May 28th, 2010
09:38 PM ET
5 years ago

Bill Clinton praises Lincoln, claims unions trying to manipulate voters to ‘terrify' Dems

Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln Friday night.
Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln Friday night.

Washington (CNN) – An impassioned Bill Clinton campaigned for Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s re-election on Friday, telling voters the Democrat “has worked her heart out” on behalf of Arkansas in the Senate.

And, using very harsh words, Clinton accused national labor unions campaigning for Lincoln’s opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, of trying to manipulate Arkansas voters to “terrify” other Democrats in Congress into cowering to union demands.

Clinton appeared at an event at a historically black college in Little Rock with Lincoln. The two-term senator is locked in a tight run-off with Halter for the Democratic Senate nomination after neither candidate cracked the 50-percent mark in a May 18 primary.

The run-off will be held June 8.

At the Little Rock event, Clinton praised Lincoln while training his fire at labor unions that have poured money and manpower into the race to help Halter.

Reading from a Washington Post article that quoted a national labor union leader saying that forcing Lincoln to “fight this kind of fight” might make other senators “think twice about it,” Clinton said that national labor unions had decided to make Lincoln “the poster child for what happens when a Democrat crosses them.”

“In other words, this is about using you and manipulating your votes to terrify members of Congress and members of the Senate from other states,” Clinton told the crowd. “Now if you want to be used that way, have at it.”

The 42nd president continued to rip labor unions, which have largely supported him in the past.

“They admit here, they don’t necessarily favor her opponent. They want to make her a poster child. They want you to be something besides a voter for your children and your community and your future. They want you to help them make a poster,” Clinton said.

“If you want to do that, go back to grade school,” he added.

“If you want to be Arkansas’ advocate, vote for somebody who will fight for you. Vote for Blanche Lincoln,” he added.

Clinton summed up the tough tactics from unions as “Washington games.”

“That’s what happens up there. People get all caught up in their little games and they turn you into a cartoon instead of a real person and they perform reverse plastic surgery on you. Even if you’re as pretty as Blanche, they can make you ugly. That’s what they do. It’s all a game. This is not a game, this is your life,” the former president said emphatically.

When Lincoln took the stage, she echoed the same harsh charges.

“This isn’t about me. It’s not about Bill Halter,” Lincoln said. “It is about the people of our state and whether we’re going to allow our vote to be bought – bought or misconstrued.”

Saying that she “stood up to the D.C. unions,” Lincoln went on to say, “This campaign, unfortunately, has become about something that is not Arkansas. This campaign has become about proving a point. Proving a point and using me as the pawn. And not just me, as President Clinton said, you as well.”

“Well, I got to tell you folks, my vote in Washington has never been for sale. And yours shouldn’t be either,” Lincoln added.

Many of the labor unions that are trying to defeat Lincoln now have supported her in the past. Among the issues labor unions cite her opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, which unions strongly support. The measure would make it easier for workers to form unions.

Alan Hughes, president of the Arkansas chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) blasted any notion that the national arms of the labor groups mandated a decision to oppose Lincoln.

“We’ve made those decisions, our union members here in Arkansas made those endorsements and sent those endorsements to the national level,” Hughes said.
“They felt like they’ve been talking to a deaf ear,” he said, charging that Lincoln is not sufficiently listening to union members. “This is not about making a poster child out of no one. We’re serious about this. We’re serious, we don’t believe that Senator Lincoln is listening to working families and their needs.”

Hughes also knocked down the notion that labor groups are trying to scare Washington Democrats into cowering in the face of their demands.

“It’s about workers having a voice,” Hughes told CNN. “This is not about intimidating anybody, any congressman, any senators.” Hughes cites Lincoln’s voting record as a reason for union workers to oppose her.

As for being at odds with Clinton, whom labor groups supported so often in the past, Hughes said, “Well, Bill Clinton had made a commitment to Senator Lincoln before Bill Halter got in there, about supporting her. And I figure he’s carrying that out, his commitment.”

Halter’s campaign echoed that sentiment. In a statement, Communications Director Laura Chapin said, "We respect that the president is honoring a commitment he made quite some time ago before Bill Halter entered the race.”


Filed under: 2010 • AFL-CIO • Arkansas • Bill Clinton • Bill Halter • Blanche Lincoln • SEIU
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Seanathair

    Clinton is always trying to undo unions.

    May 28, 2010 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  2. Jane

    Unions want a Democrat who will fight for them-not a corporatist.Repuke-lite like Lincoln. This isn't the 90's Bill. Keep making your $$$ and shut up.

    May 28, 2010 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  3. Gil

    I've received some e-mails from the union camp for Halter! I think I would trust Bill Clinton over the inflamed reports I've read from the union side!!

    May 28, 2010 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  4. thor

    This is the same guy that tried to bribe Joe Sestek to drop out of the race for Spector in Penn.Talk about dirty politics.Clinton is the master.He used the same tactic in Hillory's campaign against Obama and now he's trying to derail Bill Halter's attempt to unseat Lincoln.

    May 28, 2010 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  5. Indiana Voter

    Will this President be testifying under oath again soon about the illegal activity coming out of the White House. You Dems seem to think it ok to accuse Republicans when they do something shady, or something you disagree with, but when it is a Democrat appearing to commit an actual crime, then you don't want it investigated. What a bunch of hypocrites!

    Democrats = Crooks and Liars

    May 28, 2010 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  6. Gary Salmon

    What news are you reading and watching Bill?? You have that backwards!! Everyone knows the Dems have the backing of Unions in our Country!! Remember 1/2 the people in this country can see right through you!!!

    May 28, 2010 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  7. James

    Never trusted slick Willie when he was president. He was always anti union, but wanted their support when he was elected. He recieved their support and then double crossed them and the nation by signing NAFTA. He is a rich southern Republican and a Democrat wanabe.

    May 28, 2010 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  8. Rick

    and the FEAR monger demoncrates do the same and then play hitlers with new taxes

    May 28, 2010 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  9. Ted

    Dear Bill,

    Please go away. And take your wife with you. This country has suffered enough of your Triangulatin' Blues.

    May 28, 2010 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  10. Remember the Alamo

    Bill, the Democrats better get scared. Because we the people intend to vote everyone of the immoral OBAMA SOTO supporters out of office.

    May 28, 2010 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  11. Sebastian Knox

    Bill clinton might fix it, but then it'll get worse later, seen it happen too many times in america, the riCh people make the laws and we follow it, Why do we need corrupt unions, we need more people lobbying for our rights in our own country, that's not right

    May 28, 2010 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  12. Fired UP! READY TO GO..

    Thank You...Presidents Clinton and Obama!

    May 28, 2010 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  13. ANDERSON COOPER 360

    Give credit were credit is due. President Obama is not another Bush. He is on his GAME! Just YOU watch, see and report IT! TRY TO BE HONEST!

    Sorry GOP! Another false alarm...YOU still SUCK!

    May 28, 2010 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  14. Hilary

    You know what? Unions represent the interest of working families. I'd pick a union candidate over a corporate lackey like Lincoln any day. Bill Clinton is low. How dare he try to divide us like this.

    May 28, 2010 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  15. Bob in PA

    Wow Willie does spread a little truth now and then.

    May 28, 2010 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  16. phoenix86

    Broad retreat from our enemies.
    Disdain and abandonment of our allies.
    Total disregard for the constitution.
    Mob rule.
    Bribery.
    Favors for political friends.
    Demonization of opposing viewpoints.

    You don't need unions to scare people away from the democratic party.

    You just need the truth.

    May 28, 2010 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  17. HD

    Stop mmmiawwwing. The Majority of Voters already decided who will be on their ballots. Nothing will change what they discussed and decided behind their kichens.

    However, they(voters) will say,"Nice try! Keep dreaming! I already make my decission long time ago".

    May 28, 2010 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  18. Lee in Oregon

    No Senator Lincoln this is about your opposing the Free Choice Act and your lousy do nothing support for healthcare reform. Add that to the tons of money you receive from big business.

    Good luck Bill Halter........a Democrat that true Democrats can depend on.

    May 28, 2010 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  19. Gordon Shumway

    Was there a young gal underneath the podium inspiring our Mister Definition?

    May 28, 2010 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  20. Fed Up

    Sorry Bill. This administration, and the Congress and Senate, have done this to themselves. Everyone one of them deserves to be thrown out on their ear. Clean house, and start fresh. Vote 'em in. Vote 'em out until they get the message.

    May 28, 2010 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  21. J.V.Hodgson

    Another example of money is bad in American politics be it money spent by " Democrat" supporting organisations or "Republican" supporting organisations.
    Frankly as an individual voter I do not need others unions or companies or any vested interest with lots of money trying to influence my vote.
    I have an education ( that's key) and moral upbringing based on my parents guidance, the latter most of which I took but some I modified,like we all do.
    After that I decide who to vote for nor some PAC campaign. Hoe many times do these guys PAC"s have to tell half truths and even lies before people stop listening, especially if it relates to candidate backing or selection. I do not want my union spending my dues on that activity or companies in which I am a shareholder doing the same.
    The obiter dicta of certain Judges on the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case is the single worst decision I have ssen any court or judges globally pass. It is a complete and utter travesty of the intentions of the US constitution
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    May 29, 2010 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  22. Mike

    Because of big unions and the enviromentalists we have lost and are losing to many jobs overseas.

    May 29, 2010 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  23. BeverlyNC

    Blanche Lincoln should become a Republican. She voted against every Obama agenda item that came before the legiislature and then tried to blackmail the WH for her vote on healthcare.

    She is tightly tied to corporations like insurance companies, oil companies, and acts on their behalf and not on behalf of the People.

    She should be defeated. We need honest leadership and she is not honest or a leader.

    May 29, 2010 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  24. Ken, Conway, AR

    The campaign Bill Halter has waged with labor union backing against Senator Lincoln, a fellow Democrat, is despicable and vile. Should Senator Lincoln survive in the primary runoff–a likelihood at this point–Bill Halter and friends can take comfort that she is so sullied now to former backers that indeed she might not prevail over a mediocre Republican Congressman in November. Prediction: Senator Lincoln will find a way to win June 8 and in November, and Bill Halter will be persona non grata with many Democrats in Arkansas.

    May 29, 2010 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  25. ARVoter

    Well if Senator Lincoln doesn't win the runoff I will support John Boozman in the general. Halter will not win the general election so why would Democrats vote for him in the primary?

    May 29, 2010 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
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