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In a wide-ranging interview with CNBC’s Becky Quick at the Clinton Global Initiative, former president Bill Clinton endorsed the Obama administration’s decision to bomb Islamic State encampments in Syria today. Clinton said “an extended involvement with air power, intelligence, and other institutional support to the people fighting ISIS” has “a chance to succeed” without sending American troops into “a land war.” But, he added, the conflict “will be going on a while.”

For President Obama’s strategy to succeed, however, both Iraq and Syria “need more inclusive governments” that are “more like Lebanon, of all places.” He compared Obama’s strategy to the “surge” in Iraq, which worked, according to Clinton, because Sunni tribal leaders “fought for the integrity of their country.” But when Quick asked how President Obama should deal with the Syrian regime, Clinton laughingly demurred, “That’s above my pay grade.”

Recalling the rapid growth in median income during his own administration, Quick asked the former president why most families have seen their incomes stagnate during the current recovery, despite a booming stock market: “What is missing?”

Clinton instantly responded, “We haven’t raised the minimum wage. I hope we will.” He went on to say that the U.S. economy needs a different mix of jobs, with new sources of employment that offer higher wages than today’s median. American companies, he said, should start spending more on employee compensation and less on stock buybacks and other corporate financial gimmicks. He noted the Market Basket controversy in New England, where the owners were forced to rehire a CEO who had focused on employee and customer satisfaction rather than stock prices. “The customers loved it, so they had to bring him back.” He predicted that more and more corporations would eventually behave as if employees, customers, and communities matter more, “because of proof that markets work better that way.”

President Obama is scheduled to address the CGI luncheon meeting this afternoon.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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