The Obama re-election team must be in panic mode. The president is stuck in a virtual tie with Mitt Romney in some polls and behind him in others, so in desperation, it has reached out to the Big Dog, Bill Clinton, for help.
Clinton will speak next month at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., in a Wednesday-night position often reserved for the vice presidential nominee. Obama and Clinton have not had the most cordial relationship, but when you're drowning, your feelings about the lifeguard matter less than his ability to keep you afloat. And Obama is a sinking man.
The president's problem is that he's no Bill Clinton. Clinton was willing to compromise with congressional Republicans. Obama and congressional Democrats are not. Clinton signed the welfare reform bill after vetoing two earlier versions crafted by a Republican Congress. Yet, now the Obama administration wants to let states opt out of the bill's work requirement, which forced many people to get jobs. Instead of requiring people to work, Health and Human Services wants to grant states waivers to the work provision so that they can "test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families." What alternative strategy is there to an honest day's work for an honest day's pay?
An even sharper contrast between Obama and Clinton is that the latter left a surplus behind. Obama has taken the debt created during the second Bush administration -- mostly because of the response to a terrorist attack and two wars -- and, according to the U.S. Treasury, increased each American's debt share by $17,013, to $51,433. The Congressional Budget Office says at the end of this fiscal year, the administration will have racked up four consecutive years of trillion dollar-plus deficits, creating by 2020 the largest debt -- $16 trillion -- in American history.
Bill Clinton once questioned Obama's qualifications to be president. In a 2007 interview with Charlie Rose, Clinton said, "When is the last time we elected a president based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?"
In 2008, candidate Obama praised Ronald Reagan above Bill Clinton when he told the Reno Gazette-Journal's editorial board that under Reagan the Republican Party was "the party of ideas" and that Reagan had "changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way Bill Clinton did not."
For a Democrat to put Nixon and Bill Clinton in the same sentence is the ultimate putdown.
There are more contrasts between the two men. Under Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress, the U.S. economy created 22.7 million new jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since President Obama took office, and with an overwhelming majority Democratic Congress in his first two years, the U.S. economy has lost 473,000 jobs. Between February 2010 and May 2012, just more than 4 million private-sector jobs have been created.
During the Clinton administration, with the help of a Republican Congress, the unemployment rate declined from 7.3 percent to 4.2 percent. Under President Obama, unemployment has remained above 8 percent for 41 straight months.
Less favorably on Clinton's side, he was the first president to be impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. The Arkansas Bar suspended his law license. He would be a poor character witness in court.
But he will be the one who heralds Obama at the Democratic convention this fall. He is, after all, the ultimate Democratic player. But Bill Clinton has interests greater than Obama's re-election. If Obama wins, Democrats win. If he loses, Hillary will be well-positioned to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, though she has sworn she will not accept the nod. Watch for "Hillary in 2016" T-shirts in Charlotte.
Examiner Columnist Cal Thomas is nationally syndicated by Tribune Media.