Clinton Bills Herself as Agent Of Change, Voice of Experience

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 3, 2007

CONCORD, N.H., Sept. 2 -- Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton opened a campaign swing here Sunday by parrying criticism from her rivals, arguing that she alone has the experience and can provide the leadership to produce the changes in foreign and domestic policy all the candidates are promising.

"I know some people think you have to choose between change and experience," the senator from New York said at an afternoon rally on the grounds of the state capitol in Concord. "Well, with me, you don't have to choose. I have spent my whole life fighting for change."

Accompanied by her husband, former president Bill Clinton, the Democratic front-runner rolled out a new stump speech for what promises to be an accelerated fall campaign. Clinton defended her husband's record, excoriated President Bush and his policies, and sought to set up a contrast between herself and her leading rivals.

Without mentioning either Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) or former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) by name, she took subtle digs at both, suggesting that neither hope and inspiration nor bold blueprints will be enough to produce universal health care, a new energy policy or an end to the war in Iraq.

She emphasized the lessons learned from her nearly seven years in the Senate and eight as first lady, offering herself as a workaday leader who would conscientiously apply that knowledge on behalf of ordinary Americans.

"Over the past 14 years I've learned that when you want big changes, you need to build a big consensus," she said, adding, "Even a president has to get 60 votes in the Senate to pass a law, and that is a painstaking, roll-up-your-sleeves process that involves a lot of preparation and just plain perspiration."

Clinton opened a two-day campaign swing with three events in New Hampshire -- rallies in Concord and Portsmouth and an appearance at the Hopkinton State Fair in Contoocook. At the fair, she and the former president munched on apple crisp with Gov. John Lynch (D) and his wife, Susan, toured the animal barns, posed for an endless series of photographs with well-wishers and marveled over a prizewinning 1,004-pound pumpkin.

The Clintons will fly to Iowa on Monday for Labor Day rallies in Sioux City and Des Moines.

The campaign swing marked the third joint appearance by the Clintons on the campaign trail this year. Clinton advisers see the former president's presence as a significant help, not only in creating energy around his wife's campaign, but also in attracting volunteer coordinators and organizers in two states where success is vital to her hopes of winning the Democratic nomination.

In her speech, Clinton contrasted her husband's record with that of the current administration, then set out broad goals for her own presidency: restoring America's leadership role in the world by ending the Iraq war and redoubling diplomatic outreach to other nations; providing health, education and other benefits for the middle class and creating additional growth in jobs; reforming government; and "reclaiming our future for our children."

She offered no new policies but said that in two weeks she will outline her plan for achieving universal health care. On Iraq, she said, "We should end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home safely and responsibly and as soon as possible." But she did not set a timetable for completing that withdrawal.

Edwards has often said the only way big change in the nation's direction can be produced is with a fight, and he has hectored Clinton for defending lobbyists, suggesting her election would amount to trading one group of Washington insiders for another.

Clinton on Sunday sought to strike a balance between demands by her party's progressive wing for confrontation with Bush and the Republicans and her record of working cooperatively with the opposition on some issues.

"You can't be content with consensus and compromise alone or you'll lose what you're fighting for," she said. "But you can't always demand everything your own way or you'll never get anything done."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company