Former President Bill Clinton told a crowd of 300 at West Lebanon High School Tuesday night that the experience and competence his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., would bring to the presidency makes her the strongest contender for the job.
"Hillary is the best-suited, best-qualified person who is not already president that I will get a chance to vote for," Clinton said, noting that his comparison spans 40 years of voting.
Mirroring the senator's campaign focus on experience, Bill Clinton emphasized Hillary Clinton's ability to solve problems.
"You need to vote for someone with a proven record of getting things done," Clinton said, citing Hillary Clinton's ability to work across party lines with Republicans such as former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to pass a medical records bill and Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., to provide funding for soldiers' body armor.
He also said that even many voters in upstate New York who disagreed with Hillary Clinton's politics voted for her because she delivers for constituents.
Clinton said that many New York Republicans told him, "I never thought I'd vote for a Democrat. I certainly never thought I'd ever vote for her, but I don't seem to have much of a choice." In particular, Clinton cited the senator's work to prevent military base closures in the state, to boost flagging rural economies and to respond to constituents' specific concerns.
Clinton cited the senator's work to provide health care and compensation for rescue workers sickened by debris from the 9/11 attacks, a problem he said the Bush administration refused to even acknowledge.
Bill Clinton also focused on the policies Hillary Clinton would implement to face challenges such as the faltering economy, climate change, energy independence, and health care. Among specific proposals were a temporary freeze on foreclosures and mortgage hikes, and a bill to encourage hospitals to computerize medical records -- a move Clinton said could save up to $80 billion now wasted due to inefficiency.
He also said climate change is the country's "biggest economic opportunity since we mobilized for World War II" to become a leader in new technology and boost economic independence.
While most of Clinton's speech was positive and he did not mention the other Democratic contenders, he did lash out at what he described as the Bush administration's reckless fiscal policy.
"They're throwing tax cuts at me while we have these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," Clinton said, adding that the administration paid for these tax cuts by borrowing money from Japan, China, Britain and potentially hostile oil-producing countries. "We're sending billions of dollar in your hard earned dollars to countries that don't support our morals and values."
Clinton also reflected on his time in private life and his goals for the future. He discussed his work in the Clinton Foundation to provide AIDS drugs to poor countries, fight climate change and finance research to address domestic health concerns like childhood obesity.
"What matters in your public life is whether America is better off than when you started, if our children's futures are brighter than when you started. Everything else is smoke and mirrors."