In 2005, President Clinton founded the Clinton Global Initiative to address "the world's most pressing challenges." In 2011 in Chicago, Clinton hosted the CGI America meeting, with a focus on job creation and economic growth in the U.S.
And because there's no possible segue from such important work to a show as silly as ours, we'll just come right out and say it: We decided to quiz the former president and Rhodes scholar about the My Little Pony show. The famously well-informed leader answers three questions about Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle.
Originally broadcast June 25, 2011
Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.
CARL KASELL: One of the most popular interviews we did in the last year was with President Bill Clinton.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Did that really happen?
KASELL: Yes, Peter. In fact, we were only able to broadcast a small part of our interview. So here's our extended version of our visit with the former president. He'd joined us in June of 2011, along with panelists Maz Jobrani, Jessi Klein and Tom Bodett.
SAGAL: Very excited to have you, sir. I have to ask, first of all, have you ever actually heard our show?
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: No.
SAGAL: That is so totally the answer I wanted.
CLINTON: I have to be honest.
SAGAL: No, that's fine. I just want you to know that we've treated you with the utmost respect.
CLINTON: So you hope I enjoyed it while it lasted.
SAGAL: I do, I do. No, no, just trust me on that.
Well, actually I'm curious about your life these days. Can I ask you in general, what is more fun: being president or being ex-president?
CLINTON: I guess in terms of raw fun, I've never had any more fun in my life, I love this. But I loved being president too. Even the bad days were good. When you're president, you have more power to help more people, but you also are the prisoner of circumstances as well, and countervailing political forces more.
CLINTON: When you're a former president, you have much less power, but you have a lifetime of experience and contacts and if you've got the energy, you can bring influence to bear on a small but still fairly substantial number of things where you can concentrate on it because you don't have to change the subject when you wake up in the morning and there's something else in the newspaper.
SAGAL: I've noticed you haven't mentioned the advantages of having an army though.
SAGAL: I mean you see some problem...
CLINTON: Well, an army?
SAGAL: Yeah, an army.
CLINTON: An army, a movie theater, a weekend retreat.
CLINTON: A helicopter, a jet airplane and they always play a song when you walk in a room.
CLINTON: The worst thing about not being president anymore is I was disoriented for three weeks because nobody every played a song when I walked in.
CLINTON: I never knew where I was.
SAGAL: Mrs. Clinton didn't like just hum something for you just to ease the transition.
CLINTON: Well, you know, by the time I left office, she was a senator.
CLINTON: And then...
SAGAL: So you had to get an appointment to see her.
CLINTON: My major political identity has been as her spouse for the last decade and I like it that way too.
SAGAL: Did she have to give you a little lesson as you made that transition in standing to the side and gazing adoringly?
CLINTON: No, actually I sort of knew how to do that because...
CLINTON: Because I had observed it in other pictures.
SAGAL: I understand. I mean you're flying all over the world with the Clinton Global Initiative. She's flying all over the world as the secretary of state. I only imagine when you guys want to have a date night it must involve a week of staff work just to...
CLINTON: No, that's not so bad. But what we try to do is to be home on the weekends. So for example, she went to Montego Bay in Jamaica yesterday, not to vacation but to meet with the Caribbean nations on their problems with Narco trafficking, flew back late last night and got up early this morning...
SAGAL: That's what she told you. I just want to establish...
CLINTON: Yeah, yeah.
SAGAL: That was her story, but go on.
CLINTON: That's her story and she's sticking to it.
CLINTON: Then, she testified before the Congress on Libya and Afghanistan. But she's coming home, so we'll get to spend the weekend together.
We really try to carve out those weekends. You know, we take long walks and go to movies. And lots of times, I just want her to rest, you know, because it's a - we're not spring chickens anymore so it's a pretty good lick on your body if you go to all the countries she's been to and do all the work she does?
MAZ JOBRANI: Do you guys Skype?
CLINTON: Do we what? No.
SAGAL: You don't like text to each other.
CLINTON: No. Well that's not quite true. We send texts when she's overseas or I'm overseas.
SAGAL: YEAH. That's so cute to imagine you like...
TOM BODETT: BBMing each other.
SAGAL: Yeah, LOL.
CLINTON: Now that I said that, I can't wait for somebody to pull them up.
SAGAL: Yeah, I know.
CLINTON: They'll be boring but endearing I hope.
SAGAL: What do you think of all the comedians? Because you were the butt of some humor back during your presidency. Did you ever pay any attention? Did it ever bother you? Did you enjoy it or did you just not care?
CLINTON: Oh yeah, no I thought a lot of the "Saturday Night Live" guys were great.
SAGAL: Oh, you enjoyed that.
CLINTON: Oh yeah. Those skits, they were funny on my predecessor. They were funny on me. And the guys they had play me were good. Actually, a time or two, we had Phil Hartman came to Washington and did one of those press dinners with me once and we, you know, pretended. We took turns being me.
SAGAL: Who was a better you, him or you?
CLINTON: That night, I think he was a better me than I was. I was a little off my feed that night.
BODETT: Mr. President, this is Tom. I'm the chairman of our local select board out in Vermont. So, you know, we have a lot in common.
BODETT: And I just had a quick governing question for you. You know, when you were governor and then president, you know, you had to make the hard decisions where, you know, sometimes you had to, like, you know, cut the transportation budget, even if you didn't want to. And my question is when you did that, like how did you keep the road crew from running over your mailbox the next day?
CLINTON: Well, you know, it was interesting - that's a funny question but there is a serious answer.
CLINTON: I mean, I think that the main thing is you got to try to get everybody together and they have to see the same numbers you do.
SAGAL: Well, we have a game to play with you, but I got one more question for you, because I haven't talked to a president before. So what happened at Roswell and who killed JFK?
CLINTON: Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe the Warren Commission report was correct.
SAGAL: That's disappointing.
CLINTON: And we actually celebrated the anniversary of Roswell when I was president.
SAGAL: With the aliens?
CLINTON: No. That's what I said. Most people thought, because of that movie, that the alien had been moved to Area 54 in Nevada.
CLINTON: Do you remember that?
SAGAL: I do, yeah.
CLINTON: So that's one guy said, they moved the aliens from Roswell to Area 54 in Nevada. The answer is no on both counts.
CLINTON: But all I can tell you is this.
CLINTON: I'm not sure there's not life somewhere in outer space. What do I know? And I know that the Hubble telescope identified a planet in the constellation Libra, several light years outside our own solar system that seems to be far enough away from its sun that it might be enough like earth to support life. But I read everything I could get my hands on, on Roswell, and nothing I read persuaded me that it was an alien sighting or landing.
SAGAL: Maybe they were keeping it from you. I'm just suggesting.
CLINTON: Yeah, they could have. Lord knows what they keep from you, but I hope not.
JOBRANI: Sir, this is Maz.
CLINTON: Go ahead.
JOBRANI: I'm sorry. This is Maz. I have one question for you, too. When you went to North Korea with Kim Jong-Il.
JOBRANI: He requested you. What did he say? Did he just want like a Facebook...
SAGAL: Just to set this up, this was back in 2009. There had been some journalists taken prisoner, in essence. And they asked for President Clinton to go over there and bring them back. And he did so, and they released them to you and you brought them home.
JOBRANI: Yeah, so I'm just curious what he said. Because he requested you specifically, right? Did he just want like a Facebook picture or something? Or what was...
No, I think part of it was he thought it would be prestigious if I came and did that. And, you know, I'm a former president and my wife is the secretary of state and all of that. And part of it is the North Koreans have a pattern of doing something that drives us crazy when we forget about them.
SAGAL: It's interesting to think of North Korea as basically my 8-year-old daughter with a nuclear weapon.
SAGAL: President Clinton...
CLINTON: But that should give you hope because...
CLINTON: It means that your 8-year-old daughter can be taught not to use a nuclear weapon.
SAGAL: That's true. You can reason with them.
CLINTON: You're 8-year-old daughter can be educated to the fact that if she used a nuclear weapon, she might be one of the victims.
SAGAL: That's true. I might need to...
CLINTON: It's a no-brainer. We just got to keep working on it.
SAGAL: I might need to call you in and have you intervene in the next crisis at home.
SAGAL: Well, Mr. President, we are delighted to have you with us, but we do want to play a game with you and today we're calling...
CLINTON: This is the part where you make me look like a fool, right?
SAGAL: No, sir.
SAGAL: The farthest thing from our minds. All right, we have invited you here to play a game we're calling?
KASELL: Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle.
SAGAL: So you're a former president, you're a Rhodes Scholar, you're famously well informed. What could we be sure that an accomplished person like you would know nothing about? And then the answer came to us: the TV show "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic."
SAGAL: Answer three questions, or answer two out of three questions about the wonderful world of "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" and you win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who is President Clinton playing for?
KASELL: The President is playing for Dave Parks of Chico, California.
CLINTON: Poor Dave.
SAGAL: Poor Dave, I know.
SAGAL: So here we go. You ready to do this? One of the current My Little Ponys is Rarity. That is her name, Rarity. What is her particular enthusiasm? A: she loves her little line of toys called My Even Tinier Ponies?
SAGAL: B: giving other ponies makeovers? Or C: eating paste?
CLINTON: Eating what?
SAGAL: Eating paste, sir, Mr. President.
SAGAL: P-A-S-T-E, paste, sir.
SAGAL: Yes, giving other ponies makeovers. Yes, that is in fact Rarity's...
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Big enthusiasm. Very fashion conscious, our Rarity is. All right, when ponies in Equestria discover their true talents in life, they earn something. What? A tattoo on their flank, known as a cutie mark? B: a title, such as Fluttershy the Inventive? Or C: the right to mate?
SAGAL: A. You're going to go for A, a tattoo known as the cutie mark? Oh, you're right, sir.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
JESSI KLEIN: I have to say I think it's probably fair to say this is the highest stake situation President Clinton has ever been in.
SAGAL: I think so.
KLEIN: In his entire life.
SAGAL: And he's doing so well.
KLEIN: He's killing it.
SAGAL: I'm sorry. I just like some day...
CLINTON: Show you that I'm a kid at heart.
SAGAL: That's true. All right, well let's see if you can be perfect. The ponies' most powerful enemy is which of these? A: Krastos the Glue Maker?
CLINTON: If he's not, he ought to be.
SAGAL: Yeah, I know. B: the evil pony Nightmare Moon? Or C: the cynical grownup, Chester?
SAGAL: B, you're going to go for the evil pony Nightmare Moon. You're right, Mr. President.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Nightmare Moon is released in the opening episode from the prison where she's been held for a thousand years, and is only defeated by the ponies working together, and then they have a party.
SAGAL: Carl, how did President Clinton do on our quiz?
KASELL: President Clinton wins again, Peter.
SAGAL: Oh my gosh.
KASELL: He had three correct answers. So the President wins for Dave Parks.
SAGAL: Another victory for you, sir. You've done so much: been elected twice, governor of Arkansas, the youngest governor ever. How does this stack up?
CLINTON: It's right up there.
SAGAL: All right.
SAGAL: President Clinton, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SAGAL: This is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.