Paul Ryan is not exactly known for his commitment to bipartisanship, so it was somewhat surprising to hear him complimenting the Clintons on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. (Of course, his nice comments came wrapped in criticism to President Obama’s handling of the fiscal crisis, which makes it less surprising.) During the interview, host David Gregory played some Inauguration Day footage of Ryan “chumming it up” (Ryan’s words) with Bill and Hillary and asked what the three were talking about. Ryan said that he discussed the experience of a parent dying at a young age (with Bill) and childhood concussions (with Hillary.) And then he added this:
Look, if we had a Clinton presidency, if we had [former Clinton chief of staff and Campaign to Fix the Debt co-chair] Erskine Bowles as chief of staff of the White House or president of the United States, I think we would have fixed this fiscal mess by now. That’s not the kind of presidency we’re dealing with right now.
A bunch of media outlets — the Huffington Post, Mediaite, and CBS News — assumed Ryan was referring to an alternate universe where Hillary won the 2008 election. However, it seems strange of Ryan to assume that Hillary would rehire her husband’s chief of staff from fifteen years ago. Sure, the Clintons are known for being loyal to their closest advisers, but the remark can also be read as a reference to the economic glory days of Bill’s reign. And while Bill will never be a GOP favorite, Republicans certainly see him as less threatening than his wife at this point, making him a safer and therefore more likely candidate for Ryan’s sneaky praise. On the other hand, if he was talking about Hillary — and if the two do end up running against each other in 2016 — then he should expect to see some replays of those comments in a few years.