In the past 24 hours, Republicans have seized on what they called supportive statements by top Democrats -- former President Bill Clinton and former Obama White House economic adviser Larry Summers -- for extending the so-called Bush tax cuts.
One example of this: “Even Bill Clinton came out for it, before he was against it, and then, you know, Larry Summers, the president's former economic adviser this morning came out in favor of this,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said during a press conference.
Another example: Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said on the Senate floor he would make “the same argument actually that former president Bill Clinton has been making and that is we need to extend these tax rates.”
But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today pushed backed on the GOP effort, saying that there is no gap between their views on this and President Obama's.
“There is no daylight between President Clinton and President Obama” on extending the tax cuts for the middle class but not for the wealthy, Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One as the president traveled to California for campaign events.
And when asked about the earlier reports suggesting Summers favored their extension, Carney simply said, “I don’t think that’s what Summers meant.”
In fact, the transcript agrees with Carney, according to the Wall Street Journal, which corrected its original report of Summers' statement on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." Summers never once mentioned the tax cuts.
MSNBC’s BRZEZINSKI: Larry Summers, let’s start with you. You heard Bill Clinton talking about the tax cuts. We had terrible unemployment numbers coming out last week. What would you advise the president to do at this point?
SUMMERS: Look, the real risk to this economy is on the side of slowdowns. Certainly not on the side of overheating. And that means we’ve got to make sure that we don’t take the gasoline out of the tank at the end of this year. That’s got to be the top priority. We’ve got to make sure that what we keep providing support to the economy. The areas where we have done that, like support for the auto industry, we haven’t had great results but much better results. In the areas where we aren’t able to do what we wanted to do, areas like preserving jobs for teachers, areas like construction and investment and maintenance of the country’s infrastructure, you look at the employment report, and we’ve really got terrible results. So the key priority has got to be for the short run making sure that there’s the energy to keep the economy growing, because we’re not going to do anything about the deficit unless we do that.
As for Clinton, he appeared to suggest -- in an interview yesterday with CNBC -- that all the Bush tax cuts should be extended temporarily, though he stated he opposes their permanent extension.
"I think what it means is they will have extend-- they will probably have to put everything off until early next year. That's probably the best thing to do right now," Clinton said. "But the Republicans don't want to do that unless he agrees to extend the tax cuts permanently, including for upper income people. And I don't think the president should do that. That's going to-- that's what they're fighting about."
But Clinton then added, "I don't have any problem with extending all of it now, including the current spending level."
Clinton's office later issued a statement, clarifying that he opposes extending the tax cuts for the wealthy. "[O]n extending the Bush tax cuts, as President Clinton has said many times before, he supported extending all of the cuts in 2010 as part of the budget agreement, but does not believe the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended again. In the interview, he simply said that he doubted that a long-term agreement on spending cuts and revenues would be reached until after the election."
Also aboard Air Force One, Carney responded to criticism from conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh that President Obama’s public appearances with celebrity supporters make him “the male Kim Kardashian.”
Referring to one of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s top –- and most provocative –- surrogates, Carney said, “Two words: Donald Trump. Next question.”
He also noted that while Obama may have many high-profile backers, his campaign also relies on small-dollar contributions.
“The fundamental difference is President Obama has vast numbers of small donors who support his campaign. That is not the case for the Republican nominee,” Carney said.
NBC’s Frank Thorp and Kelly O’Donnell contributed reporting.