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Clinton on Syria: All I said was ‘I don’t think we should give up on them’

Updated

Former President Bill Clinton is surprised his remarks on Syria during a closed-press event with Sen. John McCain Tuesday have made such a splash.

“I’ve been a little amazed by the coverage of this,” he said on Monday’s Morning Joe. “I just did a little question and answer for Sen. McCain’s institute and the last or next to last question was something about Syria, and I said I didn’t think we should give up on them.”

Politico reported Wednesday that “Bill Clinton splits with President Obama on Syria,” and that the former Democratic president agreed with hawkish Republican Sen. John McCain that the U.S. should take more action to stop the ongoing civil war.

“Some people say, ‘Okay, see what a big mess it is? Stay out!’ I think that’s a big mistake. I agree with you about this,” Clinton said to McCain at a New York event for the McCain Institute for International Leadership. “Sometimes it’s just best to get caught trying, as long as you don’t overcommit — like, as long as you don’t make an improvident commitment.”


The former president maintained that he still believes there should be more U.S. influence in Syria. On Thursday, the Obama administration said it will send arms and other aid to Syrian rebels after confirming that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons on the rebel forces.

“I think that we should support the rebel groups more vigorously,” Clinton continued. “The White House announced that they were going to do that.”

Clinton disputed the idea that was chiding the president for making such a decision in his own time.

“The president, first of all, was entitled to finish his summit with the Chinese president, get this finding, be briefed and they are now exploring their options,” Clinton added.

McCain has been a tough critic of President Barack Obama’s policy on Syria and even recently visited Syria rebel fighters. On Morning Joe last week, he advocated an American intervention.

“It really is very, very dangerous,” he said. “I believe we could still intervene by cruise missiles taking out their air on the runway, providing a safe zone protected by patriot missiles. No boots on the ground, no American aircraft overhead.”

Clinton on Syria: All I said was ‘I don’t think we should give up on them’

Updated