Monday, September 25, 2023
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Bill Clinton Campaigns for Hillary in Texas

HOUSTON (CN) - Bill Clinton got a rock star's welcome Monday morning in Houston, his first stop on a whirlwind tour of Texas ahead of Super Tuesday primaries that could secure his wife's Democratic nomination for president.

A crowd of more than 500 gathered at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, which honors African-American regiments the U.S. Army commissioned during the Civil War. They got the "Buffalo Soldiers" nickname from Native Americans, who said their curly hair reminded them of buffaloes.

Capt. Paul Matthews, the museum's founder and executive director, said that Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a high-energy Democrat who is often spotted at press conferences around town, brought Bill Clinton to the museum to speak.

Matthews said he doesn't think the changes that President Bill Clinton made in the 1990s to the country's welfare policies, which critics say had a negative impact on African-American families, would hurt Hillary Clinton's standing in the black community.

"The African-American community is not a one-issue community. There are a lot of things that we need to be involved in and I think someone like her can see the big picture, and I think the African-American public can see the big picture," Matthews told Courthouse News.

Matthews' soft voice was nearly drowned out by the caffeinated buzz of conversation between the business attired who stopped by on their way to work, mothers pushing strollers, college students and stylish older Clinton fans - most notably an elderly black woman in a tiger-print bowler hat and jacket - as they waited for Bill Clinton to take the stage.

Matthews said that, although he stays informed about politics, prior to this presidential election cycle he didn't know anything about Hillary Clinton's opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

"If it wasn't for this election, someone like me who's in tune to politics, I didn't have a clue as to what his background was. And it's marketing too. I mean look at the Republican side. You have an individual that's leading the pack who did TV shows and he wasn't involved in major politics. So it's a strange election year," Matthews said.

Texas Sens. Sylvia Garcia, a Hispanic, and Rodney Ellis, an African-American, worked up the crowd before Bill Clinton took the stage.

"She's the most experienced candidate in the history of the United States," Ellis said of Hillary Clinton, adding that the Clintons' political roots in Texas go back to 1972 when they registered Hispanic voters in South Texas.

Garcia said the best way to build on President Baracak Obama's legacy is to elect Hillary Clinton. She also urged the crowd to imagine how Bill Clinton would take to the role of "First Dude" if his wife is elected.

"Ladies, I think it's your turn to have the first dude at the White House," Garcia said to hoots and cheers. "And I couldn't think of a better dude than Bill Clinton. You know he's going to have some fun."

Bill Clinton took the stage around 8:30 a.m. and put his signature little boy's smile and expressive saxophone player's hands to work.

Clinton, his Southern drawl hoarse from his grueling appearance schedule, touched on gun control. He said that, growing up in Arkansas, guns were a way of life for him.


"I had a .22 when I was 10 years old. I had a shotgun when I was 12. When I was governor [of Arkansas], we closed schools on the first day of deer season. I get all this. But this has gotten into a cruel, sad game where people are afraid to let anybody who is elected allow a simple requirement of a background check," the former president said.

He said his wife would also advocate for prison reform. He used the oft-mentioned line that the United States has the highest percentage of people in jail of any country in the world.

"Hillary says you can't just turn people out of prison, you have to give them some education and training," Clinton said, his words drawing random "Yes" responses from the crowd like a preacher at a Sunday service.

Clinton said the United States has the best higher education system in the world, citing a recent study by The Economist that found the U.S. had 15 of the top 17 universities in the world.

"But a lot of people are really worried about it. So Hillary says, 'Here's my plan. We'll have debt-free college. We'll ask people who can afford it to pay for it. And we'll give others at least 10 hours a week of work-study,'" Clinton said.

Clinton explained that his wife wants to let those who have graduated and are struggling to pay their student loan debt consolidate their loans and put the debt into something like a home mortgage.

"You can pay it out over 20 years as a low, fixed percentage of your after-tax income," he said. "If you do that, first of all you can move out of your parents' house. Second, if you want to borrow $50,000 to open a bakery, you can go down to the bank and try to get the loan and your student debt's not going to break you from doing that."

Clinton wrapped up his 20-minute speech with a warning about the threats facing the nation from terrorist organizations that use social media as a recruiting tool.

"We need a commander in chief with a strong military and intelligence stance and also a strategy that will build bridges out to people who can help us to create a world where we have more partners and fewer terrorists, because we cannot kill all terrorists. We've got to win an argument," he said. "For that reason alone Hillary should be elected president, because she's the only person who has actually done this work for years and years."

He recounted that, when Hillary Clinton was on the U.S. Senate's Armed Services Committee while serving as a New York senator, a handsome, uniformed young man came up to him and said, "President Clinton, I represent the Pentagon and I just thought you'd like to know that over there we think your wife knows more about our mission, and cares more about the people in uniform, than any member of either party and either house."

Candidate Clinton has been under fire since March 2015 from Republican lawmakers, who claim she broke the law by using her private email server for official communications while serving as U.S. Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013.

But Farhad, a 21-year-old University of Houston student who declined to give his last name, said he doesn't think the email scandal will detract from her electability.

"When that issue was more looked into, it came out that the last five secretaries of state used personal email servers. So it's nothing out of the ordinary I think, and nothing that will hurt her," he said.

Bill Clinton had to rush out of Houston to catch a plane to Fort Worth for another speech. His last stop in Texas on Monday is San Antonio.

Clinton's appearance in Houston had the feel of a victory speech, coming on the heels of his wife's decisive victory in South Carolina on Saturday, where she won 74 percent of the Democratic primary vote.

Eleven states are voting in Democratic primaries on Super Tuesday this week. Analysts say if polls showing Clinton's overwhelming support among African-Americans hold true, she could put the nomination out of reach for Sanders on Tuesday.

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