For those who followed politics closely in the 1990s, you'll recall that Republicans hated Bill Clinton with the heat of a thousand suns. GOP officials and activists woke up every day with one question on their minds: "How can I destroy the Clinton presidency today?"
It was rather remarkable, then, to see Mitt Romney in Michigan yesterday, suggesting the former Democratic president is a great model. "President Clinton, remember, he said the era of big government was over. President Obama brought it back with a vengeance," Romney said, before praising Clinton on welfare reform.
A Romney aide said the move is intended to "devised as a trick to drive a wedge between centrist and liberal Democrats." This might be more effective if it was less ridiculous.
As Ed Kilgore put it, "[E]ither [Romney] (or his speechwriter) hasn't the slightest clue what he's talking about, or he's lying."
It's particularly outrageous for Romney to claim that the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act of 2010 was some sort of betrayal of the New Democrat legacy. "New Democrats" (for example, the Progressive Policy Institute, the preeminent New Democratic think-tank) relentlessly agitated for something very like the ACA going back to the early 1990s. Indeed, they differed from the defining New Democrat, Bill Clinton, only in preferring the "managed competition" model to the somewhat more rigid approach embraced by the Clinton administration itself.
During the 2008 presidential primaries, the only significant differences between the health care proposals of Barack Obama and of Hillary Clinton (notice the last name again!) was that she insisted on the individual mandate that Mitt Romney had implemented in Massachusetts and that Mitt Romney's party now denounces as slavery.
Making matters worse, Romney said Obama, unlike Clinton, is turning his back on New Democratic principles by calling for a return to a top marginal tax rate of nearly 40%. Remind me: who pushed the top rate to that level in the first place? Oh, right, now I remember: that was Clinton.
As for the notion that Obama has brought back the era of "big government ... with a vengeance," this is just idiotic -- as we discussed this morning, "For the first time in 40 years, the government sector of the American economy has shrunk during the first three years of a presidential administration."
In the meantime, Clinton is filming ads in support of Obama, Clinton's wife is Obama's Secretary of State, and the former Democratic president is condemning Romney's right-wing agenda publicly.
Romney must sincerely believe voters are fools.