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Sunday, December 11, 2016

For Mitt Romney, the president’s greatest vulnerability seems to be that Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton — and he is seeking to exploit that perception in his public speeches attacking the incumbent. On Tuesday, the presumptive GOP nominee drew the contrast for an audience in Iowa, harking back to a famous Clinton speech in 1996.

“Almost a generation ago,” said Romney, “Bill Clinton announced that the era of big government was over. Even a former George McGovern campaign worker, like President Clinton, was signaling to his own party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem. President Obama tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas, along with transparency and bipartisanship.”

It was boilerplate Republican rhetoric — and didn’t accurately reflect Clinton’s record or views. He has spoken out strongly against austerity in recent months and wrote a book last year calling for more and smarter public investment that sharply criticized the Tea Party anti-government ideologues to whom Republicans like Romney constantly pander.

But then Romney took the snark a bit further, as Nia-Malika Henderson noted in the Washington Post, when he insinuated that the president is still feuding with his Democratic predecessor.

“It’s enough to make you wonder if maybe it was a personal beef with the Clintons,” said Romney.  “Probably, it runs much deeper than that.”

So far Clinton hasn’t taken this bait, declining to respond directly even as he campaigns around the country in selected Democratic primaries. But a spokesman indicated that anyone wishing to understand the former president’s  attitude toward Obama — and Romney — might consult a speech he delivered more recently than 1996. Specifically, his remarks at an April 29 fundraiser for Obama hosted by close Clinton friend Terry McAuliffe at the former Democratic Party chair’s home in McLean, VA where he left no space for misinterpretation about his opinion of the man standing next to him:

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