Can you imagine Gordon Brown holding a meeting with Tony Blair in Downing Street, then agreeing to share a the Prime Ministerial podium with his predecessor and then disappearing to another engagement, leaving Blair to hold court for half an hour? No, I don't think so. And not just because Brown hated Blair's guts. Even Gordon might have appreciated that this might lead to unflattering comparisons. People might even find themselves thinking, Golly, what ever happened to that guy Tony? He was awfully good wasn't he?
This, basically, is what happened at the White House this afternoon. For half an hour Bill Clinton seemed to be President. Now it's a Friday afternoon and a trivial thing of no great importance. But, still, rum you know. And it reminded everyone of this truth: Barack Obama gives great speech but he's not half the communicator Bubba was - and is.
Over to Time's Michael Scherer:
Clinton, a former president who still pines for the limelight, did not speak very briefly. He spoke, rather, at length, about the tax cut deal, about Hong Kong stimulus, the Haitian prime minister, green energy investors in Nevada and the number of events he did supporting candidates in the 2010 midterms. “I did 133,” he said.
[...] For the first part of Clinton's performance, Obama, the current president, who never acts so freely in the briefing room, calling on reporters at will, stood by stoically watching the spectacle. The television cameras cut Obama out of the shot, making it look for most of the world like Clinton was again president, holding forth before the presidential seal.
When a reporter's question gave Obama a brief moment to take back the microphones, he seemed to move towards them, but Clinton did not give way. So leaning, Obama said that his wife had been waiting for him for a half hour, at a previously mentioned holiday party, and he was going to leave. “I don't want to make her mad,” Clinton responded. “Please go.” Indeed.
Like I say, trivial but more fun than sifting through the usual Friday afternoon trash. And something Gordon would never have let Tony do. Then again, Obama's more relaxed than Gordon. But who ain't?
UPDATE: See Dave Weigel for more.