By Michael Kitch
THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — "As you can tell I haven't had a lot sleep," Bill Clinton began. "When you win by a landslide you go to be early. You win by a little and you stay up."
Hours after his wife, Hillary, barely edged Bernie Sanders in the Iowa caucuses, the 42nd president was back on the stump, speaking on her behalf to an overflow crowd at Lakes Region Community College last evening.
"Her first instinct," Clinton said, "is always what can I do to make it better for somebody else." Drawing the contrast with Sanders, who calls for "a political revolution," he said that the course of American history demonstrates that more is achieved by "progressive reform" than by revolution.
"We are where we are," Clinton said. With maldistribution of income and wealth, coupled with flat and falling wages, he continued, "the golden door to the future feels closed to most Americans." Younger people, saddled with debt and searching for work, are apprehensive, he said, while the scourge of drugs and threat of terrorism are "driving us crazy."
For those who believe in the power of government, Clinton said, the task is "to make the private economy work better for everyone, to raise incomes and reduce inequality." At the same time, he said "we must provide safety, security and peace without giving up our values."
Hillary, Clinton stressed, has a history as a progressive reformer stretching back to when she left law school to work on behalf of women and children in several southern states then, when he became governor of Arkansas, to become the architect of educational policies that improved the performance and prospects of schoolchildren throughout the state. He recalled that during his presidency, Hillary's effort to reform health care failed, but she partnered with Sen. Ted Kennedy to introduce the children's health insurance program, which drew support from 75 Republican senators.
Clinton defended Hillary against the charge that she is too close to Wall Street by pointing out that she warned the banks about their reckless lending and investment practices before the financial crisis and contributed to enacting stiffer regulation. While Sanders calls for breaking up the big banks, he said that the government already has that authority, but claimed that the shadow banks, which Hillary seeks to regulate, pose the greatest risk.
While Sanders would provide fee college tuition to all, Clinton said that Hillary prefers to pay the tuition — and all other expenses – of those in greatest need, but let those with sufficient means pay some or all of their own costs. Meanwhile, she would make it possible to refinance existing student loans to ensure all debt is manageable.
Clinton said that the Affordable Care Act has provided some 90 percent of Americans with health insurance and is approaching goal of universal healthcare set by President Harry Truman in 1947. Rather than start from scratch to create the single-payer system Sanders favors, he said that "it's easier to go from 90 percent to 100 percent than from zero to 100 percent."
Hillary's response to the crisis arisen over lead in the water of Flint, Michigan, Clinton said reflects her differences with Sanders. When the mayor told her he was only given 10 percent of the funds required to address the crisis, Hillary spoke about it on television and the money was forthcoming. "Bernie's heart was in the same place, " Clinton said. "He was mad. He called for the governor to resign."
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