Former President Bill Clinton made his return to Iowa’s political stage tonight with a short speech on his wife’s behalf.
Several thousand people gathered on the Iowa State Fairgrounds to hear from the political couple. "There’s one guy back in the back over there that represents a group I belong to," Clinton told the crowd. "It says ‘Husbands for Hillary.’"
The former president spoke for less than 10 minutes and began by reminiscing a bit about his own victories in Iowa. "Iowa was good to me. You voted for me, twice, by good, healthy margins," Clinton said. "I’m grateful for that."
Clinton launched into a bit of his wife’s biography, telling the crowd she had turned down job offers from "big, fancy law firms" to work for the Children’s Defense Fund when they graduated from law school, and worked on a variety of issues when he became governor of Arkansas.
"When I became president, you all know that we tried and failed to pass health care reform. I think that’s a good thing, not a bad thing," Clinton said. "I’d rather be caught trying to do something that needs to be done than hanging around, shooting the wounded, when it doesn’t happen."
Clinton shied away from criticizing his wife’s rivals and told the crowd he "liked" and "admired" all the Democrats who’re running for president. "So this is a freebie for us…How many times have you been in an election where you had to vote for somebody because you were against somebody else?…All you have to decide is: Who do you think will be the best president?" Clinton said. "Here’s what I want to say to you: I’d be here tonight, if she asked me, if we weren’t married."
Senator Clinton, when she took center stage, did not mention her rivals either. Instead, she focused her fire on the current president, singling out Bush’s decision to pardon an aide to the vice president who revealed the identity of a covert CIA agent. "Now, as I recall, the president said that if anybody in his White House were found to have any part in disclosing the identity of Valerie Plame, they would be fired," Clinton said. "Apparently that is another one of those statements by the president that just doesn’t hold up, does it?"
Clinton accused Bush of cronyism and she suggested "all the damage" that’s been done by Bush hasn’t yet been discovered. "When I’m president, we’re going to get back to cherishing the constitution, upholding the rule of law and putting forth the best values of America for the entire world to see again," Clinton said.
Both Clintons made a point of mentioning that Bill Clinton did not compete in Iowa’s Caucuses back in 1992 because Senator Tom Harkin ran for president that year. "I’m thrilled to finally find something in politics that I’m doing that my husband didn’t do so this is a very special occasion for me," Senator Clinton said.
Ruth Harkin, wife of Iowa’s Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, announced her support of Hillary Clinton last night. "I could not be more proud to support a candidate who will break the highest and the hardest glass ceiling and say to every girl and boy: ‘You, too, can be president,’" Mrs. Harkin said, to applause from the crowd in Des Moines.
In December, Senator Harkin endorsed Tom Vilsack’s bid for the White House. Harkin was not present at last night’s event.
The Clintons will hold campaign rallies in Iowa City and Davenport on Tuesday.