|Page 2 of 2 <|
Clinton's Foes Go on the Attack
VIDEO | In an NBC News sponsored debate Tuesday night, seven Democratic presidential candidates discussed Iran's role on the international stage. Each candidate pitched their plan for dealing with any potential threat from Tehran.
"We have just gone through one of the most secretive administrations in our history, and not releasing, I think, these records at the same time, Hillary, that you're making the claim that this is the basis for your experience, I think, is a problem," Obama said. Clinton has built her candidacy on the assertion that she is the most experienced challenger in the race, in large part because of her time as first lady.
The most pointed back-and-forth came over Iran. Clinton supported a Senate resolution last month that urged the administration to label the Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. The measure was approved by a vote of 76 to 22, but all of Clinton's rivals last night opposed it as the Bush administration enabling a rush to war with Iran.
Clinton defended the vote, saying that early this year she had argued that Bush has no authority to use military force to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. "I am not in favor of this rush for war, but I'm also not in favor of doing nothing," she said.
Her opponents, however, challenged her interpretation of the measure. Edwards said the resolution read as if it were "written literally by the neocons" and added that "it literally gave Bush and Cheney exactly what they wanted. It didn't just give them what they wanted. They acted on it."
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.), recalling the 2002 congressional resolution on Iraq, said that the vote on the Iran resolution could come back to haunt those who supported it. "What you didn't learn back in '02, you should've learned by now," he said.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson called the resolution "saber rattling" by the Senate that would embolden the administration, while Obama said the measure "is yet another rationale for what we're doing in Iraq, and I think that's a mistake."
Edwards also said that voters have a clear choice on the issue of Iraq. "If you believe that combat missions should be continued in Iraq over the long term, if you believe that combat troops should remain stationed in Iraq and if you believe there should be no actual timetable for withdrawal, then Senator Clinton is your candidate," he said. "I don't."
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio) accused his fellow Democrats of being "enablers" for not ruling out war against Iran. He said the Democratic support for labeling the Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group amounted to "licensing President Bush."
On Iraq, Clinton at one point suggested that, if elected president, she would enlist her fellow contenders as diplomats to elicit cooperation from Iraqi officials -- inviting "Bill, Joe and Chris" to help her cause. Later, asked to respond to quotes from Republican front-runner Rudolph W. Giuliani about her relative lack of governing experience, Clinton cited criticism from her GOP rivals as evidence that her campaign is working.
"In a perverse way, you know, I think the Republicans and their constant obsession with me demonstrates clearly that they obviously think I am communicating effectively about what I will do as president," she said.
Edwards shot that theory down. "I mean, another perspective on why the Republicans keep talking about Senator Clinton is, Senator, they may actually want to run against you, and that's the reason they keep bringing you up," he said.
Dodd chastised Edwards for criticizing Clinton for taking lobbyists' money while Edwards accepted contributions from trial lawyers -- accusing the former North Carolina senator of adopting "situational ethics." But Dodd also took on Clinton's electability.
"Whether it's fair or not fair, the fact of the matter is that my colleague from New York, Senator Clinton, there are 50 percent of the American public that say they're not going to vote for her. I'm not saying anything that people don't know already. I don't necessarily like it, but those are the facts," Dodd said.
Richardson defended Clinton briefly, a move that seemed destined to fuel speculation that he is interested in being chosen as a vice presidential running mate. He said the debate had gotten "pretty close to personal attacks that we don't need."
"We need to be positive in this campaign," Richardson said.