Bill Clinton raised eyebrows yesterday when, speaking at a Democratic campaign rally in Spokane Washington, he spoke of “the awful legacy of the last eight years.”
Speaking on behalf of his wife, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, the former president called her “the best change maker I have ever known.” For that reason, he said that people should vote for her.
But it was here that Clinton made his statement that seemed like a swipe at the incumbent president, Barack Obama.
“But if you believe we can all rise together, if you believe we’ve finally come to the point where we can put the awful legacy of the last eight years behind us and the seven years before that when we were practicing trickle-down economics and no regulation in Washington, which is what caused the crash, then you should vote for her.”
The Political Fallout From Clinton’s Statement
The Republican National Committee was quick to pounce. In an email obtained by CNN, they said Clinton’s comment “is about as off message as you can get,” and they posted the video clip on Twitter.
“Of course, Barack Obama has been president for the last seven years. And Bill Clinton’s wife, Hillary Clinton, served in the Obama administration.”
Clinton: Out of Context?
On the Democratic side, candidates and operatives were conflicted about how to respond to Clinton’s statement.
On the one hand, the popular left-wing blog Little Green Footballs called the GOP claim “the latest deceptive video being circulated by right wingers to smear Bill Clinton by taking a statement out of context.”
“This video clip is now posted all over the right wing universe, and it’s fraudulent; it’s an edited clip that distorts Bill Clinton’s words to make it seem like ‘the awful legacy of the last eight years’ was referring to the Obama presidency. But it wasn’t. He was talking about the economic collapse and the subsequent Republican obstructionism during the Obama presidency. That’s what President Clinton meant by ‘awful legacy’ — the legacy of Republican economic malfeasance and obstructionism.”
On the other hand, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s rival to be the Democratic nominee for president, blasted President Clinton in a tweet.
According to CNN, an aide to Clinton stated that he was “referring to the GOP’s obstructionism and not President Obama’s legacy.”
Clinton and Obama’s Relationship
Whatever the former president intended, his relationship with the current occupant of the White House has been up and down.
In 2008, while campaigning for his wife against the then-senator, Clinton called Obama’s campaign “the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.”
After Obama narrowly defeated Mrs. Clinton in the 2008 primaries, they appeared to patch things up. The best evidence for this came in 2012, when Bill Clinton gave a rousing speech in favor of Obama at the Democratic National Convention. At the conclusion of Clinton’s prime-time address, the incumbent came onstage to give his predecessor a warm embrace.
Which only makes Clinton’s comment yesterday about “the awful legacy of the last eight years” even more surprising.
Campaigning for Hillary Clinton
Up to this point, Mr. Clinton has not been seen much on the campaign trail, most likely in deference to his wife as she seeks to connect with voters on her own.
But since he is still fairly popular, especially among Democrats, the plan appeared to be to get Clinton to speak on his wife’s behalf more often. It is not yet known whether Clinton’s apparent gaffe is going to affect those plans or not.
What do you think? Did Bill Clinton intend to slight Obama? Was it just a gaffe that has been taken out of context?
[Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images]