HIGH POINT, N.C.—Sounding a sharply populist note the day before the North Carolina and Indiana primaries, Hillary Clinton tore into China, OPEC, oil companies, "Wall Street bankers" and predatory lenders during a 35-minute speech at the train station in this town of 100,000 around noon today.
In the process, she sought once again to portray Barack Obama as less knowledgeable about the problems of the less fortunate.
Clinton’s criticisms of China were especially full-throated. She described a country "that manipulates its currency to their advantage, that subsidizes all kinds of costs for their businesses and workers, that engages [in] and permits wholesale counterfeiting, theft of intellectual property and industrial espionage, and sends us back lead-based toys, contaminated pet food and polluted pharmaceuticals.
"This is going to end when I am president of the United States," she added, to cheers.
Clinton also said that she had received an email in the car on the way to the event that said the price of oil had topped $120 per barrel for the first time.
"We are over the barrel of the oil-producing countries and companies because we refuse to say we’re not going to put up with it," she said.
She promised that, if elected, she would "go after" OPEC.
Referring to the group as a "monopoly cartel" that sits "in some conference room a couple of times a year" deciding the price of oil, she called for a change in the law that would enable the U.S. to "sue them on anti-trust reasons and go to the World Trade Organization with them."
Clinton used the subject of oil prices as a pivot from which to repeat her call for a summer holiday from gas tax.
"Senator Obama wants you to pay the gas tax this summer instead of trying to get the oil companies to pay it out of their record profits," she said.
And she added that another part of the "larger difference" between her and Obama was that she had been "saying for over a year, we [should] take on the Wall Street bankers and mortgage companies that misled so many people into these sub-prime mortgages.’"
Citing Obama’s lack of support for an enforced freeze on home foreclosures, Clinton went on yet again to assert her empathy for working people and, by implication, call Obama’s into question.
"Part of the job of a president," she stated, "is living in the here and now, to try to make it clear to American families, middle class people, hard-working folk, that somebody hears you and somebody sees you and somebody knows what’s going on right here in High Point, North Carolina."
Clinton left no stone unturned in her bid to connect with her audience, once again exhibiting the tendency to slip into a Southern-tinged accent when speaking anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.
"It’s time to quit wringin’ our hands and start rollin’ up our sleeves," she said at one point. A short time later, she pronounced the town’s name as "Hah Point."
She also more playfully admitted there was one question she would not answer on the campaign trail: where the best barbecue food can be found.
"I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life but I’m not walking into that one," she joked.
The setting of the speech–Clinton spoke on near a station entrance, while the media crowded onto a bridge over the tracks–left the former first lady dependent upon a lack of train traffic in order to be heard.
North Carolina governor Mike Easley, introducing the candidate, said that at a similar event elsewhere in the state, a passing train "ran out of steam before she did."
Clinton escaped serious interruption until the climax of her speech, when a train came into view.
Rather than do battle with the noise of the engines, Clinton smilingly informed her audience to imagine the train was "taking us into the future" and wrapped up.
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