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Clinton's final-stretch Iowa push

From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
INDIANOLA, IA, Nov. 3 – With exactly two months to go before the first-in-the-nation caucuses, Clinton returned to Iowa to urge people to come out and support her and talked about her plans to help rural economies, her domestic and foreign policy experience and clean energy.

Clinton made four stops in central Iowa on Saturday, the first day of a four-day swing through the state. "Two months from tonight. I hope all of you who are eligible will be at precinct caucuses taking part in the great adventure known as the Iowa caucuses, because it is truly the beginning of our presidential process. Now that puts a lot of responsibility on people in Iowa, because the whole country, indeed the whole world is going to be watching," Clinton told several hundred people gathered in a college gymnasium in Indianola, before asking them to help make history with her.

At a stop at her Des Moines field office, Clinton joked that she would be coming back to Iowa so much the crowd would get sick of her. She got laughs in Oskaloosa, when she repeated the "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen" line she used after filing for the New Hampshire primary Friday, assuring her audience she would be sticking around.

The senator told Iowans the country needed a stronger rural policy and a farm bill that would help family farmers and not just corporate farms.

"Family farms, in the aggregate, are what keep the rural economy going," she said. "I think we've got to get more economic activity in the rural areas. That's why I'm focusing on energy."

Clinton said America should encourage the use of alternative fuels like ethanol and biodiesel and said she planned a series of speeches over the coming days -- two in Iowa and two in New Hampshire -- on how America could have a clean energy future and reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

Throughout the day, in question-and-answer sessions, Clinton talked about how she would make college more affordable, what she would do about oil prices and the threat posed by an unstable Pakistan. She said she would support an investigation into oil companies to make sure they were not price gouging and said oil prices might fall if President Bush would not talk about having World War III with Iran.

She criticized the Bush administration's foreign policy and said it had missed an opportunity to send a special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan to help the two countries better cooperate in preventing Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents from crossing their porous border.

"We have to get back to robust diplomacy," she said, "and by that I mean using people to be emissaries and presidential envoys around the world. It's as though our government has a dearth of diplomats, because President Bush seems to use only very few people. I mean, read the paper. Condi Rice goes here and Condi Rice goes there and Condi Rice is there. That is not a foreign policy."

When asked by a college student in Indianola what she would do to ensure the financial security of the younger generation, Clinton talked about how her husband balanced the budget and created a budget surplus and how she would get back to fiscal responsibility and repeated a line she used earlier in the day.

"Unfortunately, the president and the Republican Congress are the biggest spenders in the history of America," Clinton said. "They spent twice as much as my husband. They've spent more than Lyndon Johnson did during the Vietnam War, with Medicare and Medicaid being enacted. So we have to really reverse course here.

The Republican National Committee took issue with Clinton's statement that she would represent a return to fiscal responsibility and with her criticism of Bush's foreign policy.

"Considering she has already proposed over $760 billion in new spending, someone should tell Hillary Clinton that the definition of fiscal responsibility isn't bigger government and higher taxes," said RNC spokesman Brian Walton.

For her part, Clinton often stresses that she has presented plans to pay for every policy proposal she has offered.

Walton also said Clinton lacked credibility on national security due to "her inability to find a consistent position on Iraq, her failure to support funding for our troops, and her opposition to the monitoring of terrorist phone calls as they plot to kill Americans."

Clinton questioned on gay rights
DES MOINES, Nov. 3 -- At two stops in Iowa on Saturday, Clinton addressed issues of particular importance to the gay community, after being approached in the rope line as she greeted audience members. Nick Brown, 23, asked Clinton what she thought about the military's "Don't ask, Don't Tell" policy.

"Oh I think it needs to be repealed," Clinton said. "I'm on record as saying I think we need to change that."

When pressed on what she would do as president to change it, Clinton said she would do everything she could. Brown said he was kicked out of West Point in 2003 after just "six months and 11 days" when his homosexuality was discovered and that this was an important issue for him.

"I wanted to serve my country, but I couldn't," Brown told reporters. When asked if he was satisfied with Clinton's answer, he said, "It was kind of short, but I understand. I'd like to talk with her more."

A Clinton staffer standing nearby said that could be arranged. Brown said he planned to caucus for the senator. At her first campaign stop of the day, in Oskaloosa, Clinton explained her position on gay marriage to a young man who came to greet her in the rope line after her speech, saying she was against gay marriage but for civil unions. --ATHENA JONES

Clinton to speak on energy
OSKALOOSA, IA - Nov. 3 -- Hillary Clinton said she would by giving a series of speeches, starting Monday (Nov 5) in Cedar Rapids, 2 in Iowa and 2 in New Hampshire, on clean energy. She'll be in Iowa until Tuesday and in New Hampshire Wednesday and Thursday. (Back in Iowa for Jefferson-Jackson dinner next Saturday.) --ATHENA JONES