Former President Bill Clinton stumps for Hillary Clinton at Simpson College

by Alex Kirkpatrick, Digital Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Embarking on a two-day, early vote bus tour, former President Bill Clinton visited Simpson College Wednesday, stumping for his wife, Hillary, and urging Iowans to reject the “venom” of this presidential election cycle by focusing on policies rather than personalities.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, warmed up the crowd, hitting hard with this one-liner: “Iowa can’t be the only state that doesn’t see the wisdom of electing Hillary Clinton. Iowans don’t let their friends and neighbors vote (for) Trump.”


Vilsack also chastised Iowa Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst for continuing their support for Trump after The Washington Post last week released videotapes of the GOP nominee making lewd and candid comments about women. Many other congressional Republicans, such as Arizona Sen. John McCain and Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, have rescinded their support.

In a speech to more than 250 people that lasted just over a half-hour, Bill Clinton outlined a number of topics, including the economy, health care, the Supreme Court and climate change.

“Your mind and your heart have much more effect on the future than what you think,” he said. “You have the power to create. The whole idea of America is that we can make new tomorrows, and you just have to decide whether you believe that.”

On clean energy, Clinton praised Vilsack and Iowa for being a national wind energy leader, and said Iowa’s topsoil in 20 years “will be worth more than oil ever was.”

On climate change, Clinton referenced the first presidential debate this year, saying, “If you think climate change is a Chinese plot to disrupt the U.S. economy, Hillary is not your candidate.”

“You don’t even have to believe in climate change to realize that the sea level is rising,” he said. “We can lead the world away from the biggest contributors to climate change.”

bill-clinton-jaydeJayde Vogeler, Photography Editor/The Simpsonian

One thing was noticeably absent from his speech. Clinton never mentioned Donald Trump by name, instead alluding to the Republican presidential nominee, saying voters should not “reciprocate the road rage” and “walk away from the madness.”

In an attempt to reverse seemingly tumultuous campaign rhetoric from both presidential nominees, Clinton focused on positive points, telling the crowd that diversity is a strength rather than a weakness.

View the full speech here:

“Don’t feed all this venom and poison and acid that’s been put in our political society,” he said. “Reach a hand of friendship out to people. This is our country. Our whole future is riding on it. I am telling you, we are on the verge of having the best times America has ever had if we do the right things and show the right face to the world.”

He told the crowd that Americans should embrace all races, religions, etc., and that America needs Muslims, pointing out that Thomas Jefferson partnered with Tunisia to help battle the Barbary pirates.

“We have been down this road a long time,” Clinton said. “I’m a white Southerner, and I know what it’s like.”

Another point of contention this election cycle, on the heels of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February, is the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice, to which Bill Clinton said the next appointee is “important to voting rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights and LGBT rights.”

But what Simpson students applauded the most, it seemed, was Clinton’s brief message on a debt-free education and a plan to improve post-secondary education and its affordability.

bill-clintonCourtesy of Brian Steffen

“Every American should be able to graduate college without debt,” he said, offering suggestions on how rules should be changed on college loans to allow students to refinance when interest rates drop.

Graduates who struggle to repay loans would be put on a payment plan, and after 10 years, the debt would be forgiven if the debtor performs public service.

A day earlier, though, the former president compared Trump’s base to “your standard redneck,” telling a crowd in Fort Myers, Florida: “The other guy’s base is what I grew up in. I’m basically your standard redneck.”

In an effort to mitigate those harshly received comments, Clinton discussed his experiences in the South, highlighting his wife’s policy plans for the energy sector, especially West Virginia’s coal industry. He said Hillary Clinton seeks to revive “coal country” and “Indian country,” but not the way some people might think.

“If you think you can make America look like it did 50 years ago, that’s a social message.”
Bill Clinton closed his speech with a one-liner he got from a friend: “If you don’t want somebody to drive off the cliff, don’t give him the keys.”

A Republican National Committee spokeswoman said Clinton’s “last-minute push to register voters in Iowa is yet another failed attempt to inspire the Obama coalition of voters Hillary Clinton desperately needs.”