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Clinton alums remember the past, look to future

November 14, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton’s political family reunited Friday in Arkansas, reminiscing about his two terms in office and relishing the prospect of a first for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“In the world of Clinton, there is not an end. There is always tomorrow,” said Skip Rutherford, dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. He first met Bill Clinton in 1973.

What the future might mean for the couple depends heavily on Hillary Clinton’s decision on whether to make a second bid for president and if so, the degree to which she would defend or distance herself from President Barack Obama and her husband’s terms in office.

Presidential politics in 2016 swirled around the reunion. In an hourlong address capping the first day, Bill Clinton made no mention of the possibility of another Hillary Clinton campaign but said his two terms had accomplished the goals that it had set.

“At the end, on foreign and domestic policy, economic and social, you could honestly say that people were better off when we quit,” Clinton said.

Even as the Clinton alumni streamed to Little Rock, the former first couple took a touch of friendly fire from Vice President Joe Biden, a potential Clinton presidential rival, on her husband’s record of creating jobs during the 1990s.

The Clintons often speak of having created 23 million jobs and cutting the poverty rate during Bill Clinton’s presidency. But in a speech Thursday, Biden highlighted that how that period is remembered will be important to Hillary Clinton’s ambitions.

The “middle class started to get into trouble in the late ’80s,” Biden said. “All through the ’90s ... the middle class was declining except the last two years.”

Republicans, still giddy about their midterm election triumph that handed them complete control of Congress, are busily preparing for 2016.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul assembled his political team at a Washington hotel this week for strategy sessions while former President George W. Bush has encouraged his brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, to run. Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana will head to Florida next week for an annual Republican Governors Association meeting replete with presidential overtones.

The activity signaled that while the Clintonites insisted on an upbeat focus on Bill Clinton’s presidential stewardship two decades ago, the 2016 presidential race has effectively begun.

Even in the Clintons’ orbit, unnamed former campaign operatives were reportedly trying to shape Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign staff even before she has any such campaign. ABC News reported Friday that a Democrat on a private distribution list of ex-campaign staffers leaked bravado-filled emails between two former operatives the source does not support for senior roles in a potential Clinton campaign.

In an interview with PBS’ Charlie Rose, former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta briefly responded to reports that he would serve as chairman of a Hillary Clinton campaign, saying, “If she runs, as I hope she will, I will do whatever she asks me to do.”

The Clinton homecoming offered a window into one of the most extensive networks in American politics.

In Little Rock, where Bill Clinton served as governor for more than a decade, the couple’s wide-ranging array of political allies was on full display, starting with a symposium Friday exploring the former president’s legacy in foreign and domestic policy.


Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KThomasDC

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