Bill Clinton fires up Hillary supporters

UPDATE: Hillary to campaign in Portland and Eugene on Saturday
by: L.E. BASKOW, Former President Bill Clinton stumped for his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, during two events in Portland Monday morning.

Bill Clinton proved once again Monday that with the Clintons, you get two for the price of one.

The former president stumped for his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, in Portland, delivering a one-hour speech about the economy and health care before 700 people at Oregon Health and Science University.

Clinton, greeted by a standing ovation, said his wife's proposals to promote energy independence, universal health care and college affordability are the keys to creating jobs and reviving the economy.

And late Monday, the Clinton campaign announced that Hillary would visit Oregon Saturday, attending campaign events in Portland and Eugene. The campaign said times and locations would be announced.

The former president arrived in Oregon Sunday for appearances in Medford. He will travel to Bend and Salem later today to continue stumping for his wife, who is locked in a showdown with Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination for president.

Clinton's trip to Oregon comes slightly more than a week after Obama appeared at a rally at Portland's Memorial Coliseum before a crowd of about 13,000. Obama also made appearances in Salem, Corvallis, Eugene and Medford.

Oregon's vote-by-mail primary election is May 20. Ballots go in the mail the first week in May.

Half the loss

Fans of Hillary Clinton lined up hours before her husband was scheduled to make his first campaign appearance in Portland, Monday at 9:30 a.m.

'I have been enamored with her ever since she was the First Lady and tried to do something about health care,' said Amorée Lovell, who showed up at OHSU around 6:45 a.m. to hear former President Bill Clinton speak. 'I am an uninsured artist, musician and teacher,' she said.

Clinton, who took the podium at 10:30 a.m., said averting more home foreclosures will do far more to help the weak economy than the economic stimulus package promoted by President Bush and Congress, which will send checks to tens of millions of taxpayers this spring.

'It might help, but it will be totally overwhelmed by this mortgage crisis if we don't do something,' Clinton said. 'It is imperative to be more aggressive to stem this mortgage loan crisis.'

He explained that Hillary Clinton's proposal would freeze the interest rates of subprime loans, to prevent more reverberations through the economy.

The federal government would distribute relief money to the states, which would provide help to lenders stuck with less-profitable loans. 'So you eat half the loss; we'll pay for half the loss for five years,' he said.

At times it was hard to distinguish between the former president's ideas and those of his wife, though he frequently preceded policy proposals by saying 'here's what Hillary believes we should do.....'

Clinton recalled how his wife played a pivotal role back when Oregon sought a waiver from Medicaid regulations to launch its innovative Oregon Health Plan in the early 1990s. The plan set priorities for use of federal and state health care dollars based on the effectiveness and need for medical treatments.

'I remember one of the most interesting fights we had in the White House was whether you should get a waiver on your health care plan,' he said. Some of his advisers said Oregon shouldn't get the waiver.

'Hillary felt very strongly that you should,' he said. Ultimately, he said, 'You got it,' implying that his wife's counsel was decisive.

Beating the world

Clinton said his wife's $50 billion plan to promote research and investment in energy efficiency will be the right thing morally, because it will stem global warming, and the right way to help the economy by creating jobs. One example: retrofitting public buildings across the U.S. to be more energy efficient.

'This will create millions of jobs. These are jobs that can't be outsourced.'

Putting federal research money into finding an efficient car battery will be just as important as federal research in biomedicine, Clinton said. He got instant applause promoting a lithium car battery that can help cars get 100 miles per gallon of gas. If the U.S. can put money into being the first nation to the moon, he said, 'surely we can beat the world to a car battery.'

Clinton never referred to his wife's opponent, Barack Obama, other than to say their differing proposals for health care reform is their 'central policy difference.'

Hillary Clinton's plan will enable people to stick with their current health plan, but also force others to get into new plans, such as the one offered to federal employees.

'She believes you'll never get control of the cost and the waste unless everyone is covered,' Clinton said.

Judith Baggs, a senior academic dean at OHSU's nursing school, was one of several nurses in the audience who are avid Hillary Clinton supporters. Seeing the president speak, she said, reinforced her support for his wife.

Baggs said it was important for Clinton to stay in the race and give Oregonians a voice in the primary. But if she loses, Baggs said she'd be happy to vote for Obama.

After the OHSU event, Bill Clinton was scheduled to attend an event with senior citizens at the Cherry Blossom Center in Southeast Portland.

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