On a cloudless Thursday afternoon in downtown Asheville, thousands waited patiently as former President Bill Clinton made his way to the podium to pump up the crowd and western North Carolina for incumbent Senator Heath Shuler. We arrived in Pack Square Park around 11am after having stood in line for approximately 30 minutes. The day before, I had been handed a VIP ticket outside the early voting center downtown. Little did I know then that I would have a 4th row seat to Clinton's speech.
Clinton was awesome in person. Having always likely his casual, commonsense demeanor, I was impressed by his in person persona as he entertained the crowd with hilarious anecdotes ("I couldn't make this up...") from his past while also making a strong case in support of Shuler. Clinton told the crowd that "Shuler is the only real choice voters have" if they want to create jobs and knock down the country's runaway debt.
Clinton repeatedly said that "it's important to America" and North Carolina that Shuler, D-Waynesville, return to Washington. Shuler faces stiff competition for his Senate seat from Republican challenger Jeff Miller, a Hendersonville business owner, in the Nov. 2 election.
"I came here today because our country's got a fever, and people are mad and anxiety-ridden and upset -- and they've got every right to be," Clinton told the energized crowd. "But I've lived long enough to know -- even if you forget about politics -- that every time you make a decision when you're mad, there's about an 80 percent chance you'll make a mistake." Clinton made numerous references to his years in the Oval Office and how he left the country with a huge budget surplus. He told the audience that America can return to those days by being fiscally conservative and disciplined and by getting back to "pay-go."
"Pay-go" was Clinton's economic philosophy while in office of paying for things as-you-go and not borrowing billions from China, as the United States is doing now. Clinton argued that voting for Heath Shuler would be a vote for someone who believes in being fiscally conservative and paying-as-you-go.
Clinton told the crowd that he considers Shuler a personal friend, but that aside from that Shuler deserves to be re-elected because of his significant political accomplishments while in office. He then discussed Shuler's sponsorship of a job creation law that makes it easier for small businesses to expand, and Shuler's opposition to a proposal some Republicans a supporting to replace the income tax with a 23 percent national sales tax. Clinton asked the crowd how many new homes would be built if 23 percent of the cost of each new house went to the government.
"If you want to get more jobs, you don't have much choice: you've got to vote for Heath Shuler in Congress," Clinton said.
After the speech, Clinton walked down from the stage and shook hands with many from the audience. Let's hope that Clinton's visit is just what voters in western North Carolina need to jar them into action and vote for Shuler!