Bill Clinton Talks Dictators, Democracy, and Voter Suppression While Avoiding Bashing Trump Directly on Conan

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During Conan O’Brien’s busy week at New York’s Apollo Theater, the 42nd president of the United States, and almost–First Man, Bill Clinton stopped by to talk politics. Though the Democratic Party’s big win on Tuesday was on his mind, Clinton wasn’t ready to celebrate. He had some big-picture ideas he wanted to share about immigrants, and income inequality and its effect on the electorate. While he mostly stuck to his vision for a Democratic agenda, he did have a word of warning about dictators. Clinton said, “[Dictators] want two things: Nuclear weapons, because they feel like they can never be dislodged no matter how much people hate them if they’ve got nuclear power. And they want to abolish the line between fact and fiction and truth and lie. Because they figure if you don’t know what’s true, and you don’t think you can ever know that, pretty soon everybody will accept the fact that democracy is no longer possible.”

Conan, after a beat, responded by asking, “Are you talking about foreign countries or here? Because that chilled me to the bone for a second.” Clinton, tellingly, didn’t answer the question — a similar tactic to the one used previously by his presidential successors George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who both bashed Trump without saying his name. “You just said a lot by saying nothing,” O’Brien observed. Clinton responded obliquely by steering the conversation to voter-suppression tactics.

Bill Clinton Talks Dictators, Democracy, and Trump on Conan