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Senator Clinton 'heckled' at DNC winter meeting for stance on Iraq; Says as president she'll end war

Brian Beutler
Published: Friday February 2, 2007
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Earlier today, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) was heckled at the DNC winter meeting by audience members who are unhappy with her stance on the war in Iraq.

Clinton, who voted in 2002 to give President Bush the right to use force to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime, spoke today of the non-binding resolution that will appear before the Senate next week as the first time the Democrats will "tell the president, 'no!'"

However, her speech was nearly derailed by a handful of guests in attendance shouting "make it binding!" and "how about you bring them home."

Moments later, Clinton promised that, if the war hasn't ended by 2009 then "as president" she would do so.

Speaking on oil company profits, Clinton said "I want to take those profits, and I want to put them into a strategic energy fund."

"I am not running for president to put band aids on our problems," Clinton said.

Star rival Barack Obama pledged to restore hope to cynical politics as Democratic White House hopefuls traded the first blows of the 2008 campaign.

The two senators, along with also-favored former vice presidential nominee John Edwards and a host of long shots, made dueling speeches in their first serious head-to-head test of a potentially historic race.

"I want to be very clear about this: If I had been president in October 2002, I would not have started this war," said Clinton, already under pressure after refusing to publicly admit her vote for the war was a mistake.

"If we in Congress don't end this war before January 2009, as president, I will," said the former first lady, who is battling to become America's first woman president.

Obama, on his own historic quest to become the first black president, offered Democrats a vision of "hope" and a new brand of politics, purged of "small and timid, calculating and cautious" modern-day taints.

"It is a serious moment for America. The American people understand that; they are in sober mood," said Obama, 45, a first-term senator who shot to fame with an electrifying speech in the 2004 Democratic convention.

"We've got 130,000 Americans fighting halfway across the world in a war that should have never been waged, led by leaders who have no plan to end it.

"We don't have time to be cynical. We don't have time," said Obama, who opposed the war from the start, unlike Clinton and Edwards, who has since disavowed his vote to authorize the war.

Eleven months before crucial first nominating conventions in states like Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire, hundreds of buoyant Democratic activists fired up by their capture of Congress waved campaign signs and cheered wildly.

Other candidates who addressed the meeting included outsiders Senator Christopher Dodd, Congressman Dennis Kucinich and retired general Wesley Clark.

Senator Joseph Biden, who stumbled into a race row on the day he announced his campaign this week, was due to give a speech on Saturday, along with Bill Richardson, New Mexico's governor and a former US ambassador to the United Nations.

Rank outsiders, such as former Alaska senator Mike Gravel and ex-governor of Iowa Tom Vilsack, will also address the audience on the second day of the conference.

(Compiled from wire reports)

Full transcript of Clinton's speech:

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SEN. CLINTON: (Cheers, applause.) Oh, thank you so much -- (name inaudible). (Continued cheers, applause.) Hello Democrats! (Cheers, applause.)

Well, I'm Hillary Clinton, and I'm running for president! (Cheers, applause.) I'm in, and I'm in to win because we have to take our country back! This campaign that we're going to wage is one of the most important that we've ever had in our country. We're going to need everybody working together and getting the results that we want, not only adding to our numbers in the Congress, but taking back the White House and -- (applause).

I want to thank my long-time friend, Governor Dean, for helping to lead the charge for the victories we had in November of '06. (Cheers, applause.) I want to thank all of the state chairs and the committee members because this was a unified effort, and I know how hard everyone worked. And that was the first step, to get the Congress back; to begin to try to rein in the president; to send a clear message that the Democrats are going to do all we can to hold the president accountable, and to try to repair the damage, and limit what else might come over the next two years.

Now, I know a lot of Democrats feel as though we just want this election to be here. And we do, don't we? (Cheers, applause.) But we're going to have to do all we can within the Congress to try to set a new course. And it's challenging. You know that. We have a Democratic majority in the House under the great leadership of Speaker Pelosi. (Cheers, applause.) And we're making progress. And in the Senate we have increased our numbers. But we still have to create coalitions in order to get the votes we need to make the changes that are so necessary.

This is what I pledge to you for the next two years: that I will work with my colleagues in the Senate to do everything we can to change the direction of this country. And then when I am president, working with a Democratic Congress, we will really take our country back and put it on the right track again. (Cheers, applause.)

You know, I am not here today just to start a campaign. I've been in a lot of campaigns over the years. I'm here to start a conversation with our country because we've got to admit to ourselves that things are just not right. We've lost something these last six years. All of you feel it. We know it. And we have to regain it.

It's the basic bargain that many of us grew up expecting, that we felt if you worked hard and did your part, your country would stand with you, it would give you the chance to build a better life for yourself and your family. It was a bargain that created the American middle class, the greatest social invention in the history of the world.

You know, every country has rich people, with all due respect. And unfortunately, we still have a lot of poor people everywhere. But no country has created this extraordinary middle class, out of which most of us came, with the promise of education and better opportunities.

I grew up in a middle class family in the middle of America. My dad was a World War II vet who came back in order to make a better life for us. He ran a small business printing fabric for draperies and lots of times, the only workers he had were my mother and my brothers and me. But we were all in it together and we felt, because of the example he and my mom set, that if you served your country, your country would serve you. (Applause.)

Now when I travel around our country, that's not how people are feeling. Corporate profits and CEO pay are hitting new highs, while wages for hard-working Americans are stagnant. Last year, more people went bankrupt than graduated from college. And if you look at the increasing number of the uninsured, if you realize the shame of 26,000 victims of Katrina still living in trailers, if you ask the worried mom who's trying to figure out, what does "no child left behind" mean when I feel like my children are being left behind? (Cheers, applause.)

When I travel across Upstate New York and hard-working people come and say, Senator, they're closing this factory down and shipping our jobs overseas. Why can't we get tough on China? And I say, because of the debt that this government, under this president, has exploded, we are now dependent upon China, and how do you get tough on your banker? We need to start standing up for the American worker again, and be able to once again compete and win in the global economy. (Applause.)

But it's not just manufacturing jobs, is it?

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: No.

SEN. CLINTON: You know, when I was in Iowa last weekend, I met -- (interrupted by cheers) -- had a great time. Thank you all very much. (Laughter.) I met a young man, an engineer, who was training his replacement. And he said, "You know, I did what I was supposed to do. I went to college; I got an advanced degree. I've worked hard. And now, I'm training somebody who is going to make one-tenth of what I make."

We need a new economic strategy that will rebuild the American middle class and give hope to people who feel that they've done their part, and they're waiting for their government to be on their side again. (Cheers, applause.)

So what I want to do is to renew that promise of America. It's the greatest promise that anyone can be born with or come to be part of, and I want to restore the greatness and respect for our country around the world.

Now, I know very well that we're going to be debating, starting this week in the Senate, a resolution of disapproval of this president's ill-conceived plan to escalate our involvement in Iraq. Now, there are many people --

HECKLER: (Off mike.)

SEN. CLINTON: -- there are many people who wish we could do more, but let me say that if we can get a large bipartisan vote to disapprove this president's plan for escalation, that will be the first time that we will have said, "No!" to President Bush and begin to reverse his policies! (Cheers, applause.)

Now, I want to go further. I propose capping the troop levels. I want to make it very clear that we need to threaten the Iraqi government, that we're going to take money away from their troops, not our troops who still lack body armor and armored vehicles; that we're going to send a clear message -- (cheers, applause) -- that we are finished with their empty promises and with this president's blank check.

And let me add one other thing, and I want to be very clear about this. If I had been president in October of 2002, I would not have started this war. I would not -- (interrupted by cheers, applause) -- and if in Congress, if we in Congress, working as hard as we can to get the 60 votes you need to do anything in the Senate -- believe me, I understand the frustration and the outrage, you have to have 60 votes to cap troops, to limit funding, to do anything.

If we in Congress don't end this war before January 2009, as president, I will! (Cheers, applause.)

And I expect to be busy in the White House in January 2009, because once and for all, we are going to provide quality, affordable, universal healthcare coverage to every single American! (Cheers, applause.) Now, I know some people say what is Hillary Clinton doing talking about health care? (Laughter.) Well, as Dr. Dean knows, this is one of my favorite subjects! And I learned a lot about what we need to do to get it done. There's a big difference between calling for it, impassioned speeches about it, presenting legislation that embodies your hopes and dreams, and another thing to put together the political coalition to actually make it happen. (Applause.)

The same -- the same is true with energy independence. The Democrats know what needs to be done. Again, we're working to try to push this agenda forward. The other day the oil companies reported the highest profits in the history of the world. (Laughter.) I want to take those profits and I want to put them into a strategic energy fund that will begin to find alternative smart energy, alternatives and technologies that will begin to actually move us toward the direction of independence! (Cheers, applause.)

And I have to tell you, I am not running for president to put Bandaids on our problems. I am running to ensure that we actually address them and meet them and get results here in our country, because we have to prove to ourselves, as well as the rest of the world, that we're still the most creative, most innovative, most effective nation in the history of the world.

We have not been demonstrating that recently, have we?

So we have all these big challenges, and we need smart, strong leadership that can provide the solutions that everyone knows we have to have.

I believe that I can, with my lifetime of experience and qualifications, make it possible for us once again to believe in ourselves because we can actually see results. People are tired of politics as usual, with good reason. We're just marching in place. We may even be falling further and further behind. If you look at every international indicator, we don't have the highest quality health care -- although we pay more for it than anybody in the world; we're not setting high goals and moving toward them on energy independence and to combat global warming -- although we emit more gas emissions than anybody else globally. We can do this, but there's a strain of fatalism in some of the conversations that have crept into the political dialogue.

You know, if we try to deal with global climate change, we'll wreck the economy; I reject that. If we try to have universal health care coverage, we'll bankrupt our country; I reject that. (Cheers, applause.) I've been fighting for more than 35 years on behalf of poor people and children and women and families.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: That's right.

SEN. CLINTON: I worked in Arkansas with my friends from Arkansas to reform our schools and to reform rural health care. I have worked across our state in New York to bring economic opportunities to our smallest villages and help our farmers while dealing with the aftermath of 9/11 and what it meant for the greatest city in the world.

You and I know there is another kind of experience that we're going to need in 2008. I know a thing or two about winning campaigns. And -- (cheers, applause) -- when our party and our candidates are attacked, we have got to stand up and fight back. (Cheers, applause.) I have always done that, and I always will. I know how they think, how they act and how to defeat them, and if you give me the chance, that's exactly what we will do together in 2008. (Cheers, applause.)

You know, ultimately this is not about you, me or any of our other wonderful candidates. And we've got a great field of really strong and dedicated candidates. This is about what we leave to the next generation. This is about our children and our grandchildren. And I believe we can marshal our faith, our strength and our ingenuity to restore that basic bargain, to renew the promise of America. That's what I love about our country.

You know, let's not listen to the naysayers, let's plow ahead and shape our own future. We can make history and remake our country's future. We can elect the first woman president. (Cheers, applause.) We can fix health care. We can stop global warming. We can stop the genocide in Darfur! (Cheers, applause.) And yes -- (cheers and applause continuing) -- we can find the right end to the war in Iraq.

Americans are looking for solutions. Democrats, we have them! (Cheers, applause.) Americans are looking for change. Democrats, we are that change! Americans are looking for unity. We can unify our country again. (Cheers, applause.)

America's looking for leaders who see what they see. Our world is changing. The threats we face are real. But the promise of America and the values that sustain us are just as real. And if we're willing to stand up and fight for them, there is no stopping us. Join me on this journey!

Thank you all, and God bless you! (Cheers, applause.)

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