In N.H., Bill Clinton Argues That Experience Matters
KEENE, N.H.--Campaigning in Keene, New Hampshire Tuesday, former president Bill Clinton took a verbal jab at his wife's chief rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, by challenging the premise of his campaign: that Obama's dedication to change in Washington should trump Hillary Clinton's years of experience.
Without naming Obama, he mocked what he called a "fashionable idea" that politicians "should somehow be disqualified from our national leadership because they have actually been changemakers in the past." Referring to his wife as a "positive change maker" for 35 years, Clinton said that her experience "indicates you will be more likely to successfully execute change as president."
But Clinton saved his most pointed criticism for the press, which he said was doing a poor job of covering the presidential campaign.
Citing a study on press coverage by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, he said only 1 percent of the stories about the 2008 campaign were devoted to the past records of candidates. "No wonder people think experience is irrelevant," he said.
In the survey, he said, 15 percent of the stories were dedicated to the life experience of the candidates, 17 percent to their proposals and 67 percent to what he called "pure politics" that "won't matter tomorrow" and "won't affect your life."
Clinton was well received by about 400 people in the town of Keene, about an hour-and-a-half from Manchester. The town got a double- dose of presidential politics Tuesday, hosting the former president followed a couple of hours later by Arizona Sen. John McCain, kicking off a six-day bus tour of the state.
McCain held a town meeting at the headquarters of C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., one of the nation's largest grocery distribution companies. The company is privately held and run by Rick Cohen, but company employees went out of their way to say the decision to host McCain was in no way an endorsement of his candidacy.
In fact, the town meeting almost became a private event when -- much to the dismay of the McCain campaign -- executives at one point said that reporters who had been traveling with McCain and local reporters from the town of Keene could not attend the event, which had been on McCain's public schedule.
The company relented a bit, allowing print reporters to take notes during McCain's stump speech and the questions, but barring the use of tape recorders, video cameras and still photography. McCain boarded his bus after the event without stopping to talk with a local TV reporter who had waited outside the event.
Inside, McCain offered his standard stump speech and then responded to questions, including several about illegal immigration and global warming. He reiterated his desire to build a wall across parts of the border before tackling the politically sensitive subject of a "pathway" to citizenship for those already in the country illegally.
On global warming, he said the country will be "judged very harshly, very harshly for our failure to enact policies to reduce greenhouse gases" but said a tax on carbon emissions, favored by some Democrats, would amount to a tax on "a gallon of gasoline."
McCain was interrupted several times by ringing cell phones, including his own. But he used it to his advantage, referencing the well-known incident in which rival Rudy Giuliani answered a call from his wife during a speech to the National Rifle Association.
"I can assure you this is not my wife," he said, turning off the cell phone. "So I'm going to just put it out of commission."
--Michael D. Shear
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