So how is Bill Clinton helping President Barack Obama by praising Mitt Romney?
In an appearance on CNN last week, Clinton said that Mitt Romney has a “sterling business career” and argued that the Obama campaign shouldn’t focus on Romney’s business record.
“I don’t think we ought to get into the position where we say this is bad work; this is good work,” Clinton said, adding: “There’s no question that, in terms of getting up, going to the office, and basically performing the essential functions of the office, a man who’s been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.”
Either Clinton didn’t get the campaign strategy memo – or he chose not to stick to the script because the Obama campaign’s coordinated attack on Romney centers on Romney’s questionable business dealings with Bain Capital.
From now until Election Day, the Obama campaign plans to release a series of ads linking Romney to shutting down thriving businesses like Bain, laying off thousands of employees and pocketing profits while workers struggled to make ends meet. One former Bain employee called Bain a “vampire” that “sucked blood” from the workers.
Last week, the Obama campaign pointed to Ampad, which was acquired by Romney in 1994 and quickly closed a plant in Marion, Indiana which cost all 250 workers their jobs. Ampad went on to lose a total of 1,500 jobs while Romney and his investors multiplied their initial investment 20 times over.
So while the Obama campaign is blasting Romney for shortchanging workers with greedy business practices, Clinton is telling voters that Romney is a good businessman.
And on Tuesday, Clinton did it again. This time, Clinton likely caused Obama aides to scream when he told CNBC that he wouldn't have a problem with Congress temporarily extending all the Bush tax cuts, which are due to expire at the end of the year.
What? This is the exact opposite position that Obama has taken on the Bush tax cuts. So are these two men supposed to be friends? I doubt it.
There’s definitely some confusion with the message the Obama campaign is sending to voters. Is Clinton deliberately trying to sabotage Obama? Did he misspeak? Why doesn’t he follow the campaign’s blueprint?
The short answer is this: Obama and Clinton have a complicated relationship.
Clinton has always been a loose cannon and Obama campaign advisers know they can’t control everything that Clinton says so they are forced to take the good with the bad and live with it.
“They still are little bit wary about President Clinton and they're still always a little bit worried that maybe he has some other agenda, and maybe it's on behalf of his wife for 2016, that he might not be fully a team player,” journalist John Heilemann, author of Game Change, told NPR.
“And so, they do keep him at arm's length a little bit. And then, every once in a while on some small thing, he'll inject himself in a way that reminds the Obama people he kind of can be a live grenade,” Heilemann added. “And that happened again just last week when he went on the Piers Morgan show and defended Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital.”
Indeed, Clinton’s timing is always suspect. Always calculated in his comments, Clinton made his remarks about Romney as a new CNN poll shows that Obama and Romney are neck and neck heading into the November presidential election.
A new CNN/ORC International survey has found that 49 percent of registered voters say they would vote for Obama if the November election were held today, while 46 percent say they would choose Romney.
On Monday, the Obama campaign released a new television ad entitled “Heard it Before” that highlights Romney's failed economic record as Gov. of Massachusetts.
“When running for Governor, Romney promised more jobs, less debt and smaller government,” Obama campaign aides said. “Once in office, he fell short on those promises and more – Massachusetts plummeted to 47th out of 50 in job creation, taxpayers were left with more debt per person than in any other state, and the size of government increased.”
Meanwhile, Clinton campaigned with Obama at three high-end fundraisers in New York this week, which was expected to haul in millions of dollars for Obama’s re-election effort. One gala is scheduled for the Waldorf-Astoria hotel and the last event of the night, dubbed "Barack on Broadway," will be held at the New Amsterdam Theatre.
Clinton called the Republican economic plan “crazy” and steered clear of praising Romney’s business acumen.
“He’s got good policies. He's got a good record. He's made the best of a very challenging situation. He deserves to be reelected,” Clinton told a cheering crowd about Obama.
But just like the Wizard of Oz, Bill Clinton always summons the same nagging question: What’s really behind the curtain?