Bill Clinton Takes Over the White House Press Room

Bill Clinton, at the time this blog post is being written, has taken over the White House press room, leading to potential confusion over who the actual president is, Obama having ducked out to go meet the First Lady at "one more Christmas party," as the current (I think) president put it before taking off.

Clinton came to the White House to meet with Obama this afternoon, at a generally Clintonian time in Obama's tenure. Republicans just took over the House. Obama tacked to the middle, cutting a deal on tax cuts that angered fellow members of his party.

Afterward, the two appeared for a press conference in the White House briefing room.

"I'm going to let him speak briefly," Obama said, promising to let Clinton decide on his own whether to take questions. Obama said he had scheduled the meeting with Clinton because the latter presided over such a stellar economy, not just, he seemed to imply, to solicit advice on how to get this tax-cut deal through Congress.

Clinton took the stand and went immediately to the tax cuts.

"I have reviewed this agreement that the president has reached with Republican leaders," was the first thing he said. "Taken as a whole I believe [it] is the best bipartisan agreement that we can reach to help the largest number of Americans and maximize the chances that the economic recovery would accelerate...

"There's never a perfect bipartisan bill in the eyes of partisans, and we all see this differently, but I really believe this will be a significant net plus for the country," Clinton said.

Voila. The reason Clinton came to the White House was not, as we all suspected, to lay his sagacious triangulative wisdom on the current president, but to stump for the tax-cut deal that Congressional Democrats seem so vehemently to loathe.

ABC's Jake Tapper asked Clinton what advice he'd given, but 42 wouldn't respond. It's confidential he said, unless 44 decides to make it public.

"What do you think?" Tapper asked Obama.

Looking slightly put upon, Obama replied, "I think I've been keeping the First Lady waiting for about half an hour, so I'm going to take off," shaking Clinton's hand with a big smile and exiting.

Seeing Clinton stand there and take questions, dishing out answers personally free of political concerns and yet there, in the first place, because he was asked there for political reasons, because the bubble of ceaseless political considerations needed him there due to the political significance his mere presence carries in the world from which he now professes to be (and probably, in reality, is) dissociated--well, it's a bit dislocating.

Clinton, right now is recounting the recession of the early '90s and explaining what happened this time around, dispensing economic wisdom. "We have to get out of deflation. The problem we have is deflation," Clinton says.

But I'm tempted to mute the TV and pretend it's 1997. Clinton is in charge again; the economy is wonderful; the Hubble is getting a tuneup; "Wu Tang Forever" has just been released; Hale Bopp brushes close to earth, and the Heaven's Gate cult dies in white robes.

Who is president, again? What year is it?

The heavy politics of this lame-duck session are making me hallucinate. Best to get it done with and try to sleep it off.