Bill blasts 'political mess' by W
By JOEL SIEGEL
DAILY NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT
Former President Bill Clinton double-dissed President Bush last night, saying his successor in the White House has bungled handling the U.S. economy and the crisis over Iraq.
Clinton, who drew standing ovations from a packed auditorium at the 92nd Street Y on the upper East Side, criticized the administration's economic policies as "wrongheaded" and getting worse.
He said the 2001 tax cut turned the surplus he left into a "massive deficit" that he predicted eventually will drive up interest rates and create problems paying for Medicare and Social Security.
"And now they want to give another tax cut," he told the audience of more than 1,000. "It doesn't make sense. We shouldn't do it now. It's against arithmetic."
Asked what would have happened if he was still President or if Al Gore had taken the White House, Clinton said that the economy would have slowed, but added: "Would it have been as bad as it is now? I don't think so."
On the issue of Iraq, Clinton said he supports booting dictator Saddam Hussein out of Baghdad and destroying his weapons, but he said Bush has made it more difficult to line up international cooperation for a possible war.
Right after winning UN Security Council support in November for weapons inspections, the White House "sent 150,000 troops to the gulf, which convinced everybody we weren't serious about UN inspections. That's how we got into this political mess."
The U.S. should be strengthening the UN and other "mechanisms of cooperation," Clinton said. "We need to be creating a world that we would like to live in when we're not the biggest power on the block."
Originally published on March 14, 2003