Former President Bill Clinton says in a new book that last summer's political fight over raising the U.S. debt ceiling made the nation look "weak and confused" overseas and he doesn't know why President Barack Obama didn't seek a hike in the limit when Democrats still controlled both houses of Congress.
He says the final deal did little to create jobs or solve the longer-term debt crisis.
In his book, "Back to Work," Clinton analyzes the factors that contributed to the nation's current economic woes and offers several policy prescriptions he says would create jobs and make the U.S. more competitive. While he generally praises Obama for taking steps to mitigate the financial crisis and deep recession, he also gently dings the president for poor communication and strategic misfires.
The book is scheduled for release next Tuesday by publisher Knopf. The Associated Press bought a copy on Thursday.
Clinton, a Democrat, describes the current state of the country as "a mess" and largely blames the anti-government sentiment embodied in the tea party movement that has held sway since the 1980s. But Clinton also criticizes Obama and other Democratic lawmakers for not making a stronger case for the steps they took to stabilize the U.S. economy in 2009, like the bank and auto company bailouts and the $787 billion economic stimulus program.
Campaigning for Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections, Clinton said he took it on himself to explain "in plain language" what Obama and the party had accomplished. He says in the book he was thwarted because Democrats had no national message to counter the anti-government headwinds they were facing.
Clinton says he campaigned that year primarily for candidates and lawmakers who had supported his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her often-bitter primary race against Obama. Hillary Clinton is now secretary of state in the Obama administration and is precluded from political activity.
Bill Clinton says he and Vice President Joe Biden urged the Democratic National Committee to distribute a clear set of talking points to activists so they would know how to discuss what the party had accomplished.
"We couldn't persuade the decision makers to do so," Clinton said.
Democrats suffered historic defeats that year, losing control of the House and giving up several Senate seats.
During the 2011 debt ceiling fight, which brought the U.S. Department of the Treasury close to defaulting on its debts, Clinton publicly urged Obama to raise the ceiling unilaterally and cite constitutional provisions for doing so. In his book, he appears mystified still as to why Obama allowed such a perilous showdown.
Obama now has "a tough hand to play" in negotiating with Congress, Clinton writes.
Clinton recalls his own eight years in the White House in glowing terms, noting how his economic policies helped create 22 million jobs and substantially reduce the federal debt. Among other things, he says, he was able to persuade many wealthy people to accept higher taxes because "I didn't attack them for their success."
Clinton strongly criticizes Republicans for taking the country deeply into debt under George W. Bush's presidency. He says both major parties must agree to investments that will strengthen the U.S. going forward, such as green energy and infrastructure improvements. He also advocates reforming the tax code, cutting some corporate taxes and giving businesses greater incentives to hire.
Officials at the Democratic and Republican national committees didn't immediately reply to requests from the AP seeking comment Thursday night.
The new book, fully titled "Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy," isn't Clinton's first. His 2004 memoir, "My Life," was a worldwide best-seller. He also wrote "Giving," a handbook for civic activism.
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