The former First Lady who is hoping to follow in her husband’s footsteps made her first campaign-style trip to Iowa this weekend.
About 2000 people crowded into a community center in Des Moines to witness what New York Senator Hillary Clinton called the first of many "conversations" she plans to have with Iowans. "I just want to pledge to you that I will be here over and over again, trying to meet with as many people as possible," Clinton said. "You may not always agree with me. We may not, you know, see the world exactly the same, but I will tell you what I think. I will take your questions. I will try to figure out what we can do to find common ground and move forward together."
Most of the questions from the audience at East High in Des Moines were focused on either education or her status as the only woman in the race. But Clinton was the first to bring up the topic, just after she walked into the room. "Now, I know there are people who either say or wonder: ‘Would we ever elect a woman president?’ and I don’t think we’ll know ’til we try. I’m going to try," Clinton said, as the crowd erupted in applause and cheers. "And I believe with your help, we can do it."
The first audience member to be called on by Clinton returned to the subject of Clinton potentially becoming the first woman president. "I don’t think I’m the only woman here who feels that sometimes you have to work even harder, right?" Clinton replied. "I am prepared to do that." She jokingly told the crowd she expects more stories to be written about her hair and her clothes than will be written about the attire and hairstyles of the men in the race.
"I just have accepted that and you know there may be some other kind of funny stories about differences between us or a little bit of the double-standard," Clinton said. "I just reject that. You know, I think we’ve got to move beyond that. I am going to be asking people to vote for me based on my entire life and experience. The fact that I’m a woman, the fact that I’m a mom is part of who I am but I’m going to ask people to vote for the person they believe will be the best president for the United States of America."
Later, in answer to a question, Clinton said she is pushing legislation to expand the enforcement of the Equal Pay Act. "Women have made progress and I’m very proud of that, but it is still not equitable," Clinton said. "…This is not just a women’s issue. This is a family issue. You know, when a woman goes into the workplace, if she’s married, that adds to the income of the family. If she’s the single support of herself, her children or maybe an elderly relative, then why shouldn’t she be treated fairly in the workplace to get the pay that she deserves?"
Kim Bolte of Ankeny brought her 13-year-old son to the event because he’s interested in politics. Bolte is interested in Clinton’s candidacy. "Right now, I’m leaning towards Hillary," she says. "Absolutely."
Bolte’s mother, Sandy Crabtree, is, too. "I"d like to see a woman president," Crabtree says.
Marci Ruiz of Des Moines took her two children to see Clinton on Saturday. Two-year-old Haley probably won’t remember, but 10-year-old Joey will. "He’s learning about the political process and we’re fans anyway. We’re definitely, definitely fans and he’s doing a report about Bill Clinton this week also," Ruiz says. "This couldn’t have come at a better time."
During her time on stage in Des Moines, Clinton did not refer to President Bush by name, but on several occasions lamented his leadership over the past six years. "It just defies my understanding how we could have taken a balanced budget and a surplus that this president inherited in 2001…I mean, we’ve squandered it," Clinton said. "…We haven’t met the challenges that we face."
In answer to a question, Clinton declared herself "committed" to getting universal health care coverage for all Americans — a goal she tried to reach when her husband put her in charge of health care reform. "Now, I remember all too well back to ’93 and ’94," Clinton said, theatrically clearing her throat in the middle of that sentence while many in the audience laughed. "I understand how hard it is, but I think we as a nation now have so many more years of experience." Clinton said as a start, every child in America should be covered.
Clinton was set to meet with Democrats in a private home in Cedar Rapids on Saturday night. On Sunday, she’s scheduled to stop by a cafe in Davenport, then held a news conference at a local high school.