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Bill Clinton says economic recovery ahead of pace looking back up to 500 years in history

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

President Obama listens to former President Bill Clinton speak during a Dec. 10, 2010, joint appearance in the White House Briefing Room.

Former President Bill Clinton defended President Obama and his handling of the nation’s economic recovery Sunday night, saying “we are beating the clock” historically in comparison to Japan and other economies that have been through similar tumult.

“If you go back 500 years, whenever a country’s financial system collapses, it takes between five and 10 years to get back to full employment,” Clinton said as he introduced Obama at a fund-raiser for his longtime friend Terry McAuliffe.

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The former chairman of the Democratic National Committee is now running for governor of Virginia.

“If you go back for the last 200 years, when buildings had been widely owned by individuals and companies, if there’s a mortgage collapse, it almost always takes 10 years,” the former president added as he defended the current one. “He’s beating the clock, not behind it. Don’t listen to those Republicans. We are beating the clock.”

Without directly naming names, Clinton also jabbed at Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, while advocating for his fellow Democrat.

“I mean, this is crazy: he’s got an opponent who basically wants to do what they did before, on steroids, which will get you the same consequences you got before, on steroids,” said the former president, whose remarks were included in the official White House transcript of the event.

Romney and his supporters often argue that, after nearly a full term in office, Obama should no longer deflect blame by pointing back to the decisions of his predecessor, former President George W. Bush.

Romney concedes Obama did not cause the recession, but he says his subsequent decisions have made the recovery unecessarily slow.

In a statement this morning, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said: “President Obama has failed by his own standards: he promised to keep unemployment below 8 percent with the passage of the ‘stimulus’ bill and to rein in federal spending. Unemployment hasn’t been below 8 percent since while the nation’s total public debt has reached a record $15.6 trillion. President Obama may be able to convince his friends to tout the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression, but the American people deserve better.”

When Obama stepped to the podium at the outdoor party in McLean, Va., he, too, said he had a lot to overcome when he assumed office on Jan. 20, 2009.

Referring to Clinton’s wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama said: “Hillary and I, we’ve spent the last three-and-a-half years cleaning up after other folks’ messes. And by the way, we’ve got them, we’re starting to get them pretty cleaned up: The war in Iraq is over. We’re transitioning in Afghanistan. We’ve got the strongest allies we’ve ever seen. And al Qaeda is on the ropes.”

The president also jabbed at Romney’s foreign policy viewpoint.

“When you’ve got the leading contender, the presumptive nominee, on the other side suddenly saying our number one enemy isn’t al Qaeda, it’s Russia - I don’t make that up - I’m suddenly thinking what, maybe I didn’t check the calendar this morning. I didn’t know we were back in 1975,” said Obama.

During the appearance, Obama made a sober suggestion when he told the crowd that “there are going to be some Supreme Court appointments probably, if you look actuarially, for the next president.”

The eldest justice, liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is 79. The next oldest justice is conservative Antonin Scalia, who is 76.

Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
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