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Obama Has Much Riding On Clinton's Candidacy


And I'm David Greene in Philadelphia covering the Democratic National Convention. Last night, we heard a former president Bill Clinton call for people to support his wife.


BILL CLINTON: I hope you will do it. I hope you'll elect her. Those of us who have more yesterdays than tomorrows tend to care more about our children and grandchildren. The reason you should elect her is that in the greatest country on earth, we have always been about tomorrow. Your children and grandchildren will bless you forever if you do. God bless you. Thank you.


GREENE: Bill Clinton calling on people to support his wife, who we'll hear from at the convention tomorrow. She's trying to become the first woman to be president of the United States of America.

Now tonight, the star of the show will be the sitting president, Barack Obama. He is hoping to give Hillary Clinton a boost in her race against Donald Trump. And he's promised to campaign hard for her on the trail between now and Election Day, November 8. Of course, this race could have a big effect on President Obama's own legacy. I'm here with national political correspondent Don Gonyea and also Janet Hook, who covers national politics for The Wall Street Journal.

Good morning to you both.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.

JANET HOOK: Good morning.

GREENE: So Don, I mean, is President Obama's legacy riding on this election?

GONYEA: Oh, absolutely. Now, presidents hate to talk about their legacy while they're still in office.

GREENE: The L-word (laughter).

GONYEA: It's the L-word.


GONYEA: It makes it sound like their work is done. And same holds for President Obama. But he gets asked about it, and he does talk about it. Will he say that word tonight? Probably not. But listen to what he said this past spring during a town hall that he held in London with students there. Give a listen.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And so as president, I think about it in those ways. I consider myself a runner. And I run my leg of the race. But then, I've got a baton, and I'm passing it on to the next person. And hopefully, they're running in the right direction...


OBAMA: ...As opposed to the wrong direction. And hopefully, they don't drop the baton. And then, they go. And then, they pass it on to somebody else.

GREENE: How important is this, Janet Hook, for President Obama?

HOOK: It's huge. As Donald Trump might say, it's yuge (ph).

GREENE: (Laughter).

HOOK: Because, I mean, what bigger or more painful repudiation of Obama could there be than to be followed by Donald Trump? He - Donald Trump has promised to roll back much of what President Obama has accomplished. And he just stands for a spirit of governing that's completely different from what President Obama has brought to America.

GREENE: Well, let's talk about President Obama's governing in some specifics. I mean, when you look at, you know, the president and his - what his supporters would say - accomplishments, you have to think about Obamacare. And, of course, before Obamacare, there was an attempt at Hillarycare (ph), right? I mean, she was very much part of that movement early on.

GONYEA: And Obamacare and Hillarycare - both bad words, you know, for - that have been hurled at them by their political opponents.


GONYEA: Look, he has acknowledged from the earliest days of the passage of Obamacare that this was a legacy item for him. He knew it would be big. We've all seen it that way. Earlier this year in an interview, he said that when the Affordable Care Act was passed, it was the best day of his presidency. But he's also acknowledged that, going forward, the law still needs to be tweaked. It needs to be improved. Give a listen to this. It's from an interview two years ago with Telemundo.


OBAMA: It was true for Social Security. It was true for Medicare. Some of the same arguments were made against those programs when they first started off - that five years, 10 years from now, people will look back and say that this was the right thing to do. And at that point, the Republicans won't call it Obamacare anymore.

GONYEA: And that's, David, where the election comes in, this election. Let's go to the convention hall last night. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean - he spoke. He spoke of Hillary Clinton's commitment to the Affordable Care Act, and he had this dire warning.


HOWARD DEAN: Now, Donald Trump has a plan, too. He would rip up Obamacare and throw 20 million people off their health insurance. Donald Trump will take us back to a time when insurance companies can deny you coverage if you have a pre-existing condition.


DEAN: Or he will take you back to the time where insurance companies could charge you more just because you were a woman.


DEAN: And what is he going to replace this with? Quote, "something so much "better," - yuge, no doubt. That's it. That's the whole plan right there, six-word plan for health care.

GREENE: Yuge - we're going to be hearing that all morning (laughter), I guess, aren't we?

HOOK: (Laughter) Sorry I added to that, you know.

GREENE: That's OK. Don't worry about it.

HOOK: (Laughter).

GREENE: Well, Janet, I mean, it's - we should give a reality check here. There are many Americans who don't like Obamacare. And the Republican Party has made rolling it back, I mean, their big priority. How at-risk is it if you have Donald Trump as president?

HOOK: Well, first of all, can I say, it is very hard to talk about policy specifics when we talk about Donald Trump because he doesn't talk in specifics a lot. But he does have that line in almost all of his speeches that he will repeal Obamacare. And to be honest with you, if he doesn't have a Republican Congress, that's just empty rhetoric. I mean, he cannot pass a repeal of Obamacare if the Democrats take back control of the Senate. Now, granted, if Trump gets elected, you know, the chances are better that the Republicans will still stay in control.

So there are all these Americans that that say to pollsters that they don't like Obamacare. But, you know, the fact is it's now been in law for several years now. And it's been - become part of the health care system. You know, it really is a classic easier-said-than-done policy proposal.

GREENE: Don, what else stands out as we think of President Obama's eight years and what this election means?

GONYEA: The direction of the Supreme Court - Judge Merrick Garland is awaiting a hearing. And the court essentially sits at 4-4 right now. So that hangs in the balance, and that's a big part of the legacy. The Iran nuclear deal - Donald Trump says he's going to renegotiate it. He calls it the worst deal ever. He calls a lot of things the worst deal ever. There's the environment. President Obama has protected lands. He's used executive orders to mandate clean air standards for cars, factories. He believes climate change is a very serious global problem. Donald Trump calls it a hoax.

GREENE: Janet Hook, I'll give you the last word. I mean, does history show that every time sort of another party comes in who is very critical of the sitting president that that legacy really is in trouble?

HOOK: Well, I think part of the problem for President Obama is not a historical one but that so much of what he's done in the last couple years has been by executive order. And that is the kind of thing that is relatively easy for a predecessor to undo.

GONYEA: Immigration on that list.

HOOK: And immigration is a classic one. He's done a lot of things that Congress has refused to do. And Donald Trump, on immigration, in particular, you know he's going to go after that on day one.

GREENE: All right. Janet Hook covers national politics for The Wall Street Journal. And next to me - on my right all week, NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea. We'll be hearing much more from you both as the show goes on. Thank you.

GONYEA: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.