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To Clarify 'Fairy Tale' Remarks, a Call to Sharpton

Updated: 6:14 p.m.
By Rachel Dry
The next chapter in the tale about former president Bill Clinton's "fairy tale" comments unfolded today on a bad cellphone connection to Al Sharpton's afternoon radio show, when Clinton called in to discuss what in fact he meant on Monday in New Hampshire when he uttered the phrase: "This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."

Sharpton began by asking Clinton about the criticism he's received, especially from Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking African American in Congress, who told the New York Times that "To call that dream a fairy tale, which Bill Clinton seemed to be doing, could very well be insulting to some of us."

Clinton responded by saying that the notion that Obama, who won in the Iowa caucus by sizable margin, could triumph in the end is not at all a fiction. "It's not a fairy tale -- he might win. I think he's a very impressive man and he's run a great campaign."

He explained that he was referring to the very specific charge about Obama's vote on Iraq and his positions on the war. "The Obama campaign made the argument that his relative lack of experience in the senate was not relevant because he'd always been against the war," Clinton said. The former president challenged this statement, saying that in 2004 Obama had said he was not sure how he would have initially voted on the war and that his position at the outset was essentially the same as that of President Bush.

"There could be a perfectly good explanation for it," Clinton said. But, he added, on Obama's Iraq position: "So that story is a fairy tale."

In response to the former president's comments today, an Obama spokesman said that Clinton was reading Obama's record too selectively. "Senator Obama is the only major candidate in this race who had the courage to speak out against this war before it started, and that doesn't change just because some people are reading misleading partial quotes that have already been corrected by the media," said Tommy Vietor, the spokesman.

After making his specific fairy tale case, the former president again complimented Obama. "That doesn't have anything to do with my respect for him as a person. He's put together a great campaign." He reiterated his statement that "There's nothing fairy tale about his campaign: it's real, it's strong and he might win."

Sharpton then asked the former president how an African American voter who is proud of Obama but also has "affinity" for the Clintons should decide between the two candidates.

"I would say first of all: You have a hard choice, and if you decide to vote for Senator Obama I respect you because it is a source of enormous pride in the African American community," Clinton said.

He then made the pitch for his wife, saying "she has had a unique set of experiences" working her entire career on behalf of children and families and that she has an "extraordinary record in the Senate."

He went on to touch on much of what Hillary Clinton has been discussing on the trail in recent days, including helping families facing foreclosure, creating jobs and a health-care plan that would "insure all Americans."
Clinton finished by saying that the key in this election was experience.

"Right now we have to pick the person who's most ready to be president," he said. "Senator Obama, if he's not successful this time, will have many other opportunities to run."

As the phone line with Clinton seemed on the verge of dropping out after nearly 10 minutes, Sharpton invited him to come back for an in-studio interview where listeners could call in and "keep it real with Bill Clinton."

The former president enthusiastically agreed.

By Washington Post editors  |  January 11, 2008; 4:44 PM ET
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