Clinton retracts default comments after White House intervenes

Former President Bill Clinton retracted comments that the U.S. government could default on its debt for a few days without “calamitous” consequences, after being urged to do so by top White House officials, people familiar with the events said Thursday.

After hearing Mr. Clinton’s comments on Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, spoke with aides to Mr. Clinton and advised that he clarify his thinking, two people said. The former president did so that afternoon.

The White House officials suggested Mr. Clinton’s comments could be used by congressional Republicans, who are resisting the Obama administration’s push to raise the government’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit. Some Republicans have been arguing that allowing the deadline to pass wouldn’t be as catastrophic as the Obama administration has warned…

In the statement, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman, Matt McKenna, said the former president “inadvertently misspoke” and “did not in any way mean to suggest that a default would not be highly damaging for the economy even for a very short period of time.”