WASHINGTON — Bill Clinton will thrust himself into the 2012 election campaign Tuesday with a book that is deeply critical of Republican dogma and, implicitly, of his ally President Barack Obama.
In the opening pages of “Back to Work: Why we need smart government for a strong economy,” the 42nd US president and former communicator in chief warns that Republicans and the Tea Party have re-embraced a dangerous “30 year antigovernment obsession” with gusto.
Across nearly 200 pages Clinton offers his trademark above-the-fray rebuttal of policies that he says have caused rising inequality, high joblessness and a crippling debt burden.
“The greatest accomplishment of the anti-government Republicans was not to reduce the size of the federal government but to stop paying for it,” he writes.
Instead Clinton paints his vision — in easy-to-understand primary colors — of government that is just-big enough to “smooth the edges” of capitalism, but not big enough to scare the kids.
He also offers a Democratic battle plan for the 2012 campaign, one that accuses Republicans of putting politics and special interests before the greater good.
But running throughout the book is an unspoken corollary: Democrats, including Obama, are guilty of allowing spurious Republican arguments to gain traction.
In one telling passage Clinton admits that he started and stopped writing the book several times because he did not want to just add “another stone to the Democratic side of the partisan scale.”
But in the end “I decided to go forward because I think it’s important that all Americans have a clear understanding of the basic economic facts.”
Clinton complains that Democrats received a shellacking in the 2010 mid-term elections because they ran individual campaigns rather than taking up his suggestion of a common set of talking points.
“It was frustrating to work the crowds, right up to the night before the election and hear people shouting after our speeches, ‘why didn’t I know that.'”
Throughout the book Clinton gives a full throated defense of Obama’s policies — including much of the American Jobs Act, which Republicans are blocking in Congress.
But whether intended or not, Clinton’s lucidity may also renew criticism that Obama has adopted too professorial a tone as the 44th president.
“Clinton is a natural American politician,” said Stephen Hess who worked in the administrations of Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
“He has a charm that not many of our recent presidents have had and he puts things in lay terms for voters.”
Obama, on the other hand “was a community organizer but he really isn’t off the community, he is of the academy in many ways.”
If the White House is offended, it is not communicating it.
“The book is very helpful,” said spokesman Jay Carney on Monday, “it reinforces the positive steps that President Obama has taken and the positive steps he is now trying to take with Congress and is taking independently through his executive authority.”