MIAMI — Folllowing up on his well-received keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, former President Clinton on Tuesday hit the campaign trail for President Obama in this pivotal swing state, giving another expansive address that touched on a litany of topics.
At a nighttime rally before a wildly appreciative audience at Florida International University, Clinton spent 41 minutes delving into such issues as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus law, the Affordable Care Act, and deficit reduction, once again living up to the moniker Obama gave him, "Secretary of Explaining Stuff."
“I will say again in much less time what I tried to say last week,” Clinton said at the outset of his remarks. “If you look around the world today, no country making progress on creating a society where people share a future, not a single one, got there with a militant, bitter antigovernment strategy.”
The former president framed the election as less about where things stand now than about where he said Obama can take the nation. "It’s not whether you think everything is hunky-dory—if that were the test, the president would vote against himself, he says everything’s not hunky dory.... The test is whether he is taking us in the right direction, and the answer to that is yes," he said.
On health care, Clinton joked, "We've got good health care if you can afford it. I'm Exhibit A. I’ve got more scars on my body than a guy who’s been in a firefight.” The challenge, he said, is reducing costs and providing better care for all.
He also reprised his criticism of the Republicans' frequent charge that the Obama's health reform law had “robbed” $716 billion from Medicare, a claim that independent fact-checkers have said is misleading and inaccurate.
“They got away with running this old dog through the chute in 2010," he said of the GOP. "Countless seniors voted because they were given misinformation, and so I’m talking about it everywhere I go. If we let it happen again, it is our fault, and we should not let that happen.”
As for deficit reduction, he encouraged Americans to do the math on the Republicans' plans for insisting on tax cuts and increased defense spending. “If you had an arithmetic problem to solve and you wanted to get from negative to zero, would your first move be to add minus-seven?” he said. “I mean, I’m not making this up; this is their strategy.”
Clinton also reflected on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, saying this was the first public event he had participated in on that date that did not have to do directly with the terror attacks.
And he didn't pass up the chance to lament the new restrictions and requirements that various states have been put in place on voting—efforts that many Democrats argue are intended to suppress turnout of Democratic-leaning voting blocs.
“You know, a lot of what is said in politics today bothers me, because we all long for the unity we felt on 9/11 and we know that level of unity can’t be maintained because we have honest disagreements and we need to have honest debates,” he said. “If you believe in honest debates … after the debate’s over, you would want everyone to vote, not to make it harder for the young, the minorities, the disabled.”
He urged the 2,300 people in attendance—many of them Florida International students—to make every effort to vote. After making his decidedly less-long-winded case, he said: “It will not amount to a hill of beans if you don’t register to vote.”