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Bill Clinton speaks out for Barack Obama. Well, sort of

September 19, 2008 |  1:12 am

When we last saw the last Democratic ex-president of the United States, he was really, really getting ready to go out and campaign for this very ambitious young fellow from Illinois who with his Windy City crowd beat the ex-president's wife out of her rightfully inherited White House.

No hard feelings though, not among fellow Democrats. Not even when the winner didn't pick the near-winner as his female runDemocratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama and former Democratic president Bill Clinton in happier daysning mate, leaving an opening the size of Alaska for the Republican presidential nominee to pick a female running mate and shake the whole race up real good.

The Democratic ex-president made the wannabe Democratic president come up to his Harlem office last week to have lunch, all friendly like.

The ex-president made a prediction about Nov. 4 on-camera: "I predict that Sen. Obama will win and win handily."

That sound bite got wide play, as it was meant to because it was short and to the point. Also, the ex-president and the ex-president's wife don't want anyone to be able to say they caused the wannabe president's defeat come November, which is exactly four years from when they intend to win the White House themselves for good.

And although no one actually saw the two men shake hands at that friendly luncheon last week, their aides assured the media that everything went really well. So it must be true.

Now, it's one week later. And the ex-president tore himself away from still preparing to go out and campaign for the kid long enough to go on CNBC because ...

... several hundred people a day watch that channel and it's a good opportunity to not yet be out on the road campaigning.

Maria Bartiromo, who's one of the best broadcast financial reporters going, asked the ex-president about the neck-and-neck presidential race. We're going to do something a little unusual now. We're going to print the ex-president's entire reply for a reason.

These guys are professional talkers. They know precisely what they are doing and saying with every word. Last week the ex-president was clear and concise on purpose. This week not so, on purpose. See if you can find an endorsement in here from the ex-president, a sound bite or relevant point that would actually help Obama, or is it merely a verbal wandering and pro forma party prediction that no one can criticize:

"Well, the latest polls had Senator Obama up a little bit. And I think every -- I -- I think partly that's a function of the current distress, economic distress because I think the more people worry about the current set of circumstances, the more likely they are to change parties. I have always said that I thought Senator Obama would win this election because two thirds of the American people are having trouble paying their bills.

"And because of Democratic registration is up and Republican registration is flat. And because he has  offered some very specific and sensible economic reforms and health care reforms. And as I said, I've never concealed my admiration and affection for Senator McCain. I think he's a great man. But, I think on the issues that matter to our future, the Obama/Biden team is, is more right. That's what I believe. And I believe they're gonna win.

"But, I think that -- it will be competitive until the end. And our side has to work hard. But, I think what -- what typically happens in these elections if you look throughout American history when the country's in a fix and you know where we're going is not sustainable, then there is typically a breakthrough. The biggest example of that was in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was elected. The Republican party had only been in existence for four [sic] years.

Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois as they competed for their party's presidential nomination

"But, both the old-Whig party and the Democratic party had proved unable to resolve the dilemma of how to hold the Union together and stop the spread of slavery. So, they both had different approaches. Neither one were workin'.  So, the public said, 'OK, if we can't sustain this, we'll make a change.' That's what I think. Now, I think that the -- the people said, 'Well, they had the Congress and the White House for six of the last eight years. We're in trouble. We liked Senator McCain. We recognize he's a little bit of a different kind of Republican. But, we're gonna make a change.' And I think that's where they'll be and I think that you'll see a victory for Obama and Biden.

"But, I don't think you'll see it clearly. Barring some unforeseen development like in -- something happens in the debates we don't know about. I -- I -- I -- it may not be apparent in the polls until last week or two of the election. But, I believe that it will be apparent on election day. I think that -- I think Senator Obama will win this election."

This week no "win handily." This week no crisp sound bite. This week the election is seven days closer. This week still no ex-president on the trail for the wannabe.

And that, folks, is no accident.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photo credits: Associated Press (top); CNN (bottom).

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