NEW YORK – After a summer that occasionally tested the bond between the two most prominent families in Democratic politics, the Clinton Global Initiative Tuesday offered an opportunity for a current, former, and potential future president to heap praise on each other.
Introducing his first Democratic successor, Bill Clinton said he was grateful to President Obama “for many reasons,” and especially because the president “continues to believe that as he strives to stop bad things are happening around the world, the rest of us are supposed to do more to make good things happen.”
Hillary Clinton, Obama’s former Secretary of State, is considering a run for the presidency in 2016 and has worked hard to show that she and the president are on the same page. But after Clinton criticized Obama in interview this summer, relations were strained.
Obama strolled on stage and gave Clinton a hearty handshake before returning the love. “I was just discussing with President Clinton that if Chelsea begins delivery while I’m speaking, she has my motorcade and will be able to navigate traffic,” he began, cracking a friendly joke on the Clintons’ pregnant daughter, their favorite subject.
“I want to thank President Clinton for your friendship and your leadership, and bringing us together as only he can. Bill first asked me to come to CGI when I was a senator, and as president I’ve been proud to come back every year,” Obama told the crowd of global philanthropic, industry, and political leaders that Clinton assembles every year for his charitable initiative.
“It’s a testimony, I think, to any leader, not just what they themselves do, but the degree to which they are able to inspire action from others. And by that measure, obviously, Bill Clinton has continued to exert extraordinary global leadership for decades,” Obama continued.
From there, he moved on to Clinton’s wife, Hillary, Obama’s erstwhile rival for the Democratic nomination in 2008 and who is now considering another presidential run. “I think one of the best decisions I ever made as president was to ask Hillary Clinton to serve as our nation’s secretary of state,” the president said.
“I still have a lot of debt to pay, though, because the two of them were separated far too often. Hillary put in a lot of miles during her tenure,” he continued, stressing a message about Clinton’s tireless travels favored by her own allies.
“She has that post-administration glow right now. She looks much more rested,” Obama observed, drawing a laugh from the audience as the camera showed a beaming Hillary Clinton on big screens placed on either side of the stage.
The event has become a major destination for Clintonworld donors and operatives, in addition to the elite global do-gooders that make up the bulk of its ranks. While few have directly addressed it, Hillary Clinton’s potential presidential bid looms everywhere.
The audience laughed as the camera showed a beaming Hillary Clinton on the big screens placed on either side of the stage.
Obama steered clear of his new military offensive against Islamic radicals in Syria and instead focused the work of the civil society leaders in the audience. “I believe America’s support for civil society is matter of national security,” he said.
To support that effort, he announced three new White House initiatives to boost charitable organizations around the world, by encouraging the U.S. government promote their work and by making it easier for American donors to send money overseas.
After his speech, Obama hopped off stage to spend some time with the Clintons and supporters, including former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo.