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South Carolina Confirms Earlier Date for GOP Primary

At the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Las Vegas, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton defended her health-care views. (By Jae C. Hong -- Associated Press)

"This administration has been very willing to talk about using nuclear weapons in a way we haven't seen since the dawn of a nuclear age. I think that's a terrible mistake," Clinton said in the interview. But this week, in a Democratic debate, Clinton refined her approach to exclude talking about hypothetical situations of any kind.

A Clinton spokesman, Phil Singer, said there is no comparison between what she was discussing in 2006 and what Obama said this month, when he ruled out the use of nuclear force against terrorist cells in the border region of Pakistan.

"Senator Clinton was asked to respond to specific reports that the Bush-Cheney administration was actively considering nuclear strikes on Iran even as it refused to engage diplomatically. She wasn't talking about a broad hypothetical, nor was she speaking as a presidential candidate. Given the saber-rattling that was coming from the Bush White House at the time, it was totally appropriate and necessary to respond to that report and call it the wrong policy," Singer said.

-- Anne E. Kornblut

'A RIGHT-WING ATTACK'

Clinton Sharply Defends Her Stance on Health Care

After years of being criticized for the failed universal health-care plan she crafted during her husband's first term in office, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) apparently has had enough.

During a forum at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Las Vegas, Clinton was asked why as a candidate for president she is "still insisting" on bringing "socialized medicine" to the United States, when people are "pulling away" from similar systems in Canada and Great Britain. Worse, the questioner said, such systems hurt rather than help poor people.

"That was a string of misrepresentations about me and about the systems in other countries," Clinton started. "Number one, I have never advocated socialized medicine, and I hope all the journalists here heard that loudly and clearly because that has been a right-wing attack on me for 15 years."

Clinton's plan, which died in Congress in 1994, would have required employers to provide health-care coverage to employees through health-maintenance organizations. Insurance firms opposed the proposal, as did political conservatives who thought it removed health care -- a huge portion of the nation's economy -- from the competitive marketplace.

"Do you think Medicare is socialized medicine?" Clinton asked her inquisitor, who did not identify himself.


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