De­fen­sive hus­band: Clin­ton re­bukes ri­vals for ‘gang up’ on Hil­lary

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By An­drea Billups

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.”

Katie Falkenberg / The Wash­ing­ton Times

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.

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