04/13/08 — Former President Clinton campaigns in Goldsboro

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Former President Clinton campaigns in Goldsboro

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 13, 2008 2:01 AM

Back in 1992, Bill Clinton, then a presidential candidate, made a stop in Goldsboro to meet with local members of the Democratic Party.

He ended up at Wilber's Barbecue, and months later was elected as the nation's 42nd commander in chief.

So when the former president arrived at Eastern Wayne High School Saturday afternoon, he welcomed another taste of Wilber Shirley's "famous" pork.

A little luck helps when you're making a run at the White House, Clinton said.

"This is my second run with (Shirley's) barbecue. He gave me a cap when I was here before, and he said it was good luck," he said. "Well, today he said, 'I'm giving you a cap for Hillary. It will be good luck again.'"

Hundreds of Wayne County residents showed up at Eastern Wayne Saturday to hear Clinton stump for his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

And while they did not pack the 1,320-seat gymanasium, those who did turn out were vocal about their support for the first viable female presidential candidate.

"She rocks," one woman screamed when Clinton asked the crowd why it should help elect the New York senator.

"She sure does," he replied.

Janet Blaylock was more specific.

"She wants to end this horrible war," Ms. Blaylock said before the event. "And she wants to do it the right way."

Clinton addressed his wife's policy on Iraq -- and her pledge to begin a "gradual withdrawl" of U.S. troops from the country within her first few months in office.

Some "special forces" would remain in the north of the country to combat insurgency, he said, but others would begin coming home "a few batallions per month."

And he spoke on her vision for the future of the military, too -- a strong force that, he pledged, would not be "overextended" and "exhausted."

"We need to use our military as a last resort, not a first option," Clinton said. "That's the new beginning Hillary wants to make."

But the majority of his 40-minute speech was focused on the economy, an issue he said is critical to North Carolina voters.

Jeff Wilson says it is more than critical.

"When you think you make a good living and realize that most of that money is going to gasing up your vehicle, it hurts," the landscaper said. "I should be able to keep some of what I earn, but these days, it seems like I spend it all at the pump."

Sen. Clinton's solution?

More funding for technology associated with decreasing American dependence on foreign oil, her husband said.

He noted that Sen. Clinton's Web site, www.NCaskme.com, has already received 10,000 questions -- and that a large number of the them have had something to do with the increased cost of living in the United States.

"About 80 percent of these questions that have come in make some reference to the trouble people are having paying for these high gasoline prices and other things," he said.

So he talked about his wife's plan to go after oil companies' tax breaks, and her intention to invest that money in new technology.

Some in the crowd scoffed at the notion that within a few years, they could be driving cars that get 100 miles to the gallon.

The former president was ready.

"Every time I say this I see some people roll their eyes. They start saying, 'Old Bill used to be pretty smart, but he's losing it now," Clinton said. "Well I talked to a guy a few weeks ago who drives a car that gets 100 miles per gallon. He drives it in a city -- in Washington. ... Can you imagine how much money you would save a year with a car that gets that kind of mileage?"

And funding the development of such technology would create "millions of jobs in every American community," he said.

Clinton also found time to talk about presumptive Republican nominee John McCain.

But he offered no harsh words about the man.

Instead, he focused on the differences he sees between McCain and his wife.

"They like each other. She likes him and admires him. Now, she disagrees with him that we should stay in Iraq for 100 years ... but just because you disagree with somebody doesn't mean you can't respect them," Clinton said. "John McCain has given just about all you can give for this country, besides being killed. We should honor him for that. ... But the question is who is the best candidate to give us our new beginning? ... and I think Hillary is the right choice."

Clinton only made one mention of Sen. Clinton's Democratic opponent Barack Obama, at the beginning of his speech, when he spoke about the "historical" significance of the upcoming election -- no matter who the candidate is.

The last time an American president visited Wayne County was Feb. 1, 1991, when George H.W. Bush visited Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to thank families of airmen deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm.