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The Clinton administration, brought to you by Barack Obama

The current president is the one on the left.
The current president is the one on the left. (Mandel Ngan/agence France-presse Via Getty Images)
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By Dana Milbank
Thursday, July 15, 2010

Michelle Obama visited the Florida Panhandle this week to urge Americans to vacation on the oil-threatened Gulf Coast. "This is a time to remind America that some of the best beaches in the world are here, and this is probably the best time for people to bring their kids down," she said.

Their kids, but not her kids. At the time the first lady made that plea, she and her husband had already made plans -- not yet announced -- to take their August vacation someplace far from the disaster area: on Martha's Vineyard, the playground of Bill Clinton during his presidency.

This has become the MO of the Obama administration: Say one thing, but do the Clinton thing.

This week alone, President Obama has taken several steps to implement Bill Clinton's third term. On Tuesday, Obama named Jack Lew, Clinton's budget director, to be his own budget director -- joining an administration led by Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers and dozens of other former Clinton aides.

Later Tuesday, Obama unveiled his HIV/AIDS strategy at the White House with his global AIDS coordinator, Clinton administration veteran Eric Goosby. And on Capitol Hill, the Senate Judiciary Committee set a date for a vote next week on Obama's Supreme Court nominee -- former Clinton official Elena Kagan.

On Wednesday, representing the Obama administration on Capitol Hill at a hearing about Afghanistan was Richard Holbrooke, a prominent Clinton adviser. Obama, over at the White House, had an afternoon full of Clintons: a sit-down in the Oval Office at 5 p.m. with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, preceded by a meeting in the Roosevelt Room with Bill Clinton himself on "new ways to create jobs."

As Hillary Clinton liked to taunt Obama during their presidential primary fight: That's not change. That's more of the same.

The various signs of a Clinton restoration, particularly the return to the White House by the 42nd president, invited an unwelcome story line about Obama: that the young president, struggling in the polls and bedeviled by a worse-than-expected economy, had decided to bring back the grown-ups.

"Why is the administration turning to Bill Clinton?" White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked at a briefing. "Is that a reflection of the fact that he's seen as having better relations with business and more moderate economic policies?"

"No, no," Gibbs protested.

Good luck convincing the world of that. "Obama enlists Bill Clinton's aid on economy," proclaimed the Reuters headline. "White House taps Bill Clinton to help ease business concerns," judged the Los Angeles Times. "Obama looks to Bill Clinton for help on jobs," contributed the Daily Caller.

Obama, for all his words about bringing a new beginning to Washington, has from the beginning staffed his administration with Clintonistas: Eric Holder, Leon Panetta, Carol Browner, George Mitchell, Greg Craig, Jim Steinberg, Lanny Breuer, Tom Donilon, Gene Sperling, Bill Lynn, Ron Klain, and scores more in the State, Justice and Defense departments and elsewhere in the executive branch.


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