ATHENS — Former President Bill Clinton began his “Stronger Together” bus tour through Ohio in Athens on Tuesday morning, campaigning on behalf of his wife, Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Bill Clinton reportedly spent Monday night at the OU Inn in Athens before Tuesday’s campaign event. For the former president, it was a return trip to southeastern Ohio.
Clinton previously spoke at OU during his presidential campaign “back in the dark ages, before most of you could vote and many of you were born.” Clinton also spoke in Athens in 2008 as part of his wife’s primary campaign.
“This has been a crazy election and I am not well suited for it — because I’m a happy grandfather,” Clinton said.
He went on to say that it was easy to remember he was supposed to remind people of the voter registration deadline of Oct. 11 as it is also his 41st wedding anniversary. He also reminded people that early voting in Ohio begins Oct. 12.
Much of Clinton’s approximately 50-minute speech focused on Hillary’s opponent, while also outlining some of Hillary Clinton’s policy plans should she become president.
“Hillary’s opponent is just about the best I ever saw at rubbing salt in open wounds,” Clinton said, noting that Donald Trump didn’t pay contractors or pay his taxes. Clinton never mentioned the Republican nominee by name during the speech.
Protesters marched around the green during the speech, with one person in the crowd interrupting Clinton. The individual shouted something toward Clinton with regard to Hillary Clinton having been involved with putting people behind bars. When a person on the other side of the crowd attempted to start a “Clinton” chant to quiet the protester, Bill Clinton stopped them both and addressed the topic.
“Hillary didn’t vote for the ‘94 crime bill, even though Senator (Bernie) Sanders did. … She was first person in this campaign to say we should change the incarceration policy. No one else has done that. The facts aren’t difficult here. You ought to think about it if you’re upset. You’re also upset that we have a 25-year low in the crime rate, a 33-year low in the murder rate and, listen to this, a 67-year low in the rate of people being killed by illegal gun violence. It’s OK to hold people accountable for their record, but you need to paint the whole picture,” Clinton said.
“I want to talk about why you should be for Hillary and why you should be for yourself and why you ought to be optimistic about the future,” he continued. “I believe that we’re making a terrible mistake spending all our time biting each other’s head off because I believe America is on the verge of being able to grow together with a 21st century version of broadly shared prosperity.
“’Stronger together means do you believe the economy grows better if we share the prosperity. Stronger together means do you believe we live better if we have an inclusive society and we embrace our diversity instead of drive a stake in the heart of it. Stronger together means we are more secure in a world where everybody’s borders look more like nets than walls,” said Clinton, explaining the theme of the bus tour. “We should approach the future with bridges, not walls.
“Do you believe we’re better off with anger or answers? Do you believe we’re better off with resentment or empowerment? Do you believe we’re better off embracing the unity of our common humanity or continuing to slice and dice the electorate and our society?”
Clinton spoke of Hillary Clinton’s plans to help small businesses with loans and insurance costs, an education plan for free or debt-free college, and plans to bring business back to America.
Social equality and helping the middle class were central themes of the speech, with Clinton making reference to Trump wanting to take things back to the way they were 50 years ago, and therefore putting some higher on a totem pole.
“Hillary does not want to move anybody up on the social totem pole. She wants to tear the dadgum pole down so we can all go forward together,” Clinton said.
“Don’t pass up this chance. Don’t let people pour acid down your throat. Don’t let people tell you your vote doesn’t matter. Don’t let people tell you there are no consequences to the election,” Clinton added. “Do this for yourself. Do this for your future. Taking a flying leap these next 30 days and think about what we can do. Instead of pouring salt in everybody’s wounds and acid down everybody’s throat, think about what we can do. Think about what we can do to claim a future that can include everybody. We can all rise again.
“Don’t stay home. Don’t stay quiet. And don’t spend all your time on the cheap easy shots, even if you’re on our side and you’re taking them at him. The only thing that matters is what your life is going to be like,” added Clinton.
“Answers work better than anger. Empowerment works better than resentment. Bridges work better than walls and we’re stronger together than we are cutting the living daylights out of each other. Go claim your future and elect Hillary Clinton,” concluded Clinton.
Clinton was introduced by Bailey Williams, a freshman at Ohio University. Williams said he voted for Bernie Saunders in March, but is supporting Clinton in the November election.
“This election is too important to sit on the sidelines or vote for a third party,” Williams said. “Yeah, I can name a billion reasons why you should vote against Trump, but anybody in their sleep can do that. Instead of voting against Trump, I am voting for Secretary Clinton.
“Hillary Clinton is the only person in this race who will look out for middle-class families like mine and make sure that college is affordable for everybody and that education is not just a luxury for the rich,” Williams said. “This is the time to vote for the future of America.”
Also speaking Tuesday morning were U.S. Senate candidate and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, 94th District state representative candidate Sarah Grace, and Ohio Together organizers Emma Kraus and Sean Murphy.
Following the event in Athens, Clinton headed to Steubenville for an event later Tuesday afternoon. He is scheduled to be in Youngstown and Canton on Wednesday.