The Mitt Romney campaign is continuing to cast Bill Clinton as a sort of double agent, after he appeared to undermine President Obama again Tuesday by endorsing a wholesale extension of Bush-era tax cuts.
Clinton is one of the Obama campaign’s most utilized surrogates; the former president accompanied Obama at a trio of high-dollar New York fund-raisers as recently as Monday.
But Clinton’s statement in a CNBC interview that extending all Bush tax cuts is “probably the best thing to do right now” contradicted the Obama administration’s position that the government cannot afford to continue forfeiting the revenue lost to the cuts. The president has proposed extending breaks for households earning up to $250,000 and allowing cuts for higher earners to expire at the end of the year, as scheduled.
A Clinton spokesman sought to clarify Clinton’s remarks after the interview.
“As President Clinton has said many times before, he supported extending all of the cuts in 2010 as part of the budget agreement but does not believe the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended again,” the spokesman, Matt McKenna, said in a statement. “In the interview, he simply said that he doubted that a long-term agreement on spending cuts and revenues would be reached until after the election.”
Clinton did stress in the interview that a tax cut extension should be part of a short-term effort to “avoid doing anything that would contract the economy now,” adding that Obama should not agree to Republicans’ demands to make the breaks permanent.
But Clinton included tax cuts for top earners when he said Congress “will probably have to put everything off until early next year” and again when he said “I have no problem with extending all of it now.”
Lawrence Summers, Clinton’s Treasury secretary and a former economic adviser to Obama, also appeared to back a temporary Bush tax cut extension on Wednesday, saying on MSNBC that “the real risk to this economy is on the side of slow down—certainly not on the side of overheating—and that means we’ve got to make sure that we don’t take gasoline out of the tank at the end of this year.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the Obama campaign was “upset” by Clinton’s remarks and asked him to “correct” them, prompting the statement by McKenna.
Romney, who supports a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts, added Tuesday’s interview to his list of Clinton moments that subvert Obama.
On Monday, the Romney campaign recirculated a 2007 interview in which Clinton questioned Obama’s qualification to be president. The Romney camp contrasted those remarks with ones Clinton made last week, when he asserted that Romney “crosses the qualification threshold” to be president.