Together again with Obama, Clinton has last word

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 02, 2011 4:48 PM
Together again with Obama, Clinton has last word

By Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former President Bill Clinton, known for sometimes upstaging the current occupant of the White House, managed to get the last word again in a joint appearance with President Barack Obama on Friday.

The White House enlisted the popular ex-president to join in a tour of a renovated Washington office building to help promote a $4 billion nationwide effort aimed at improving energy efficiency in construction and boosting job creation.

The unusual pairing served as further evidence the two have moved beyond the bitterness of the 2008 Democratic primary race and forged a warmer relationship since Clinton's wife, former Obama rival Hillary Clinton, became secretary of state.

Obama, perhaps hoping some of the former president's high poll numbers would rub off on him in his troubled 2012 re-election bid, thanked Clinton for his time and effort.

"As he pointed out, partly thanks to me, he's home alone too often," Obama told reporters jokingly, referring to Hillary Clinton's frequent foreign travels as top U.S. diplomat.

Clinton, white-haired and slimmed down from his White House years, lavished praise on Obama for keeping energy conservation on his list of priorities.

But there was also a hint of lingering friction.

Alluding to Clinton's comments about tax increases that have been played up by the Republican camp, Obama said: "I've noticed that some folks on the other side have been quoting President Clinton about it's a bad idea to raise taxes during tough economic times."

"That's precisely why I sought to extend the payroll tax this year and next year. It doesn't mean we lock in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. I don't think President Clinton has been on board for that for perpetuity," Obama said, as Clinton smiled and nodded.

After the official statements, a reporter shouted a question to Clinton, the last two-term Democratic president who left office with a budget surplus, on whether he had any advice for Obama on the struggling economy.

"Oh, he gives me advice all the time," Obama responded, drawing laughter, as aides tried to usher journalists out.

But Clinton stepped to the podium and held forth for a few more minutes about the economic benefits of energy efficiency.

It was a reminder of how Clinton famously basked in the spotlight last December when he and Obama made an impromptu visit to the White House briefing room. The two fielded questions together and Obama then left. Clinton continued holding court for nearly a half hour more.

(Editing by Christopher Wilson)