Bill Clinton may be seeking to help Barack Obama win again in November, but the former president may have to be careful that he doesn’t overshadow the man he’s trying to help get re-elected.
“I thought he was awesome,” said one Pershing colleague to another at the close of the former president’s keynote address on Wednesday at the BNY Mellon company’s annual conference in Hollywood, Fla.
This enthusiastic comment came in response to the charismatic Clinton’s assertion that while he is happy to support the re-election of President Barack Obama, he also values his friendships with former U.S. presidents on both sides of the aisle – including both George Bush Sr. and his son George W.
“I love the guy,” Clinton said of Bush Sr. Of George W., he quipped: “We go to the same events together now and roll our eyes at each other’s answers.”
Speaking very much in a spirit of bipartisanship before an audience of nearly 2,000 at Pershing Insite 2012, Clinton conceded that it’s easier to be a former U.S. president than an incumbent one. He certainly looked the part of a relaxed retired president, tall and slim with silver hair and sporting a sober suit along with a handwoven multicolored bracelet around his wrist.
And to the biggest round of applause during his entire keynote address, Clinton added that he is frustrated with the poor level of collaboration between Democrats and Republicans in Washington and the “frivolous” commentary of the political media.
“At some point we have to re-establish trust between the two parties in Washington,” Clinton said. “If I say something nice about Mitt Romney, the political press acts like I endorsed him even though I oppose his political policies.”
To be sure, Clinton came out in favor of Obama.
“I think Obama is more moderate than his critics think, and he should be re-elected,” Clinton said.
Asked by Pershing Managing Director Frank La Salla during a question-and-answer period how he would fix the nation’s fiscal woes, Clinton pointed to a three-part strategy:
- Resolution of the ongoing U.S. mortgage market crisis, so that consumers can start spending and taking out loans again.
- Repatriation of $2 trillion of U.S. company assets overseas as well as an infrastructure bank to be created by the repatriated capital.
- Reform of U.S. energy policy, which would include jobs creation from the green retrofitting of old buildings.
Audience member Gerald Wood, a chief financial officer with PRS International Advisory Service in Miami, said after Clinton’s speech that his support of Obama during the election process is a mixed blessing.
“I thought he was great,” Wood said of Clinton. “He manages to be noncontroversial for a president who was so controversial. But if I were Obama, I wouldn’t know how to fit him into my campaign. Clinton overshadows everybody.”
Prior to his Pershing engagement, Clinton was on the road with electioneering visits in Pittsburgh and Orlando. Next on his list of campaign stops is a visit to Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and Obama’s former chief of staff.
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