Former President Clinton and President Obama appear at a campaign event… (Carolyn Kaster / Associated…)
NEW YORK -- For one night only, the Clinton-Obama show was the hottest ticket on Broadway. And for the most part, the key players stuck to the script.
For the former president, that meant equal parts effusive praise of his Democratic successor and a pointed critique of his Republican rival.
In fact, Bill Clinton told donors at one of three joint appearances Monday that a Mitt Romney presidency would be "calamitous" for the country.
"I don’t think it's important to reelect the president, I think it is essential to reelect the president," he said at another.
Mixing Obama campaign talking points with some of his own, Clinton branded Romney as the nominee of the "Republican Congress" and said he's proposing "Europe's economic policies."
"Their economic policy is austerity and unemployment now, and then a long term-budget that would explode the debt when the economy recovers so the interest rates would be so high, nobody would be able to do anything," Clinton said, offering a twist on Romney's standard attack that it was Obama who was pursuing a "path of Europe."
Clinton countered that Obama offers "job growth now, and long term budget restraint." It's an economy "for the 21st century," said the man who campaigned for reelection on a promise to build a bridge to the same.
"[Obama] has good politics, he's got a good record, he's made the best of a very challenging situation, he deserves to be reelected," Clinton said, adding that he "has a pretty good secretary of State, too."
Clinton and Obama spoke together in the same city where exactly four years and a day earlier, Hillary Rodham Clinton gave what proved to be her final speech as an active candidate against Obama, celebrating a victory in one of the last Democratic primaries.
Aides to both Democratic titans insist that any lingering animosity from that 2008 campaign is long gone, as Monday's mutual admiration affair showed.
Of Clinton, Obama said that "nobody has a better grasp and understanding of the issues" and that under his administration "everybody did well," both those "at the top" and the working class.
With Clinton seated to his left dutifully listening on at the day's final event, Obama thanked him for "his legacy," saying he led the Democratic Party out of the political wilderness with a "common-sense progressive agenda that is important to remember at this moment."
Monday's main event was a gala "Barack On Broadway" event at the New Amsterdam Theater in Times Square. About 1,700 people paid at least $250 a head to see the two presidents, as well as performances by Stockard Channing, Neil Patrick Harris, James Earl Jones, Tony Kushner, Angela Lansbury and Patti LuPone, among others. Six people won their seats through a campaign contest and were able to meet both presidents.
Earlier, Clinton and Obama addressed a more intimate high-dollar reception at a private residence and a larger dinner featuring rocker Jon Bon Jovi, who flew up with Obama on Air Force One for the event. The campaign paid his expense, the White House said.
Bon Jovi also serves on the White House Council for Community Solutions.