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Obama excited to break bread with Clinton

world Updated: Sep 11, 2008 12:55 IST

White House hopeful Barack Obama lavished praise on former president Bill Clinton late on Wednesday as the two Democrats, bitter foes in the nominating race, prepared for a fence-mending meeting.

Appearing on the "Late Show with David Letterman," Obama said he was looking forward to their lunch on Thursday at Clinton's foundation headquarters in New York.

"There's nobody smarter in politics and he's going to be campaigning for us over the next eight weeks, which I'm thrilled by because the race that he ran in '92 was similar to what's taking place now," the Illinois senator said.

Then as now, the economy was in trouble under Republican rule but voters were unsure about whether the youthful Democratic nominee was "up to the job," Obama said.

"And so I think having him talk about why we need to change the economy in a fundamental way so it works for middle-class families so that they can get ahead, so that they can send their kids to college, I think he can be a great advocate on behalf of the campaign," he said.

The party's old and new standard-bearers will meet in private on the seventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks by Al-Qaeda, at Clinton's foundation building in Harlem.

Obama is in town to mark the anniversary with John McCain, his Republican rival for the November 4 election.

Clinton is said to have been fuming at his wife Hillary's defeat by Obama in the race for the Democratic nomination, but went a long way to burying the hatchet with a barnstorming speech at the party's recent convention.

Obama was "on the right side of history," the ex-president said on August 27, insisting the Illinois senator was ready to be commander-in-chief after casting doubt on his readiness to lead during the hard-fought primaries.

But while Hillary Clinton has held several rallies on Obama's behalf, her husband has yet to campaign for his heir as the Democratic leader.

And supporters of the Clintons say their help is needed more than ever with several polls giving McCain the lead for the first time, after the Republican made the surprise choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Obama laughed when asked by Letterman if he could envision a cabinet role for Bill Clinton in his administration, should he beat McCain.

"I think if you're a former president, you don't take cabinet positions. I think your attitude is sort of been there, done that," he said.

"But obviously you consult with him as often as you can because, look, there are only a handful of people who've actually done the job."