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Bill defends wife on gas tax

From NBC/NJ's Carrie Dann
SANFORD, N.C. -- As his wife was spending the morning with an Indiana driver to publicize her plan to fix suffocatingly high gas prices, her husband was in North Carolina, fiercely defending her support of a gas tax holiday.

"She has been criticized by her opponent and by others, who say, 'Oh, it is just pandering to people to offer them gasoline relief,'" he said, standing atop a long flatbed truck at an early polling rally.  "Well, let me tell you something folks -- when people are choosing every week between whether they got enough money to go to work and enough money to put food on the tables for their kids -- it is not pandering to try and help them get through the next six months."

Clinton has concentrated on the oil issue during his two-day swing through North Carolina. His wife's proposal to eliminate the gas tax during the summer months has been criticized by rivals who point out that the short-term benefit for many Americans would register at a savings of less than $50.

Other critics say that the summer solution fails to encourage the responsible seeking of long-term solutions to the energy crisis. The former president took special exception to that claim in Apex this morning.

"Hillary has got a long record as an environmentalist," he said. "But to say that giving people a little slack on these gas prices is going to discourage us from switching to higher mileage cars is just factually wrong. We're dealing with people here that cannot pay their bills."