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Clinton talks tough during visit

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told Salisburians Monday it’s “our time” provided that the country changes course, repairs the damage of the Bush administration and finds a way to pull people together.
“I’m betting that we will,” she said.
Speaking for almost 30 minutes, Clinton also had tough words from her perch at Salisbury Station for big oil, China, the wealthy, insurance companies and the federally mandated No Child Left Behind program.
The Salisbury crowd applauded often after points and promises Clinton made, with the loudest, most sustained ovations coming after she said she would put an end to the No Child Left Behind program in schools and set out a plan to bring troops home and end the United States’ military involvement in Iraq.
Locked in a tight, often contentious battle for delegates with U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, Clinton campaigned in North Carolina just eight days before the state’s presidential primary.
Clinton, a U.S. senator from New York, asked voters in the audience to make choosing a president a hiring decision.
Yes, she’s been described as tough, Clinton said, but Americans are hiring someone for the toughest job in the world.
They have a choice of electing someone’s who’s nice, someone who will stick to the failed Bush policies or someone’s who’s going to be tough and fight for them, Clinton said. Americans need a champion in the White House again, she added.
Polls show Clinton ranks high with voters when it comes to leadership and having a plan, but she scores below Obama and likely Republican presidential nominee John McCain when people give more personal impressions of her.
A USA Today/Gallup poll, done April 18-20 among 1,016 adults, showed that 62 percent of the respondents thought that Clinton is a strong and decisive leader to Obama’s 55 percent.
Asked who has a clear plan for solving the country’s problems, 47 percent said Clinton; 40 percent, Obama; and 33 percent, McCain.
But the same poll asked the respondents who they would be proudest of to have as president, and Obama came in the highest at 55 percent; McCain, 51 percent; and Clinton, 48 percent.
Under the headings of “honest” and “trustworthy,” Clinton scored only 38 percent in the poll; Obama, 60 percent.
Clinton’s campaign has been gaining legs in North Carolina. She received an endorsement Monday from N.C. Gov. Mike Easley.
Public Policy Polling of Raleigh released results of its latest survey Monday and reported that Clinton had cut Obama’s lead in half in North Carolina. Obama still has, however, a 51-39 percent advantage over Clinton in the state.
“Barack Obama is certainly still the runaway favorite in North Carolina,” Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said.
Hillary Clinton appeared in Salisbury exactly a month after her husband, former President Bill Clinton, spoke on her behalf at the same historic depot.
Melanie Chilson, a Rowan County Democrat, said the appearances of both Clintons in Salisbury show how important North Carolina is becoming in the Democratic presidential race.
Chilson has supported Hillary Clinton since the beginning of the primary process because of her position on health care.
Hillary Clinton pronounced “Salisbury” as locals do until the end of her talk when she allowed a more Northern “Sows-berry” to slip in. She went on to stops in Concord and Charlotte after her afternoon stop in Salisbury.
Earlier Monday, she had appeared in Graham after speaking Sunday night in Wilmington. President Clinton was returning to North Carolina today for appearances in Boone, North Wilkesboro, Elkin and Mount Airy. He plans seven more North Carolina stops Wednesday.
Obama campaigned in North Carolina today, including a stop in nearby Winston-Salem.
Hillary Clinton has been calling on Obama to participate in another debate before the North Carolina and Indiana primaries, but Obama has refused, noting the candidates already had debated 21 times.
Some people look at all of the country’s problems as an overwhelming burden, Clinton told her Salisbury audience Monday, but she expressed confidence that the best days are ahead through innovation and a resolve to restore leadership and America’s moral authority around the world.
“All we have to do is start acting as Americans again,” she said.
Several hundred people stood shoulder to shoulder at the depot during her talk. Stormy weather through much of the day was blamed for keeping the late-arriving crowd down, and the program was held underneath the depot’s expansive awning next to the railroad tracks.
Clinton said she would end the war in Iraq with honor and win the war in Afghanistan.
In Iraq, she said, the military has done everything it was supposed to do by removing Saddam Hussein, establishing free and fair elections and giving the Iraqi government the space and time to make the decision only the Iraqis can make for themselves.
“There is no military solution, so therefore it’s time to end the military mission,” she said.
Clinton said a plan for withdrawing troops could begin within 60 days of her becoming president. A withdrawal, she added, has to be done carefully and responsibly, and she described one taking place at a rate of one to two brigades a month.
Not taking care of wounded troops coming home has been “the signature wound of this war,” Clinton said.
Clinton said she would end No child Left Behind because it’s a backwards, unfunded mandate.
On health care, she charged that insurance companies under the current system make their money by denying claims. She said her plan isn’t “government-run medicine,” but it would make the same health care plan offered to Congress and federal workers available to everyone in America.
It has 250 options for coverage and, on average, could be cheaper than what most Americans have now when combined with health-care tax credits, Clinton said.
Other points made by Clinton:
– She would let the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year expire to provide $55 billion to help cover some of the 47 million Americans without health-care insurance.
“The wealthy and well-connected have had their president, haven’t they?” she asked.
– She would push for more low-interest government loans and grants to make college more affordable, “because the door is slamming shut.” Youth who agree to give two years of public service back to the country should be given money toward their college education, Clinton said, and people who take public service jobs after college should be excused their college debts.
– Clinton said she would go after OPEC and its price-fixing practices.
– She spoke for having a federal gas-tax holiday this summer. The lost money for highways would be replaced with a windfall tax on oil company profits, Clinton said.
– Clinton said she would call on the Justice Department to investigate whether energy traders are manipulating the market and price gouging Americans.
– She would get tough on China, Clinton said, and promote trade policies that are a win for consumers and workers.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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