Bill Clinton has become an increasingly visible surrogate for President Obama's re-election campaign — but he keeps straying off-message. First, Clinton praised GOP challenger Mitt Romney's "sterling" business career, undercutting Obama's attacks on Romney's Bain Capital years. Then, on CNBC this week, Clinton suggested extending Bush-era tax cuts into early 2013, despite Obama's avowal to end the breaks for the wealthiest Americans when they expire at year's end. Republicans trumpeted Clinton's remarks as proof he supports the Right's position, while a Clinton spokesman insisted that the former president is in sync with Obama, but simply thinks Congress will have to delay a decision. Is Clinton undermining Obama's campaign message?
Clinton is creating painful headaches for Obama: Clinton is in "full Mr. Hyde mode," says Byron Tau at Politico, "sucking up all the media oxygen" and generating headline after headline about his apparent split with Obama. Clinton did the same thing to Hillary in 2008, swinging wildly "between effective surrogate and major headache." And now, with Obama's supposed political friend questioning a "signature part" of his re-election pitch, the president's "political enemies don't need to do too much" to skewer Obama.
"Bill Clinton ditches Obama message — again"
Actually, Clinton might be saving Obama from himself: Obama might be able to bring Cory Booker and other "lesser Democrats" in line, says Steven Hayward at Power Line, but "you can't leash the Big Dog." It's possible that this is crafty payback for Obama's 2008 defeat of Hillary Clinton in the primaries, but more likely, Clinton, the master politician, "knows that Obama's class warfare strategy is a loser," and he's trying "to force Obama to change course while he still has time."
"What is the Big Dog up to?"
Hold on. Clinton and Obama actually agree: Clinton isn't "undercutting Obama's message," says Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo. Far from caving to Republicans, he's in complete agreement with Obama that tax cuts for the wealthy don't stimulate the economy, and thus have to go. But the federal government is in danger of running off a "fiscal cliff" on Jan. 1 when massive automatic spending cuts kick in at the same time the tax cuts expire. Clinton is merely saying Congress will have to avert that danger before wading into a battle over millionaires' tax rates. Let's be very clear: This is a "manufactured story," and Clinton is most definitely not kneecapping Obama.
"The manufactured story of the week"
Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.
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