The No. 3 House Republican leader has urged President Obama to call Bill Clinton "every night" to figure out a path to working with the GOP to score some bipartisan victories as the former president did with his foe, former Speaker Newt Gingrich.
House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy revealed that during the lead-up to last winter's fiscal cliff standoff, he attended a dinner during which he advised the White House, "every night, don't tell me and don't tell the press, but have Obama call Bill Clinton for 30 minutes" to get some advice on governing a politically divided government.
"Because Bill Clinton came to an agreement with Newt Gingrich, his arch enemy, and he came to that agreement on welfare reform," said McCarthy. The result was "they had a much more successful presidency because of that."
He suggested that Clinton's willingness to negotiate with the GOP likely sprung from the former president's experience as a long-serving governor, something Obama doesn't have.
"I've come to the belief that no person should be president without being a governor first," he said in an address to the moderate GOP Ripon Society this week. "What do governors do? They pick a cabinet, they can't print more money, they have to manage agencies they didn't create, and they have to focus on what they are doing. They have to make a decision on a bill at the end of the day, and they have to bring people together. It is the best form of training," said McCarthy.
Added the California lawmaker: "No disrespect to the current president, but I'm a firm believer in divided government achieving big things. Reagan, Tip O'Neill and Rostenkowski -- Ways and Means had all the power, right? And what did they do? They reformed the tax code ... I do believe that divided government can still achieve things. I'm not one who says we wait for the next election. I do believe, though, dealing with the White House, having not been a governor before, I think that as a state senator and a U.S. senator, you get too much in the mindset of just politics -- that one side has to win, and one side has to lose."
McCarthy's story about giving the White House advice came while he was regaling the crowd about his experience during the January Inauguration. He said he sat next to Clinton who he told his "secret" story to. He said Clinton ate it up. "'Oh no you didn't,'" McCarthy said of Clinton's reaction to his advice to the White House. "Then he said, 'Who did you tell that to?'"