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Old don't buy rival, says Bill Clinton

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April 16, 2008

QUAKERTOWN, Pa. - Older voters gravitate to Hillary Clinton because they're too wise to be fooled by Barack Obama's rhetoric, former president Bill Clinton told Pennsylvania voters yesterday.

Clinton's comments in a packed high school gym about an hour north of Philadelphia were one part presidential politics and one part legacy protection. His beef was with Obama's contention - including in his controversial remarks about "bitter" small-town voters - that many of the problems facing the country today were simmering long before President Bush took office in 2001.

"I think there is a big reason there's an age difference in a lot of these polls," he said. "Because once you've reached a certain age, you won't sit there and listen to somebody tell you there's really no difference between what happened in the Bush years and the Clinton years; that there's not much difference in how small-town Pennsylvania fared when I was president and in this decade."

"So I think it's important that we get to the truth of this," Clinton continued, going on to compare his and Bush's record on jobs, family incomes, and other measures.

Last week, however, Clinton seemed to suggest that older voters might be more absent-minded than wise. Defending Hillary Clinton's faulty recollection of landing under sniper fire during a 1996 humanitarian visit to Bosnia, the former president said of her critics, "When they're 60, they'll forget something when they're tired at 11 o'clock at night, too."

At various points in his nearly hourlong appearance yesterday, Clinton cautioned the hundreds gathered not to vote on history. Despite news coverage about the historic nature of this campaign with Democrats about to nominate either the first woman or first African-American, Clinton said: "The history doesn't amount to a hill of beans. All that matters is the future. Who will make the best future for you?"

Hillary Clinton, he said, would be a "servant leader," and voters have to decide whether that was more important than electing a "symbolic leader."

"You've got to decide," he said.

SCOTT HELMAN

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