Bill Clinton stays clear of Obama in rally at Fisk
By ROSE FRENCH
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton trumpeted Hillary Clinton’s proposals at a Nashville rally for his wife’s supporters Monday night, steering clear of critical comments about her chief rival Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates.
Clinton promoted his wife’s proposals to provide universal health care, fight terrorism and keep the country from sliding into a recession.
At the event held at Fisk University’s Henderson Gymnasium, where slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. spoke during one of several visits to the historically black university, Clinton addressed close to 1,000 Fisk students and other supporters, who chanted “We want Bill” and waved signs which said “Ready for Change.”
The crowd erupted in applause when Clinton stepped onto the stage with former Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter, who said he worked with the Clintons for more than two decades when the former president was governor of Arkansas.
Clinton, who spoke for close to an hour, said the country must bring health care costs in line with other countries. He said Americans must also do a better job of keeping themselves well and practice preventive approaches to staying healthy.
“We can’t heal the American economy over the long run until we have affordable health care,” Clinton said. “To do it, you have to cover everybody.”
He also said in fighting terrorism, the U.S. needs to restore its standing in how other countries view our foreign policies because too many are upset at the U.S.
“More than half the world is mad at us. It’s not just because of Iraq,” but also because of the U.S. “walking away from the global fight for climate change,” the conditions at Abu Ghraib, and not abiding by the Geneva Convention, Clinton said.
“We basically sent a message to the world that it was our way or the highway,” he said, adding that Hillary wants to get out of Iraq as quickly as possible “without making it worse.”
To fight off a recession, Clinton said his wife wants to build on creating more jobs and keeping massive tax cuts at bay.
Clinton’s comments followed those he made Monday morning heralding the legacy of King at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where the slain civil rights leader preached.
Blacks have traditionally been a dependable voting bloc for Democrats and enthusiastic supporters of Bill Clinton. Yet the former president has been criticized in the black community of late for describing aspects of Obama’s candidacy as “a fairy tale.”
In an interview with ABC on Monday, Obama challenged the former President’s truthfulness in some comments he’s made about Obama’s record — including statements by Clinton accusing Obama of exaggerating his anti-war record and handing out undeserved praise to Republicans.
Later Monday night, Obama and Hillary Clinton clashed bitterly during the Democratic debate in South Carolina about the role of Bill Clinton in his wife’s campaign.
The former President avoided talking about Obama in Nashville.
Clinton took questions from the audience at Fisk for about 15 minutes, but was not asked about Obama. He did not take questions from the media.
Clinton’s visit was the first by a major presidential campaign to Nashville this year, and comes just two weeks before the state’s Feb. 5 presidential primary. Tennessee is one of more than 20 states holding a primary that day, and the state is starting to draw attention from the Democratic front-runners.
Obama is airing television ads in the state’s four major markets and has opened campaign offices in Nashville and Memphis.
And Clinton’s visit on Monday comes the day before his wife’s campaign plans to open an office in Nashville. Edwards does not yet have a campaign office in the state.
Republican presidential candidates Fred Thompson and Ron Paul also have opened state campaign headquarters in Nashville.
The Democratic presidential nominee has not carried Tennessee in the general election since Bill Clinton in 1996.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign has invested significant resources in South Carolina, but she plans to spend most of the week campaigning in states holding contests on Feb. 5, including California, New Mexico and New Jersey. She is to return to South Carolina on Friday.
Bill Clinton is expected to spend most of the week campaigning for his wife in South Carolina.
Published in The Messenger 1.22.08