Obama and Bill Clinton campaign together on economy

MCLEAN, Virginia Mon Apr 30, 2012 11:00am EDT

1 of 2. File photo of U.S. President Barack Obama listening to former U.S. President Bill Clinton speak about the economy in Washington December 2, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

MCLEAN, Virginia (Reuters) - Former President Bill Clinton gave a rousing endorsement of fellow Democrat Barack Obama in his first 2012 campaign appearance with the president on Sunday night, and helped him raise more than $2 million.

A white-haired and svelte Clinton, 65, pounded the podium and pointed at the crowd while addressing about 500 Obama supporters outside the Virginia home of his friend and Democratic adviser Terry McAuliffe.

"I think he's done a good job," he told the crowd in his signature raspy voice, warmly introducing the man who beat his wife, Hillary Clinton, to win the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination and then made her secretary of state. "We are going the right direction under President Obama's leadership."

Clinton's support could be pivotal for Obama's efforts to raise money and to sell voters on his economic plans, which Republicans have denounced as fiscally reckless and rooted in populism instead of good business sense.

Clinton oversaw one of the most prosperous times in recent American history and managed to balance the federal budget, something Democrats are keen to remind voters before the November 6 election.

When he took the backyard podium, Obama, 50, noted Clinton's "remarkable" economic record in his two White House terms and referred frequently to the political powerhouse standing behind him, who stands to be a huge fundraising force in the final months of the presidential campaign.

"I didn't run for president simply to get back to where we were in 2007. I didn't run for president simply to restore the status quo before the financial crisis. I ran for president because we had lost our way since Bill Clinton was done being president," Obama said.

The state of the economy is expected to be the pivotal issue for voters in November.

With unemployment still relatively high and growth showing signs of slowing, Obama is under pressure to defend his string of big budget deficits and prove the soundness of his proposals to keep spending on infrastructure, clean energy and education and to raise taxes on the very rich.

'NOT HOUDINI'

Neither Obama nor Clinton referred to George W. Bush, the Republican who served two presidential terms in between their tenures, nor the presumptive Republican nominee for this year's White House race, Mitt Romney, by name in their outdoor remarks.

But Clinton said Obama's likely White House opponent this year wanted to revert to the policies that plunged the United States into crisis, but "on steroids, which will get you the same consequences as before, on steroids."

Clinton applauded Obama's efforts in healthcare, clean energy promotion and student loan reform, and argued that employment levels were rebounding quickly from the financial and mortgage crises that took hold before Obama took office.

"Look, the man's not Houdini, all he can do is beat the clock. He's beating the clock," he said, comparing the pace of recovery to Japan's extended weakness after its own crisis. "The last thing you want to do is to turn around and embrace the policies that got us into trouble in the first place."

Fresh from the previous night's White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, where he took several digs at Romney, Obama was clearly in good humor at the Virginia event.

Turning to foreign policy, Obama said he and Hillary Clinton had "spent the last three and a half years cleaning up other folks' messes," and made fun of Romney's recent comment that Russia was the United States' "No. 1 geopolitical foe."

"I'm suddenly thinking, 'What? Maybe I didn't check the calendar this morning. I didn't know we were back in 1975,'" he said. The comment echoed Vice President Joe Biden's criticism last week of Romney as being stuck in a Cold War mindset.

Clinton had not appeared with Obama this election cycle. But last week the Obama campaign released a video of Clinton praising Obama for approving the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last May.

Tickets to Sunday's outdoor reception cost $1,000 and up, and Obama and Clinton later addressed a more exclusive dinner at McAuliffe's home for 80 people who paid $20,000 each. The money went to a fund supporting Obama's re-election, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties.

(Editing by Doina Chiacu)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (17)
MarkHathaway wrote:
When Bill Clinton became president the economy was in decent shape. Under him the stock market went up an average of 28% for 8 years (225% total). When Barack Obama became president the economy was in free-fall and yet he has stopped that fall and turned it around. It has now grown about 14% per year (56% in nearly 4 years). Compare that to George W. Bush’s 8 years where it fell 22%.

Unemployment has been the main economic issue and I think we’ve seen in the last several recessions that the economy has changed and with more computerization, self-checkout at retailers, jobs sent overseas and the like that businesses are simply doing without the expense of labor when they can. This time the corporate world is rehiring overseas at a faster rate than at home. Democrats have tried to change some laws which affect that, but Republicans oppose everything.

The vision of the future Presidents Clinton and Obama share is of one where the economy works for everyone, where a rising tide lifts all boats, where government does what needs to be done and tries to avoid wasteful spending (or tax breaks). The policy suggestions from the Republicans, and the Romney campaign in particular, are of lower taxes for the rich (as if they need them), more defense spending (as if we can afford it), possibly war with Iran or even some kind of hostilities with Russia, China and whomever they choose. They also want to cut government spending on many programs the poor and other depend upon. That’s not a vision of America Americans have grown accustomed to in the last few decades. Women don’t want to go back to having no choices in employment or contraception. The public doesn’t want to go back to a cold war mentality and spending. Nobody wants the government debt to remain high forever.

The Democratic vision is the one most closely resembling the “Morning in America” Ronald Reagan’s campaign promoted. It’s the vision the last few Democratic presidents, and the Kennedys, believed. It’s the American Dream.

Apr 29, 2012 9:46pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
flashrooster wrote:
Very nice post, MarkHathaway. Obama may not have brought us the kind of change we were all hoping for, but we have the Republicans to thank for that. On the other hand, Obama has managed to keep this country out of a world of hurt. He’s keeping the dam from collapsing, and if we replace him with Romney, the dam will collapse, and those flood waters will come hard and fast. If Romney wins, we might as well sign the Constitution over to him because what little life that’s left in our democracy will die. We will become a modern day feudal system and only the well-to-do will have a say so in how we are governed. How can money equal free speech? If it were true, speech would no longer be free.

Apr 29, 2012 12:34am EDT  --  Report as abuse
xyz2055 wrote:
How in the world can the Republicans continue to defend the tax breaks (subsidies) given to Big Oil in the 2005 Energy Policy Act? How can the Republicans continue to defend signing a pact with a special interest group (Grover Norquist)? Does anyone else see this as a conflict of their oath of office as I do? How can the Republicans continue to support Defense spending that is 9 times more than China and more than the rest of the world combined when we have trillion dollar deficits? Does any one here believe it’s a good idea to let Wall Street Bankers, Hedge Fund Managers and High Frequency Traders dabble in a commodity that has such a huge impact on our economy (oil)? The Republicans continue to block those parts of Dodd-Frank that would at least limit their trading in the oil commodity market. I continuously hear Republicans refer to the richest in America as the jobs creators. That simply is not true. Jobs are created when ordinary people spend their money on goods and services. If they stop buying those goods and services companies will begin to lay off employees, regardless of what their tax rate is. Medicare needs to be fixed before it runs out of money. Social Security needs to be fixed. But the almost universal mantra of the Republican Party and Mitt Romney today is spend more on Defense, give the rich a bigger tax break and pay for it by cutting domestic programs. If you make less than $1M a year and vote Republican in 2012…you qualify as a moron. Read the bi-partisan Bowles-Simpson Plan commissioned by Obama. It is far superior to the House’s (Paul Ryan’s) “Path to Prosperity”. This is the plan America needs to get our house in order.

Apr 30, 2012 1:14am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.