Former President Bill Clinton mingles with the crowd after giving a speech in support of U.S. Senate Candidate Ben Cardin at a rally in Baltimore Thursday. Photo By Emily Haile, Capital News Service.
By EMILY HAILE and LETICIA LINN, Capital News Service
BALTIMORE - Former President Clinton did more than rally Democrats Thursday—he put out a call for national unity should the party retake control of the House and Senate.
Clinton, in town on behalf of Democratic Senate candidate Ben Cardin and other Democrats, urged voters to reach out and work against, not all Republicans, but the party's "most extreme right-wing section" that has controlled the country for the past six years.
"We've got a chance to really be more than just Democrats beating Republicans," said Clinton. "We've got a chance to get this country together again."
Before stepping onstage, Clinton lent his celebrity status to a fundraising reception for Cardin, with a base donation of $5,000. Fewer than 50 people attended, according to Cardin's Press Secretary Oren Shur.
His appearance was the most recent in a long line of heavy-weight politicians to raise money for Maryland Democrats in the past three weeks, including Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and John Kerry, D-Mass.
A beaming Cardin sang the ex-president's praises before the 200-some people at the Frederick Douglas Isaac Myers Maritime Park in Fells Point.
"Mr. President, we miss you in the White House!" said Cardin as Clinton stood with the top candidates on the Democratic ticket from Maryland: Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, running for governor; Delegate Anthony Brown, candidate for lieutenant governor; Attorney General candidate Doug Gansler and Comptroller candidate Peter Franchot.
Clinton described Cardin as "an old-fashioned politician in public service (who) . . . actually believes that people can get together to talk out their differences and do things that's good for everybody."
In contrast, he said, the current administration is divisive, paralyzed and "self-defeating."
The crowd showed its dismay when Clinton said he was "speaking as somebody who can't run for anything anymore," but who has spent the last six years pounding the pavement.
In his travels, he has learned that Democrats have become both the progressive and the conciliatory party, he said.
"We represent now both strains. That's why nine Iraq War veterans, an ex-CIA agent, an ex-FBI agent and a three-star admiral (are) running for Congress as Democrats," he said.
"That's why when I leave Maryland, I'm going to Virginia to campaign for President Reagan's Navy secretary, who's running as a Democrat." He was referring to Jim Webb, who is trying to unseat Republican Sen. George Allen.
The Republican Party's main weapon, Clinton said, has been ideology, and with ideology, "facts become irrelevant."
"They govern by assertion and attack." It will take an "old-fashioned politician" like Ben Cardin to resolve issues in a bipartisan, logical way that benefits everyone.
He closed his remarks by urging the audience to "go find somebody who's not an active Democrat and try to get them to vote," he said.
When he finished his speech, as if he were still president, he stepped into the open arms of the crowd, shaking hands, smiling for photos and giving autographs.