Not many gymnasiums can hang signs that say, “Welcome back President Clinton.’’ But in the nation’s first primary state, it hardly gets a second look.
The 42nd president made his first solo campaign appearance for his wife, Hillary Clinton, as he returned to the state he often kindly credits for launching the underdog Arkansas governor to the presidency.
Before a crowd of about 700 people, the 69-year-old Clinton spoke softly and only of his wife. Not once did he mention any other presidential candidate — seven of whom were also campaigning Monday in New Hampshire — by name.
“They’re telling you what they believe, so you got to take them seriously,’’ Clinton said. “But you also have to take seriously whether they can actually to do what they say they want do.’’
According to her husband, Hillary Clinton is the only candidate with the “knowledge, experience, or temperament’’ to actually accomplish her campaign promises.
Clinton brought out old stories for the crowd, too.
He recalled his wife’s travels to Alabama in the 1970s to investigate whether private tax-exempt academies were discriminating by race. He recalled the then-First Lady’s role in the 1998 Northern Ireland peace pact. He also spoke of his wife’s efforts to work with former Republican Rep. Tom Delay — “the Ted Cruz of the pre-Tea Party era’’, Clinton said — to achieve foster care reform in the 1990s.
“[Delay] disliked me more than anybody in Congress,’’ Clinton said. “[Hillary] comes to me one day, and she said ‘I found it, I found the human streak in Tom Delay. He’s an adoptive parent.’’
Together, the First Lady and the Republican majority pushed the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, “the most significant change in federal child-protection policy in almost two decades,’’ into law. From 1997 to 2002, foster care adoptions increased by 64 percent.
The proud husband also rattled off the former Secretary of State’s foreign policy achievements: getting Russia to sign off on Iran sanctions, a nuclear arms reduction deal with Russia, and increasing the efficiency of the Bush-era program battling HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in Africa.
Working through the Clinton Foundation, he said, the estimated number of lives saved by the program increased from 1.6 million to 5.4 million, without spending any more money, by getting access to generic drugs.
“That would never be a headline in this election, because no one knows the names of those 5.4 million people,’’ Clinton told the crowd. “But the people in those countries, they like America a lot better now.’’