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In Speeches, Clinton Often Veers to Dark Side

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who spoke at Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., yesterday, often chooses to tell dark tales rather than use light phrases while campaigning.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who spoke at Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., yesterday, often chooses to tell dark tales rather than use light phrases while campaigning. (By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)
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"He said, 'You know, I went to West Point. Nobody had to take care of me before,' " Clinton said as she told the tale in Huntington, W.Va., on March 19. " 'Now every morning my wife has to give me a list about where I'm supposed to go and what I'm supposed to do.' "

In another story, retold recently in Youngstown, Ohio, she describes a "young woman who lost her husband in Iraq, a lovely young woman who had a daughter."

"Here's what happened to her," Clinton said. "She was given $6,000. She was told to leave the [military] base within 90 days. She was told her daughter was no longer eligible for Army medical care. She was basically on her own. So I said, 'That's not right.' So we began to work to change what was really cruel -- you lose your husband, you lose your wife, you lose your mom or your dad, and you're out, and nobody seemed to care."

Shortly before the Texas primary, Clinton spoke of a mother whose daughter collapsed in the crowd at a Houston rally and who, upon receiving a bottle of water from the candidate, whispered in her ear that she could not get her daughter medical treatment.

"She said, 'I don't have any health insurance -- I can't take her anywhere,' " Clinton recalled a few stops later. She said it was people like that who need for her to be president. "I'm not asking you to vote for me so much as I'm asking you to vote for yourselves," she said.

Perhaps the most shocking story Clinton has conveyed in recent months happened on Feb. 22, when a Dallas police officer was killed in an accident while escorting her motorcade. Late that night, in front of a riled-up crowd in Toledo that seemed only vaguely aware of what had happened, she described an "accident that resulted in his death, and it was just an incredibly sad loss, not only for his family -- he was a wonderful man; I visited the hospital and got a chance to express my sympathy to his family -- but to the police department."

Even though it was past 10:30 on a Friday night, she seemed determined to hush the crowd with a solemn message, saying: "It was really a reminder of the extraordinary work that our law enforcement officials do for us."

But it is the story of the pregnant pizza worker to which Clinton comes back repeatedly. At a Democratic dinner on March 2, she recounted it in full. She told it at a late-night rally in Cleveland just two days before the Ohio primary March 4, bringing the noisy audience to near-silence. She told it again in Charleston, W.Va, last month. Even her daughter, Chelsea, who was with her mother in Ohio when she heard the story, repeated it at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania last week. Clinton was told the story by Bryan Holman, the Meigs County deputy sheriff, who said the deceased woman was Trina Bachtel, whom campaign officials had been unable to identify.

Bachtel, Holman said, had been turned away from the hospital not only for lack of $100 but also because she had unpaid bills -- a detail that Clinton has not mentioned. Public records show that Bachtel of Pomeroy, Ohio, died on Aug. 15, 2007, at age 35. She previously had thousands of dollars in hospital debt, but it was paid off by 2005.

"It was a really terrible story," said Holman, who said he voted for Clinton in the Ohio primary. He said he is grateful that she has taken Bachtel's story to heart. "That is what we wanted."

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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