Monday, October 16, 2006

Bill Clinton: Republican extremists divided country

Clinton says Republican extremists divided country
By Kay Henderson

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Former President Bill Clinton told Iowa's Democratic Party faithful on Saturday that the actions of "an extreme sliver" of the Republican Party have backfired and "profoundly divided" the country.

"We've got a big responsibility. Forget about 2008. Forget about the politics. Just go out and find somebody and look them dead in the eye and say 'You know, this is not right'...This is America," Clinton said. "We can do better and this year, it's a job that Democrats have to do alone."

More than 3,500 Iowa Democrats paid $100 each to attend the fund-raising banquet that kicked off with Clinton's speech. About 50 people paid $10,000 per couple to attend a private reception with Clinton beforehand.

Republicans, who control the White House and Congress, Clinton charged "paint themselves as pure and the rest of us who don't agree with them as stained" in order to divide the country and stay in power.

"People know things are out of whack, that fundamentally the order of, the rhythm of public life and our common life as Americans has been severely disturbed," he said.

Clinton criticized the tax cuts President George W. Bush pushed through Congress and urged Democrats running for office this year to promise to correct the imbalance -- and promise not to raise taxes in the process.

"You cannot blame the entire Republican party for this reason. The entire government of the United States, the Congress, the White House and increasingly the courts for the last six years has been in the total control not of the Republican party but of the most ideological, the most right wing, the most extreme sliver of the Republican Party."

Clinton did not talk about his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's potential White House bid, but 'Clinton for President --" placards were on display in the streets surrounding the banquet hall and volunteers handed out blue stickers bearing the name "Hillary."

"I've always liked her and admired her," said Marilyn Chido, a longtime party activist from Des Moines who put her "Hillary" sticker on her purse. "I think she'd be a great president."

If Sen. Clinton, who did not attend the fund-raiser, does seek the White House in 2008 and actively campaigns in Iowa she will be departing from her husband's path who as Arkansas governor made just one appearance in the state before the 1992 Iowa Democratic Caucuses.

"The interesting question is exactly how Senator Clinton is going to approach Iowa," said Peverill Squire, a University of Iowa political science professor.

"Other candidates have put a lot more time and energy into the state and there's some evidence from polls ... that people have some reservations about whether Senator Clinton's electable. I think she has to begin to think seriously about how she can reassure people that if she does run, she can win."

Dick Meyers, a retired Iowa City businessman, who was once the Democratic leader in the Iowa House, said most Democrats are focused on the November 6 congressional election, not the presidential election in 2008.