Clinton said he wasn't ready to call Obama a 'great man'. (CNN)– Former President Bill Clinton was hesitant to characterize Barack Obama as a "great man" Sunday, a phrase he had no qualms using last week to describe Obama's rival John McCain. Clinton told NBC's Tom Brokaw that it was only earlier this month in Harlem that he and Obama had their "first conversation." He said he had spoken with Obama before, but only in passing. Clinton then explained what he meant in characterizing McCain as a "great man." "I think his greatness is that he keeps trying to come back to service without ever asking people to cut him any slack or feel sorry for him or any of that stuff because he was a POW," Clinton said of the Republican presidential nominee. Clinton, who successfully ran his own 1992 presidential campaign on the now commonly used phrase "it's the economy, stupid," said that he believed the current economic crisis "left [Obama] in a position of leadership that he's now in." Clinton said he thought Obama "saw and imagined" how the economic situation could develop. "And I think that the rest of us should admire that. That's a big part of leadership, being able to sense, as well as see the future," he said.