On Friday, September 3, former President Bill Clinton spoke at Wagner College. The event was a campaign rally for U.S. Rep. Mike McMahon (D-Staten Island, Brooklyn), who is up for re-election this fall. The rally was covered extensively by the local media, beginning with the Staten Island Advance.
ENERGIZER BUDDY BILL CLINTON BOOSTS McMAHON AT GRYMES HILL RALLY
By TOM WROBLESKI,
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Former Democratic President Bill Clinton revved up a crowd of 1,600 at a rally at Wagner College on Grymes Hill today, urging them to elect Rep. Michael McMahon to another term in the House.
“I believe that this man has done a real fine job for you and for the United States,” Clinton told a cheering, sign-waving throng that nearly filled the Spiro Sports Center and that also included borough lawmakers and Democratic officials.
Clinton, who was introduced to the crowd by state Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) as “the man from Hope,” entered the gym to chants of “We want Bill!” He arrived at the event by car from Long Island.
“I’m very glad to be back on Staten Island,” said Clinton,
During a 26-minute speech frequently interrupted by applause, Clinton said that the GOP’s November playbook would be a simple one: “Throw all the Democrats out.”
He predicted McMahon (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) would be criticized for voting for President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, but said that the legislation had brought tax cuts, helped states avoid layoffs and had helped the country “begin to build our way out” of the recession.
The Island, he said, had gotten “all kinds of transportation stuff” out of the legislation.
Clinton called McMahon “truly independent,” “non-ideological” and “practical,” and did not shy away from the fact that McMahon has not voted with Obama on everything, particularly health care.
“When I was president, I loved congressmen like Mike,” he said. “People who didn’t always vote with me, but were thinking.”
Said Clinton, “He’s worked hard, gotten things done, and tried to tailor what he does to represent you.”
McMahon also has been a friend to small business, he said.
“When we get beyond the rhetoric, down to the meat of the coconut,” Clinton said, “just remember that there are very few people in the entire Congress who are trying to do anything even remotely as much for small business as your congressman.”
In respect of the economy, Clinton said Republicans had “left a mess” that will take more time to clean up. He said Republicans would only begin to dig the financial hole again if they are returned to power in Washington.
“Re-elect Mike,” Clinton said, adding, “Don’t bring back the shovel brigade.”
McMahon pointed out that Clinton’s wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had appeared at fundraiser for him in the same room in 2008.
“We appreciate her sending you as her representative,” McMahon said to Clinton.
McMahon, the first Democrat to hold the borough congressional seat in 30 years, said he’d helped bring hundreds of millions of stimulus dollars to the borough for highway and ferry projects. He also said he had fought to preserve the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge discount for residents; to save Pouch Camp and Goodhue Woods, and to secure health-care funding for veterans and 9/11 first responders.
He said he has resisted “pitchfork populism” and opted instead to push through sensible financial-industry reform.
Looking toward the recent Port Richmond violence, McMahon said he would continue to “enforce human rights and civil rights for every person who lives in the district.”
To those who perceived they were taking a chance in voting for him in 2008, McMahon said, “I believe that I have kept that trust.”
McMahon said that his GOP opponents, Michael Allegretti and Michael Grimm, had signed an Americans for Tax Reform pledge that McMahon said will give “big corporations” like British-owned BP tax breaks for “breaking the law and sending job overseas.”
“This is the difference between them and us,” he said. “We will stand up for the middle class.”
“The only people that Congressman McMahon stands up for are Barack Obama and [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi,” Allegretti responded.
Said Grimm, “This just shows how nervous the Democrats are this election year. They know they’re going to lose this seat, which is why McMahon is pretending to be a centrist even though his record shows he has supported the liberal Obama/Pelosi agenda.”
Following the speeches, Clinton remained in the gym for several minutes, shaking hands, signing autographs and posing for pictures with members of the audience, who eagerly pressed forward.
Afterward, he attended a $500-per-head fundraiser for McMahon in the Spiro Trophy Room. While there, Clinton also visited with family members of his chief of staff, Laura Graham, who is a Wagner alumna.
“I love Bill Clinton,” said Laura Owens, a Stapleton resident who attended the rally. “I felt he was a good piece to our nation’s history, despite the controversy. I felt like he was about the people.”
Cody Dulock, 20, a Wagner junior majoring in political science, was a child during the Clinton presidency but said his parents told him that the economy was better on Clinton’s watch.
“My family tells me that they made more money when he was president,” said Dulock, a Texas native.
MORE PRESS COVERAGE:
- New York Times "City Room" blog
- New York Post
- New York Daily News
- WCBS-AM News Radio
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle