STATE COLLEGE, Penn.—Hillary Clinton, speaking on the Penn State campus here on Sunday night, once again sought to exploit Barack Obama’s declaration that John McCain would make a better president than George W Bush.
She was met with cheers when she told the crowd, “We need a nominee who is going to take on John McCain, not cheer him on.”
As she had done at a previous campaign stop on Sunday, Clinton referred to McCain’s comment about the U.S. potentially maintaining a presence in Iraq for 100 years as evidence that the Arizona senator would represent no change from the current administration.
“Is that better than George Bush?” she asked rhetorically. “I don’t think so.”
With the Pennsylvania primary looming on Tuesday, Clinton continued her sharp assaults on Obama.
She asserted that the Illinois senator had run attacks upon her health care plan that were “misleading.” She accused him of continuing those attacks despite, she said, having been “called” on their mendacity.
And she expanded on a common line of attack—”We’re electing a president to solve problems, not to give speeches”—in remarks that appeared, at least by implication, to compare Obama with George Bush.
“If we just vote on slogans; if we just vote on commercials, we don’t know what we’re voting on,” she said.
She added that this was the same pattern that had persuaded people to support Bush as “a compassionate conservative—whatever that meant.”
Clinton was not always so grim, however. She also played to the crowd by noting that both her father and her brother had gone to Penn State, her father attending on a football scholarship.
She told the crowd that when she mentioned this to Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, who is her most prominent supporter in the state and appeared on stage with her here, he had asked, “Was Joe there?”
“Oh, he was, I’m sure of it!” Clinton said she had jokingly replied. The reference to legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno delighted the crowd, as did Clinton’s description of him as “one of the eternal verities.”
Clinton also noted that the college would “never have a president with a closer relationship” to it than if she were elected.
Be that as it may, the crowd here was fairly modest in size. Around 1800 people showed up in a cavernous basketball arena, leaving half the balcony entirely unoccupied, while a small group gathered in front of the stage where Clinton spoke.
The attendance was partially a consequence of a night marred by heavy rain. But the people who were in attendance did not lack for intensity. Describing Clinton’s performance as “amazing”, 18-year-old Sabrina Creus, who came to the rally with her mother, contrasted Clinton’s command of the issues with Obama’s perceived callowness.
“I don’t think he’s experienced enough, he’s not ready to take over,” she said.
Rendell’s attempt to fire up the crowd in advance of Clinton’s speech included one rather plaintive note.
“We don’t have as much money as the other guy,” he lamented.
Congressman Jack Murtha also took the stage with Clinton, and inadvertently highlighted the fractious nature of the party contest.
While telling the crowd that “the guy who’s running on the other side” would bring “four more years” of the same mistakes he said had been made by the Bush administration, Murtha felt compelled to offer a clarification.
“I’m talking about the Republican,” he said.