Bill Clinton promises Hillary will "put the awful legacy of the last eight years behind us." What does that even mean?

Bernie Sanders was quick to pounce on Clinton's comments and defend Obama's presidency

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published March 22, 2016 2:13PM (EDT)

Barack Obama, Bill Clinton   (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Ron Frehm/Photo montage by Salon)
Barack Obama, Bill Clinton (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Ron Frehm/Photo montage by Salon)

Bill Clinton can't stop shading Barack Obama.

At least that is the impression you are left with after listening to the former president campaigning on behalf of his wife, Hillary, in Spokane, Washington, on Monday. Arguing that his wife is "a proven change maker with Republicans and Democrats and Independents alike,” Clinton said that as president, Hillary would "make democracy work the way the framers intended for it to work."

"If you don’t believe we're ever going to grow again, if you believe it’s more important to re-litigate the past, there may be many reasons that you don’t want to support her," Clinton told the crowd. "But if you believe we can all rise together, if you believe we’ve finally come to the point where we can put the awful legacy of the last eight years behind us and the seven years before that when we were practicing trickle-down economics and no regulation in Washington, which is what caused the crash, then you should vote for her because she’s the only person who basically had good ideas will tell you how she’s going to pay for them, can be commander in chief and is a proven change maker with republicans and democrats and independents alike.”

That bit in there, that part about "the awful legacy of the last eight years" immediately piqued the interest of Republican operatives roving Democratic campaign events, and was quickly posted online by "GOP War Room" and America Rising PAC:

The Republican National Committee blasted Clinton's comment as "about as off message as you can get" in an email to reporters. Even Matt Drudge got in on the pile-on, questioning Clinton's possible motives in seemingly undercutting his wife's ongoing efforts to run as the heir apparent of the Obama legacy. “Heard Obama moving on email indictments?” Drudge questioned on Twitter. “Drugged out? Alzheimer’s?”

And in a rare opportunity to hug Obama tight, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined with Republicans to pounce on Clinton's comments and actually defend "Obama's 72 straight months of job growth":

So why would such a skilled politician as Clinton so clumsily throw the current Democratic president under the bus? Is this an indication of a potential split from Obama from the former secretary of state as well? After all, the candidate wrote glowingly as recently as January about all of the country's "remarkable" achievements during the Obama presidency and has undoubtedly embraced the first black president while campaigning in the South. But now that the race has moved to the West, have things changed?

According to the Clinton campaign, the answer is no. Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton is the "only Dem in race who actually attacks" President Obama, Clinton's national press secretary Brian Fallon tweeted, clarifying that the former president "was calling GOP obstruction of Obama 'awful,'" not Obama's presidency.

In a statement to USA Today, an aide to Bill Clinton further clarified his comments:

When Republicans controlled the White House, their trickle-down approach drove our economy to the brink of a collapse. After President Obama was elected, Republicans made it their number one goal to block him at every turn," spokesman Angel Urena said in a statement. "That unprecedented obstruction these last eight years is their legacy, and the American people should reject it by electing Hillary Clinton to build on President Obama's success so we can all grow and succeed together.

So while Clinton was not likely shading President Obama while campaigning on behalf of his wife, his past history remarking that an Obama presidency was merely a "fairy tale" back in 2008 continues to haunt him.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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