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Bill Clinton first visited Bend in 2008; here’s what he said


Here’s our KTVZ.COM story from former President Bill Clinton’s Bend High school visit on March 31, 2008:

At a rally that could be called quiet, even subdued at times, former President Bill Clinton told a packed crowd at Bend Senior High School Monday evening his wife Hillary is the best choice for president and made his best hour-plus pitch for Central Oregon voters to back her.

Well, best choice until daughter Chelsea takes up the family profession, Clinton half-joked, calling her “the best politician in the family.”

“The other day, in Indiana or someplace, she was asked whether she thought her mother would be a better president than I was, and she said yes,” Clinton said, drawing a laugh. “So everybody’s kind of gigging me about it.”In the first visit of a former president to the High Desert since Herbert Hoover in 1940, Clinton wrapped up a two-day whirlwind Oregon campaign tour by addressing about 2,500 people (hundreds more were turned away for lack of room) and noting at the end that it was “not a typical political speech,” with some interruptions for applause but surely no barn-burning chest-thumping rhetoric.

Actually, many more in the long lines outside would have been turned away, as theaudience was to be limited to 1,000, until the gym’s upper bleachers were opened to another 2,000 or so.

“I know why it’s so quiet,” Clinton said toward the end of his remarks. “Because you know this country’s in trouble, and we’ve got to change.”

Well, change is surely the word of the year, heard most often from the man leading Clinton’s wife in the delegate count, Sen. Barack Obama. But on issues from education to health care to the economy, Bill Clinton insisted his wife is more tested, learned and ready for the challenges of the Oval Office.

“You’ve got to have somebody you know will have their feet on the ground,” he said, standing before a large American flag.

As is often the custom, Clinton began with some jokes – about offering to wash an uncommitted super-delegate’s car windows – and some kind words about the state he was in, having arrived by private jet at Redmond Air Center from a stop in Salem.

“I’ve always really liked this state,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of friends here, some cousins living here.” He praised the initiatives, the referendums, and the “user-friendly government” of voting by mail.

And this year, for a rare time, Oregon’s late-season primary on May 20 matters, too.

“This is an amazing race,” Clinton said. “You’re going to have a say in it for the first time in 40 years.”

In recent days, Clinton has told those urging his wife to drop out for the good of the party to “just relax” and “chill out,” that the Democrats will unite and defeat Republican John McCain this fall. He sounded a similar tone in Bend Monday evening.

“I don’t want to talk much about the politics of this race,” he said, “but don’t you believe it when they say your vote doesn’t count and the race is over. If it was over, they wouldn’t bother to tell you.”

“Hillary thinks this is a great thing,” Clinton said. “Every state ought to vote, and when it’s all done, we’ll know who the nominee is. She thinks your vote counts as much as New Hampshire or Iowa.”

On education, for example, Clinton said 16- to 18-percent interest rates on college loans are “a disgrace,” and said his wife backs a college aid plan to give graduates a chance to get cheaper loans and pay them off over a longer period of time.

On the economy, he said it costs society a quarter-million dollars every time a home is foreclosed on, and if there are a million foreclosures, “it will blow away any benefit this stimulus package may have.” So he said there should be an immediate, 90-day moratorium on foreclosures, and a review of troubled loans. For “everyone who told the truth,” there should be help on payments to get past the crisis, for five years. “This is not free,” he said. “It would cost you about $30 billion do do that.”

Most families already are in tough times, he said, with income flat and costs rising.

“What caused the fix we’re in now is going back to trickle-down economics,” Clinton said. “Ninety percent of the gains of this decade have gone to the top 10 percent of the wage earners – 90 percent.”

He chastised the Bush administration for “big tax breaks to those who don’t need it,” in a decade that has seen only 5 million new jobs created, compared to 22.7 million in the 1990s.

And Clinton took time to poke fun atPresident Bush’s economic stimulus payments.

“Once you file your taxes, y’all will get these stimulus checks, and you’re supposed to go stimulate with them,” the nation’s 42nd president said with a laugh. “They want you to blow the money.”

To the Clintons, the best move to help the economy is to push for sustainable energy.

“The only wealthy countries doing really well are those who are (showing) a serious, unbending commitment to energy independence, and to developing clean, stable sources of energy,” the former president said, noting his wife was alone among the three major-party candidates remaining to vote against the “disgraceful” energy bill, derided by critics as the “best corporations could buy.”

“If we can send a man to the moon, we surely should be able to create an (electric) car battery and liberate ourselves” from Middle East oil, he said.

Back to education, in the school setting, Clinton lashed out at Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation, saying most school districts were cutting back on subjects like history, political science and science to focus on tested subjects under an “unfunded mandate. This has to change. It is not working.”

Instead, he called for finding the schools that perform well, finding out what they’re doing right and replicating that elsewhere. “Make it fun, make it exciting,” he said.

“The one issue Hillary is more conservative than President Bush is, and I hope you are too: the budget,” he said, noting that the national debt was paid down during his administration and that his wife is calling for a return to a balanced budget: “Every last red cent of everything I’ve talked about is accounted for,” she said.

“She’s the best qualified to turn things around,” he said. “She understands this stuff.”

He also said his wife would “be the best commander-in-chief and the best diplomat.”

“You name me one problem we can solve by ourselves,” he said, from terrorism or illegal immigration to organized crime and drug trafficking – and, of course, global warming.

“She’s going to send a very different message,” he said. “We’re back in the cooperation business. We’re back in the diplomacy business. The world is mad at us for reasons that go way beyond Iraq. … You cannot tell the world, ‘I want one set of rules for us and another for everybody else.'”

As for Iraq, Clinton said his wife would indeed “terminate military involvement in Iraq and bring our troops home,” except for a “small number of special forces” to deal with Al Qaida and terrorists.

And he said it’s past time to reverse course there, likening the problem to a neighbor whose home has burned down, and who you agree to put up for a while.

“If you’re neighbor is on your couch for five years, it’s not about the fire any more,” he said.

As he’s said repeatedly on the campaign trail, Bill Clinton said his wife would fare better than others at turning “good intentions of campaigns into real progress for the American people.

“She’s the best change agent I’ve ever known – the best,” Clinton said, lingering for about 45 minutes after his talk to sign lots of autographs, shake hands and pose for pictures before departing in the night chill for his waiting jet in Redmond and the next stop, Tuesday morning in Havre, Montana.

His wife, Hillary, will be visiting Portland and Eugene on Saturday, keeping up the fight in Oregon even as many eyes focus on the next big primary, April 22 in Pennsylvania.

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