Former President Clinton touts wife’s ability to handle adversity
RENO – Former President Bill Clinton touted the strengths of his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying her startling victory in New Hampshire showed her ability to deal with adversity.
Wearing cowboy boots and jeans, Clinton told a crowd of about 600 at a rally Sunday in Reno that her success was only the latest evidence of her ability to respond under pressure.
Hillary Clinton salvaged her candidacy with a 39 percent to 36 percent victory over Barack Obama. A USA Today-Gallup Poll gave him a 13-percentage point lead just before Tuesday’s vote, which followed Obama’s win over her in the Iowa caucuses.
“You need to know how the president will handle failure, because I promise you whoever you elect won’t win every time,” Bill Clinton said. “Hillary was tested in New Hampshire. She turned it around in breathtaking fashion.”
The former president also cited her unwillingness to give up after her failure to secure universal health insurance while he was president.
“What did she do? She went back to work and got the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which insured 6 million people, the biggest expansion of health care since Medicare,” he said. “You need that in a president, somebody who can look into the abyss … and not give up.”
Clinton, who later spoke to about 400 people in Fallon and 700 people in Minden amid a tight race in advance of the state’s presidential caucuses Saturday, sought to draw distinctions between his wife and Obama.
While he praised Obama’s political skills and ability to inspire hope, he questioned his ability “to turn words into deeds” and experience for the White House.
“Now, if you believe the only way to provide hope in this country is to start out with somebody completely new, then you have to be for Sen. Obama, because he’s the only one who’s completely new,” Clinton said.
“If you believe that the election is about picking a president that will work with you to empower you to live your hopes and dreams, based on a proven track record of making positive change and making it whenever possible with Republicans, then you have to caucus for Hillary. You just have to decide what you think the election is about,” he said.
Clinton called his wife a “world-class change-maker” saying she has worked for change since she attended law school.
Among other issues, he cited her role in legislation dealing with abused children, special education and education reform. He also said her role in bipartisan federal legislation concerning military personnel shows she has “worked well” with Republicans.
Leaders of the new government of Northern Ireland recently invited her to Washington to hail her for the behind-the-scenes role she played, “completely independent of me,” in the Irish peace process, Clinton added.
“I could keep you here until tomorrow morning telling you stories people still tell me about the difference she made in the lives of people around the world,” Clinton said.
He also touted his wife’s plans to deal with the economy, health care and energy, insisting they would offer more help to low- and middle-class Americans.
Asked by an audience member what his role would be if his wife won the White House, Clinton said the only specific plan mentioned so far is for him to mobilize a bipartisan group designed to improve foreign relations. He would be barred from holding a Cabinet or staff position.
“Throughout our lives we always talk about everything and try to help each other think through problems and I’ll do that,” he said. “If there’s some specific thing along the way I should do, I’d be happy to do that as long as it doesn’t in any way undermine the vice president or secretary of state or anybody else.”
Afterward, Clinton toured a couple of homes that were flooded after a storm-swollen irrigation canal ruptured last weekend in Fernley, 30 miles east of Reno.
“It’s astonishing how people show up to help their neighbors at a time like this,” he said while discussing the flood with Fernley Mayor Todd Cutler.
Clinton was scheduled to campaign Monday around Las Vegas.
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