Clinton: Get back on track
800 in Hampton hear her discuss goals, bash Bush
By Michael Mccord
Herald Sunday, April 15, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of the Herald Sunday and Seacoast Online.]
If elected, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton vowed at a campaign event at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton that her administration would pay attention to the large "invisible" segments of our society she thinks the administration of President George W. Bush has intentionally ignored.
Bush has shown "disregard and indifference to the problems of everyday Americans. You are not invisible to me," said the New York senator to a friendly audience of about 800.
Like other campaign stops by her top rivals for the Democratic nomination --; Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina --; Clinton's appearance drew a large crowd. It did not escape her attention that the sizable audience was there on a weekend day almost nine months before the first New Hampshire primary votes will be cast (it was also a day in which the region was preparing for a major spring storm.)
Clinton acknowledged "the level of interest of intensity" this early in the primary cycle and her diagnosis at the beginning of her appearance was simple.
"The country has been on the wrong track for six years," she said.
Steve Philp of Portsmouth was one of many who attended the event that agreed with Clinton. The self-described "card-carrying Democrat" who came to the event with his wife and 26-year-old daughter, said the country "can't afford another four years" of Republican rule.
Clinton, who was in the middle of a two-day trip to the state and her second visit to the Seacoast region since February, engaged and joked with the audience while covering a wide range of issues during the approximate one-hour event.
"There's a sense of unease in the country that goes beyond partisan politics," said Clinton. "It's un-American to ignore problems that will come back to haunt us,"
Clinton, who is leading in early primary polling in New Hampshire and nationally, said she was the "most qualified and best experienced" candidate and could hit the ground running as president in January 2009.
"We need to start setting goals," Clinton said of plans that included a universal health care system, national energy independence, more affordable student loans, a more diplomatic-savvy foreign policy and extrication from the war in Iraq, better care for returning war veterans, a public service academy, and a reform effort to make the federal government more ethical and efficient.
Though mostly light on policy specifics, Clinton worked around a theme about restoring "American values" of "hard work, individual responsibility and self-reliance." She encouraged the audience "to keep faith with the next generation."
After her stump speech, Clinton answered audience questions about micro loans, mental health, public service, talking to children about the "scary times" they live in and the war in Iraq --; which in numerous state and national polls is the top issue for Democrat voters.
After a Vietnam War veteran implored Clinton to end "wars of empire," the sharpest exchange of the event occurred when a woman from New York asked Clinton about the amount of intelligence homework she did before voting for war authorization in 2002.
"I believed I was giving the president authority to put inspectors in Iraq," Clinton said. "It was not a vote for preemptive war."
Though he remains uncommitted to a candidate yet, Steve Philp said he was "impressed overall" with Clinton's appearance.
"She was expressing the values that we need to get in America," said Philp, who added that electability would be one of the top considerations for choosing a candidate to support.
House party in Hampton
Prior to speaking at the high school, Clinton stopped by the Hampton home of Gary and Lenore Patton for a political house party.
She spoke to a crowd of 50 people, who Patton labeled the "movers and shakers in this area" of local politics.
Gary Patton is the chairman of the Hampton Democratic Party while Lenore Patton is the chairwoman of the Rockingham County Democrats.
The former first lady talked about why she is the best suited to be president and how she intends to bring the country back from what she calls one of the "worst administrations in our history."
She talked about her "reform" agenda which she unveiled during a speech on Friday and the need to start setting goals for the country.
Clinton also talked about the challenges abroad and restoring international relations with other countries.
After the two stops in Hampton, Clinton headed to Portsmouth for a second house party event.
Reporter Patrick Cronin contributed to this story.