Vilsack: Why I'm supporting Hillary Clinton

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Thomas J. Vilsack, guest columnist

On Feb. 1, 2016 I intend to proudly caucus for Hillary Clinton — plain and simple. Hillary Clinton is not new to the fight for middle class families. Throughout her public life she has consistently fought to expand and strengthen the middle class. I have no doubt she will continue that fight as president.

Expanding and strengthening the middle class starts with quality jobs. Too often the discussion of good jobs fails to include the unique challenges faced by rural Americans. Hillary Clinton understands that some of the deepest and most pronounced poverty exists in rural areas of the country. Her strong support for the Renewable Fuel Standard and bio-based manufacturing as important parts of a revitalized rural economy makes clear she will work hard to promote meaningful economic opportunity throughout the country.

Hillary knows the economy of the future depends on a well-educated and trained workforce, and she understands the cost of education — from preschool to college and beyond — increasingly strains family budgets with unprecedented debt. That’s why she’s laid out a specific, workable plan to address these strains and make a good education available to all our children.

However, a secure footing requires more than a good paying job and access to education. It means a foundation that cannot be undone by injury or illness. Hillary will preserve those protections gained under the Affordable Care Act instead of putting insurance companies in the driver’s seat, and will look for ways to expand access to affordable health insurance coverage for all Americans and continue to bend the cost curve of health care.

Every Iowan knows good ideas aren’t enough. We recognize the most successful presidents are those who can both lead and govern, while navigating the toughest job on earth.

In other words: Leadership inspires. Governance delivers.

As President, Hillary Clinton will both inspire and deliver results. I know because I have worked with her and called her a friend for nearly two decades.

She leads by example. Her courage in China as First Lady when she declared “women’s rights are human rights” continues to inspire people all over the world to demand equality and freedom. As a twice-elected Senator, she worked with farmers to improve their prosperity in rural New York. And as Secretary of State, she helped to establish a program that delivers food assistance to over 12.5 million hungry children in some of the poorest countries in the world. This just scratches the surface of her career of inspiring and delivering for people around the country and across the globe.

On a personal note, Hillary Clinton is one of the most loyal people I know and that is rare in politics. My relationship with Hillary goes back a long way. Hillary and Tom Bell, my brother-in-law, became friends in 1972 when they worked together as staff members to the Congressional Watergate Hearings — long before she was a household name. When I was elected governor of Iowa in 1998, I met with President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office. In that private meeting, he gave me some very good advice. He encouraged me to stay true and loyal to the ideas I ran on and to the people who had faith in me to govern well. Hillary Clinton is one of those people.

My election that year was a surprise to many — but not Hillary. Despite the fact that I was way behind in the polls, she encouraged people she knew from all over the country to pitch in when I needed help, especially in the last weeks of the campaign. Without her support I may not have won.

Why did she do it? Loyalty.

Many years before I met her and before she was known to Iowans, my brother-in-law told me how much he’d liked and respected Hillary Clinton when they worked together.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve come to like and respect her, too.

That is why I support her.

Hillary Clinton has the right policies to strengthen and expand the middle class, is battle tested, and has the experience and relationships to lead and govern well. For all of those reasons as well as our friendship, I will caucus for Hillary Clinton on Feb. 1, 2016.

• Thomas J. Vilsack is a former governor of Iowa. Comments: tom.j.vilsack@gmail.com

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