Clinton in Pittsburgh: ‘Age of new challenges’
By Jeremy Boren
Published: Friday, October 5, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated: Friday, October 5, 2012
Former President Bill Clinton split his visit Thursday to Pittsburgh between giving a short stump speech to influence the region's most competitive congressional race and laying out a grand vision for helping poor countries, quelling unrest in the Middle East and fighting global warming.
“We live in an age of new challenges, and it's going to require some trial and error,” Clinton told a packed audience at Heinz Hall, Downtown. “And those of us as citizens should not punish the trials when there's an error.”
Clinton spoke at Heinz Hall as part of the Pittsburgh Speakers Series sponsored by Robert Morris University. Earlier in the day, he stopped in Beaver to lend his political support to fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, who is fighting to win a second term.
The former president traced points he made during the Democratic National Convention in a defense of President Obama's record. He said he found Wednesday night's first presidential debate “curious” when a question arose about whether overhauling the national health care system was wise.
“It can hardly be worse than it is,” Clinton said. “We're spending 18 percent of (gross domestic product) on health care, and no other rich country spends more than 11.8 percent, and every other wealthy country has better health care outcomes than we do. ... That's $1 trillion a year.”
Clinton said the work of nonprofit organizations, such as the Clinton Global Initiative, is critical to filling the gap between what government and private industry can do to help other nations, improve education to stamp out terrorism and reduce fossil fuel consumption.
Earlier, Clinton joined Critz, 50, of Johnstown in a basement room jammed with supporters at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 712 union hall in Beaver.
Lawyer Keith Rothfus, 50, a Sewickley Republican, is running against Critz in what both candidates say is a close, expensive race to represent the redrawn 12th Congressional District that stretches from Lawrence County to Cambria County.
“Mark Critz gets up every day, and he doesn't think about what is the partisan way I can get this done so I can make somebody else look bad,” Clinton told the crowd. “He thinks about what can I do to help the largest number of people?”
Clinton said it was “chilling” for him to read about Pennsylvania's new voter ID law, which he compared with a poll tax intended to keep Democrats from voting. A recent judge's ruling suspended the requirement to show a photo ID. It will be optional in November.
Clinton said he was “tickled” when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told Obama during the presidential debate that his policies had failed to create jobs and right the economy.
“(Romney) was governor of Massachusetts, and they ranked 48th in job creation out of 50 states and 48th in small business startups,” Clinton said.
Romney has said he lowered the unemployment rate while in office.
More than a dozen of Rothfus' supporters gathered outside Critz's rally with signs decrying the nation's more than $16 trillion national debt and saying Obama's overhaul of the health system would only increase it. Critz supports some provisions of what has become known as Obamacare, but has said he would have voted against it if he had been in office when it passed.
“I am surprised that Congressman Critz, who is supposedly tough on trade, has accepted the endorsement of the man who campaigned across the country in support of NAFTA,” Rothfus said of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which critics say displaced U.S. jobs and created a trade deficit. ”But I guess that doesn't matter at election time.”
Critz was former Rep. John Murtha's top aide. Murtha died in 2010.
Murtha endorsed Hillary Clinton's run for president in March 2008. Clinton endorsed Critz in the May primary over opponent Rep. Jason Altmire of McCandless, who backed Obama before Hillary Clinton dropped out of the race.
Critz is not the only Pennsylvania Democrat getting Bill Clinton's help. Clinton spoke at a fundraiser Monday in Philadelphia for Attorney General hopeful Kathleen Kane, whom he endorsed in the primary. Kane worked on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential primary campaign.
“I love this part of Pennsylvania,” Clinton said at the Critz rally. “You were so good to me as president. You were good to Hillary when she ran.”
Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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