WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a potent political tableau, President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton stepped into a construction site Friday to push a plan for more jobs through energy efficient buildings -- a joint appearance that Obama used to prod Congress to extend a current payroll tax cut.
The unusual pairing of Obama and the popular former president was designed to draw attention to a $4 billion administration initiative aimed at achieving fuel savings and more employment at no increased cost to taxpayers.
Obama said the program was a cheap way to help create jobs, save money and cut down on pollution.
"It is a trifecta," he said.
The program's appeal is that the cost to renovate government and private sector buildings is paid off over time by the energy savings. What's more, the contractors who perform the work guarantee that lower energy costs will materialize.
"It is the nearest thing we've got to a free lunch in a tough economy," Clinton said.
The announcement is yet another in a string of White House initiatives designed to address the current weak economy without having to seek congressional approval.
But the program itself was overshadowed by the television-ready image of the incumbent president and the last two-term Democrat to serve in the White House appearing together.
Alluding to ads by a Republican-leaning political group that feature Clinton comments about tax increases, Obama said: "I've noticed that some folks on the other side have been quoting President Clinton about it's a bad idea to raise taxes during tough economic times."
"That's precisely why I sought to extend the payroll tax this year and next year. It doesn't mean we lock in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. I don't think President Clinton has been on board for that for perpetuity."
To that, Clinton looked on with nodding delight.