April 18, 2010; Real Clear Politics | Public attention to former President Bill Clinton’s interviews and speeches the past couple of days focused on his insights concerning historical parallels with the “Tea Party” movement, garnering an over-the-top reaction from Rush Limbaugh. We were more interested in Clinton’s comments on “This Week” with Jake Tapper relating to philanthropy. Here is the former president in his own words:

  • On the third gathering of the Clinton Global Initiative University: “Well what we did is to try to construct a college version of the Clinton Global Initiative…to create a network where these students could learn from each other and all make very specific commitments to make changes . . . [W]e’re trying to increase the number of people engaged in service. We’re trying to increase the sophistication of their projects. And we’re trying to create a forum in which what they do will influence every campus in America so that more and more young people will be involved.”
  • On corporate philanthropy: “If you look at Pfizer, it’s a good example. People who have Tuberculosis and AIDS are very ill. The traditional Tuberculosis treatment combined with the AIDS drugs makes them so sick they can’t function. Pfizer is the only company in the world with a drug that allows them to function normally. So I said to them, ‘Why are you becoming our first big pharmaceutical partner? Why are you giving me this 60 percent reduction?’ And the president said, ‘Because I realize that by fighting the generic trend to lower drug cost, we were trying to get a huge percentage of only 15 percent of the population of the world. I decided we should go to the other 85 percent.’ I just asked them to change their business model . . . [Y]ou have to find ways to argue that in the end, being philanthropic, being large-minded, being compassionate is also, in an interdependent world, good economics.”
  • On Clinton’s Global Health Initiative’s “no corruption rule”: “Rampant corruption normally accompanies incapacity . . . [W]hat I would advise . . . is just to say that in their projects, whatever their project is, there can be no corruption. You change the world a step at a time. We have a responsibility to make sure all the donors money goes from their pockets to the intended object without corruption.”

Whatever you think of his eight-year presidency, he is truly committed to being a philanthropist.—Rick Cohen