Bill Clinton scoffs at Trump's visit to Detroit

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Former President Bill Clinton insisted Monday his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has worked hard for black interests and her rival, Republican Donald Trump, is a shady businessman Americans cannot trust.

Former President Bill Clinton takes a photo with a young lady during the Labor Day parade.

During the annual Labor Day parade downtown Clinton was mobbed by hundreds of supporters of all racial backgrounds who stopped the nation’s 42nd president for selfies and yelled out, “We love you, Bill.” Clinton hugged and lifted children while walking several blocks with Secret Service and other security detail pushing reporters and fans back even as Clinton himself invited them for impromptu embraces.

In a brief interview with The Detroit News at the end of the parade route outside Cobo Center, Clinton scoffed at Trump’s visit to the city Saturday to court black voters and the GOP’s criticism that Democrats and the Clinton’s take African-Americans for granted, and hurt them with their policies.

“First of all, if we have to do something else to counter it, then you assume that the entire African-American community is suffering from amnesia,” Clinton said. “After what Hillary did for Flint, the work I did with Detroit to try to help Shinola, to try to help the mayor develop a mortgage program so people can move in and the work that I’ve been doing since the 1990s.”

His wife, the former president said, has a long history of working to get black children out of adult prisons in the South Carolina and to stop segregated academies “from getting illegal tax exemptions.”

“We’ve got a lifetime of record and a lot of specific commitments to show that if she wins, she’ll be all in for jobs in Michigan, cleaning up the water, for cleaning up the environment, giving people a good future,” Clinton said. “The second thing is, she’s got a way better plan. Even Sen. (John) McCain’s economic adviser said if her plan were enacted we’d get 101/2 million new jobs quick and if (Trump’s) were enacted, we’d lose 31/2 million. And that’s what a Republican said.”

Clinton walked in the parade through Corktown with public officials such as former Gov. Jim Blanchard, U.S. Sens. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing; former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer; Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan; and other lawmakers in Michigan’s congressional delegation.

Duggan, who protested Trump’s visit to Detroit, said as he walked with Clinton — comparing his visit to Detroit with the billionaire businessman: “It’s a little bit of a different reception, isn’t it?”

“Donald Trump had to be locked up with a controlled crowd, and Bill Clinton walks down a public street and everybody comes up and talks to him,” Duggan said.

Former President Bill Clinton walks with the crowd during the Labor Day parade.

Later, at the United Auto Worker’s picnic at the UAW’s Solidarity House on East Jefferson, Clinton — who entered to “Don’t Mess With Bill” by the Marvelettes of Motown — said his wife is the most qualified presidential candidate ever and would create jobs, keep Americans safe and protect everyday laborers.

“Hillary’s opponent said the other day something interesting ... ‘Vote for me, what have you got to lose’,” Clinton said to laughter from the union crowd. “But here’s what I know. I know the last time we fought the same economic policies he’s recommending, cut the taxes like crazy (for) all the richest people of America, double the debt, stop regulating the financial institutions ... stopping enforcing the environmental laws. The last time we did that kind of stuff, it didn’t work out too well for us.”

He also heaped praise on President Barack Obama’s economic policies, declaring “if it hadn’t been for him, we probably would have gone into a depression” and how he helped save the auto industry.

“So, what have we got to lose,” Clinton scoffed. “Give me a break.”

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ronna Romney McDaniel said Bill Clinton’s appearance shows Michigan is in play this year for the Republicans, whose candidates have not won the state since 1988.

“Bill Clinton’s campaign trip is a desperate effort to rebuild trust in Hillary,” she said in a statement. “However, he can’t hide the fact that her plans will fail to rebuild our national economy the same way President Obama’s are failing now. Her campaign can offer no solutions, only continued pandering.”

The former president defended the Clinton Foundation from Trump’s latest criticism surrounding questions about its mission and donors gaining access to power, saying “all we’re doing is saving lives and creating jobs” all around the world.

And he mentioned Trump’s business failings and vendors and “contractors that were never paid” and how it “burns me up.”

“A lot of his supporters think that’s fine because they think that’s the way all business people behave,” Clinton said. “And that is not true. How would you feel if all of a sudden ... you don’t have enough money to sue me, so I think I’ll pay you half what I told you I would. There’d be a riot, wouldn’t it?”

Hillary Clinton, he said, gets things done with Republicans and Democrats. “She’s the best change maker,” Clinton said of his wife. “And she’s done it all her life. I want you to vote for Hillary because she’s got the best ideas.”

Ironworkers Local 25 march on Michigan Ave. during the Labor Day parade.

Susan Reed, 29, of Royal Oak, who attended the Clinton speech, said she loved listening to the former president, who still resonates with the public.

“He gets up there, he can talk and speak to the people in their own terms and people appreciate that,” she said.

Clinton, who was headed to Cincinnati to campaign after his Detroit visit, comes on the heels of Trump’s trip to Detroit to attend a prayer service, where he gave a 10-minute speech about empowering African-Americans and asking them to give him a chance.

U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, who also marched in the parade with Clinton, said the former president’s popularity is obvious and Trump’s visit to Detroit will fail. And Clinton’s visit reminds people “when he was president and how well things were going.”

Trump “was absolutely going through the motions,” Levin said of his Detroit visit. “There was no foundation for it. Essentially, he was just trying to have it both ways when we really know where he’s coming from.”

The Labor Day tradition that drew union members and politicians meant that while some workers had the holiday off, many others spent the start of the day in or at the parade and rallying.

Scott Mooney, 61, and Rick Hofsess, 63, both of Brighton, are neighbors. That doesn’t bridge their politics though.

The two men ran into each other at the parade in which Mooney walks and to which Hofsess makes an annual trip to watch. Both agreed having political leaders whom Americans can trust is important.

Hofsess, a Trump supporter who wore a National Rifle Association hat, said he’s “never heard a truthful word come out of (Hillary’s) mouth.”

Mooney, a retiree from UAW Local 900 who wore a white shirt representing UAW Local 600, said of Trump: “I can’t believe him; every other day he seems to change his story.” Mooney said he was a Bernie supporter in the presidential primaries but now believes it’s important that Clinton be elected president.

“If we don’t support (her), where are we going to go?” he asked.

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Twitter: @leonardfleming

Staff Writer James David Dickson contributed