MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa – Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday that if she is elected president, she would make her husband a roaming ambassador to the world, using his skills to repair the nation's tattered image abroad.
"I can't think of a better cheerleader for America than Bill Clinton, can you?" the Democratic senator from New York asked a crowd jammed into a junior high school gymnasium. "He has said he would do anything I asked him to do. I would put him to work."
Clinton spoke at a town hall-style meeting Saturday where she took questions from about 200 people. When asked what role the former president would play in her administration, she left no doubt it would be an important one.
"I'm very lucky that my husband has been so experienced in all of these areas," said Clinton, who pointed to the diplomatic assignments her husband has carried out since leaving office, such as raising money for tsunami victims.
Although former president Clinton was impeached after an affair with a White House intern, he remains a very popular figure in much of the world and is considered an effective diplomat. He remained in office after the Senate failed to convict him.
That's precisely what America needs in the wake of a war in Iraq that's left America isolated and hated throughout much of the world, Hillary Clinton said.
"I believe in using former presidents, particularly what my husband has done, to really get people around the world feeling better about our country," she said. "We're going to need that. Right now they're rooting against us and they need to root for us."
The former president can also be a political asset to his wife's campaign. While his image with the electorate is mixed, he remains immensely popular among Democrats.
When it was announced last year that he would be the main speaker at the Iowa Democratic Party's largest annual fundraiser, the event sold out overnight.
On Saturday, Hillary Clinton chatted with activists in Marshalltown and mingled at a coffee shop in Newton before raising money for Rep. Leonard Boswell.
Throughout the day, Clinton toughened her rhetoric by offering sharply populist themes.
"Rich people didn't make American great," Clinton said. "It was the middle class who made this country great."
She denounced the Bush administration, which she said has left the government incompetent. "They have shown contempt for our government," Clinton said. "We've got to get back to having qualified people, not cronies, serving in the government of the United States."
She said Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have done lasting damage. "I don't think we know all the damage that this president and vice president have done," Clinton said.
She was scheduled to visit Dubuque on Sunday.
In Marshalltown, she was pressed on immigration issues in a city where a raid at a local meatpacking plant led to the detention of nearly 100 workers. Clinton called for more assistance for cities with significant numbers of undocumented workers.
"You've got to have more help for communities when you have a lot of undocumented workers because they have costs associated with that and they don't set immigration policy," Clinton said.
She also said any immigration reform must be tougher on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
She said nothing will affect the issue until leaders of countries, such as Mexico, improve the economic lives for millions living in poverty.
Clinton also said she would raise taxes for the wealthy, who she said "aren't paying their fair share." She also praised the economic policies of her husband that brought budget surpluses.
"We need to get back to fiscal responsibility," she said.