Clinton promotes wife as agent of change

After receiving criticism for his role in his wife's presidential campaign in New Hampshire and South Carolina, former President Bill

After receiving criticism for his role in his wife's presidential campaign in New Hampshire and South Carolina, former President Bill Clinton stuck to a lawyerly script in Blackwood today, exactly one week before New Jersey's Feb. 5 primary.

"You must vote for someone not just to make history, but for someone who's going to build the future," said Clinton, in the one unnamed reference to Sen. Hillary Clintons chief opponent, Sen. Barack Obama.

In his second New Jersey appearance for his wife's campaign in as many months, Clinton told an email-mobilized crowd of 1,500 in Camden Community College's Papiano Gym that the most important reason to elect his wife as the Democratic presidential nominee is because she is a "proven change agent."

He referred to the economic record of his own administration as an indicator of how his wife would be able to steer the country in the wake of a Bush administration that compiled a poor record, in his view.

"We have to restore the middle class dream in America and give poor people a chance to work their into it," said Clinton. "After eight years of over 22 million new jobs and nearly eight million people moving out of poverty, we now have seven years of five million new jobs and five million new people falling into poverty."

Moments after walking onto the stage with Clinton following an introduction by Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, Gov. Jon Corzine reminded the crowd and the former President that he was the first governor in the country to endorse Sen. Hillary Clinton for president.

"There is one person who will be a great president and a great leader of the Free World, and that's Hillary Rodham Clinton, right?" Corzine asked the animated crowd.

Arguing the "change agent" message, Clinton said that after Hillary Clinton graduated from Yale Law School, the future senator and first lady went to knock on the doors of poor people's homes as a member of the Children's Defense Fund.

In the aftermath of the Clinton Administration's universal healthcare defeat on Capitol Hill, "Hillary went to work with Congress to secure healthcare for 6 million children with SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program)," said Clinton.

When the leaders of Northern Ireland visited the United States a few weeks ago, they pointedly requested to meet with two people, according to Clinton: President Bush, and Sen. Hillary Clinton.

"They wanted to thank her for the independent role she played in the Northern Irish peace process," said Clinton, who also mentioned his wife's bipartisan record in the U.S. Senate to secure soldiers' signing bonuses, and obtain body armor for National Guard troops.

Also impressive, he said, was his wife's work with fellow presidential candidate Sen. John McCain on global warming.

Clinton never mentioned Obama's name in the roughly half hour speech. Instead he won several applause lines when he criticized the record of current President George W. Bush.

In a Hillary Clinton administration, "Military force will be used only as a last resort," Clinton said.

That was a theme State Democratic Chairman Joseph Cryan hit when it was his turn to speak in the lead-up to Clinton's speech. Taking a poke at McCain, who said on the campaign trail that the United States military could find itself in Iraq in some capacity for 100 years.

"We want somebody who can end the war with America's principles and America's greatness, and the person to do that is Hillary Rodham Clinton," Cryan told the cheering crowd.

Roberts flexed the party's organizational muscle when he mentioned in his remarks that the crowd included people from Cumberland, Camden, Cape May, Gloucester, Burlington, Atlantic and Salem counties.

"It is so terrific that President Clinton is here with us today, because he knows South Jersey," Roberts told the mostly youthful crowd. "Some of you may have been with me over at the old Garden State Race Track, right before the election in 1992, when Bill Clinton, when he could barely speak because his voice was so hoarse, came there and said, 'I want to be in South Jersey before this general election goes to the voters.'"

Despite the change in Clinton's tone, state Senate President Pro Tempore – and Obama backer – Shirley Turner was unmoved.

"Obama started the change message in this election, and when people saw it was working everyone else started talking about it, including the Republicans," said Turner. "If you're talking about changing one Clinton for another, that's not really change."

Turner said she did not like the former president's remarks on Saturday following Obama's double digit romp over Sen. Clinton in South Carolina. Clinton likened the Illinois senator's victory to Jesse Jackson's South Carolina primary victories in 1984 and 1988.

"My question is how can you invoke Jesse Jackson when over 97% of the voters in the Iowa primary (where Obama was also victorious) are white?"

Turner said she disagreed with her Senate colleague and fellow Obama backer Loretta Weinberg, who beseeched Sen. Clinton to leave her husband home.

"I think she should keep him out there," said Turner. "He's our secret weapon."

In his remarks at the podium on Tuesday morning, moments before Clinton took the stage, Cryan hammered on the change theme by reminding the crowd that Sen. Clinton would be the country's first woman president.

"As my father would say, and he did one time, 'hell would freeze over before there will be a woman president,'" Cryan said. "And while he's up in heaven, it's getting mighty cold down below, I believe that."

Clinton's State Finance Co-Chair John F.X. Graham said the campaign to date has raised $4.5 million in New Jersey. To counter Caroline Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy Monday endorsement of Obama, Graham said the Clinton camp will revel in its own emblem of Camelot when Clinton backer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. visits Passaic County for a rally next Monday. Clinton promotes wife as agent of change