The former Democratic president had complimentary things to say about individuals across the aisle, too -- particularly those in play for the presidency.
"The ones I liked are the ones that you think are more moderate," he said, "'cause I think they're a little more connected to the real world. And I think they'll be-- they'd be formidable. ... But I'm afraid if I say anything nice about them, they'll lose, for sure."
But then, what the heck, he proceeded to say nice things about many of them anyway.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, he said, "did a very nice, a good job for America as ambassador to China. I think he's quite an impressive man. He's got an impressive family. I had the honor of meeting one of his children once and having a conversation with her. I think that he's refreshingly, kind of, unhide-bound. Just comes across as non-ideological -- conservative, but non-ideological, practical."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, he said, is "doing a better job as a candidate this time than he did four years ago. [He] comes across as more relaxed and more convicted about what he did do, less willing to just be forced into apologizing for it because it violates some part of his party orthodoxy."
He claimed not to be surprised by the early success of Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, because, "I've been watching her speak at some of these conventions on ESPN, you know, she comes across as a real person. ... The story that they tell is pretty compelling, all those foster children she's taken in, and children she's raised and the work she's done."
He also had kind words for his successor as Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, as well as other non-candidates Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who were attending his jobs conference in Chicago.
"I'm going to do my best to make them better candidates, indirectly," Obama said of the Republican field. "Even though I don't want them to beat President Obama, I'm going to do my best by proving at this conference that there are things we can do to create jobs and that we should all be focused on doing what we can do to make America work. And we should be less focused on spouting, you know, political lines and dumping on each other. All that matters is putting the country back to work. We put the country back to work and prepare for the new century, the rest of this will take care of itself."
Bill Clinton at CGI America Conference: Way Forward on Jobs
To create jobs, Clinton endorsed investing in clean energy to compete with China and other foreign powers, finding ways to get companies to "insource" jobs to rural America rather than outsourcing them overseas, and creating an "infrastructure bank" to rebuild the nation's roads, bridges and hardware.
He also cited an idea proposed at the conference to confront a "so-called skills gap" in America, training workers for specific open jobs "by giving the employers the money to train them first and saying, 'You don't have to hire people. Train them first. Don't train afterward. Here's the money.'"
"There are more than three million posted job openings today," Clinton said. "Those jobs are being filled at only half the pace they were filled in previous recession. ... So just think about it: If we have three million more people working, unemployment would be more than two points lower than it is, and America would be in a very different place psychologically.
"I think that there will be something the president can do with that that won't require a lot of new money, just being extremely flexible about how to take the money we've got and hire people more quickly," he added.