From NBC/NJ's Carrie Dann (see update)
CHARLOTTE, NC -- At a small VFW hall in Charlotte, NC, today, former president Bill Clinton contemplated a McCain/Clinton general election matchup, saying that it would one between "two people who loved this country" without "all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics."
"I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country," said the former president. "And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics."
In the wake of controversy over comments made by Barack Obama's former minister, Clinton's comments could be seen as an effort to draw attention to the issue of patriotism in a state with a high population of veterans.
The former president made the comments to less than 80 audience members at an invite-only event focused on veterans issues. The audience was subdued as Clinton gravely outlined a message of patriotism and honor for military service, The small sea of navy-blue VFW caps nodded along in agreement.
Take away ten of the cameras and fifty degrees Farenheit, and this could have been a John McCain event in Waterloo, Iowa, in November 2007.
The message was different, but the mood was much the same.
Update: Bill Clinton spokesperson Matt McKenna clarifies the former president's comment: "Actually, as is indicated by the quote itself, President Clinton was talking about the need to talk about issues, rather than falsely questioning any candidate's patriotism.
He was lamenting that these kind of distractions 'always seems to intrude' on political campaigns. This consistent with his criticism of the 'politics of personal destruction,' which dates back 16 years."