President Clinton is the person I admire the most in the world, it´s that simple. Readers of my blog and those close to me are well aware that I am rarely a fan of anyone in the true sense of the word, but when it comes to Clinton I cannot help but make the exception. Whilst in NY I was invited to attend a dinner in his honor. As usual I found the President´s views fascinating (a not to non American readers in America people call ex presidents…Presidents).

Now before I share the Presidents views with you I would like to remind you that I am not a journalist and that I did not take notes during dinner so some of my recollections maybe wrong. Still I believe that they are worth a try as they are original and challenging.

The dinner was held at the home of New York financier Marc Lasry who I thank for his kind invitation. The whole event consisted of two parts. The dinner itself during which approximately seven of us asked an array of questions to the President on current affairs; and an after dinner conversation in which I personally followed up on a number of issues. Here are my recollections, a brief summary of the three hour conversation.

On Hillary Clinton

I have been a trustee of President Clinton´s foundation for 5 years and have been with the President at many meetings in which the Hillary question came up. However, last night I had the impression that for the first time Bill Clinton has fully realized his wife may in fact very well become the next President of the United States. Clinton made clear that if she chooses to take this on, he will provide just as much support for her as she did him. He is not certain however that Hillary will run. But if she does run and wins the Democratic nomination, he is certain that she will defeat any Republican opponent she faces.

On John McCain.

President Clinton has a great deal of respect for John McCain. He cited two examples that illustrate where he relates to McCain: Global Warming is not a myth and that torture under all circumstances is wrong. Now my impression after listening to him, and I emphasize this is only my impression because the President did not say anything pertaining to this, is that a John McCain vs. Hillary Clinton 2008 election is a possibility.

On Election Psychology:

President Clinton said that unfortunately the Republicans have the upper hand in using psychology in their campaigning. He offered many examples but one that stuck to mind is the current trend among Republicans to tag Hillary as an “angry woman.” Personally, I met Hillary a few times and would hardly say that she is an “angry” woman; if anything I would say that she is a “concerned” woman. But Clinton went on to explain how the American electorate expect men to be angry but not women and how this label is part of the psychological warfare (my words) that the Republicans are good at. Another very vivid point he made is that this psychological machinery sometimes is used among Republicans against each other. He illustrated this with the attacks made on John McCain, a man as brave as they come, portraying him to be a person not brave enough when it came to pursuing aggressive American Foreign Policy.

On Vladimir Putin:

President Clinton had dinner last week with Vladimir Putin and had many interesting comments to make about him. Clinton asked Putin why he invited the Iranian leaders to the Kremlin. Putin’s response was that Iranian nuclear capability is a great concern to Russia seeing as they are even closer to Iran than Israel. It is in part because of this that Russia would prefer to engage in dialogue as opposed to not pursuing any means of communication.

On Google and Yahoo in China:

When I asked the President about Google and Yahoo in China I was at first surprised to the level of detail that he was informed about the different problems that these two companies have encountered in China. His comment was that whilst they were both difficult situations he felt Yahoo’s dilemma to be the tougher one. In general he feels there is great difficulty in knowing with any certainty which strategies lead down the road to positive change and that no one approach can be good for all circumstances.

On the American Deficit and the Price of Oil

The President believes that the amount of oil now consumed in America for transportation needs, combined with the budget deficit, has created a very dangerous downward spiral for the American economy. He is concerned about the fact that most of the nations who finance American deficits are also huge oil importers and should the price of oil rise to $100 a barrel America will find itself with the double danger of having to pay much more for oil imports while at the same time seeing the natural buyers of American debt, nations such as China, Japan, impoverished as a result of the oil price hike. President Clinton believes it is URGENT that America start a brand new energy policy based on conservation and promotion of alternative energies. He thinks that whilst America cannot compete in oil production, it can greatly benefit by developing the technologies necessary that will lead to an energy revolution.

On School Vouchers:

President Clinton surprised me by saying that the school vouchers that exist with any successful deployed today are at the college level. He exemplified this by showing how Universities, both State and Private, compete for school aid funds on an equal footing.

On Public Education:

President Clinton gave many examples of schools, including some in Harlem, that although in the same neighbourhoods yield very different results. President Clinton believes that the problem of public schools is that their management is not accountable for the performance of their students and cannot easily be fired if they perform poorly. He thinks that re-assessing and maintaining higher standards is necessary in public education.

On Health Care:

President Clinton is very concerned about factories moving to Canada because of health care costs. He says that the US spends 16% of its GDP on health care while other nations manage to provide care for all at 11%. He thinks the American health care system is unfair and inefficient. Should major, necessary changes not be made, American competitiveness is at risk.

On the Next Israeli Election and Hamas:

President Clinton made comments here that I do not want to quote him without authorization. I will ask for permission and then comment.

On Iraq:

President Clinton believes that one of the worst consequences of the Iraqi war, other than the fact that it is not going well, is that it has drained vital financial and military resources, detracting from everything else America could be doing around the world. Examples? Very few resources have been left for Latin America. Iran has emerged as a big potential threat in the region but the enormous Shia population in Iraq makes it hard to act on Iran. The Darfour Genocide is also being neglected. In short, Clinton seems to believe (again this is my interpretation) that this administration put all its eggs in one basket..and risks dropping it.

On Iran

President Clinton believes that Iran is determined to get a nuclear bomb and that the majority of the Iranian people support their country’s nuclear aspirations. He also believes that it would be hard to attack Iranian nuclear installations without incurring many civilian casualties. At the same time he believes that the Iranians should be well aware of the US and European opposition to their plans and that Europe and the US must find a way to make it very costly for Iran to go nuclear.

On Hugo Chávez

President Clinton had interesting comments to make on Hugo Chavez but I would need his permission to publish these as well.

On the Dubai Port Issue.

The common view here is that the Clintons found themselves at opposite ends on this issue. President Clinton said that this is not the case. He first clarified that whilst he is very positive about many developments in Dubai, he is not an advisor to the Dubai government nor employed by them. He said that he gives advice to many different peoples but that does not make him their advisor; and in this case he was not engaged by the Dubai government on this matter. He said he did tell the Dubai government that if they were going to make an offer here they would have to prove to the American people that the ports would be more secure under their management and that they failed to do so.

On Michelle Bachelet:

I told the President that I was impressed with Michelle Bachelet, the new President of Chile, and he agreed. He knew a lot about her (it never ceases to impress me how informed Clinton is about every person or issue on the planet). He knew a lot about her background, he had read about how professional her new cabinet is. He had great praise for departing President Lagos and for the Chilean people in general.


Finally a note on Fon, FON. I presented FON to the President with a concrete proposal: that FON gives away 1000 wifi routers on behalf of the Clinton Foundation to residents of Harlem who have broadband for them to create with FON a dual environment in which they use most of their bandwidth at home but share wifi with other Harlem residents, quickly turning Harlem into a wifi neighbourhood. I pointed out the benefits of FON compared with the municipal wifi deployments in the sense that FON is faster to deploy and it’s a people´s network as opposed to a municipal network with all the difficulties that these efforts entail for local governments in terms of management. The President appeared very intrigued and we agreed to further study the opportunity. Personally I will try to convince my investors at Google that rather than focusing on becoming a telco themselves and offer free wifi to residents of Silicon Valley as they are doing now, that they focus on the less developed communities of American and adopt a mixed approach in which some capital infrastructure is built, but most infrastructure is community based.

On Evangelical Christians

Presiden Clinton says that Democrats will never get the vote of around half of the evangelical Christians. Say the Falwell, Robertson types. But that the other half is up for grabs. According to him one of the main reasons he was elected was because he was the Democrat who got the most evangelical Christian votes, since then he said Gore got less of those votes and Kerry around 21% of them, an all time low for a Democrat. Democrats must learn to talk to people with strong religious values he argued.

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Steve Ross on March 15, 2006  · 

Thanks for this post. I really enjoyed reading it. President Clinton is certianly somone to be admired. I also think Hillary Clinton has a good shot at being the first woman president. However if it came down to McCain vs. Clinton I think McCain would win.

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Cem Mimaroglu on March 15, 2006  · 

Martin –

Thanks for the insight.

One question – You have said that you are really impressed with Mr. Clinton (and I know & agree with you for whatevet it is worth). But as a true leader/entrepreneur & a global citizen youself, it would be interesting to hear which facet of Mr. Clinton really inspires or impresses you – Is it his communication skills, his vision, his synthesizing ability, or some other kind of leadership skill? What is it? – Thanks/Regards

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Zach Owens on March 15, 2006  · 

Wow! What an opportunity to speak with President Clinton.

Hillary Clinton certainly would have my vote in the next election. It will be interesting to see how the rest of this year shakes out in the Democratic opposition. The need for the US to change it’s (our) policies is so grave as President Clinton briefly pointed out, that a move as bold as challenging with a female candidate is both exciting and scary. Aren’t most great changes?

On FON… Clinton is so politically savvy that I would imagine that his initial questions would be how FON would affect the other players ISP’s etc, as I’m sure they have a lot of potential to help his Harlem/world initiatives. You must be excellent at explaining that concept by now, but it still seems like a hard sell.

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Cem Dalgic on March 15, 2006  · 

thank you for this post.
Any nice pictures of the event?
Mr. Clinton should become a fonero.
Did you ask him?

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Alberto Galet on March 15, 2006  · 

Just awsome!
you can not read that in a newspaper…

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Jose del Moral on March 15, 2006  · 

Not having taken any notes during the dinner, I am impressed by the volume of things you can remember and synthesize in this post.

What a pity not to see you in Bilbao next month!

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Heiko Hebig on March 15, 2006  · 

Very interesting! Thanks so much for sharing.

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Jorge M on March 15, 2006  · 


1st let me remind you that Ms Clinton said, on claims that she is an angry woman, the following:

“People will be attacking you instead of your ideas; they may impugn your patriotism; they may even say you’re angry. […] If they do that, wear it as a badge of honor, because you know what? There are lots of things that we should be angry and outraged about these days.”

Why apologists are more Clintonite that the real Sen Clinton? Martin, Martin…

2d About Putin: it is a masterful piece of manipulation to write something like that. We should not be worried about the mad mullahs relationship with Russia because they meet because they are . . . . oh, concerned.

The whole piece is propaganda of the cheapest class.

But is is only my opinion.


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Martín Varsavsky on March 16, 2006  · 

#2 Cem,

Not only do I find Clinton fascinating to be with and listen to, if I had to just say one thing is what I admire the most about Clinton is his political judgement. He is the leader who makes the least policy mistakes who I ever met. He makes them of course, but simply less than others.


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Martín Varsavsky on March 16, 2006  · 

#8 Jorge M,

Whatever you say the world was undoubtedly a better place under the Clintons that under Bush/Cheney, and I sincerely hope the world will be a better place again with them.


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Richard Jordan on March 17, 2006  · 

Hi, This is Richard Jordan, former (elected) Trustee of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, former member of the Board of Governors of the National Arts Club, of Symphony for United Nations and of other non-profits, and having represented several Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at the United Nations. Formerly, 2005-2006, I served with distinction as the CEO of the World Harmony Foundation, a non-profit whose foundation was influenced heavily by Marcus Aurelius (Bill Clinton’s favorite philosopher) and Confucius.

I have always enjoyed listening to Bill Clinton, he is articulate and usually seems more informed than one would think on very complex issues. His contagious laugh — almost silly at times — really is refreshing.

I have some comments not on what you said but on what you did NOT say. Concerning the Clinton Global Initiative, really a great idea, but I see the same types of problems facing it as faced the State of the World Forum.

When I was asked to invite NGOs to a “forum within the forum”, Future Visions, a number of years ago, it was to INCLUDE those who have a vision of the “architecture” of a new civil society.

Future Visions was not a free ride — it was DRASTICALLY reduced in cost ($250/person) for about 200 NGOs who were field-based and/or visionary in their view of the world.

What will happen, in my view, with the Clinton Global Initiative, will be the same thing. Criticism that the forum costs enormous amounts of money for most NGOs and ignores bringing in the voices from around the world who are doing great things.

Even the Davos meeting has the Schwab Foundation supporting the participation of “entrepreneurs” from around the world.

Was there any mention at the dinner of HOW the Clinton Global Initiative is working in this interim period to include, at least for some cost so that it is not totally free, genuinely significant voices who can help to implement the ideas developed within the initiative?

Many thanks, Richard Jordan – Intl. Council for Caring Communities

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Martín Varsavsky on March 17, 2006  · 

No, sorry Richard. That matter was not mentioned nor where many others, but it is a valid issue and you should raise it with the CGI management team.


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Richard Jordan on March 18, 2006  · 

Thank you, Martin — the reason that I inquired was simply to benefit from your guidance and to ensure that the Initiative will transcend the initiatives that have preceded it.

I shall send off a note — would you prefer that I do not mention your suggestion? My paralegal background says “Always consult before doing anything!” Much obliged, Richard

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GreenGOP on April 18, 2006  · 

Bill Clinton most admired man in the world? What are your standards I wonder. Is adultery, having sex with interns, using cigars to pleasure women, all pluses in your book? Need substantive policy issues? How about his failure to respond to 5 terrorist attacks against the US and its interests during his presidency, giving Al Queda the time and confidence to plan and carry out 9/11. It amazes me that intelligent people can be so hypnotized by his ‘charisma’ that cum-stained dresses and failing to protect America are overlooked.

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Martín Varsavsky on April 18, 2006  · 


In Europe, were I live, we really don´t care about people engaged in consentual sex. We do worry, instead, about people who bring this up for political reasons. Concerning terrorism, when Clinton was President Al Qaeda had members in the hundreds now thanks to the policies of the Bush administration. Al Qaeda recruiters are having more terrorist candidates than Ivy League schools. Moreover, since President Bush is president we now have North Korea and soon Iran with nuclear weapons. Is the world a safer place now?


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