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Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have a really 'great conversation'

September 12, 2008 |  2:20 am

Well, in the end it turned out to be really pretty easy to get ex-President Clinton to make specific plans to go out on the presidential trail and campaign for the rookie Illinois senator.

That's Sen. Barack Obama, the fellow who said such nasty things about Clinton's wife during the hard-fought primary season (not that she didn't reciprocate), who stole her rightful White House inheritance with his hurried ambitions and better-organized campaign, whose people haven't really done all that much to help Hillary retire her large campaign debt and whose supporters tattooed the word "racist" indelibly into the infallible memory of the ex-ArkansasEx-president Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama meet for lunch Thursday in Harlem and have a really good conversation, aides said governor who still fondly regards himself as the country's first black president, despite his Jesse Jackson insinuations down in South Carolina.

All Obama had to do to get Clinton's cooperation was:

  • Have the image of his joyous Denver stadium celebration snuffed within nine hours by the sudden emergence of a stunning female Republican vice presidential pick after Obama pointedly passed over the obvious female VP candidate in his party for a veteran male Washington insider as his co-agent of change.
  • Not enjoy much if any poll bounce from the Denver festivities.
  • Watch the Republicans turn Hurricane Gustav into a plus by burying George W. Bush's convention appearance and stressing national service.
  • Witness an electrifying speech by this nobody from ....

... Alaska who not only energized her party but ignited a nonstop curiosity among millions that drove way better TV ratings for the GOP than the Democrats.

  • Confront a 21-day, 20-point swing among white women away from himself toward the old guy with his tough-talking running mate in the businesslike skirt and top, rimless glasses and with the large family.
  • Start hearing worried grumbles and hand-wringing among party members around the country about toughness and "here we go again" turning a summertime Democratic lead into a November loss.
  • As the new titular head of the Democratic party, walk on his knees up to Clinton's Harlem office building to have lunch. The ex-president knows how badly he's needed right now.

As The Ticket reported Thursday, Clinton, meeting reporters beforehand, predicted that Obama would win "pretty handily," which not only sets the bar higher for Obama but contradicts the senator's own prediction of a close contest. (See video below with Obama largely silent but then obviously, shall we say, overly-praising Clinton, who clearly likes that.)

Clinton also promised to do anything he's asked to help. Isn't this about the ninth time he's said that, and now we're down to eight weeks and in a couple more Clinton will head to Florida, which makes it almost October.

Ex-president Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama chat for the cameras in Harlem Thursday

Here's the actual official verbatim statement issued Thursday by the two men. You can just picture the negotiations over each phrase.

Clinton and Obama are such really good friends that they wouldn't put their names on the statement, just an awkward title about aides:

"Joint statement from spokesmen to former President Bill Clinton and Senator Barack Obama

“President Clinton and Senator Obama had a great conversation in Harlem today. They discussed the campaign briefly, but mostly talked about how the world has changed since September 11, 2001.

"Sen. Obama praised the work of the Clinton Foundation around the world and President Clinton applauded Sen. Obama's historic campaign, which has inspired millions around the country.

"They also spoke about what the next president can do to help make the economy work for all Americans, as it did under President Clinton, and ensure safety and prosperity far beyond the coming the election. President Clinton said he looks forward to campaigning for Senator Obama later this month.”

Well, that all sounds like a delightful lunch, doesn't it? (UPDATE: Unfortunately, Obama and one of his aides caught the stomach flu at some point before, during or after the lunch.)

And it's so totally likely that with 50-whatever days left before a national election, these two consummate politicians would skip over that subject almost totally to reminisce about the last seven years. How 'bout those BoSox, eh?

Things went so well at the Clinton-Obama summit, in fact, that the two men didn't feel the need to shake hands in public. No one saw that anyway.

That's a good sign for the rest of the campaign, don't you think?

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo credits: Associated Press

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