AP Photos LRM101-102

LITTLE ROCK (AP) – Former President Bill Clinton said Saturday that, if he returns to the White House in 2008 because his wife becomes president, his role would be to “do whatever she wants” because that’s what a good citizen would do.

Clinton said he didn’t know if U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democrat from New York seeking re-election this year, would run for president in two years as some have speculated, but he predicted a woman could win the most powerful office in the world.

Asked at an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention what his role would be if his wife were elected, the former two-term president said, “I’ll do whatever she wants, and I have no idea what that is. I honestly don’t know whether she’s going to run.”

Clinton said he believes his wife would make a good president and has been a better senator than he expected she would be, becoming knowledgeable about national security, commerce, political relationships, and other issues.

“The idea of her being polarizing is a lot of baloney,” he said, referring to a popular image that also was tagged onto his presidency.

He told his left-leaning audience of about 500 journalists to consider opposing views and appreciate the value of working with people who differ with them. He urged them not to turn public figures into “two-dimensional cartoons.”

While he doesn’t agree with much of the Bush administration policies, Clinton said, he has come to understand President Bush better. Clinton said Bush has “an intuitive intelligence,” provoking laughter from the audience. But Clinton said he meant that seriously.

What concerns him more, he said, is a particular strain of the Republican Party that he said has gotten control in Washington. Reminding his audience that he grew up in the South as a native of Arkansas, Clinton said right-wing ideologues and “ultra-conservative, white Southerners” have “demonized” those who think differently from them.

Their “divisive” approach has made it more difficult to make substantive change, he said.

“My problem is I don’t think this way of doing politics and making policy is good for America,” he said. “We’ve got to find ways to get back to evidence-based politics.”

Government has become more secretive while the level of discourse over such issues as gay marriage, immigration, and the war in Iraq has become more heated.

He said global interdependence, the Internet, and the proliferation of nongovernmental organizations means ordinary citizens feel the effects of and have more impact on developments worldwide.

After the tsunami, for example, Americans donated $1.2 billion for relief efforts, much of that by Internet, he said. And estimates that oil supplies will run dry in 35 to 50 years underscore this interdependence and the need to find other ways besides war to meet the country’s needs, he added.

“You have to make a world with more partners and fewer terrorists,” he said. “And we know how to do that.”

AP-ES-06-17-06 1926EDT

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