Bill Clinton Turns 'Europe' Argument Back on GOP

Bill Clinton says Republicans push 'European-style' economics

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President Obama made the rounds to a trio of star-studded fundraisers in New York City on Monday night with former President Bill Clinton as his opening act. But it was the Comeback Kid who stole the show when he put on his political gloves and took aim at the GOP, accusing them of pursuing "European-style" economic policies.

"I know things are not perfect now. I know they're a little slow now," Clinton said during the night's final event at the New Amsterdam Theatre, according to a transcript released by the White House. "But let me remind you that when the president took office a little over three years ago, in the month he took the oath of office we lost 800,000 jobs."

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Clinton, who presided over the country during an economic boom, continued to outline how much the economy was suffering and claimed Obama is "on schedule" to beat how long it typically takes to get over such crises. He also defended Obama's healthcare legislation by reminding donors of Romney's embrace of a similar plan in Massachusetts and by highlighting the reforms of the most popular benefits, such as allowing children up to age 26 remain on their parents' insurance plans.

Americans could thank Obama for helping restore the auto industry, increasing fuel efficiency standards and promoting growth in manufacturing, Clinton said.

"And I could give you 50 more things, but you get the idea," he said.

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Then Clinton blamed the economy's stagnation on a struggling Europe and a Republican Congress that has "adopted the European economic policy," usually a line reserved for Republicans to use against Democrats.

"Who would have thought, after years and years, even decades, in which the Republican right attacked 'Old Europe' that they would embrace the economic policies of the euro zone – austerity and unemployment now at all costs," Clinton said to laughter.

For months, Romney has been making his campaign pitch – the economy is bad and Obama isn't making it better. For the former businessman with a reputation for being stiff and hard to connect to, portraying himself as 'Mr. Fix-It' is the easiest play for the presidency. His 59-point economic plan calls for tax cuts, drastically reduced spending in most areas, but increases in defense.

[See political cartoons on the European economic debt crisis.]

"You're laughing, but you need to tell people this," Clinton said. "They're being asked to reject a president who has tried to give us a 21st century economic policy and said, 'no, no, no, growth and jobs now' – broad-based growth, fair growth that includes all Americans. Then we'll put the hammer down on the spending to avoid the debt exploding at a time when economic growth occurs so that we won't have high interest rates and we won't kill off the recovery."

It's a difficult argument for Democrats to win because it goes against convention – that you can trust them to cut spending after the economy improves. But it could ultimately prove effective if people are convinced that Romney's economic proposals are no different than the last Republican president, George W. Bush.

And as Obama simultaneously tries to convince independents who supported him in 2008 that he's still the right man for the job and revive the unbridled enthusiasm from his Democratic base that carried him to victory, the popular Clinton may just be the pitchman his campaign needs.

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at rmetzler@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter.

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