Like a rock star rolling into an arena, former President Bill Clinton walked on stage Saturday to greet a crowd chanting his name.
Three days before Super Tuesday, he stopped at the MU Student Recreation Complex in a final blitz to campaign for his wife and presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton. He arrived a few minutes after 5 p.m. and spoke for about an hour on the core themes of his wife’s platform. Among the crowd were Hillary supporters, undecided voters and those simply drawn to the event by his celebrity status in the Democratic Party.
The economy— Rebuild the middle class by creating new jobs from green technology projects — Stop home foreclosures for 90 days and allow paying residents to continue to make payments for 5 years — Encourage states to negotiate with mortgage companies to keep people in their homes
Health care— Mandate coverage — Allow people to keep their current insurer if they are happy with their coverage — Eliminate tax cuts for the wealthiest to cover costs
College tuition— Increase Pell Grants — Create more AmericaCorps service positions — Raise tax credit to $3,500 to cover cost of tuition — Overhaul student loan program — Waive loans for graduates entering careers in public service
Global warming— Pour money into Strategic Energy Fund — Make every building as energy efficient as possible — Put all organic wastes into biofuels
Iraq War and international relations— Diplomacy first, military used only as last resort — Improve communication between foreign nations — Implement phased troop withdrawal in Iraq
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|His take on the economy|
|His take on the environment|
|Scenes from the rally|
His speech, frequently interrupted by applause and a few “hooahs” from military supporters, recalled the nostalgia of his presidency in the ’90s. Clinton often reminded the audience of the good economy during his years in the White House and, lamented about how the current administration has increased the unemployment rate.
Clinton was careful, however, to point out that his wife realizes this is a new era with new challenges.
“Hillary doesn’t want to go back to the past,” he said. “She wants to get America on its feet again so it can march to the future.”
Audience members had waited for hours outside the MU rec complex in a line that wrapped around Stankowski Field for a chance to see the former president.
“If he’s going to be here, that’s a lifetime opportunity,” said Anne Flaker, 20, an MU student. Flaker said she was pretty certain she would vote for Clinton in Tuesday’s primary but wanted to be as informed as possible.
A former John Edwards supporter, Nicole O’Connell had found herself without a candidate. “I need to know where I need to go,” she said, emphasizing she was most interested in hearing about jobs, immigration and college tuition.
Surrounded by Missourians of all ages in an overflowing basketball court, Clinton described himself as the “token country boy” in Hillary’s campaign. He talked about his wife’s credentials to become the Democratic nominee without ever mentioning her rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
“The truth is, most Americans already feel like they’ve been in a recession for a while now,” he said, following up with an explanation of Hillary’s plan for moving more people up to the middle class.
He criticized the current economic stimulus package and blamed the Bush administration for the subprime mortgage mess, then offered up Hillary’s plan for affordable health care and college education.
Clinton drew the most positive audience feedback when he said: “We need to restore America’s leadership in science and technology and take the politics out of stem cell research.”
On the topic of the environment, he used the MU rec complex to explain how buildings can become more energy efficient. His suggestions were to put sod on the roof and use special windows to collect solar energy.
“The quickest way to create jobs is to make a commitment to make every building as energy efficient as possible,” he said. He went on to say that the job of creating energy efficient buildings is the type of job that cannot be outsourced.
After touching on the Iraq War and foreign relations, he moved on to discuss his wife’s character.
“She’s been a world-class change-maker her whole life,” he said, giving her activism as a college student as an example.
He also talked about her record of working with Republicans in the Senate to pass bipartisan bills on such issues as medical care for veterans.
During the rally, Clinton paced the stage and frequently gestured toward audience members, completely ignoring the podium behind him. After about an hour, he delivered his personal opinion on what makes a good president: “You must vote for someone who will not be forgetful of the look I see in your faces today when he or she becomes president.”
After spending his final minutes praising his wife, Clinton moved off the stage and into the crowd to shake hands and sign books.
Audience members swarmed around him, holding cameras and cell phones high to snap pictures.
One man was overheard on his cell phone saying, “I’m 10 feet away from former President Bill Clinton!”
Tim Nelson, 53, a Hillary supporter, said he hopes she will inspire his two daughters.
“I would like to have them see a woman as president,” he said.