action.

Clinton said he didn't think Bush or Kerry would institute a military draft, since both candidates have said they wouldn't do so. 'By and large, people don't like to break campaign promises,' he noted.
Clinton said energy this year is 'a big sleeper issue,' adding that a new energy policy could 'create at least a million jobs.'

The Magazine Publishers of America had sought to impose an off-the-record arrangement upon reporters attending the discussion between the Time managing editor and the former president.
Though the presidential election is only a week away, and Clinton's comments might be eagerly awaited by many readers and undecided prospective voters, Time's Kelly said the arrangement did not strike him as problematic.

'I don't find [the off-the-record stipulation] to be that unusual at these kinds of conferences,' said Kelly.

Kelly said there is a difference between Clinton being filmed at a campaign rally and participating in an unscripted one-on-one meeting of this kind.

'He isn't giving a speech,' Kelly pointed out. 'He isn't delivering a policy address.'

The presidential campaign intruded further when it was discovered that Vice President Dick Cheney, like Clinton, was staying overnight Monday at the Boca Raton Resort and Club, the same venue where conference was taking place.

The hotel guests who returned to the hotel after dinner on Monday night faced the prospect of having rental cars searched thoroughly by police and security personnel of all stripes -- as well as the surreal spectacle of having bomb-sniffing dogs helping to complete what agents on the scene called a 'sweep' of the vehicles.

Representatives of Time, a Time Warner publication, and the MPA had said the impetus for a ban on press coverage of Clinton's appearance came from the Clinton camp -- or perhaps even from representatives of presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, who is in a neck-and-neck battle with President George Bush.

Apparently, the former president was concerned that his remarks could overshadow those of Kerry as the candidate appears on the stump. Kerry campaigned on a college campus in Boca Raton on Sunday, repeating his themes of national security, jobs and health care.

This story was supplied by CBSMarketWatch. For further information see www.cbsmarketwatch.com.

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