Vilsack says Hillary can do the “hand-holding”

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack ended his own Democratic presidential campaign on February 23 and on March 26 he formally endorsed former rival Hillary Clinton. (Radio Iowa story, with audio link at the end.)

The event was staged outside the picturesque Greenwood Elementary School in Des Moines — in the ritzy "south of Grand" neighborhood in Des Moines.  Two flags stood in front of the school’s doors — the Stars and Stripes and the Iowa flag.  A mic was placed on a lectern in the middle of a sidewalk, and a few charis were assembled between the lectern and the riser for media cameras.  Neighborhood people out for a morning stroll — one had her two gorgeous dogs out for a walk — stopped to watch, standing in the sunshine under barren tree branches.

The Vilsacks and Senator Clinton walked out, and Christie Vilsack was first to speak, followed by her husband, and then Senator Clinton.  (Again, you can listen to the whole thing via the link above.)

After the speeches, Senator Clinton opened it up for questions.  I asked Vilsack how he got from November 30th when he was telling voters, "I’m the man" to today when he’s telling voters, "She’s the woman."

Clinton and Tom Vilsack laughed.  "I’ve had profound respect for Senator Clinton for so many years," Vilsack began.  "You know, it’s about agreeing on the critical issues.  Senator Clinton understands that President Bush has mismanaged the war and (she) wants to end it.  Senator Clinton understands the necessity of improving education in this country so that our youngsters are equipped for the challenges of the 21st century.  She has been committed throughout her public service to universal health care for all Americans that’s affordable and quality and I have been very impressed with her work in energy and particularly impressed with her work in areas in upstate New York that leads me to believe that this is a message that we can carry across the country, in every corner of this country, in every corner of this state to convince people that it is time for Senator Clinton to assume the responsibilities of the next president.  It was an easy transition.  It wasn’t even a question.  This is the person to be the next President of the United States.  She is tried.  she is tested and she is ready."  (The crowd applauded.)

Tom Beaumont asked about Vilsack saying he agreed with Clinton on key positions.  "Will you abandon those differences on Iraq that you’ve expressed?" Beaumont asked.

"You know, the reality is that we need to look forward in terms of Iraq," Vilsack said. "I think Senator Clinton and I both agree that the president has made serious mistakes and has the responsibility to correct those mistakes.  If he refuses to do so, or fails to do so — which appears to be his course — then it will be up to the next president of the United States to correct that situation.  Senator Clinton has assured all of us that it is her intent to end this war if it’s not ended before she becomes president.  I know that she will do that.  I know that she has the capacity and the capability and the talent to do that and I also know that while she’s doing that she can also repair America’s damaged reputation and image around the world.  It’s going to be necessary for the next president to do a lot of hand-holding and a lot of conversation and discussion to repair those relationships which have been frayed.

"It is important to our security, our national security, that America resume its rightful place as a world leader.  This administration has walked away from its responsibilities.  That’s one thing that Hillary Clinton will never do.

And finally, these youngsters here deserve an American government that makes good on the American bargain so that as they grow up they will be prepared to accept the challenges of the 21st century in order to effectively compete in a very, very tough economy and to be able to have the peace of mind — to have their parents have the peace of mind — that they and their parents have access to quality health care.

And finally, if we’re going to be secure as a nation both economically and from a national security standpoint, we have got to be energy secure and I don’t think anybody in this race understands that any better than Senator Clinton." 

Clinton then acknowledged a young student who had a notebook in hand.  "Senator Clinton, do you believe in the power of prayer?" the school girl asked.

"Yes, I do," Clinton said.  "You know, she asked me if I believe in the power of prayer and I have said many times that I fortunately was raised by parents who believed in the power of prayer so I was taught to pray and encouraged to pray every day.  If I had not been a praying person, when I got to the White House — after having been there a short period of time — I would have become one, I can guarantee you."  The Vilsacks laughed, as did others in the crowd.

"Thank you all very, very much," Clinton said to conclude, then she turned to the Vilsacks. 

"This is excellent. Thank you so much," Clinton said.

"Sure," Christie Vilsack replied.  Folks in the crowd then sought Clinton’s signature, and at least one asked for Vilsack’s signature. 

I asked the former governor if he and his wife had agreed on which presidential candidate to support during their courtship and marriage (you may recall the two backed John Kerry in 2004).  Vilsack said, "Yes."

The Vilsack’s courtship began when Tom Vilsack asked Christie Bell what she thought about the 1968 presidential race.  Both were HHH people.  I wonder if Vilsack thought Humphrey’s hand-holding abilities were key in the ’68 race or whether Vilsack was focused on hand-holding of a different kind. 

UPDATE:  Here’s a copy of the Clinton campaign fundraising letter sent out with Vilsack’s signature (there were three links to the campaign website for making contributions, which I deleted).

I’m not someone to play coy about my intentions. When I make a decision, I go all in and follow through. Hillary Clinton has the same determination, and it is something I have always admired.

When I first ran for governor of Iowa in 1998, many people didn’t give me much of a chance. But not Hillary. She told me she’d do everything she could do to help, and she followed through. She stood by my side, and Iowa is better for it. She helped ignite the spark that changed Iowa from a red state to a blue state.

By standing with Hillary now we’ll help show that we are strong enough to win back the White House — and America will be stronger and better for it.

Please join me and Christie and help Hillary make a strong showing before the March 31 deadline. (FIRST website reference deleted.)

Christie and I plan on spending the next 10 months helping Hillary win the Iowa caucuses and the other states necessary to win the Democratic nomination — and after that, the White House in 2008.

I am proud to do it because of all the candidates running, she has the best ideas, the most energy, and the values and vision to lead our country in the right direction after eight long years of George W. Bush.

She’s going to put an end to the war in Iraq. She’s going to make sure every American has access to affordable health care. She’s going to make us energy secure. And I know she’ll put children and families first — she has fought for them for decades.

Today, Christie and I made a contribution to Hillary’s campaign, and we did it for two reasons. First, we believe in her campaign. And second, the critical March 31 FEC deadline is just five days away. (SECOND website reference deleted.)

We must show the magnitude of the grassroots support for this campaign in the next five days. I hope you’ll join us and make a contribution at this critical time:

I just returned from my first real vacation in nine years, and I am ready to get back to work — because we don’t have time to wait.

This country wants real change.

That’s why I announced I’m endorsing Hillary today, and that’s why Christie and I are going to travel around our state and the country, introducing Hillary to our friends and talking to everyone we meet about why Hillary is the right choice for Iowa and America.

We’re going to give this campaign everything we’ve got. Please join us and make your contribution before the March 31 deadline. (THIRD website reference deleted.)

I’m excited about joining this campaign. Thanks for your support.


Tom Vilsack

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.