Bill Clinton's Take on Obama's Tax Deal

President Barack Obama looks on as former President Bill Clinton speaks in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite

President Barack Obama looks on as former President Bill Clinton speaks in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 10, 2010.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
President Bill Clinton came to the White House briefing room yesterday in a rare, intriguing, shocking, and somewhat bizarre (for Washington) display of common sense.

The former President was at the White House to meet with the current President, and their meeting turned into a 30-minute discourse on economics, bipartisanship, politics and realism.

His lecture wasn't aimed at the White House, or necessarily Republicans, but at members of his own party who have been upset over parts of the Bush era tax cut extension compromise worked out between the White House and Republican Congressional leaders.

Clinton's basic lesson: The American people want Washington to work. Period.

In praising the compromise deal he made it seem that Washington has been stuck in a deep freeze — and finally there is a thaw.

"In general a lot of people are heaving a sigh of relief that there's finally been some agreement on something," said Clinton.

Bill Clinton and Obama Team up to Push Tax Deal

The past and current presidents have read this year's mid-term election results the same way Mr. Clinton did after his party's loss in 1994: The American people didn't reject the Democrats because they weren't liberal enough (as some in Congress would like to think) or that they didn't fight hard enough for their priorities (a notion Mr. Obama lashed out against in his press conference earlier this week).

What the American people want (including many crucial-to-re-election independent voters) is a President who works across politics to accomplish things for the country.

This is what Clinton believes, and this is what the White House is now believing.

Returning to the notion that having the two parties work together is a relief, Clinton hit on the notion that compromise requires give-and-take.

"I think it is [an] enormous relief for America to think that both parties might vote for something, anything, that they could both agree on," he said. "And there is no way you can have a compromise without having something in the bill that you don't like."

While some Democrats in Congress may not agree — and while even the President has offered there are provisions in the tax package he doesn't like — both presidents believe putting the country's priorities (like fixing the economy) first is the key to success.

Clinton proved it in 1996, and President Obama hopes to do so in 2012.

  • Robert Hendin On Twitter»

    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.

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