At Virginia rally for gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, Clinton hinted at frustration towards isolated Obama White House
Bill Clinton has criticised the lack of deal-makers in Washington politics, hinting at the frustration some in his camp feel toward the isolated Obama White House during a campaign rally for long-time fundraiser and current Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.
Though primarily attacking Republican intransigence during the government shutdown, the former president made a series of arguments for more consensus-building across the partisan divide and defended the would-be governor of Virginia’s reputation for being a power broker.
“When people sneeringly say McAuliffe is a deal-maker, I say: oh, if we only had one in Washington,” Clinton told a cheering crowd of supporters in Norfolk, Virginia.
“The constitution might as well be subtitled the art of the deal,” he added. “It is exhausting seeing politicians wasting time with all these heated arguments when people need jobs.”
Clinton faced two government shutdowns of his own while president, but the failure of the current administration to win bipartisan support for any of its major policy initiatives has led to veiled criticism from veteran aides, who, when speaking privately, say the White House today lacks figures who can reach across the party divide and strike deals.
“Our founding fathers wanted us to be practical,” added Clinton on Monday. “They had huge arguments but they settled on a system that prevented us from becoming too radical in either direction and forced us to deal with each other.”
“We all have to deal with each other. Respectfully, we all have our differences but we have to get this show on the road.”
The ideal of moderate and practical Democrats has become the central theme of McAuliffe’s campaign in the run up to next Tuesday’s gubernatorial election in Virginia. His team are hoping to tarnish opponent Ken Cucinelli with the general anger toward Republicans that followed the government shutdown – a crisis that proved deeply unpopular in a state with the second-highest proportion of government workers in the country and helped tip the polls in McAuliffe’s favour.
But the race has also become a trial run for the Clinton election machine, receiving substantial support from both Bill and Hillary, who spoke at a rally last week, and financial backing from many of those expected to bankroll the next national election campaign. Several McAuliffe advisers are also thought to be leading contenders to run any presidential challenge by Hillary in 2016.
In contrast, Barack Obama has been more visible in New Jersey, where Democrat Barbara Buono is trailing moderate Republican governor Chris Christie in the run up to the other election for state governor due to take place next week.
Bill Clinton warned that the unusual timing of New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections during the “off year” that follows national elections was the biggest danger for Democrats facing a radicalised Republican base.
“There is one redeeming political virtue of extremism, they do show up to vote,” he said, noting that turnout in Virginia in 2009 was just 40% compared with 72% in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.
During the final flurry of campaign events designed to bolster core support, the Democratic team is focusing its attacks on Cucinelli’s social and fiscal conservatism, barely mentioning the word Republican at all and referring to him constantly as a Tea Party supporter.
“Over the last few days, the Tea Party is going to try to make this election about personal attacks on me,” claimed McAuliffe.
“Ken Cucinelli says this election is about showing conservatism isn’t dead; well I say this election is about creating jobs,” he added.
Across town, an unrepetentant Cucinelli appeared at a similar rally for his base on Monday alongside libertarian Republican senator Rand Paul.
They both focused on the faltering start to Obama’s healthcare reforms as an example of big government woes.
“I was the first person in the country to fight Obamacare,” said Cucinelli, referring to a legal challenge he made as state attorney general.
Paul also gave a hint of the liberatarian politics likely to feature in his run for presidential office in 2016, attacking government telephone surveillance and praising Cucinelli for his defence of free speech, privacy and gun rights.