In a surprisingly frank interview with Charlie Rose on his PBS show late Friday night, former President Bill Clinton declared that his wife was not only far better prepared to be president than her chief rival Sen. Barack Obama -- "it's not close" -- but that voters who disagreed would be taking a "risk" if they picked the latter.
Repeatedly dismissive of Obama -- which could come back to haunt the Clinton campaign -- the former president at one point said that voters were, of course, free to pick someone with little experience, even "a gifted television commentator" who would have just "one year less" experience in national service than Obama. He had earlier pointed out that Obama had started to run for president just one year into his first term in the U.S. Senate.
Clinton also said, surprisingly, with a laugh, "It's a miracle she even has a chance" to win in Iowa, adding he was not just "low-balling it." He said John Edwards might well win -- which would certainly be preferable, from the Clintons' perspective, to an Obama win there. (See llink to video below.)
He praised Obama's intelligence and "sensational political skills" but repeatedly suggested that, unlike his wife and some of the other candidates, he might not be ready for the job. Asked directly about that, Clinton refused to state it bluntly, but did point out that when he was elected president in 1992 at about the same age as Obama, he was the "senior governor" in the U.S. and had worked for years on international business issues. Viewers could draw their own conclusions.
Asked if Obama was ready to be president, Clinton failed to endorse that view, saying, "Well the voters have to make up their mind." He added that "even when I was a governor and young and thought I was the best politician in the Democratic Party, I didn't run the first time. I could have."
Later he said that his friends in the Republican party had indicated that they felt his wife would be the strongest candidate, partly because she had already been "vetted" -- another subtle slap at Obama.
Also: He said the most important thing to judge was who would be "the best agent for change" not merely a …