If Obama wins, it may be because the former president saved his presidency”“but what exactly do the Clintons get in return?Bill & Hillary Forever, by John Heilemann

by Pete Souza

THIS IS really quite extraordinary. In modern American history there is no parallel.

On the foreign crisis policy of the moment, you have Secretary Hillary Clinton taking “responsibility” for Benghazi and stressing an investigation is necessary on what the security team’s choices were and why, while also saying Obama and Biden couldn’t possibly have known the details.

Simultaneously, you have former President Clinton explaining Mitt Romney’s economic flim-flammery.

From Team Obama about the Clinton video above, which is titled “President Clinton Explains,” a take off on the “explainer-in-chief” motif:

President Clinton Explains Mitt Romney’s $5 Trillion Tax Cut

CHICAGO — As Americans learned in the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney will say anything to close the deal, even if it’s not true, just like he did in the corporate boardroom. So in advance of tonight’s debate, President Clinton is taking a couple of minutes to explain how Romney’s $5 trillion tax cut “” which Romney claimed didn’t exist in the last debate — gives multimillionaires like him a new $250,000 tax cut, even with closing upper-end loopholes and deductions. He also details how it is mathematically impossible to pay for the $5 trillion tax cut without cutting deductions for the middle class, like the home mortgage, charitable, and state and local taxes deductions. In this new video, President Clinton notes that Romney is now cynically hiding the existence of the tax cut because he knows the only way to pay for it is to raise taxes on the middle class. While Romney continues to deceive Americans about his tax plan, President Clinton reminds them to rely on “arithmetic over illusion.” In other words, facts matter.

John Heilemann’s New York magazine piece couldn’t have landed in a better moment.

“We were all watching on TV, and we thought it was fine, too. But by then, nobody cared that much. We were all just so far past the Clintons.”

Four years later, two words leap to mind: As if. Today, Hillary Clinton is the most popular member of Obama’s Cabinet, and her husband is not only his greatest but most tireless political ally. This past September 11, the Y-chromosome Clinton was in Miami, ripping Mitt Romney a new one over Medicare. Since then, Clinton has campaigned for Obama in New Hampshire and Nevada, raised money for him in Boston and with him in Los Angeles”“and there is more to come. A TV ad with Clinton making the case for Obama’s reelection has run 16,000 times in swing states across the country. Another, featuring a clip of Clinton’s address at the Democratic convention, almost gives the impression that he is Obama’s running mate. Then there is that speech itself, which another top Obama adviser tells me flatly is “the most important moment of the campaign so far.”

Heilemann goes on to quote someone describing the relationship between Barack and Bill as “totally transactional”“and highly functional.”

Throw in Secretary Clinton’s role in the aftermath of Benghazi, which was solidified with her statement of “responsibility,” and you’d also have to add, absolutely imperative for President Obama, if he is to be reelected.

You simply cannot write the reelection battle story of Barack Obama without including the Clintons’ over-sized role in fortifying the political wall against Romney’s assault, which Barack Obama can’t do on his own, including with the help of Joe Biden.

For those Obama loyalists who have dismissed the Clintons for years, as well as progressives who hate all things Clinton, it’s a crow-eating moment. Try horse radish sauce, I hear it helps with swallowing an unpalatable plateful.

Unless, of course, you’re a progressive who believes neoliberalism is a curse and want both camps gone, or an independent who thinks Democrats and Republicans are the problem.