By JULIE PACE
MIAMI (AP) — Appealing for patriotism, former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday urged Americans to honor those killed on 9/11 and in the wars that followed by being a "good citizen" and getting engaged in the election.
"The least we can do is show up and vote," said Clinton, opening two days of campaigning in Florida for President Barack Obama.
Clinton muted his direct criticism of Romney on a day when both parties put aside their most harshly negative rhetoric. The former president also opened his remarks with a moment of silence honoring those killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
But Clinton didn't hold back in drawing contrasts between Obama's proposals and those pushed by Republicans. In fine detail, he parsed the differences between the parties on health care, higher education and government spending.
Clinton, building upon his well-regarded speech at the Democratic Party's convention last week, argued that Obama was moving the country toward economic stability, even though sluggish growth and 8.1 percent unemployment showed there was a long way to go.
"The test is not whether you think everything is hunky-dory," Clinton said. "If that were the test, the president would vote against himself."
The former president spoke to a diverse 2,300-person crowd at a college gymnasium. He'll also campaign for Obama on Wednesday in Orlando and is expected to appear frequently in other battleground states throughout the fall.
The presidents, once adversaries, have evolved into political allies. Obama needs Clinton to remind voters that Democratic policies can lead to a robust economy. And Clinton needs Obama in order to keep a foothold in the party he once led and perhaps help pave the way for another presidential run by his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, now Obama's secretary of state.
As he closed his remarks, Clinton recalled the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which happened during his presidency and stood as the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil until 9/11. Many of those who died were government employees.
Clinton, subtly seeking to counter anti-government rhetoric from Republicans, said the bombing taught him that no matter his frustrations with bureaucracy, government workers should be treated with respect.
"On this day, of all days, we should know that there are good and noble people who work for the government," he said.