Who Was First to Broach This Bridge?

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Did Sen. Barack Obama überstrategist David Axelrod coin Bill Clinton's famous phrase "bridge to the 21st century"? A recent Axelrod profile in the New York Times Magazine credits him with introducing it "into the political vernacular" while advising President Clinton's 1996 campaign, but a clip search reveals that Clinton used the metaphor at least twice before that, in major speeches in 1985 and 1988. Axelrod didn't return a phone message, but a call to President Clinton's office triggered a quick internal investigation. An aide to the former prez says two top Clinton advisers from '96 have no recollection of Axelrod's minting the phrase.

By Dan Gilgoff With Suzi Parker, Anna Mulrine, and Silla Brush