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Gorbachev praises Bush's father and Clintons

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said that he much preferred the first President Bush to his son. Gorbachev, in an interview on Bloomberg TV's “Political Capital with Al Hunt” scheduled to air this weekend, also criticized one likely presidential contender, Arizona Republican John McCain, while praising another, New York Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton. Gorbachev expressed sharply contrasting views of the first and second Bush presidencies. He called the younger Bush a leader “who has a difference from his own father and from other presidents.” Gorbachev said of the current president Bush: “There are some people in his entourage who are pushing him to steps that create tensions and problems.” “Sometimes, despite the pressures he is under, President Bush I think acts prudently, sometimes he doesn't,” Gorbachev said. “And when he doesn't do well, that is something that is not good.” Gorbachev seemed more positive toward George W. Bush's secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. As a diplomat, Rice “has become a very important figure, but she is being tested,” he noted. Still, Gorbachev made clear that he preferred the era of glasnost, when US-Russian relations were thawing and all things seemed possible. `The best relationship that I had with American leaders,” he recalled, “was with George Bush Sr.” Gorbachev criticized Republican McCain as too strident. Though he is himself an occasional critic of the current Russian regime, he said McCain's recent critique of the Russian leader Vladimir Putin's policies was “wrong” and “inappropriate.”

McCain urged President Bush to boycott last month's Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg, Russia to express displeasure with Putin. He accused Putin's government of backtracking on human rights and aggressively centralizing power in the Kremlin. In a May 7 interview on the CBS “Face the Nation” public-affairs program, McCain said that under Putin, “there has been a steady retrogression and a sort of an effort to restore the old Soviet empire. The relationship between these oligarchs and the government are now indistinguishable.” Gorbachev doesn't consider McCain's jawboning helpful. “Until recently I have regarded him as a very substantial person and politician, but I think that perhaps he has started his presidential campaign a little early and he's trying to score points,” he said in the Bloomberg interview. He called the senator's remarks “hawkish,” though he still considers McCain “a serious person and political figure.”

The former Russian leader had no such reservations about the Clintons -- former president Bill and wife Hillary. Gorbachev revealed that he occasionally confers via telephone with Mrs. Clinton. “She is a great woman,” he said. “And she has some legitimate ambitions.” Gorbachev called Bill Clinton “an intelligent person.” Still, he said, “there was a lot of tension during his presidency.” Gorbachev said there are a number of projects in, which he and the former US leader are involved and that he especially admires Clinton's initiative for fighting global poverty. “In foreign policy he perhaps lacked the time to sort things out fully,” Gorbachev said, adding that he considers Clinton a “very effective” statesman. “He is doing a great deal in his country and also for the world.” (Bloomberg)