MUSCATINE, Iowa – Hillary Rodham Clinton assured Iowans on Thursday that she isn't asking them to turn back the clock in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, only calling for a return to policies and values that served her husband's presidency well.
Speaking to more than 1,000 people at a sweltering rally in a park overlooking the Mississippi River, Clinton said she was committed to moving forward while reaching back for policies that left the nation in a better position to deal with its problems. Some of her critics have accused Clinton of wanting to return to the era of Bill Clinton's presidency.
"You don't go back in America," Clinton said. "If you're smart, you carry with you the values that have worked in the past."
After eight years in the White House and seven in the Senate, Clinton said she is the best person to lead the country. Key to her efforts would be balancing the budget, said Clinton, noting that the nation ran a surplus during her husband's two terms.
"Six and a half years ago, we had a balanced budget and a surplus in America," Clinton said. "All of that was squandered by the Bush administration."
She said soaring budget deficits have colored every policy decision facing the nation, forcing cuts to domestic programs and making it difficult to bargain with China and other countries that lend the United States billions of dollars to finance the U.S. deficit.
Clinton questioned whether the United States could seek tougher trade sanctions against China when it's economically beholden to the nation.
"How do you get tough on your banker?" she asked.
She pledged to put the country on a firmer economic footing.
"There's nothing conservative about squandering a budget that was in surplus," she said.
Later in the day, during a rally that drew nearly 1,000 people in Ottumwa, Clinton criticized President Bush's claim to be conservative.
"I think the only description of him is radical," Clinton said. "He is a radical departure from presidents of both parties."
She also vowed to continue campaigning in Iowa well after the state's leadoff caucuses in January. She said she wants the narrowly divided state to go Democratic in the next election.
"We want Iowa to be bright blue in November of 2008," Clinton said.
Clinton wrapped up the four-day visit to Iowa in Fort Dodge, where more than 1,100 people packed a western-themed reception hall. She garnered loud applause when she spoke about her desire to end the war in Iraq and withdraw troops.
"They have done the job they were asked to do in Iraq," Clinton said, adding that the U.S. military has gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and given the Iraqi government time to form and make decisions about the country's future.
"The Bush administration needs to tell the Iraqis that if they don't start making those decisions, then they aren't going to get any more aid from us," she said.