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Former President Clinton supports tax compromise

Increasingly anxious to sell a compromise tax plan, President Obama enlisted former President Clinton for an endorsement of the fragile accord during an unusual joint appearance Friday in the White House briefing room.

Though the meeting between the two leading Democrats was on the schedule, the Q&A before television cameras came with little warning. Standing beside the current president, Clinton called the package a “strong net plus,” and urged skeptical Democrats to come around.

“The agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the largest number of Americans and to maximize the chances that the economic recovery will accelerate and create more jobs and to minimize the chances that it will slip back,” he said.

Clinton came to the White House at the invitation of Obama, who hoped to lean on the 42nd president’s experience at a similar juncture in his presidency.

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“There are very few that you can talk to that have done the job, obviously,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said earlier.

In the 2008 campaign, Clinton was one of Obama’s toughest critics as he challenged his wife for the Democratic nomination. Today, he was nothing but supportive during a more than half-hour visit.

“If I were in office now, I would have done what the president has done,” Clinton said.

Obama left Clinton alone at one point, saying his wife had been waiting for him at a holiday party elsewhere in the White House.

“I feel awkward being here, and now you’re going to leave me all by myself?” Clinton joked.

But Clinton continued taking reporters’ questions, both on the tax debate but also on the political environment in general, the START treaty, and even Haiti, where he has been supporting earthquake recovery efforts.

The cameo came as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with the Democrats, was in the seventh hour of a rare filibuster in opposition to the tax plan.

A reporter noted Clinton’s ease at the podium, particularly as a former and not current president. Clinton could barely hide his joy.

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“I had quite a good time governing. I am happy to be here,” he said.

mmemoli@tribune.com

twitter.com/mikememoli


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