Former President Bill Clinton told a roaring crowd of supporters at the University of Utah on Sunday that his wife and presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton is the best equipped to bridge the partisan divide in Congress and restore America's credibility in the world.
Although Bill Clinton said he likes the field of candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, he said Hillary Clinton would be better at getting bipartisan support for reform efforts and pointed to her past work with Republican senators. He said it is critical for the next president to not get blocked by filibusters in the Senate and work with members of both parties to get legislation passed.
"That's why she can win this race," Bill Clinton said. "If you notice, there haven't been many Republican senators (talking bad about her)."
He said Hillary Clinton can also restore the United States' standing in the world more quickly than the other candidates.
"We need to send a loud message to the world, that the U.S. is back in the cooperation business, back in the diplomacy business," Bill Clinton said. "I don't think it's close who would do it most quickly and thoroughly."
Bill Clinton also touted Hillary Clinton's defense credentials as a member of the Armed Services Committee, saying, "Our party cannot win this election without being credible on national security."
Bill Clinton was in town to raise money for his wife's presidential campaign and attended fundraisers in Park City, as well. Campaign staffers said Hillary Clinton had originally wanted to attend the event, but was replaced because of scheduling conflicts.
"I love being a surrogate," Bill Clinton joked.
He spoke before a crowd of more than 1,200 campaign donors in the Union Ballroom. Attendees were required to buy tickets to get into the sold-out event, with prices ranging from $30 to $50.
The former president warned the audience not to buy into the negative "campaign cartoon" depiction of Hillary Clinton or fears about her high negatives. He noted that she was re-elected to the Senate in 2006 with 60 percent of the vote in New York counties that President George Bush carried just two years before.
"Because (New Yorkers) knew her, not the campaign cartoon," he explained.
During the speech, Bill Clinton identified what he considers the three biggest challenges facing the world today: growing inequality, environmental unsustainability and identity conflicts between nations and other groups.
He stressed Hillary Clinton's desire to provide health care for all Americans and improve the education system by creating a universal pre-kindergarten program.
On the issue of global warming, Bill Clinton said the United States must set an example for China and India by proving that limiting greenhouse gas emissions can benefit the economy, noting that Hillary Clinton plans to outline this idea more in the coming weeks.
Bill Clinton said he sees identity conflicts between nations and, more severely, groups such as al-Qaida that cannot appreciate their differences while recognizing a common humanity. He said this identity conflict is often the source of many other conflicts.
"It is at the root of every irreconcilable conflict on earth," Bill Clinton said.
He said identify conflict has prevented Congress from creating a sensible immigration policy in the United States.
Bill Clinton concluded the rally by telling the crowd a story about a New York City firefighter who supports Hillary. When the White House and others claimed the firefighters weren't exposed to fumes from asbestos and other toxins in rescuing people from the collapsed World Trade Center on Sept. 11, he said the man was touched that Hillry Clinton stood by the firefighters.
"Because of her, some of us who would have died are alive," Bill Clinton recalled the man saying.
Robert Mayer, a professor in the department of family and consumer studies, said although the rally helped to improve his opinion of Hillary Clinton, he is still unsure which candidate he supports.
"I don't know that she's ready to see things in a fresh light," Mayer said.
Chase Clyde, a sophomore political science major who volunteered at the event, said Bill Clinton's speech only affirmed his support for Hillary Clinton.
"I think he made her so much more human," Clyde said.
© 2007 Daily Utah Chronicle via U-WIRE