President Obama and Bill Clinton: BFF?
On Sunday night, President Obama did something that was unimaginable at this time four years ago. He attended a fundraiser featuring former President Bill Clinton held at the Virginia home of longtime Clintonite Terry McAuliffe.
At this time in 2008, the Obamas and the Clintons were barely on speaking terms, engaged in daily rhetorical sniping as they battled for the Democratic presidential nomination.
But, times change. And, of late, Bill Clinton has become a major surrogate and strategist for the reelection campaign of the man he tried so hard to keep from being the Democratic nominee four years ago.
“All roads lead to reelection cooperation,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic consultant. “The Clinton muscle on the campaign trail and no party schism helps Obama. And [it] keeps Bill Clinton’s legacy intact. Madame Secretary never looked better. All this keeps it that way.”
There’s ample evidence of late that both sides see the benefit of working together.
At the McAuliffe fundraiser on Sunday night, the last Democratic president was blunt in his praise of the man who currently holds the job.
“When you become president, your job is to explain where we are, say where you think we should go, have a strategy to get there, and execute it,” Clinton told the assembled Democratic donors. “By that standard, Barack Obama deserves to be reelected president of the United States.”
Clinton’s praise came just 72 hours after the Obama campaign released a Web video narrated by the former president that sought to raise questions about whether former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney would have authorized the attack that led to the death of Osama bin Laden.
And it comes less than a week after a story in Politico detailed how the Obama campaign team seem to be taking Clinton’s advice to cast Romney not as a flip-flopper but instead as a extreme right wing ideologue.
Those close to both men insist that the tensions of 2008 — Clinton felt Obama was running against the legacy he had built, Obama felt that Clinton was playing dirty pool particularly on matters of race — has long been left behind, evidenced by the fact the Bill Clinton was a major surrogate for Obama in 2008 and the president, in turn, appointed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
Even those who acknowledge lingering tensions between the two camps suggest the principals are on far better terms than some of those who worked for (and raised money for) each.
Still, it’s hard not to see political calculation in this renewed prominence of Bill Clinton in the Obama world. They are, after all, politicians.
For Obama, Clinton is not only a savvy strategist but the sort of surrogate who can go into places in the rural areas of the Rust Belt and Plains and be welcomed with open arms.
For Clinton, being viewed as a magnanimous foot soldier in the Obama reelection army helps to further erase any bad memories of the 2008 primary campaign in the collective minds of the party, polishing a personal political legacy he treasures.
And, if you believe that the prospect of Hillary Clinton running for president again in 2016 is at least a possibility (and we do), then Bill Clinton making as nice as possible with Team Obama helps to pave that way. (Remember that after a bitter 2000 primary campaign, John McCain worked hard to reelect President Bush in 2004 — knowing full well that if he was to run again he couldn’t do so at daggers drawn with the last GOP administration.)
Regardless of the reasoning, it’s clear that Obama and Clinton are both fully committed to the task at hand this November. Of the relationship between the two men, one senior Democratic strategist said: “Bill Clinton still remembers and has had his say in primaries where people picked Barack Obama over his wife, but as for the presidency, they both know it’s too important to hand over to Mitt Romney.”
Brown hits Warren over diversity listing: Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is demanding rival Elizabeth Warren (D) apologize for letting Harvard Law School list her as a Native American in the 1990s, when the school was under fire for lack of diversity.
Warren said she learned about the designation from the Boston Herald and could not recall ever using her Native American heritage in a Census form or job application. (Her maternal grandparents have Native American lineage.)
She did list herself as a minority in some professional directories, however, in the 1990s.
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“His position on the bailout was exactly what President Obama followed. I know it infuriates them to hear that,” adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said at a Washington Post panel. “The only economic success that President Obama has had is because he followed Mitt Romney’s advice.”
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