One of the funny things about Republicans swelling love for Bill Clinton is that they're embracing the argument Barack Obama made back in 2008 -- that there wasn't enough difference between Clinton policies and Republican ones. During the Obama-Clinton feud that has since cooled, Bill Clinton complained four years ago, “Hillary’s opponent, in his entire campaign, every two or three weeks has said for months and months and months… that really there wasn’t much difference in how America did when I was President and how America’s done under President Bush. Now, if you believe that, you should probably vote for him, but you get a very bad grade in history." Republicans will take that bad grade, thank you.
Time's Michael Crowley writes that in his address to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte Wednesday night,"Bill Clinton is likely to make virtually the opposite argument" as Obama made in 2008. "And no one will applaud him more than Barack Obama." Republicans will boo. Ahead of Clinton's speech, Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan implied he had more in common with Clinton than Obama did. Ryan told Iowans that his plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program is "an idea that came out of the Clinton Commission to save Medicare." (The New York Times' Trip Gabriel explains that 10 of the 17 members on a 1999 commission recommended giving old people subsidies to buy insurance, but four Democrats rejected the idea. Those Democrats were appointed by Clinton.)
"Under President Clinton we got welfare reform," Ryan said, the Associated Press reports. "President Obama is rolling back welfare reform." This is a charge lots of reporters have declared false with more and more exclamation points but have not shamed the campaign into not making it. Ryan continued, "President Clinton worked with Republicans in Congress to have a budget agreement to cut spending. President Obama, a gusher of new spending."
Like Ryan, The National Review expects Clinton to celebrate the 1990s and say little about Obama's term. "They seek to associate President Obama with the prosperity of the Clinton years. Democratic policies worked in the 1990s, they will argue, and they can work again," the editors write. "This story won’t sell, because the gap between Obama’s record and Clinton’s is so vast and obvious." Clinton "knows too that Obama has not governed — has never had any interest in governing — as Clinton did."
Clinton surely would have appreciated all that support from the National Review back in the 1990s. Even in June 2007, the Clinton legacy wasn't seen so warmly. Back then, Michael F. Cannon wrote for the magazine,
If I were advising Sen. Clinton, I would be urging her to boast that her approach to health-care reform enjoys support from conservatives like the Heritage Foundation and Gov. Romney. If I were advising Gov. Romney, I would prescribe a severe case of amnesia and a health-care agenda that actually reduces the role of government.
Maybe Bill Clinton will make that case Wednesday, too.