Bill Clinton says only Hillary can make America fairer in his first campaign appearance

Donald Trump has the former president one of the 'great woman abusers of all time'

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Monday 04 January 2016 18:39
Bill Clinton made his first appearance in New Hampshire
Bill Clinton made his first appearance in New Hampshire

He was thinner, greyer and his voice has lost some of its liquidity.

But the man who took to the stage in Keene, New Hampshire, on Monday was still unmistakably Bill Clinton - a fact that could either help or hinder his wife in her run for the White House.

“Hillary is going to come and talk about her plan so I’m not going to say too much. But I’ve reviewed it and I think it offers the best chance to make a more broadly equal society,” he said.

Bill Clinton made his first campaign appearance of the 2016 battle in New Hampshire

The 69-year-old travelled to New Hampshire to make his first solo campaign appearance in the 2016 race, stumping on familiar turf on behalf of the Democratic frontrunner.

The 42nd president of the US is generally considered to be one of the most natural and charismatic campaigners of recent American politics. But while he could help boost Ms Clinton’s numbers, some aspects of his history also make her vulnerable to attacks from her opponents.

Indeed, tycoon Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner, who was also campaigning in New Hampshire on Monday, has made clear that he feels Mr Clinton’s illicit relationships - most notoriously with then intern Monica Lewinsky - are “fair game”.

On Monday, Mr Trump told CNN that the former president was “one of the great woman abusers of all time” and that Ms Clinton had a role in that.

“I think that Hillary is an enabler,” he said. “A lot of things happened that were very seedy. Obviously it was a big thing. He was impeached for heaven’s sake.”

Perhaps to the surprise of some, Mr Clinton chose not to respond directly to Mr Trump’s taunts.

Donald Trump mingles with supporters at a rally in Biloxi, Mississippi on 2 January

Rather he sought to draw a distinction between her position on immigration and Mr Trump’s hardline approach, which has included the suggestion that the US should halt admitting Muslims.

Mr Clinton told two stories - one in the US and one abroad - that portrayed Muslims as heroes.

He also sought to reveal some lesser known aspects of his wife that some may not be familiar with - her work as a legal defender after she graduated with college, and her role in closing loopholes in the education that had permitted some private institutions to effectively continue segregation.

“When we met - and it will soon be 45 years - and we fell in love, I thought she was the most amazing person,” he said.

“Back then there weren’t so many female students. She was at Yale. She could have done anything she wanted…Everything she touched, she made better.”

The decision to deploy Mr Clinton to New Hampshire rather than another state, was not made by chance. The state is the second to vote in the primary process and the results can have a huge impact on the fates of candidates.

Indeed, during the 1992 campaign, when Mr Clinton had done poorly in Iowa, his coming second in New Hampshire gave him a new boost, earned him the nickname “the Comeback Kid” and provided the momentum that would eventually take him to the White House.

It also so happens to be the state where Ms Clinton’s closest Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, is polling strongly. A majority of polls have put him one or two points ahead of her there.

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