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Clinton, Astin advocate for senator

Joe McMahon | Thursday, March 27, 2008

With the Indiana Democratic primary approaching on May 6, each of the presidential candidates have been focusing their efforts on winning as many of the states delegates as possible and have made several recent trips to Indiana to do so.

Representing Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton supported her mother and fielded the questions of students and faculty from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Holy Cross College, the Indiana University of South Bend, Bethel College and Ivy Tech as part of a question and answer session sponsored by the Northern Indiana Student Democrats Wednesday at Legends.

“I passionately believe in my mom as a young woman, a young voter and a young Democrat,” she said.

Clinton was accompanied by actor Sean Astin, best known for his roles as the title character in “Rudy” and as Samwise Gamgee in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Astin said he was endorsing the elder Clinton based on his own life experiences.

“I like her and I think she’ll do the best job,” he said.

Clinton said that she was proud of her mother’s platform, which she described as “the most progressive agenda.”

The questions were focused mostly on her mother’s various policies, with health care reform being a major issue for some students. In particular, students were interested in how Clinton’s new plan would differ from the unsuccessful “Hillary Care” that she proposed during her term as First Lady in the early 1990s.

“I think my mother’s position is consistent in that she has been fighting for universal health care since the early 1990s,” she said. “What she is proposing now is informed by the lessons she learned [then].”

Senator Clinton’s current health care proposal would allow uninsured Americans to buy into the federal government employee’s health care plan, which she claims will increase the size of the pool and thus lower premiums. Americans that cannot afford that would be covered my Medicare.

“Average premium cost would be 50 to 55 percent cheaper because of the larger pools,” Chelsea Clinton said. “You’re more likely to die in America if you don’t have health care. I think that’s immoral.”

She also said government-sponsored health care can help make some American companies, such as automobile manufactures, more competitive by allowing them to cut their costs.

“You can never have a true unleashing of America’s competitive power with these health care costs,” she said.

In addition, Clinton said her mother would support scientific research, rather than stifling it like the current administration.

“One thing that unfortunately has happened under the current administration is the cut of certain scientific research,” she said.

The next question posed asked how the decision making process would work in the Clinton White House, and what role former president Bill Clinton would play.

Clinton said while her father would be willing to serve whomever the next president is, he is currently content doing his charity work.

“I’m proud of my father’s administration and I’m proud of the work that he does today, and that’s what he wants to keep doing,” she said. “However, he’d be willing to serve whoever the next president is.”

The audience also asked about Senator Clinton’s current plan to deal with the housing crisis. The burst of the housing bubble could see one to two million families lose their homes to foreclosures this year.

“My mother has been talking about the housing crisis for more than a year, before any of the other candidates and before the current administration,” she said. “We need to do the morally right thing to help keep people in their homes.”

Senator Clinton’s plan would include a possible bailout of homeowners, similar to the ones used to rescue Wall Street financial firms over the past several years.

Clinton answered questions on her mother’s foreign policy stance, in particular on the Iraq War. While she doesn’t support troop withdrawal, Clinton said her mother has been a leading figure in demanding accountability from the Pentagon.

“I’m proud that my mom was one of the first Senators to ask the Pentagon what its plans to end the war in Iraq were,” she said.

Clinton said it is necessary to remember the safety of Iraqi civilians, but at the same time the country must start making its own political decisions.

“We have a moral obligation to the men and women who have helped keep our troops safe,” she said. “But we need to send a message to the Iraqis that they need to make political choices for themselves.”

Moreover, Clinton said her mother would focus on strengthening diplomatic ties with the Middle East, including engaging countries that the Bush administration has refused to talk to.

“My mother was the first person to say that she would open diplomatic relations with every country in the region,” she said.

Although she is often pegged as a divisive figure, Clinton said her mother had a strong record of bipartisanship. She cited her mother’s work with conservative Republican Senator Lindsay Graham and former Speaker of the House and long-time Clinton nemesis Newt Gingrich.

When asked what her mother’s appeal to younger voters was, who tend to be attracted to Barack Obama, Clinton said her mother’s plans for making college more affordable should make her the premier choice for young voters.

“One area where my mom is more progressive is college and graduate school affordability,” she said.

Her plans include expanding Pell Grants, federal higher education grands funded by the Department of Education, and the reinstitution of low-interest direct federal lending. Senator Clinton also plans to establish a national public service academy similar to the military academies.

Although Clinton said she strongly believed her mother is the best candidate, she concluded by stressing the need for a Democrat in the White House and urged the audience to support whomever the party nominates.

“I hope that you’ll vote for whoever the Democratic nominee is,” she said. “I believe that we need a Democratic administration.”

In his introduction, Astin said he is supporting Senator Clinton for three reasons: her commitment to the issues, the poignancy of the issues that she has included in her platform, and her wealth of experience.

“First lady of the United States is a sacred position,” he said.