New York Senator Hillary Clinton paid homage to Iowa’s largest labor union on Friday night, one of five Democratic presidential hopefuls who’re stopping by this weekend’s AFSCME convention in Des Moines.
Clinton sounded themes popular with the union workers, like ending the practice of outsourcing unionized jobs in government to private contractors.
"Let’s start by ending these no-bid contracts that go to the cronies of the Bush and Cheney Administration," Clinton said, to applause from the crowd. "Let’s quit outsourcing our government to all of these contract employees."
Clinton proposed firing half a million private contractors currently on the federal government payroll. "They are not proving to be cheaper, as advertised. They are totally unaccountable. I am tired of sending off important functions of the United States Government to people that don’t perform," Clinton said. "They didn’t perform in Iraq and they didn’t perform after Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast. Let’s end this outsourcing of America’s policies to (foreign) countries and companies."
Clinton also mentioned the criticism the Bush Administration fired her way after Clinton asked the Pentagon to report to senators about the plans they may be laying for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
"If we begin to move troops and equipment, that’s complicated and has to be done in a careful, orderly way and it takes planning so I asked them to come and give us a briefing that will tell us what they were doing to get ready," Clinton said. "I got a letter back from one of (the) Cheney acolytes at the Pentagon saying: ‘How dare you ask these questions. You’re giving aide and comfort to the enemy."
Clinton accused the Bush Administration of engaging in "an experiment in extremism" over the past six and a half years and she said Bush and his allies are trying to bully critics of the war into silence.
"No one who stands against this war and wants to protect our troops has anything to answer to anybody in the administration and they have no right to impugn the patriotism of anyone who does," Clinton said.
Click on the audio link below to hear Clinton’s speech, preceded by AFSCME president Gerald McAtee’s introduction of Clinton. Problems with the sound system created two gaps in the recording.
John Edwards spoke to the AFSCME crowd on Thursday. Bill Richardson spoke to the group on Friday afternoon. Today, Barack Obama and Chris Dodd are scheduled to address AFSCME.
In other presidential campaign news this weekend, Arizona Senator John McCain plans to visit Iowa on Sunday. It’s his first trip to Iowa since a major shake-up in the McCain campaign over the GOP candidate’s lackluster fundraising and then the exodus of most of his campaign staff.