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'Same Old Partisan Games,' Clinton Says Of Attacks Regarding Emails

Aug 15, 2015
Originally published on August 15, 2015 11:19 am

Democratic presidential candidates played to a full house in Clear Lake, Iowa, on Friday night — in the same ballroom where in 1959 Buddy Holly played his last-ever show. At the historic Surf Ballroom, with a vintage mirror ball dangling from the ceiling, candidates offered up a version of their own greatest hits.

In her speech, Hillary Clinton took a new approach, going after those who have been attacking her over her email accounts and over her actions during the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

"I won't pretend that this is anything other than what it is — the same old partisan games we've seen so many times before," Clinton said. "So I don't care how many superPACs and Republicans pile on. I've been fighting for families and underdogs my entire life, and I'm not going to stop now."

The event was the annual Iowa Democratic Wing Ding, a fundraiser sponsored by a group of county organizations in northern Iowa.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has been drawing huge crowds around the country, said that who has been showing up at his rallies is just as important as how many.

"Working people, young people, people of color, who are saying loudly and clearly, 'Enough is enough,' " he said. "This country belongs to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires."

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley told the audience that he's the only progressive candidate who has a long track record of executive experience.

"Tell me what we've come to as a country, that you can get pulled over for a broken taillight, but if you wreck the nation's economy you're totally untouchable," O'Malley said. "That is not the American dream. That is not how our economy is supposed to work."

Hillary Clinton's front-runner status could be seen in the number of her supporters in the ballroom. Seated in a booth near the back were Chuck and Nancy Sweetman of nearby Mason City, both retired.

"I'm a Hillary supporter," Chuck Sweetman said. "I think it's time we had a woman president."

Nancy Sweetman agrees, but stresses Clinton is right on the issues.

"Early childhood and the environment and international affairs," she said. "And she is also electable."

Chuck Sweetman said he's happy with the competition Clinton is suddenly getting from Sanders.

"Well, I think it'll make her a stronger candidate, because of the competition," he said. "My only hope is that the Democrats don't self-destruct and shoot themselves in the proverbial foot."

Another husband-and-wife team, Carolyn and John Klaus of Ames, were not in such perfect accord. She was wearing an O'Malley sticker, though she said she's still making up her mind.

John Klaus was of two minds.

"On my left, I'm wearing a Bernie. On my right, I'm wearing a Martin O'Malley," he said.

Klaus said Clinton is in the back of his mind, and acknowledged that there's a good chance he'll be knocking on doors for her during the general election campaign. He said he's okay with that.

"But for now, I'm working for Bernie," he said. "I love Bernie. And I like Martin."

Clinton, he said, is too distant, not genuine enough. He was not ready to call her inevitable. And Klaus says he's happy the Democratic contest is becoming interesting.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Democratic presidential candidates played to a full house last night in Clear Lake, Iowa, the same ballroom where Buddy Holly played his last ever show in 1959. And for the first time ever in a stump speech, Hillary Clinton addressed the email controversy that's ensnared her campaign. NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The event took place at the historic Surf Ballroom. With a vintage mirror ball dangling from the ceiling, candidates offered up a version of their own greatest hits. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who's been drawing huge crowds around the country, said it's just as important who has been showing up at his rallies.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

BERNIE SANDERS: Working people, young people, people of color, who are saying loudly and clearly, enough is enough. This country belongs to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.

(APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, also a former mayor of Baltimore, told the audience that he's the only progressive candidate in the field who has a long track record of executive experience.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

MARTIN O'MALLEY: Tell me what we've come to as a country that you can get pulled over for having a broken tail light, but if you wreck the nation's economy, you are totally untouchable.

(APPLAUSE)

O'MALLEY: That is not the American dream. That is not how our economy's supposed to work, and that is not how...

GONYEA: In her speech, Hillary Clinton took a new approach, going after those who've been attacking her over her email accounts and over her actions during the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: I won't pretend that this is anything other than what it is, the same old partisan games we've seen so many times before. So I don't care how many super PACs and Republicans pile on. I've been fighting for families and underdogs my entire life, and I'm not going to stop now.

(APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: The event itself was the annual Iowa Democratic Wing Ding, a fundraiser sponsored by a group of Democratic Party county organizations in northern Iowa. Clinton's frontrunner status could be seen in the number of her supporters in the ballroom. Seated in a booth near the back were Chuck and Nancy Sweetman of nearby Mason City. Both are retired.

CHUCK SWEETMAN: I'm in Hillary's corner. I think it's time we've had a woman president.

GONYEA: Nancy Sweetman agrees but stresses Clinton is right on the issues.

NANCY SWEETMAN: In terms of, you know, early childhood and the environment and international affairs. And she is also electable.

GONYEA: He, then, speaks to the competition Clinton is suddenly getting from Sanders.

C. SWEETMAN: Well, I think it'll likely make her a stronger candidate because it's the competition. My only hope is Democrats don't self-destruct and shoot themselves in the proverbial foot.

GONYEA: Another husband and wife team, Carolyn and John Klaus of Ames, are also here. She's wearing an O'Malley sticker, though she says she's still making up her mind. He's wearing, on his chest - well, I'll let him tell you.

JOHN KLAUS: On my left, I'm wearing a Bernie. On my right, I'm wearing a Martin O'Malley.

GONYEA: Bernie button here, O'Malley sticker there.

KLAUS: Correct.

GONYEA: I ask him, where's Hillary Clinton? He says she's in the back of his mind. He acknowledges that there's a good chance he'll be knocking doors for her come the general election, and he's OK with that.

KLAUS: But for now, I'm working for Bernie. I love Bernie, and I like Martin.

GONYEA: Clinton, he says, is too distant, not genuine enough for him, and he's not ready to call her inevitable. And Klaus says he's happy the Democratic contest is becoming interesting. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Clear Lake, Iowa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.