Defensive husband: Clinton rebukes rivals for ‘gang up’ on Hillary
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Former President Bill Clinton told voters in South Carolina Nov. 12 that the “boys” have been ganging up on his wife in recent weeks but that she can take it.
“She’s been doing this on her own for a long time now,” said Mr. Clinton during a visit to a hair salon and day spa on a daylong trip through this decidedly red state on behalf of the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat.
“She knows that personal attacks are a part of politics,” Mr. Clinton told reporters as he greeted the women getting their hair relaxed and curled at Anjea’s Hair Studio and Spa. In recent weeks, other Democratic candidates, particularly Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, have sharpened their criticism of the former first lady, the front-runner for the nomination.
Mr. Clinton received a warm welcome from about 800 supporters and students gathered on Veterans Day at Trident Technical College in North Charleston, S.C., for a rally supporting Mrs. Clinton, who was not present at either rally.
While Mr. Clinton drew fire on both sides of the political aisle when he compared sharp criticism of his wife by her opponents at a recent Democratic debate in Philadelphia to the “swift-boating” attacks leveled by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth at 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, he was upbeat and less defensive in South Carolina, assuring the crowd that his wife was strong enough to take a political punch.
“It’s a great time to be a Democrat,” Mr. Clinton said to cheers, adding that the Democrats have a strong slate of candidates running for president.
“I like it because even though those boys have been getting kind of tough on her, she can handle it,” he said. “I like all the people in my party’s primary.”
Mr. Clinton joked later in the day, when he delivered the same stump speech before about 1,400 supporters at Howard High School in Georgetown, S.C., that “I can still deliver a pretty good political speech” and touted his own record as president. He told supporters that Mrs. Clinton has her own ideas that will bring the country back to the fiscal stability and peace that he says the nation enjoyed under his presidency.
Citing a serious national security crisis, Mr. Clinton said his wife had a solid plan for orderly withdrawal from Iraq. He said she was prepared to rebuild the nation’s “badly strained military,” noting that some Navy forces were being trained like Army infantry soldiers because the Army and Marines were stretched thin from their ongoing service in Iraq.
“If we are already using the reserve Reserve, then we are in trouble,” Mr. Clinton said.
He touted her experience on the Senate Armed Services Committee and said Mrs. Clinton, who visited 83 countries as first lady, is popular among world leaders, claiming that this will allow her to rebuild diplomacy.
“We have to restore our standing in the world,” Mr. Clinton said. “So many countries are mad at us now. The reason they are mad at us is that there are very few problems we can solve alone. We need America back in good shape with the rest of the world.”
He said the country needed “someone in the Oval Office who really understands what it will take not only to honor our veterans on Veterans Day but to rebuild the military strength that we need,” he said. “We’ve got to repair it.”
Mr. Clinton’s speech also covered domestic policy issues, including health care, jobs and education, and said his wife is the best qualified candidate.
“I’m sure she can win,” he said. “She’s winning all of the national polls.”
For some attending the North Charleston rally, Mr. Clinton, who appeared without his wife, remains the bigger draw of the pair.
Joked South Carolina state Rep. David Mack, who warmed up the crowd before Mr. Clinton spoke at Trident Technical: “I don’t know how many of you heard the line from ‘The Blues Brothers,’ but ‘We’re getting the band back together.’ ”
That suits David Lowe, 41, a salesman from Charleston, just fine.
“With her, you get him,” Mr. Lowe said. “The experience to me, that’s the strong thing there. If Bill Clinton wasn’t available in this deal, I don’t think I’d be supporting Hillary.”
Wanda Davis, 35, a telecommunications student at Trident, agreed that Mr. Clinton gives his wife political heft.
“He kind of overshadows her,” said Miss Davis, a Cottageville, S.C., resident who served in the Army for eight years. “She’s got to be living in his shoes so to speak. She may have to take some pointers from him.”
Despite the added attraction of the other spouse — which Mrs. Clinton played the other way in 1992, referring to her husband’s candidacy as a “two-for-one blueplate special” — Miss Davis is still undecided between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, adding that Mrs. Clinton’s sex will play little role in her choice of a candidate.
“She still has to prove herself to me,” Miss Davis said. “She has to show me what she’s going to get done.”
Two for one: Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nov. 12 at Trident Technical College in North Charleston, S.C. Some supporters said Mr. Clinton remains the bigger draw of the pair.