Clinton Hears Criticism At AARP Forum in Iowa

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani poses with the former British leader Margaret Thatcher with his Atlantic Bridge award, which was presented to the Republican presidential candidate after he delivered the Margaret Thatcher Atlantic Bridge lecture in London on Wednesday. The Atlantic Bridge is a group that promotes ties between British and American conservatives.
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani poses with the former British leader Margaret Thatcher with his Atlantic Bridge award, which was presented to the Republican presidential candidate after he delivered the Margaret Thatcher Atlantic Bridge lecture in London on Wednesday. The Atlantic Bridge is a group that promotes ties between British and American conservatives. (By Sang Tan -- Associated Press)

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Friday, September 21, 2007

SPARKS FLY AT DEBATE

Clinton Hears Criticism At AARP Forum in Iowa

Living up to his pledge to cut back on presidential debates, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) skipped a panel on health care and economic issues last night in Iowa, leaving the Democratic front-runner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), to draw fire from the rest of the field.

Only five of the invited contenders joined the AARP forum in Davenport. But sparks flew nonetheless. Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.) warned that Republicans will attack any new Clinton health-care plan with a campaign similar to the "Harry and Louise" ad blitz that helped sink her 1993 effort.

"They're going to spend half a trillion this time," Biden said.

Former senator John Edwards (N.C.) took credit for prodding Clinton toward releasing the proposal for universal health-care coverage that she unveiled Monday. He boasted that he had announced his first. "I'm very proud of the fact that six, seven months later, Senator Clinton came out with a plan that is very similar to mine," he said. Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Gov. Bill Richardson (N.M.) also participated in the panel, which was broadcast on public television and moderated by newscaster Judy Woodruff.

Clinton had steered the political agenda all week after releasing her health insurance proposal to require coverage for all individuals -- a scaled-back and less detailed program than the one she failed to get passed more than 13 years ago. She largely avoided criticizing her rivals on the issue last night, embracing the similarities among the Democratic plans and accusing Republicans of falling short. And she indirectly rebutted Edwards's claim that she was following him on the issue.

"Well, been there, done that," she said.

Referring to her earlier attempt, Clinton said: "It was kind of lonely back then. I think it's tremendous that we have unanimity here. That was a lonely struggle all those year ago." But now, she said, universal health care "is the accepted set of convictions for the Democratic party. Compare that to the Republicans: They don't have a clue or a willingness to talk about or move toward what we are committed to."

Biden needled Richardson for saying he could run the country because he has run a relatively small state.

"He'd make a great secretary of state," Biden said of Richardson.

Then Biden, who has been running in the single digits in national polls, volunteered that some people haven't taken his candidacy seriously, either.

"I love Hillary Clinton," Biden chirped.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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