I attended a campaign event for Hillary Clinton at the William Chrisman High School gymnasium in Independence on Saturday night.

We got in line a few minutes after 5:00 p.m. There were five or six television trucks (along with their film crews) from the various Kansas City affiliates.

The doors opened a little before 7:00 p.m. and we took seats in the bleachers with a good view of the podium. We estimated about 1200 people were in the gym (bleachers and in seating on the floor). We learned later that there was an overflow room, but I have no idea about the numbers there.

A school band played between the early speakers {including Representative Emmanuel Cleaver, State Senator Jolie Justus, and Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders) and Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton spoke for almost an hour.

Transcript from the digital recording I made of the event:


January 26, 2008

Hillary Clinton campaign event

Independence, Missouri

Bill Clinton:

[cheers]

Thank you. Thank you. Whoa. Thank you Independence.

You ready to change this country? [cheers]

I want to thank our great friend Congressman Emmanual Cleaver for his leadership during this campaign…

…Ladies and gentlemen, this is an interesting race. And, uh, I was here a week ago after we won our great victory in Nevada, in St. Louis, we had several thousand people there. There are a lot of people outside tonight.

We just finished in South Carolina today, Senator Obama won there, Hillary congratulated him. And I join that…He won fair and square. We went there and asked the people to vote for us, they voted for him, we congratulate him.

Now we go to February 5th when millions of Americans finally get in the act. [applause, calls]

Let us begin with a clear statement. This country needs a change in direction, [cheers, applause]…

…If I had never been married to Hillary, but I knew what I know…about her service and her lifetime of making positive changes in the lives of other people…then I would be here campaigning for her for president ’cause I think she’s the best candidate for president I’ve ever seen. [cheers, applause]

…So I will give you her pitch. She says we have got to turn this country around by setting some big goals. We have to restore the middle class today, to give poor people a chance to work their way into it. [cheers, applause] We have to reclaim the future for our young people instead of playing politics with it. We have to restore America’s leadership in the world, and we’ve got to reform the government to make it possible to do that. That is her simple pledge to you…

…What does that mean? What does it mean? It means, number one, we’ve got to do something about the growing, gnawing inequality in America. Inequality in incomes, inequality in health care, inequality in education. [applause] We are growing too unequal and we have put the middle class in danger. [applause]

In this decade we’re supposed to be in the seventh year of an economic recovery. [calls] We’re supposed to be worried about a recession. But the truth is, most Americans are already in a recession. [applause, calls] People all over this country are flat out of money. Why? Because in this decade 90% of the economic benefits have gone to the top 10% of earners. [calls] About half of that to the top 1%. A big part of that to the top one tenth of 1%. Median family incomes, the ones in the middle, are a thousand dollars lower today after inflation then they were the day I left office. [applause, calls] And we can do better than that.

Why is that?Because our economy has only produced about five million jobs, as opposed to about 22.7 million in the previous administration. You might remember. [applause, calls] Meanwhile, five million people have fallen into poverty. Most of them in working families. As opposed to the nearly eight million who moved from poverty into the middle class in the previous administration. [applause] This is a serious problem.

The cost of health care has doubled in this decade. And the number of people working who lost their health care for themselves and their families has increased. [voice: “That’s right.”]

The cost of a college education has been increasingly priced out of the range of ordinary Americans. [calls] Today a kid who graduates from high school in the top 25% of his or her high school class doesn’t have as good a chance if they’re in the bottom 25% of income. Doesn’t have as good a chance to finish on time as a child who graduates in the bottom 25% of the class and is in the top 25% of family income. That’s wrong. That’s not American. And we have to change that. [applause, calls]

So, what does she want to do? To rebuild the middle class. First of all we must provide, at last, affordable health care for all Americans. [applause, cheers] In this country we get the worst of both worlds. How many of you know somebody without health insurance? Raise your hands. [most of the crowd does so] Look at this crowd [voice: “Holy buckets.”] …One sixth of Americans…one sixth of our fellow citizens never have health care. One third of our fellow citizens don’t have it at some time during the year. Now, a whole bunch of people have health care policies and find out when they really need ’em, whatever it is they need, they’re told it isn’t covered [voices: “Yeah.”] You’ve all identified with that. [voice: “Yeah, been there.”] Meanwhile, we pay 700 billion dollars a year more for health care in America than we would pay if we had any other county’s system…

So, here’s her proposal. Number one, universal coverage. If you like what you have, you keep it. If you don’t have coverage, or you want a change, you can buy into a plan exactly like the one that insures these members of Congress and their families and the Federal employees. [applause, cheers]…

…And remember this, just 20% of Americans use 80% of our medical costs every year. I was one of them in 2004. And a good thing, or someone else would be giving this talk tonight….

…But for most of my life, before and since, I have been healthy as a horse. So I was paying in to an insurance pool so other people could get cared for. That’s what insurance is. {voice: “That’s right.”] And that’s what she wants for all Americans.

Second, here’s how we’re going to pay for it. We’re going to let the tax cuts on the wealthiest 1% of us expire. [applause, calls] Not because the American people resent people who make money, we’re proud of them, but we think everybody should pay their fair share. We have Americans making ten, twenty, thirty million dollars a year paying lower effective tax rates than most of you. That’s not fair, not with our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with unmet education and health care needs. We should all pay our fair share. [applause, calls]

It stands to reason that if we’re spending 700 billion dollars more than everybody else we’re spending money on some things that don’t make health care better. There are proven changes we can make in the way that we deliver health care that will save money and improve health care. Because it’s late I’m only going to give you one example. If we all had electronic medical records, with privacy protections, everyone who has looked at it has said it will save at least eighty billion dollars a year. That’s 80% of what it would cost us to give everybody health insurance…

…We can’t have all these kids developing diabetes. The final thing she wants to do about health care is to invest in making people well…it’s about not only how much we eat, but what’s in the stuff we eat, and whether we exercise. So her plan would invest in promoting wellness. In paying, for example, the co-pays and the deductibles for preventive health care for people who don’t smoke. Every big company, every state government, everybody that’s done that has actually saved money because people don’t get as sick anymore…

…So, if you want a plan that will work, that covers everybody, that brings costs down in line with our competitors, and promotes wellness she’s your candidate for president. It’s important for America [applause, calls]

The second thing we have to do is to educate a workforce that can make a living with a growing income in the 21st century. Beginning with preparing all our kids better with universal pre-kindergarten in every state in America. [applause, calls] Radically changing that No Child Left Behind law. [applause, calls]  Now, this is a guaranteed applause line in every state in the country. [laughter] I can go to Idaho and speak to a 100% republican crowd and get an applause line there….the law winks at you…[discussion of flaws] …this law could actually lower student achievement in this state. It is wrong…It’s one thing to criticize, and another to improve. What would Hillary do about it? First of all, she’d have the Federal government pay to recruit, train, and deploy teachers in the shortage areas both by subject and geography. The shortage subject areas, by and large, are math, science, technology, and foreign languages. The shortage geography areas, by and large, are rural areas and inner cities. If the Federal government paid to do that and invested that money that would free up the rest of the school budget to maintain a lot of thee programs that have been eliminated in recent years –  the music program, the arts programs, the other programs that help young people to learn [applause, calls]…

…And the third thing she wants to do is to make college affordable for all Americans. [applause, calls] How does she propose to do that? And can we afford it? You bet we can. We can’t afford not to do it. Ever since…for twenty years we’ve known that every one of these young people who gets out of high school who gets at least two years good of training and education after high school has better than a fifty fifty chance of getting a job with a growing income. And everybody that doesn’t has less than a 50% chance. So, what would Hillary do? First of all, she would raise the support for Pell grants, the loan programs, and Americorp service programs that pay kids’ tuition. Secondly, she would eliminate some of the most abusive practices of some of these private student loan companies that over charge kids for too little help… [discussion of expanding Federal program that allows payback of loan as a small percentage of income] …The taxpayers saved four billion dollars because the students the students didn’t default on their loans anymore. They were honorable, they were good, they were educated and once we made it possible for them to repay they did it.

She also wants to do something that we didn’t do. And we haven’t done in a long time….If you go into public service, you become a teacher, a nurse, a police officer, or a fireman, a mental health worker – if you’re a doctor who goes someplace where they haven’t had a doctor in years – the service itself is repayment of the loan. [applause] Every year you serve you knock some of the loan off. [applause]…

But what about the jobs? That’s how we’re going to reclaim the future. Keep in mind the fundamental problem with this economy is we’re not producing enough new jobs. I don’t agree with the president’s tax policies as you’ve probably demised [laughter] surmised and Hillary voted against ’em consistently in the senate, but the real problem is no rich country can maintain a middle class lifestyle without creating new jobs. How are we going to do that? First, we have to regain our lead in science and technology. We need to invest more money and take the politics and ideology out of everything from stem cell research to human genome research to global warming research. [applause, calls]

Second, second. we need to acknowledge a plain fact. There is only one thing that the rich countries of the world have done in this decade that enabled them to produce way more jobs than we have, rising incomes, and declining inequality. They made a serious effort to fight global warming, they made a serious effort to be energy independent and stop sending so much money to people who spend it on things we don’t like. They made a serious commitment to a clean, independent, efficient energy future – and that what she’s gonna do and create millions, and millions, and millions of jobs, [applause, calls]

And [applause] let me say to all of you – I was so glad when Congressman Cleaver said this, but – we can’t deny that global warming is real. That’s why Al Gore won a Nobel Prize for something they ridiculed him for twenty years. [applause, calls] On the other hand, we can’t pretend that we can solve this alone…The only way we can do this is to have America get off the back seat, get in the leadership, and prove it is good business – we can creat jobs and raise income by changing our energy future. Now [applause, calls] What does Hillary propose to do? First, create new sources of clean energy and deploy them quick. More solar energy, more wind energy, more geothermal energy, more biomass energy. Work on getting clean coal – get that co2 out of the coal so we can use it – we got tons of that. Work on more efficient cars. If we get hybrid electric vehicles – we are literally able today, but not at affordable prices – to produce a car that gets 100 miles a gallon…

[extensive discussion of biomass fuels and economic development as a result of production decentralization]

[training people for “green collar” jobs]

…The third thing we gotta do is restore our standing in the world. [calls] We’re in a world of hurt. [applause]. Name me one big problem we can solve on our own. Terror? No. The prospect of nuclear materials spreading? No, Global warming? Not a chance. The spread of some disease around the world? No way. Even illegal immigration? No. We have to have other people’s cooperation. Why are people mad at us? It’s not just over Iraq. [voices: “Bush”] Yeah. But, why ? Not just Iraq. It was running away from global warming. It was running away from the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that every president since Eisenhower supported without regard [voice: “Willful ignorance!”], the Geneva Convention on human rights [voices: “Yeah!”] people captured in combat. When our senior military commanders were begging us to honor it because we were putting our men and women in uniform at risk. It’s one of the reasons that so many retired generals and admirals and other senior military personnel have endorsed Hillary, because she’s the only member of the Armed Services Committee running, she knows we have to rebuild our military and take care of our veterans. But, she also knows we have to honor the rules of international law. So if you vote for her, [calls], so if you vote for her [applause], you vote for her here’s what you’ll get. She will bring an end to the war in Iraq as quickly as we can without making it worse. We gotta bring our soldiers home, we gotta have, but [cheers] there are a 100,000 civilians out there who are American citizens. We can’t leave them behind.  We gotta take care of that. And we gotta take care of all those Iraqis that put their lives on the line for our people. We can’t let them down [applause, calls]

Second, she’ll send a big clear message to the world that from now on we’re going to cooperate with you whenever we can and act alone when we have to, not the other way around. [applause, calls] She’ll say, we are proud, we’re proud of our men and women in uniform and indeed we’re going to have to do a lot to rebuild the military because it’s just about been broken, and I’ll take responsibility for that, but from now on we’re going to have diplomacy with friend and foe alike whenever we can and only use military force as an absolute last resort [applause, calls], not the other way around. And, [applause] and, you will get out of that among other things a savings of a hundred twenty billion dollars a year or so we’re spending in Iraq [voice: “Yeah!”] But I want to be forthright, not all of it. Because we have got to take care of our veterans…

[extensive and detailed discussion of veteran’s issues and traumatic brain injuries]

Now, okay, so we’ve done these three great things. We’ve restored the middle class, we’ve reclaimed the future, we’ve restored America’s position in the world. But, we’ve got to reform the government to do this, right? Because it doesn’t exactly work for you now. When President Bush ran for office, if we were listening carefully, he said, “you know, Bill Clinton was too mean to the special interests, he had the government all over them.” I personally thought we were doing pretty well back then but he said we could do a lot better. [calls] “And if you vote for me I will take the government off the backs of the special interests, and I’ll put them on the back of the government.” And he has done an excellent job of it. And she wants to change it. This is what she wants to do. Number one, get rid of cronyism and only appoint competent people [applause, calls] to important jobs. Number two, get rid of as many of these no bid contracts as we can, they’re a constant embarrassment and a waste of money. Number three, change the tax code so we no longer subsidize the movement of American jobs overseas [applause, calls]. It is wrong. It is wrong. [applause, calls] Number four, stop using middle class peoples’ tax money to subsidize special interests. Best example, there’s several examples, like why do we cut, why do we give the oil companies a tax break two years ago when oil was already over sixty dollars a barrel? That’s how she gonna fund this green energy thing, repeal those tax cuits and put ’em into an energy for the future fund that will change our future. [applause, calls] Another example, why is there a donut hole in the Medicare drug program? [applause, calls]…that is a misleading term, at least for me, if you’ve, like me if you’ve had to battle your weight all your life, you like the donut hole, that’s the only no-cal part of the donut [laughter] This is not a good donut hole…

[extensive discussion of prescription policies]

…Why is the donut hole there? Because when this bill was passed the president and his allies in Congress insisted that the United States government be the only buyer of medicine in large volumes in the entire country that could not bargain for volume discount…

…You want to get rid of the donut hole? Elect Hillary Clinton president, she’ll give you a reformed government that will work for everybody. [applause, calls]

Since we are in the home of one of my very favorite presidents, Harry Truman,. [applause, calls] I feel I gotta mention one other thing in the spirit of full disclosure. [voice: “Uh, oh.”] People sometimes ask me, “well, is there anything that Hillary Clinton is more conservative than President Bush on?” And there is one. The budget. [laughter] She hates these deficits. [applause] And, you know, I wish my late father-in-law were still alive to see his little girl run for president. But, you gotta understand, my father-in-law never even bought a car he couldn’t pay cash for. He was so tight he squeaked when he walked [laughter]. But, we don’t like these deficits, not because it’s a bad thing to borrow money…If you have to borrow money to eat dinner every night you’re in a lot of trouble, aren’t ya? So you know what borrowing is good and what borrowing isn’t, don’t you? But your government doesn’t. It’s borrowing money to eat dinner every night just to pay the day’s expenses. And you pay a terrible price for it. Because the people we borrow money from, to cover my tax cut and our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, are the same folks we have big trade deficits with…[discussion of consequences of deficits and trade enforcement]…If you want you trade laws enforced we gotta go back to financial responsibility. Hillary figures if two and two is four in Independence, Missouri it’s probably still gonna be four when she gets to Washington, D.C. You want to get rid of these terrible deficits, borrowing money to eat dinner every night, you want your country free to enforce its trade laws again, you want thses children to be in control of their economic destiny you vote for her and you’ll get a whole different economic policy. [applause, calls]

Here’s the last point I want to make…I want to make one last point. You gotta elect somebody who can do this. You have to decide, number one, do you want these things done, and number two, do you think its time for America to be back in the solutions business? [voices: “Hillary!] And if you do, you’ve gotta decide who would be the best president. That is all that matters….there are only two things that matter when it’s all said and done. Only two. Are people better off when you quit than when you started? And do our children and grandchildren have a brighter future? The rest is just smoke and mirrors. That’s what matters. {applause] So, I told you before when I started you ought to vote for her because she’s the only person who is proved that she’s a world class change maker in the senate, in the Whitehouse, in state government, and as a private citizen. And every problem she ever picked up was better when she put it down. Every one [applause]….

[discussion of senate experience with bills and on Armed Services committee]

..In the Whitehouse she represented you in over eighty countries. When we didn’t get universal healthcare the first time we tried she got up off the floor, went to work and helped to pass the children’s health insurance program which got health care to six million kids. [applause, calls] The biggest expansion since Medicare.[applause] She sponsored legislation that enabled us to double the number of children being placed in permanent adoptive homes out of foster care. When I was governor of Arkansas she headed our school reform efforts. What possible relevance does that have to this? This. When she started a national expert said we had the worst schools in America. And when she finished the same guy said that in the last ten years Arkansas was one of two states improving its schools the most. She didn’t even have a job and she made that happen and brightened the future for hundreds of thousands of our kids. Every time she ever touched something it got better. [applause, calls] way long time ago. [applause]

When we were in law school everybody else couldn’t wait to get out and start making money. ‘Cept her. She took an extra year because she was working at the university hospital, too, and she kept seeing these kids…there were no protections anywhere in America for children from children from severe abuse and neglect, so she and her young friends went to work and got some standards that would protect these kids…And now that’s the law of the land in every state in America. She was doing that a long time ago {applause, calls].

And when she got out of law school…she could have gone home to Chicago, gotten a big job, and run for office, and who knows, she might have been in Missouri running for president before now. But she didn’t. She went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund….

[discussion of special education law]

So, my case for her is simple. I love this primary, I say this in every election. You don’t have to be against anybody in this election…I like ’em all. And I like the ones that have already withdrawn…[they’ve] rendered enormous service to this country. [applause] You don’t have to be against anybody, but you do have to pick the best president. So if you want to restore the middle class, with health care and education. If you want to reclaim the future through science and technology and clean independent energy. If you want to restore our leadership in the world. If you want to reform this government [pause] then you have to pick a world class change maker. Somebody who knows that our responsibility is to make the world better for our kids. And you have to pick a person that can do it in the face of emergencies and high pressure. And you have to pick a person that will never forget what your faces look like tonight when you’re in the Whitehouse….

…I’m going to end with this story. Because this is the person I’d be here for if we’d never been married. This is the person I’ve known since 1971. This is the person who just because of the example and power of her life had 85 people from Arkansas go all the way to New Hampshire to campaign for her. With their own little brochure, where she had not lived in fifteen years. Talking about what she’d done to change people’s lives.

Last summer a friend of mine called me from out west…[to go golfing]

[the caddy was a member of the NYFD]

He said, “before 911 most of us firemen thought that we were republicans…your wife, my senator was the first person who knew that some of us would get sick and some of us would die because of what we breathed doing our duty…” “…the president most of us voted for and the whole Whitehouse and eventually the whole EPA they said ‘oh, there’s no way they can get sick, doing that….'” “…every time the EPA came down there they were wearing masks telling us we couldn’t get sick…” “…but she knew, and she fought for us.” And he said, “because she fought, and because some members of the House from New York…helped her we got the help we needed. And some of us who would have died are alive…” “I don’t know what I think about politics. But I do know this. That’s the sort of person who ought to be president….”

…That is the person I have known [pause] since 1971. If you want a great president you will vote for her and you’ll always be proud you did.

Thank you and God bless you. [applause, calls]

As we left the gym, we were confronted by about a dozen Ron Paul supporters nera the exit holding large signs and verbally interacting with the crowd. I stopped to take a few photos. One individual approached me to hand me a brochure. I declined. he stated, “Well, you took a picture, you should take a brochure.” I replied, “I don’t think so” and laughed.