The former president made a campaign appearance for his wife Wednesday night in anticipation of Super Tuesday, which will help decide a tight Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Former President Bill Clinton held a late-night campaign rally for his wife Wednesday at the University of Denver, speaking at the same podium where Barack Obama stood 12 hours earlier.
Clinton spoke to a smaller, yet vociferous crowd that braved icy and snow-packed roads to reach the event, which began close to 10 p.m. at Magness Arena.
“How exciting is it? We are going to make history — we are going to have the first woman nominated for the Democratic Party or the first African-American,” Clinton said. “Our party breaks down barriers and brings people together.”
Clinton commended the field of Democratic candidates, but said his wife is the best choice to tackle the housing crisis, fight global warming, improve the lives of working Americans, reform health care and make college affordable for everyone.
“This election is not about the candidates, it is about the American people. You have to decide who is the best change-maker. It’s not experience vs. change — it’s who has got a record of making changes for other people? And Hillary is the best change-maker I have ever known.”
Clinton also sought to assuage fears that his wife might be too divisive of a figure to win the general election in November.
“When she ran for re-election to the Senate she carried 60 percent of the vote in rural New York — in the counties George Bush beat John Kerry in. Don’t tell me she can’t win this election because she is too polarizing. She has brought people together and we have proof that she is not.”
Mayor John Hickenlooper and former Mayor Wellington Webb introduced Clinton, who appeared with his daughter, Chelsea. Hickenlooper also attended the Obama event, but did not address the crowd. While the mayor praised Clinton and called him one of the nation’s best presidents, he stopped short of endorsing Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
“This man is superhuman,” said Hickenlooper of the former president and his accomplishments in the White House.
Kay Sheehan of Denver attended Wednesday night’s rally and plans to caucus for Clinton on Tuesday, now that her first choice, John Edwards, is out of the race. Sheehan says she would like to see a Clinton-Obama ticket in 2008, but doesn’t think the first-term Illinois Senator is ready to be in the driver’s seat.
“Obama is very philosophical, he’s very enthusiastic, but I want someone who has more concrete ideas and the clout to make it happen,” Sheehan said. “I think Obama needs more experience and more connections before he is ready.”
As for Bill Clinton’s role in his wife’s campaign, which has been criticized of late, it doesn’t bother Sheehan, who thinks the former president has been treated too harshly in the press.
“It’s very clear that he loved being president, and I think it’s hard to hold him back from his own enthusiasm — he wants eight more years in the White House.”
Clinton certainly doesn’t seem to mind the idea of a second turn in, or at least near, the Oval Office. But he acknowledges that the next president faces enormous challenges due to America’s tarnished standing in the international community.
“We have to restore America’s leadership for peace, prosperity and security in the world. We can’t go around having people mad at us, because there are almost no problems that we can solve alone,” he said. “Hillary will send the world a very different message about America. She will say, `We are back. … From now on we are going to cooperate with people whenever we can and act alone only when we have to, not the other way around.'”
An odd moment came early in Clinton’s speech when the former president acknowledged a heckler who shouted something about opening an investigation into what really happened on Sept. 11.
“Are you one of those inside job guys?” the president asked amiably, and then growing testier: “9/11 was not an inside job, it was an Osama Bin Laden job with 19 people from Saudi Arabia who murdered 3,000 Americans and other foreigners including over 200 other Muslims. And we look like idiots, folks, denying that the people who murdered our citizens did it when they are continuing to murder people all around the world.”
Then the former president told the heckler to get lost. The crowd went wild.