Clinton Criticizes Bush’s Handling of Domestic Issues During Tougaloo Commencement Speech

Clinton Criticizes Bush’s Handling of Domestic Issues During Tougaloo Commencement Speech

JACKSON, Miss.

Former President Bill Clinton accused President Bush of spending more time fighting the war on terrorism than on domestic issues during a commencement speech at Tougaloo College.

“I supported the president when he asked for authority to stand up against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but we can’t be forever strong abroad if we don’t keep getting better at home,” Clinton said last month to a crowd of about 8,000.

Clinton also criticized Bush’s position on affirmative action and tax cuts just two days after the president formally kicked off his re-election campaign.

Clinton stayed for the entire three-hour ceremony and shook hands with each of the 144 graduates at the small historically Black college. The school will also be the site of the Aug. 13 Democratic presidential debate.

Judging from the warm reception to his every blast of the Bush administration, Clinton had a lot of supporters in the crowd — which included former Democratic governors of Mississippi, Ray Mabus and William Winter.

On the stage with Clinton were Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who is a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., a Tougaloo graduate and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“We Democrats in Congress miss you,” Thompson said, referring to the Republican majority in both houses of Congress and the Democrats’ inability to derail Bush’s tax cut plan.

Clinton, who commands as much as $350,000 a speech, waived his speaking fee for this occasion.

Clinton’s attack on the president comes as Bush — who in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, had an approval rating of 71 percent, down from 77 percent during the war in Iraq — is drawing criticism from Democrats for his tax cut proposals and support for “race neutral alternatives” to affirmative action.

Clinton laughed long and heartily when student government president C.J. Lawrence assured the crowd that selecting Clinton was not an example of affirmative action. “Yes, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby were also considered, but I assure you Bill Clinton was selected solely on his merit,” Lawrence said, drawing a big round of applause.

Despite the laughter, Clinton spoke seriously about what he said is the need to show that America takes care of its citizens of all races and all income levels through affirmative action and after-school care programs.



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