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Clinton delivers message on party values

The former president emphasized advocating equal opportunity in his speech to Florida Democrats.

Published June 13, 2006

ORLANDO - As Tropical Storm Alberto threatened to become the ninth hurricane in 22 months to affect Florida, former President Bill Clinton warned a large crowd that Republican environmental policies will make the hurricane problem worse.

"It is now generally recognized that while Al Gore and I were ridiculed, we were right about global warming," Clinton said to loud applause. "It's a serious problem. It's going to lead to more hurricanes and ... people in Florida not being able to get insurance."

That wasn't the only thing the 500 Democrats in the crowd should be concerned about, Clinton said. There's also Iraq, a rising deficit, high health care costs, an increase in no-bid federal contracts and a doubling of the number of Washington lobbyists.

Clinton was in town for a Florida Democratic Party fundraiser, an event that brought in more than $250,000. The night before in Miami he helped Sen. Bill Nelson raise $500,000 for his re-election campaign.

Clinton was greeted by wild applause and shouts of "You look good!," "We love you Bill!" and "Four more years!" Clinton responded, "Wow!"

He then went on to question the Republicans' claim to be the party of values and urged Democrats to spread a message of equal opportunity.

"They think they're good people and they're better than we are," Clinton said. "We believe that government should be run for the benefit of everybody. They believe that government should be run for the benefit of people that agree with them and are part of their financial and ideological crowd."

He criticized tax cuts that helped the wealthy while scholarship programs are being cut and port security is underfunded. He said Republicans ignore facts by gagging scientists and rewriting their reports if they don't support party ideology.

He also said the Democrats' message shouldn't just be about doom and gloom.

"Our job is to speak clearly about what we stand for. We are for equal opportunity, shared responsibility and an inclusive community. And we are for building a world where there is more security, where there are more partners and fewer terrorists. And we're for continuous home improvement," he said.

The state Republican Party said Clinton's message was divisive rhetoric.

"Bill Clinton's class warfare and race-baiting message gets us no closer to solutions for the issues he brings up," said party spokesman Jeff Sadosky, who cited remarks Clinton made at an Arizona event this month that referred to Republican Party leaders as right-wing, white Southerners.

Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Karen Thurman said comparing Clinton's time in office with the more than five years of Republican rule since then makes the former president's service seem that much greater in hindsight.

"I was there and we worked really hard, we took a lot of tough votes to put this country back on the right track," said Thurman, who was a congresswoman during Clinton's presidency. "We were moving forward in the right direction."

[Last modified June 13, 2006, 04:38:56]

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