Obama seeks help, Clinton (Bill) to the rescue?

July 14, 2010

In the latest twist in the Obama-Clinton family drama, the current president has enlisted the past president to help shore up sagging confidence in his economic leadership and repair his tattered relationship with business.  OBAMA/

Barack Obama has asked Clinton to come to his meeting with business leaders today to discuss job creation and investment. That is a day after he also enlisted the help of long-time Clintonista Jack Lew to be his budget director after he presided over surpluses during Bill’s tenure.

It is quite a transformation in the Obama-Clinton relationship, from bitter foe with a dash of alpha male rivalry during the primaries (when the other Clinton was running for president), to rock solid partners in the Democratic cause.

Last year it sometimes seemed as though Obama was determined to be everything Clinton wasn’t as a president, and, even though he never publicly admitted it, was certainly determined to learn from Clinton’s mistakes on healthcare.

Now he seems to want to draw some positive lessons from the Clinton years, even adopting a bit of Clintonomics to avoid being seen as an anti-business liberal.

In one sense it is a mark of  the rough waters Obama has to navigate as he finds himself  increasingly at loggerheads with business groups led by the Chamber of Commerce, and with confidence in his economic leadership at a new low.

The president poached Lew from Hillary’s State Department, and in her parting remarks, the Secretary of State underlined just how much the president and country needed Lew’s leadership — and a bit of Clinton-era magic.

OBAMA/“His prior experience in the Clinton Administration helping to take America’s budget from deficit to surplus makes him uniquely prepared to lead at this time,” she said.

In the end, Obama knows very well he has to keep the center if he wants his party to avoid embarassment in November’s elections. If that means swallowing a bit of pride and getting pally with Bill, so be it.

In the worst case scenario for the Democrats, the president would have to learn the hardest lesson of all from Clinton, how to govern with a Republican-dominated Congress.

Then again, some people think a good dose of bipartisanship brings out the best in government.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama and Clinton at memorial service for Senator Byrd), Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative Sept. 22, 2009)

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