Clinton proposes rebuilding government functions and credibility
Democratic presidential hopeful, U.S. Sen., Hillary Clinton, center, talks with the nation's earliest presidential primary voters following a policy address at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Friday, April 13, 2007. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Hillary Clinton (D) Senator, New York
Born: 10/26/1947
Birthplace: Chicago, IL
Home: Chappaqua, NY
Religion: Methodist
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MANCHESTER, N.H. - Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday assailed a "culture of cronyism" in government as the Democratic front-runner vowed to streamline the federal bureaucracy and improve accountability.

In a speech in early primary state New Hampshire, Clinton called for slashing 500,000 government contractors, potentially saving up to $18 billion a year. The New York senator promised that a second Clinton White House would cut back on no-bid government contracts.

"It's not exactly the subject matter that gets people marching in the street, but if we don't restore the confidence and the competence of our government, we will see the steady erosion of our government's capacity," Clinton said.

The speech also sought to emphasize her knowledge of government and _ although she never mentioned him _ highlight the differences between her resume and that of Democratic rival Barack Obama, a freshman senator.

"It's time again for a president who can earn your respect and trust, one day at a time," Clinton said.

In response, the Obama campaign put out a statement, saying that "throughout his political career, Barack Obama has been a leader in the fight for open and honest government," and citing his work for an ethics bill in Illinois and his role in trying to limit the role of lobbyists.

The former first lady acknowledged voters look at politicians and government with cynicism _ "that's sort of the American birthright" _ but she said her plan could remedy that.

She called for a ban on former Cabinet officials lobbying their former colleagues, adding protections for whistleblowers, creating a public service academy and restoring her husband's White House Office of Technology Assessment.

"We know government isn't the answer to all our problems," Clinton said, but then added that the current administration often looks at federal programs with disdain and disrespect. "By denigrating our government, we undermine our capacity to work together to solve these problems."

Her proposals echoed "Reinventing Government," or REGO, a program launched during her husband's administration and run by Vice President Al Gore. REGO was credited with saving taxpayers more than $136 billion over eight years by cutting the federal work force, trimming layers of management and cutting subsidies for items like mohair and wool.

Clinton said some of the proposed changes would be made through executive order and others through legislation. She said she'd move quickly as president to implement the changes.

Clinton echoed pieces of her so-called "invisible speech," which she introduced during a Democratic Party fundraiser in New Hampshire in March. On Friday, she told the Manchester, N.H., crowd that she wouldn't allow students who can't afford college, seniors who can't afford health care and government scientists whose research doesn't support the administration to remain unseen by government.

"Well, you're not invisible to the rest of America and you're certainly not invisible to me," Clinton said. "And when we take back the White House, you'll no longer be invisible to the president of the United States."