Two presidents for the price of one. That’s a good deal, as President Obama put it as he and Bill Clinton teamed up for the first time for his reelection effort Sunday.
Four years ago at this time, Clinton was still campaigning hard against Obama on his wife’s behalf in the Democratic primaries. But the political reconciliation was quick once Obama emerged as the nominee and even more so when he won the White House, as was on display Sunday night.
The two Democratic presidents showered each other with praise. Obama hailed Clinton’s stewardship of the country for eight years, his sharp political instincts in steering the Democratic Party’s focus to the everyday concerns of the middle class, and his skills as a “master communicator.”
And, 20 years after he ran an “It’s the economy, stupid” campaign against an incumbent president, Clinton focused his remarks almost entirely on the economy, laying out directly how, in his view, Obama has taken an economy in a state of collapse to a point where the country is now “beating the clock” in terms of recovery.
“Look, the man’s not Houdini. All he can do is beat the clock,” Clinton said, according to a transcript of the two presidents’ remarks at a fundraiser that was closed to all but a few pool reporters.
Speaking at the northern Virginia home of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, Clinton explained that he’s spent a lot of time studying economics of late.
“My wife has a traveling job, so I’m home alone a lot. And I have more time to read this stuff than most people,” he joked.
And typically, Clinton said, it takes as long as a decade for a nation’s economy to recover from the kind of problem the United States faced in 2008.
“He’s beating the clock, not behind it. Don’t listen to those Republicans,” he said.
The name Mitt Romney was never mentioned by either Democrat. But both took shots at the presumptive Republican nominee.
Clinton said that Romney’s economic plan would be “to do what they did before, on steroids.” That would “get you the same consequences you got before, on steroids,” he said.
Obama’s most direct jab against Romney was on the subject of foreign policy, a topic the White House and his campaign are hitting especially hard this week, on the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Obama began by noting the partnership he now had with Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state, on “cleaning up after other folks’ messes” around the world.
“And by the way ... we’re starting to get them pretty cleaned up,” he said, noting the end of the war in Iraq, a “transitioning” Afghanistan and renewed U.S. alliances.
“And Al Qaeda is on the ropes,” he said. “But when you’ve got the leading contender, the presumptive nominee, on the other side suddenly saying our No. 1 enemy isn’t Al Qaeda, it’s Russia ... I’m suddenly thinking what -- maybe I didn’t check the calendar this morning. I didn’t know we were back in 1975.”
Clinton and Obama are set to do at least two more fundraising appearances together, likely in New York and the Los Angeles area. Sunday night’s event, which included a reception and separate dinner, was to add about $2 million to the campaign’s coffers.
Clinton’s camp has said he’ll probably also do a number of solo appearances on the president’s behalf.