Clinton wishes he had left White House "in a coffin"

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton looks towards the audience during the Clinton Global Initiative in New York September 25, 2009. REUTERS/Chip East

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said on Monday he would have preferred to leave the White House in a coffin because he loved being commander in chief, but signaled his political life was over.

“It’s good that we have a (term) limit. Otherwise I would have stayed until I was carried away in a coffin. Or defeated in an election,” Clinton said at a conference in Istanbul. “I loved doing the job.”

Clinton won two terms in office, the maximum under the constitution, and served from 1993 to 2001. His wife Hillary Clinton is now U.S. Secretary of State under President Barack Obama after losing the Democratic primary to him in 2008.

Clinton said he enjoyed his current position as chairman of the Clinton Global Initiative, which raises funds to address issues ranging from healthcare to poverty to climate change.

But the former president’s surprise visit to North Korea in August to secure the release of two jailed American journalists showed he still wields considerable diplomatic clout -- and stole some of the spotlight from his wife.

“I loved being president, but I like my current life too ... I’ll leave the politics to my wife and to President Obama,” he said.

Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; editing by Myra MacDonald