Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Clinton visits, but not with public

New York senator spends afternoon at Bellevue barbecue


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

A Democratic fund-raiser held at Tom O'Gara's Bellevue Triangle ranch included VIP guest Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York (not pictured). Guests were driven in wagons from the parking site into the ranch. On top of the wagon, John Stevenson, son of Adlai Stevenson, United States ambassador to the United Nations and two-time Democratic candidate for president, shakes hands with Bob Kantor. In the background, state Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, talks with other guests. Photo by Willy Cook

Until the guests arrived, last Sunday's barbecue at a ranch south of Bellevue could have been any summer gathering.

Tables spread with red cloth and decorated with sunflowers. Ribs and salad. Music by Muzzie Braun.

But the occasion was far from typical.

Approximately 100 people attended a fund-raiser with U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, at businessman Tom O'Gara's Ranch.

"It was a very nice event, and the setting was fabulous," said Betty Murphy, Blaine County Democrats chairwoman. "What I thought was so impressive was she came by and spent time with every individual at each table."

Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Richard Stallings, Idaho Attorney General candidate Bob Wallace, State Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, and Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael were among invited guests. Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, was not able to attend.

O'Gara in 2003 played host to Vice President Dick Cheney for a GOP fund-raiser.

Talk on Sunday, though, focused on what's wrong with the current administration.

"Her message was (about) things that are important to all of us, like fiscal responsibility—which seems to be lost in Washington—education and the environment," Murphy said. "She recognized the value, when she was First Lady, of fiscal responsibility and balancing the budget. She wants to do all she can in the Senate to get back to those days."

Clinton also lamented the lack of bipartisan cooperation in the Capitol, Murphy said.

"She has continued to try to reach across the aisle, but Republicans don't have to compromise, so they don't," Murphy said.

On the subject of the Iraq war, Murphy said Clinton advocated a stance many Democrats have come around to.

"We know now it was wrong how we got there," Murphy said, paraphrasing Clinton's remarks. "Now we must find a way to end it ... and do right by our country, our servicemen and women and the Iraqi people."

Murphy said Clinton—who voted for a resolution authorizing President Bush to take military action in Iraq—didn't elaborate further on the topic.

Education was another issue Clinton addressed.

"She got applause when she talked about increases in student loans and ... how soon, only affluent and influential people would be able to get higher education," Murphy said.

Ticket prices for Sunday's fund-raiser ranged from $250 to $4,200, Murphy said.

Clinton didn't mention any intention to run for President in 2008.

"(She said) any funds raised would probably be used to help other candidates," she said, adding that once a candidate announces intentions to run for office, money from fund-raisers have to go to their campaign.

The press was barred from attending Sunday's event.

"The policy is always that we don't open private homes to the press—this is no exception," press aide Sam Arora wrote in an e-mail.

Arora also noted that Clinton had five events in four states in three days—a schedule that made press conferences difficult.

Some Idaho Republicans were not impressed with Clinton's visit, nor with the state's Democrats.

"I ... think it demonstrates that the Idaho Democrat Party continues to embrace a liberal ideology that just doesn't meet the needs of Idahoans, especially the working men and women of this state," Kirk Sullivan, Idaho Republican Party Chairman, said in a news release.

Murphy, however, said those who met Clinton were impressed.

"She's amazing," Murphy said. "She talked for an hour without a note. And she's very personable."




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