Hillary Clinton returned to New York, the state she served for eight years as US Senator, to kick off her campaign for the April 19 primary election for Democratic nomination for president to a rousing hometown hero welcome at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem, just blocks from where former President Bill Clinton opened the headquarters for the Clinton Foundation.
Enthusiastic supporters on stage, reflecting the diversity of New York City, held up hand-drawn signs of “Welcome Home Hillary”; there were large banners of “Fighting for Us” flanking a massive seal of the state of New York, and chants from the standing room audience of “I believe she can win” before Clinton took to the stage, “Madam President” during her speech and cheers throughout punctuated a clear, concise outline of her stance on issues, her argument for why she is the best qualified candidate in the race, and the stark contrasts between her and her challengers.
“The easiest way to describe my campaign is about: it’s about breaking down barriers that are holding down people from the promise of America.”
And she laid out “three big tests” any one running for president faces: “Can you deliver results that improve people’s lives. Can you keep us safe. Can you bring our country together again.”
She used the first test against her Democratic challenger, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (who she did not name) who is winning big with progressives, young voters and independents In the best zingers aimed at her Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders, who she did not name, she said,
“Now some folks they have the luxury to hold out for the perfect, but a lot of Americans are hurting now. They need the good, and they need it today.
“When any candidate comes before you, that candidate owes it to you to be clear about how they are actually going to deliver. Now my opponent and I share many of the same goals, but some of his ideas on how to get there won’t pass and others just won’t work, because the numbers don’t add up.
“And that means that people aren’t going to get the help they need and deserve… and that’s what this is supposed to be about.
“Now my opponent says we’re just not thinking big enough. No, this is New York. Nobody dreams bigger than we do. This is a city that likes to get things done, and that’s what we want from our president too. We need a president who will help break down all the barriers holding back Americans, not just some.
“I take a back seat to no one in taking on income inequality. I know how important it is to close that gap and rebuild the middle class. But I’ll tell you this, it’s also important to take on racial inequality, and discrimination (BIG APPLAUSE). And, it’s important to stand up to the gun lobby and fight…”
She laid out specifics: investing in infrastructure, in clean energy (“We can produce enough clean energy to power America), make companies that ship jobs overseas, give back the tax breaks they got here at home, “and if they try to move their headquarters to foreign country to skip out of tax bills, we’ll slap a new exit tax on them, and then we’ll put that money to work in the communities and people left people,”
She listed quality affordable childcare, early childhood education , “this is a time for raising minimum wage nationwide, this is time to finally guarantee equal pay for work,” she declared as chants of “Madam President, Madam President,” rang out.
“Republicans always say that when I talk like this I’m playing the gender card. My response is pretty simple: if fighting for equal pay and parental leave is playing the gender card, then deal me in (BIG CHEERS).
“We can break down the barriers on young people, especially the burden of student debt – under my plan, you won’t have to borrow a dime for tuition at any public university, you will be able to refinance the debt you already have just like a mortgage or a car loan. That my friends, will save millions of people thousands of dollars.
“We can also break down the barriers of systemic racism and discrimination, and invest in communities of color, .reform our broken criminal justice system and replace the school to prison pipeline with a cradle to college pipeline.
“We can reject discrimination against LGBT people and defend all our rights-our civil rights, voting rights worker rights, women’s rights, gay rights, rights for people with disabilities, we’re not going to let republicans turn us back.
“That starts with standing with President Obama and demanding Republican Senators do their job and [hold confirmation hearings on his Supreme Court nominee],” prompting chants of “Do Your job. Do Your Job. Do Your Job.”
“I believe we can break down all these barriers if we stand together, work together. For me, it’s all about results – when I join with parents, doctors, community leaders to take on the epidemic of children’s asthma right here in Harlem, wasn’t about making a point, it was about making a difference. As your Senator and in every job I’ve ever held, I’ve worked my heart out to even the odds that often have been stacked against too many people.”
The second test ,keeping America safe, was an opportunity to draw clear distinctions between her – in experience, background, temperament and policy – and all her challengers.
“This isn’t a single issue country so we need a president that can do all parts of the job. Because the second task [for a president] is keeping us safe. At a time when terrorists are plotting new attacks, and countries like Russia, China and Iran are making aggressive moves, protecting America’s national security can’t be an afterthought. Our next president has to just as passionate about defending our people and our country as about fixing our economy. Because when you vote on April 19 in New York, you are voting for a president and a commander in chief.”
But the harshest attack for failing the test of keeping the nation safe was leveled against Republicans:
“When Trump calls for banning Muslims, or when Cruz calls for treating American Muslims like criminals and racially profiling predominantly Muslim neighborhoods (BOOS). that doesn’t make them sound strong, it makes them sound in over their heads (APPLAUSE)
“Most cannons tend to misfire, and in a dangerous world, that’s not a gamble we can afford. But the test which Republican candidates fail spectacularly when we get is the third test – because instead of bringing us together they seem determined to divide us even further. Their entire campaigns are based on pitting us against them.”
“These Republican candidates are showing us exactly who they are and what they would do as president, and you should believe them.
“Just listen to Donald Trump – he plays coy with White Supremacists, he says demeaning things about women/ he wants to round up millions of Latino immigrants and kick them out of the US, a nation built by immigrants. He wants to ban all Muslims from entering America, a nation built on religious freedom. It’s cynical and wrong and against everything that New York and America stand for. ..
“One of the great joys of my time as Senator was traveling across this city and state – New York is home to 20 million people – we don’t all look the same, sound the same, or worship the same either, but we pull together, and when a candidate for president says he can solve America’s problems by building wars, discriminating against people based on religion and turning against each other, well New Yorkers know better…We should build on that spirit, not squash it
“I believe with all my heart, if we reach for more love and kindness instead of bluster and bigotry, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.
“We’re going to stand up for the values that make New York great and make America great. Don’t ever forget, this is the greatest country on earth, we will fight for it, fight for our future. Please join me in this campaign, hillaryclinton.com…. Let’s have each other’s backs, lift each other up, and break down all the barriers holding us back from the full potential that we should realize in our country.”
Regarding electability, Clinton also reminded her supporters that she has already garnered nearly 9 million votes -more than a million more that Donald trump has received and 2.5 million more than Sanders, she said to cheers..
Later in the day, Donald Trump, during a town hall with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, set off a firestorm over his stated position that women should be prosecuted if they obtain an illegal abortion. Later, he backed down and said the providers should be the ones punished. His Republican opponents – Cruz and Kasich – expressed their outrage that the pro-life movement would seek to prosecute women for obtaining an abortion, but the reality is that in many states, “personhood” laws have prosecuted women who have miscarried, or who have used drugs or alcohol during their pregnancy. Later, trying to minimize the damage of Trump’s position, his aide claimed that abortion was a minimal issue when America has such important issues to face, like terrorism and illegal immigration.
Hillary Clinton, asked by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC to respond to the remark and the kerfluffle produced even by Sanders that Trump’s remark was not worth media attention (that, he said, should have been focused on income inequality and climate change), showed the clearest difference among the candidates recognizing the significance of what banning abortion and criminalizing women and doctors would mean:
“I’ve been on the front lines of the fight to preserve a woman’s choice and the ability to make these difficult decisions – it’s why I was endorsed by the Women’s’ Action Fund and NARAL – that our rights as women were not in any way eroded, and to think this issue is not worthy of reaction demonstrates a lack of appreciation how [reproductive rights] goes to the heart of who we are as women. The rights and choices we have is certainly as important as any economic issue..
“So much of the Republican agenda is to turn back the clock on women- whether economic, health or any of the other positions – but this one on choice, on the right to a safe and legal abortion – which you do not have to choose [ if you do not want to] but under our law, the Constitution, you have a right, to a legal and safe abortion – is under concerted attack from Washington and across the country – in many states, health care decisions being ripped away for partisan political reasons, Donald Trump is on the spear point of this assault on women’s rights. It’s a serious matter, and the press needs to cover it. Outrage should be forthcoming.
“People who believe we have just as much right to make our personal decisions as men, should call out Trump and the Republican party which largely agrees with him even if they don’t say it as he did.”
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