08/05/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bradley Praises The Clinton Years, Says No To VP

Here's another instance of how the political dynamics differ between a primary fight and a general election campaign.

One of Barack Obama's most respected surrogates, former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley, was also one of the harshest critics of former President Bill Clinton during the primary process. Bradley frequently bemoaned the 42nd president for his business ties and, more broadly, the long-term damage he caused to the Democratic Party.

"Bill Clinton was the first two-term Democratic president since F.D.R. and was enormously popular -- and yet at the end of eight years in office, there were fewer Democratic senators, fewer Democratic congressmen, fewer Democratic governors, fewer state legislators, and the party was in debt," said Dollar Bill way back in a March 2007, New York Times Magazine interview. "You can be regarded as a charismatic president, and yet it doesn't translate into structure."

On Monday, the situation changed. In the function of economic adviser to Obama, Bradley - who offered a definitive "No" when asked about serving as a vice president - spoke with praise for the Clinton years.

"I think you only have to contrast of the economy of the 1990s with the economy of the last eight years to see the difference," said Bradley. "Those who argue that policies that will respond to the needs of the American people and to the plight of a lot of middle class families who are struggling and it will emphasize the opportunities for kids to get a college education and health care family, will depress business investment are taking a short term view."

The topic was the economy, on which Clinton's record is widely admired. And Democrats clearly like the 'are-you-better-off-now-then-you-were-eight-years-ago' message. But putting the spotlight on the good times of the Clinton years was something that Bradley and Obama himself were hesitant to do when they were taking on Hillary Clinton.

Bradley was responding to the criticism of the Obama's economic plan by Martin Feldstein, a surrogate to John McCain, who accused the presumptive Democratic nominee of pursuing a tax policy that would "slow" and "depress the economy."

Another Obama adviser, Laura Tyson, offered specifics to dispute that argument, noting, among other things, that Obama had proposed a $1,000-per-family tax cut for middle class couples and that McCain himself had at one point vigorously opposed the Bush tax cuts.