Bill Clinton to Treasury

My advice to President Obama: Announce that if he is reelected he will appoint former President Bill Clinton as interim Treasury secretary or an equivalent role, for a limited tenure, beginning the day after the election, to advance a bipartisan plan to create large-scale new jobs, restore budget soundness, avoid falling off the “fiscal cliff,” prevent new credit rating downgrades, inspire new credit rating upgrades, and set the stage for the next Morning in America early in the president’s second term.

I dedicate this column to my kindergarten teacher. Her name was Mrs. Kennedy (honest). Every day she inspired the boys and girls in her class by repeating, as her personal mantra, “It can be done.” You bet it can.

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If President Obama were to announce the bold move of bringing Bill Clinton into the center of the arena of economic policymaking, here is what happens with this venture that our economy desperately needs, a large majority of a grateful nation would cheer and historians would still be applauding a century from now:

CEO confidence, worker confidence, investor confidence, public confidence, voter confidence and global economic confidence would rise instantly, simultaneously and substantially. The “right track” number in opinion polling would rise with an upward trajectory that would ultimately soar off the charts. The electoral prospects of President Obama and Democrats would climb, possibly decisively, with a campaign that would become a mission and an election that would bring a mandate.

Today the economic pain in the nation is real, but for many Americans there has been an economic recovery. America has come a long way since Obama took office. We are no longer losing 700,000 jobs a month. For this the president deserves credit. You bet he does. Anyone who claims America is not better off than the days of 700,000 lost jobs a month, and the global economic meltdown of 2008, is committing political dishonesty or media malpractice. But:

For many Americans there remains profound economic hardship. For them there is a new great depression. For them the nation is in a slowdown without end. For them the gridlock in Washington is sickening, nauseating and depressing. For them the ugly politics of the nation are a metastasizing tumor that destroys the body politic, imposes pain in their lives and continues a crash of confidence that engulfs virtually every major institution of American civic, economic and media life.

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, Obama quoted Franklin Roosevelt’s call for bold persistent experimentation. Truer words were never spoken. The nature of our economic challenge is extraordinary and unique. What better way to pursue that bold persistent experimentation than remembering a high point of American history, when John Quincy Adams had left the presidency and became an important member of Congress, and asking another former president, Clinton, to re-enter the field of public service at the center of economic policy?

Both Obama extending this offer, and Clinton accepting it, would be genuine acts of Lincolnesque stature and history-changing patriotism, vision and daring. It would renew Obama as the champion of change and the presidential heir to the optimism of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan. It would rewrite the rules of the campaign and lift the spirit of voters and the upward trajectory of the economy.

Mixing the metaphors of sports, Obama would be the coach who calls the plays, a la Vince Lombardi. President Clinton would be the scorer who slam-dunks the ball, a la Michael Jordan. And here is the magic that can end the gridlock: Clinton would be the referee with the approval of nearly 70 percent of the nation to validate a fair deal between both parties.

The world will be astonished and amazed by how fast our economy can grow, and how high our country can climb, when the gridlock is broken and Washington acts like America once again. It will not be easy, but it can be done. 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.