– Marking the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that registering to vote and participating in elections is a way to honor the service members who defend the nation's security.
"This is really, really important," he told an audience of 2,300 at Florida International University. "The least we can do is show up and vote."
Clinton visited FIU to energize support for President Barack Obama. But he book-ended his 43-minute speech — just five minutes shorter than his address at last week's Democratic National Convention — by talking about those who died on 9/11. The theme even extended to the Obama campaign's choice of the speaker to introduce Clinton: firefighter/paramedic Ignatius "Iggy" Carol.
Clinton said he was in Australia when the attacks occurred, and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was then a U.S. senator from New York. Their daughter, Chelsea, then 21, worked in lower Manhattan, where she was "one of the tens of thousands of people who were just told to walk north — and we could not find her."
Veering from lofty rhetoric to wonky details on government spending to fierce partisanship, Clinton said Obama deserves credit for stopping a "slide into Depression" even though the economy isn't as good as anyone wants.
"The test is not whether you think everything is hunky dory. If that were the test, the president would vote against himself," Clinton said. "The test is whether he's taking us in the right direction, and the answer to that is yes."
He turned professorial at one point, delving into the intricacies of the Medicare program — and his view that the criticism of Obama for $716 billion in Medicare cuts is misleading. He said Republicans did well in the 2010 mid-term elections pushing "that old dog. It's a mangy old dog. It's not true."
Bernadette Green, 24, a graduate student from Miramar who plans to vote for Obama, said the former president has a gift for communicating and was convinced it helped some people make up their minds. "You feel as if he's talking directly to you."
But Carlos Troconis, a 18-year-old freshman from Miami, said he wants to hear more from the candidates before deciding for whom he'll vote in his first election. "As for voting for Obama or [Mitt] Romney, it's whoever gives me the best facts, not fancy words or childish rivalries."
Because of 9/11, a Romney spokesman said the campaign didn't arrange surrogates to refute Clinton. Neither Obama nor Romney did much overt campaigning on Tuesday and both campaigns suspended their advertising.
On Wednesday, Clinton will be in West Palm Beach to help Democratic congressional candidates Lois Frankel and Patrick Murphy raise money. Later in the day, he will hold an Obama rally in Orlando.
Polling shows Florida Democrats want Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016 at SunSentinel.com/BrowardPolitics.
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