Former President Bill Clinton guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden early Thursday, in a lengthy interview discussing arms reform efforts and plans to restart the Clinton Global Initiative.
But at one point, Corden asked Clinton what keeps him so optimistic. While citing children and grandchildren and their hopes for the future, Clinton said he wasn’t too Pollyanna-esque about the state of democracy either.
“I actually think there’s a fair chance we’ll lose our constitutional democracy completely for a few decades if we make bad decisions,” Clinton said. “I am not naive about this. I fought a lot. I lost some and gained a lot. I was elated and heartbroken. But I have never been more concerned about the structure of our democratic form of government.”
He added that “So far, every time we’ve faced our own demise, our consciences started working and we stepped off the edge. And that’s about what I think will happen here, but I don’t know when.” or how. Meanwhile, we just have to be vigilant, stand up for what we believe in and don’t answer hate with hate.”
His comments come as the Jan. 6 commission holds public hearings, broadcast over broadcast and cable networks, that members say will show how Donald Trump and his allies plotted to overturn the results of the presidential election. 2020, culminating in the attack on the Capitol.
Clinton also spoke of the Senate compromise on new gun laws, including grants to states to implement “red flag” laws and expanded background checks for 18-21 year olds to purchase guns. But Corden said he doesn’t believe the deal goes far enough.
“As someone who didn’t grow up here, I’ll never get around to it,” Corden told Clinton. “Why is it so hard for Americans to come to an agreement on this issue?”
Clinton replied, “While there was an overwhelming majority — when I was president — for sensible gun security measures, the gun culture is strong enough that there are more people against something than for it if it’s a voting issue.”
His point was that while a proportion of voters vote for politicians based on their support for gun rights, that is not necessarily the case for those in favor of gun reform.
“If you want this America, it has to be a matter of voting for you,” Clinton said.
Clinton also noted that many gun owners are “very suspicious of the government, easily startled and unwilling to take any chances.”
Clinton signed the last major gun safety bill, a ban on assault weapons, in 1994. But it came at a political cost. He told Corden it was a “cruel battle” in Congress and then Speaker of the House Tom Foley told him “I will lose if you make it through this”. He did. The ban expired in 2004.
Clinton said the Senate deal wasn’t doing enough, but it wasn’t insignificant either. He said if every state passed and enforced red flag laws, “it would help.”
He also gave some advice on how to talk to those on the other side of the problem.
“If you want to do this, don’t be afraid to talk to people and don’t speak to them,” Clinton said. “Don’t assume that if you see someone like Mr. [Wayne] Stone [the CEO of the NRA] yelling on television that everyone on that side is like this… Instead of telling them they’re stupid if they don’t agree with you, ask for their help. We just need to talk again.”
Clinton also spoke about plans for the return of the Clinton Global Initiative.