Dollar Bill still the star turn at party campaign fundraisers
The former president cannot be controlled, but he delivers when it matters writes LARA MARLOWE in Washington
FORMER PRESIDENT Bill Clinton demonstrated consummate political skill and nearly upstaged President Barack Obama at three consecutive events in Manhattan that raised $3.5 million for the Obama campaign on Monday night.
In the upper eastside home of billionaire financier Marc Lasry, (admission: $40,000), at the Waldorf Astoria (admission $2,500) and at the New Amsterdam Theatre (admission $250), Clinton refuted one of Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s oldest cliches, about how Obama “wants to turn America into Europe”.
After summarising the achievements of the Obama administration, Clinton asked rhetorically: “Why aren’t things roaring along now? Because Europe is in trouble and because the Republican Congress has adopted the European economic policy.”
Who would have thought that after attacking “Old Europe” for decades, the Republican right “would embrace the economic policies of the euro zone – austerity and unemployment now at all costs?” Clinton asked, provoking laughter. “I mean after all, their unemployment rate is 11 per cent, and ours is 8; we can get right up there if we just adopt their policies.”
Only last week, Clinton angered the White House by praising Romney’s “sterling” business record. The former president published a book last year that criticised Obama, and has had a see-saw relationship with the man who defeated his wife Hillary for the 2008 Democratic nomination.
As president, Clinton managed to be populist while also being business-friendly. He is known to disapprove of the Obama campaign’s attacks on Bain Capital, the private equity firm that Romney founded.
Obama’s attacks on Bain sit uneasily with fundraisers in the homes of billionaires. And they’ve hurt his ability to raise money on Wall Street.
“There is a war within the Democratic Party right now over how to run against Mitt Romney,” says Mark Halperin of Time magazine.
Some Obama advisers believe he should pursue the corporate raider/vulture capitalism line of attack. Others would prefer that he concentrate on Romney’s term as governor of Massachusetts, his flip-flopping or his ultra-conservative positions.
After undermining the anti-Bain strategy last week, Clinton corrected course on Monday night, saying a Romney presidency would be “calamitous for our country and the world”.
Obama, he added, has “the right economic policies and the right political approach. And I think their economics are wrongheaded and their politics are worse.”
In three years, Clinton noted, the US economy has produced 4.3 million private sector jobs, 60 per cent more than in George W Bush’s two terms.
Obama “has got good policies. He’s got a good record. He’s made the best of a very challenging situation. He deserves to be re-elected,” said Clinton. “And he has a pretty good secretary of state too.”