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Bill Clinton blasts Rand Paul, who hits back with Lewinsky comments

October 11, 2010

Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for Attorney General Jack Conway in Lexington Monday, delivering a hard-nosed repudiation of Republican Rand Paul's "radical ideas" to cut government spending.

Clinton touted Conway's proposals for reducing the debt and creating jobs, while blistering Paul and Republicans for wanting to repeal programs such as loans for college students and new controls on big financial institutions — even as they push tax cuts for the rich.

"We have a practical, progressive, common-sense moderate who has actually done things and actually has a plan, running against a man with radical ideas and no record to back it up, no evidence that anything works that they're advocating, who has embraced an agenda that will add a trillion dollars to the debt, not reduce the deficit and not create jobs, but let us go back to what got us in trouble in the first place," Clinton said.

Clinton, named the nation's most popular political figure in one recent poll, spoke on the lawn of the administration building at the University of Kentucky at a rally designed to pump up enthusiasm for Conway.

UK officials estimated the crowd at about 5,000.

Conway and Paul, a Bowling Green eye doctor, are locked in a tight race for U.S. Senate with three weeks to go before the Nov. 2 election.

Paul's reaction to the former Democratic president's remarks added to the rough edge of the race.

"I'm not sure I would trust a guy who had had sexual relations with an intern. I mean, do you think he's an honorable person?" Paul said at a campaign stop in Shelbyville.

"I think that's disgusting. It gets to the point where we discount what he says," said Paul, who was referring to Clinton's liaison with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Paul dismissed Clinton's visit as largely irrelevant, saying the current election is about the agenda of President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in many parts of Kentucky.

Clinton, however, carried Kentucky in both 1992 and 1996 and remains popular in the state, which is why Conway welcomed the former president.

In a half-hour speech punctuated by cheers and laughter from the crowd, Clinton said the recession began on the GOP's watch and the Obama administration had to spend to cushion its effects.

Obama hasn't had time to dig the country out of the hole the Republicans created, but the GOP is blaming him and asking voters to "let us get our shovels and dig again," Clinton said.

Clinton scoffed at Republican rhetoric about balancing the budget, saying they "never worry about the deficit except when there's a Democrat in the White House."

Clinton compared his record of budget surpluses to the deficits under President Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

His successor, President George Bush, doubled the national debt even before the financial meltdown and left Obama with a deficit of more than $1 trillion, Clinton said.

Clinton said Paul and Republicans want to roll back a number of programs that help people.

For instance, Paul has said he hates the Americans with Disabilities Act, Clinton said, even though the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have added 180,000 people to the rolls of those the law helps.

Paul has never said he hates the ADA, but has suggested the law goes too far in requiring employers to accommodate people with disabilities.

Clinton said Republicans want to repeal new controls on large financial institutions like those the government bailed out.

Repealing the law would "let them go back to gambling with your future in these high-risk deals that create no jobs and could run this risk again," Clinton said of large banks.

Clinton said Republicans also would target for elimination changes designed to make it easier for college students to get and repay loans, a program he said is crucial because the percentage of U.S. adults with a college degree has slipped relative to other countries.

Clinton said Republicans want to cut money for air-traffic control, food-safety oversight, job training and clean-air enforcement, while pushing to keep Bush administration tax cuts that would mean a $300,000 break for people making an average of $8.5 million a year.

 "Who's children are going to get asthma so the people making eight and half million bucks can keep their 300 grand?" Clinton asked.

Clinton did not mention that Conway also has said he favors extending the Bush tax cuts.

Clinton said Conway has put forth a plan to create jobs through a small-business tax credit and a proposal to encourage lending by community banks, and to cut the deficit by closing tax loopholes and letting Medicare negotiate for lower drug prices, among other things.

"The other guy says we're just basically going to abolish the federal government except for Medicare and defense and tax cuts," Clinton said.

Paul, while calling for cuts in federal spending, acknowledged getting most of the income in his medical practice from Medicare.

He also has mentioned creating a $2,000 deductible for Medicare. Conway has slammed him over the statement; Paul responded with ads saying he does not now favor that idea.

Others speaking at the rally included: Conway; Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, who lost to Conway in the May primary; U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler; and former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford.

After his speech, Clinton walked along a barrier in front of the podium, shaking hands with a crush of people who pushed to the front to see him.

Several people said later they had decided to vote for Conway before the rally and came to see Clinton.

"I thought Bill Clinton was an awesome president. I wish we could elect him again," said Sophia Preziosi, a 24-year-old UK student.

Others, however, said the event had moved them toward voting for Conway.

Jenna Gabehart, a 22-year-old nursing student, said she still hadn't made up her mind, but was "a little more swayed to Conway" by the rally.

"This is impressive. Clinton was wonderful," she said.

Jay Blanton, a spokesman for UK, estimated the event cost the university about $15,500. The Conway campaign will reimburse UK, he said.

Conway staffers could not estimate the whole cost of bringing in the former president.

Blanton stressed that UK does not endorse candidates. The rally was sponsored by student government and a campus group called Cats for Conway. Conway and Clinton were their guests, he said.

UK policy allows student organizations to use campus facilities and invite political candidates.



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