Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waits to speak at the World Bank May 14, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

Hillary Tees Up Clinton Vs. Bush

Will throwing back to the '90s become a central campaign narrative for Hillary Clinton?

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waits to speak at the World Bank May 14, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton previewed a possible 2016 presidential campaign narrative during the New America Foundation conference Friday. 

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Hillary Clinton contributed her throwback Thursday (#tbt) a day late.

The former secretary of state conjured up a vivid comparison between the economic climates during the Bush and Clinton administrations Friday, previewing a possible 2016 presidential campaign narrative.

Speaking at the New America Foundation conference, Clinton highlighted the era of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, as one of widespread, gilded prosperity.

The eight years that followed under former President George W. Bush, on the other hand, were a result of policies tailored to solely help the wealthy, she argued.

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"The 1990s taught us that even in the face of difficult long-term economic trends, it's possible through smart policies and sound investments to enjoy broad-based growth and shared prosperity," Clinton said.

Included in the accomplishments she highlighted: 23 million new jobs, a raise in the minimum wage and the doubling of the income earned tax credit – all passed while achieving a balanced budget.

Clinton never mentioned her husband's successor by name, but the charge was clear.

"The next eight years taught us different lessons about how, by policy choices, we can turn surpluses into debt," she said. "We can return to rising deficits. That's what happens when your only policy prescription is to cut taxes for the wealthy."

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While harkening back to the '90s doesn't seem like a winning formula for a candidate looking ahead to govern the country three decades later, measuring the successes of the Clinton administration against the Bush administration may provide a way for Hillary to separate herself from President Barack Obama, who has also struggled with high unemployment and stagnant growth.

Clinton gave a brief nod to the progress the Obama administration has made during its tenure.

"It's taken years of painstaking work and strong leadership from President Obama to get our economy growing again, but it is growing," she said.

But she didn't dwell on Obama's tenure and spent far more time touting the era of her husband and the work they've been doing at the Clinton Foundation.

Her remarks focused heavily on the importance of the private sector and being able to encourage businesses to establish partnerships that foster job training and boost infrastructure projects. It was a marked step away from the Beltway that has defined much of her career. Even more, her role at the Clinton Foundation allowed her to put her centrist economic philosophy on full display.

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"Government doesn't have a monopoly on good ideas, obviously. And even if it wanted, it couldn't and shouldn't try to solve all the problems by itself," she said, while taking a shot at the current gridlock in Washington. "We can't wait for government, which seems so paralyzed."

While Clinton called for a more collaborative, pragmatic government, she notably steered completely clear of the politics surrounding the 2014 midterm elections.

"I will leave that discussion for others, but for a lot of us in the private and nonprofit sectors, we have work to do too," she said.