Clinton World: Criticism of Bill ‘mind-boggling’

Clinton World is scoffing at suggestions from Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump official and TV surrogate leaving White House: reports Biden: I regret not being president De Blasio blames Trump for 'dynamic of hatred' in US MORE and other Republicans that Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonComet Ping Pong shooter pleads guilty Time for 'J. Edgar' Comey to take his leave Corruption trial could roil NJ Senate race MORE is making a mistake in suggesting she’d give a major role in her White House on the issue of the economy to Bill ClintonBill ClintonWe must act now and pass the American Health Care Act Trump's message: Russia First or America First? Senate Democrats should grill Judge Gorsuch on antitrust. Here's how. MORE.

Trump has mocked the suggestion of putting the former president to work.

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“How can Crooked Hillary put her husband in charge of the economy when he was responsible for NAFTA, the worst economic deal in U.S. history?” the presumptive GOP presidential nominee tweeted on Tuesday.

And former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) suggested that the promise of such a major role for Bill Clinton suggests he is effectively running for a third term.

“The president of the United States has an actual job to create jobs, create wealth, create take home pay,” he said on Fox Business Network. “That’s Hillary’s job if she wants to be president. That’s not the first spouse’s job.”

The Clinton camp sees Bill Clinton as a valuable asset and believes the GOP attacks on him will backfire.

“I think that people remember the booming economy [under President Clinton], and they remember he led the largest economic expansion in American history, and experts on all sides of the aisle agree,” one former Clinton aide said. “There’s a reason he’s been so in demand for campaigns across the country in recent years. How would that ever be a bad idea? It’s mind-boggling that it would be anything but positive.”

Longtime allies and former aides say that the former president might indeed be the best person to help navigate the recovering economy and “get incomes rising,” as the Democratic front-runner said at a campaign rally on Monday.

William Galston, a senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution who served as a policy adviser to Bill Clinton during his administration, said his former boss could “add a lot of value to any discussion” because he is a “good listener” and “idea collector.”

“Done right, it could add substantial value,” Galston said.

Bill Clinton remains one of the former first lady’s most potent allies, though his presence on the campaign trail has at times caused difficulties.

He got into a high-profile fight with Black Lives Matter activists over his 1994 crime bill. The focus on the bill, which many on the left blame for the mass incarceration of black men, also refocused attention on Hillary Clinton’s 1990s “superpredators” comments — a reference to young black criminals.

Trump has gone out of his way to highlight the low points of the Clinton administration, including the former president’s infidelities. The Clinton campaign can expect those attacks to intensify in the fall.

There’s also always a danger of Bill Clinton going rogue, something that Galston said could also be a worry in a Hillary Clinton administration.

He cautioned that Bill Clinton’s role on the economy could be “disruptive” and create “structural difficulties” if it is not well planned.

Republicans are also signaling a willingness to attack Bill Clinton’s economic record.

In an email on Wednesday, Michael Short, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said that “Democrats like to forget that Bill Clinton handed his successor a recession and played a leading role in inflating the housing bubble that crashed our economy 8 years ago.”

Campaign officials sought to walk back the idea that the former secretary of State had any plans cemented for her husband and said it was premature to discuss potential roles for him or anyone else.

But it wasn’t the first time she’s thrown Bill Clinton’s name out as someone who could help boost her administration. At a campaign event in early May, Hillary Clinton offered, “He’s got more ideas a minute than anybody I know.”

Galston said her message sought to remind voters of the booming economy of the 1990s “and to persuade them that they are likely to get a restoration” of what they liked under her husband’s administration. 

Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, concluded that Hillary Clinton “may well learn something from this on how to describe his role” in her administration.

“Everybody knows there will be one,” Jillson said. “But she’s got to find a way to use it without overshadowing her or diminishing her.”