Tea party activists have unwittingly become "pawns" to corporate interests who want to undermine the government, former President Bill Clinton said Thursday.
In the first of a series of interviews he's conducting to promote his annual Clinton Global Initiative summit, Clinton also had advice for his fellow Democrats ahead of an election where the party is expected to suffer major losses.
"I don't believe in talking down to people and I don't believe in bumper stickers," he said," he said on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." "What the American people crave more than anything else is somebody just explaining things and talking sense to them and saying here is how we're going to get out of this mess."
More than anything, the 42nd president of the United States also said his party needs to plead for patience, saying that two years of controlling both Congress and the White House was not enough to emerge from a historic economic crisis.
"We didn't get you out of this hole, and we're sick about it and we don't mind you being mad. But it was a $3 trillion hole, and that $800 billion stimulus – only a third of which went to create jobs – was not enough to get us out of this hole," he said Democratic candidates should say. "But we're going in the right direction. Just give us two years – you gave [ Republicans] a lot more than that. If it's better you can re-elect us, if not you can throw us out. But don't make a U-turn. Don't start digging again."
Clinton said he understands the unease that has drawn many to the tea party movement, a political force that has particularly roiled Republican primaries this year.
"They think the little guy gets the shaft, and that's largely been true. But they are pawns in a larger game," he said. "[The Boston tea party] was a protest against abuse of government power. The people that are funding this tea party are trying to weaken the government at a moment where people are queasy about the government because there was nobody else to step in when the economy was flat, so they can have unaccountable private power."
Clinton said he thinks President Obama has been executing the right strategy to help Democrats this November by focusing on raising money and heading to states where his popularity is still strong. Clinton conceded that he wasn't successful in his role supporting Democrats ahead of the 1994 elections in his first term, and saw parallels between then and now.
"We had a different problem. At that time, Newt Gingrich had come out with his Contract on America – or Contract for America, as he called it. And our guys didn't do that," he said. "We had a version of what he's facing now, which is, that we had done things that were bringing the economy back, but no one felt it yet. And that's true here on steroids."
The Clinton Global Initiative, now in its sixth year, kicks off Monday in New York to coincide with the annual United Nations General Assembly. First Lady Michelle Obama will speak at the closing plenary session next week.
Clinton says that since its founding in 2005, CGO members have made more than 1,700 commitments valued at $57 billion, improving the lives of 220 million people in more than 170 countries.
Among other appearances the former president plans are on NBC's "Meet The Press" and CBS' "The Late Show with David Letterman."
Also on Thursday's show, Stewart announced he would hold a "Restore Sanity" rally on Washington's National Mall on Oct. 30, calling it the equivalent of a "Million Moderate March." Fellow Comedy Central personality Stephen Colbert also plans a "March to Keep Fear Alive" event on the same day.