Clinton made the local stop as part of a four-city swing through Ohio that started Sunday morning in Toledo, moved through Canton and here before heading to Marietta to wrap up the day.
“One candidate says he’s fresh and new, the other says she is tested, tried and true,” Clinton said, referring to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who is locked in a dead heat with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. The Ohio primary is March 4, when Texas also will hold its Democratic primary.
Bill Clinton, introduced by Gov. Ted Strickland and standing in front of a banner declaring “Solutions for America, Hillary Clinton,” recalled Ohio was the state that gave him the winning number of delegates at the Democratic National Convention in 1992 said Ohio was the state that put him over the top in the 1992 general election.
“I love Ohio. I love you a lot,” Clinton said. “The fate of the nomination lies in the hands of Texas and Ohio.”
He was speaking to many supporters, as indicated by a comment prior to the rally from Loretta Bowman of Bellaire.
“We have the choice between a smooth-talking man or a straight-talking woman,” Bowman said. “Hillary is a straight talker. There are so many details about Obama that we aren’t hearing. Hillary has offered a strong program for the future of America. Obama is a nice man, but Hillary is my hero.”
Security was light at the rally, with a bomb-sniffing dog used to make a sweep of the Big Red gym and area around it about 90 minutes before Clinton arrived. Those attending the rally were not subjected to searches or swept with metal detectors.
Local officials said the Secret Service informed them that, as a former president, Clinton is considered a low-risk target, thus the metal sweeps and heavier security afforded candidates and the sitting president are not used.
Clinton was heckled at one point by pro-life movement members from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, who lifted anti-abortion signs during the rally.
He strongly defended his wife’s record on caring for children and unwed mothers, including sponsoring legislation to assist women who have children out of wedlock to keep welfare benefits if they move back in with their own parents.
“Tell the truth,” Clinton said. “If you were really pro-life, you would want to put every doctor who performs an abortion and every woman who has an abortion in jail for murder.”
The former president said abortion went down by as much as 20 percent while he was in office “without keeping people all revved up and calling them `killers.’”
He also challenged the group, saying, “Everybody who says they are pro-life say they will get rid of Roe v. Wade, but nobody tells you how they’re going to do that.” Roe v. Wade is the 1972 Supreme Court decision that permitted abortion on demand in the United States.
Noting his wife considers every abortion a tragedy, Clinton said she still believes they should be safe and legal and a woman’s choice.
That sentiment is opposed by students from Franciscan University of Steubenville, who protested outside Big Red.
Clinton’s message for the rally was that Sen. Clinton has been an agent of change and has the experience to be the president.
He delivered his address without notes, and aides said there was no prepared text.
Clinton resumed his speech after responding to the heckler without losing his train of thought, which was on education at that point.
Clinton said the recently passed economic stimulus package has a problem in that most Americans think the nation has been in a recession for several years. He said Sen. Clinton, as president, would make health care more affordable and improve access and financing to college education, including restoring low-interest government loans for college and providing people in certain careers — such as law enforcement, medicine and education — to be able to repay their loans by employment service.
He also declared the “No Child Left Behind” act — a centerpiece of the Bush administration’s education efforts — a failure. He said states facing a loss of education funds actually choose easier tests and set the passing score low to preserve standing. He said the result is that education has degraded rather than improved.
On the economy, he said Hillary Clinton would set a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and freeze mortgage payment levels for five years.
On Iraq, he said Hillary believes as many troops as possible should be brought home as soon and as safely as possible, keeping in mind that there are more than 100,000 American civilians at work in Iraq who would need protection. He said her plan would call for a small number of special forces to remain in the Kurdish north of Iraq to ensure al-Qaida does not resurface and use the area as a training ground.
He said U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the apparent Republican nominee for president, deserves respect for his record and his years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
“This has to be a noble election and a positive election for this country,” Clinton said.
He said Sen. Clinton, if elected president, would see to it that veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are not forgotten, as happened to Vietnam veterans. He also said Hillary would restore America as a nation that is willing to work with other nations whenever possible.
“For the past seven years, we have been saying that it’s our way or the highway,” Clinton said.
He said problems such as global warming, terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation and fighting disease take a global solution. He said the military wants an America that abides by the Geneva Convention so that American prisoners are treated humanely.
He also said investments in biofuels can create millions of jobs, as well as investments in fuel-efficient automobiles can improve national security while cleaning the planet.
Photo by Jennifer Compston-Strough
Former President Clinton addresses the crowd Sunday night at Steubenville High School.