By Krissah Williams and Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 8, 2008; A08
HATTIESBURG, Miss., March 7 -- A top foreign policy adviser to Sen. Barack Obama resigned from his campaign Friday after describing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as "a monster" in comments to a Scottish newspaper.
As the two rivals took their battle for the Democratic presidential nomination to Wyoming on the eve of today's caucuses, Clinton suggested that a series of comments from Samantha Power showed Obama is unprepared to be president.
Power, a Harvard professor who has long advised Obama on foreign affairs, said of Clinton in the Scotsman, "She is a monster, too -- that is off the record -- she is stooping to anything." Power apologized to Clinton in a statement and resigned from the campaign Friday morning.
Clinton's campaign held a conference call Friday morning in which a number of her supporters in Congress criticized Power. The campaign also highlighted Power's comments on Obama's Iraq policy. In remarks to the BBC, Power said Obama's plan to remove combat troops from Iraq in 16 months was a "best-case scenario." Once in office, she said, he would not rely on a plan "he's crafted as a presidential candidate."
Obama pushed back against the suggestion that he was being inconsistent on the subject of Iraq. In a speech in Casper, Wyo., he argued that Clinton "does not have standing to question my position on this issue," noting again that he had opposed the war from its beginning while she voted to authorize it.
He also trained his fire on an ad Clinton ran in Texas questioning which candidate is best prepared to respond to an emergency phone call in the middle of the night.
"That was designed to feed into your fears. I mean, what do people think I'm going to do? I'm going to answer the phone," he said to laughter. "I will find out what's going on. And I won't be browbeaten into launching a war that was not necessary."
Obama also said: "It was because of George Bush, with an assist from Hillary Clinton and John McCain, that we entered this war. I've been against it in 2002, 2003, 2004, 5, 6, 7, 8, and I will bring this war to an end in 2009.
"Now, what is true," Obama went on, "is that I want to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. I want to make sure the troops are protected and safe as we are withdrawing them. And I won't want to see Iraq collapse."
Campaigning in Mississippi, which will hold a primary Tuesday, Clinton likened Power's war comments to a controversy last week in which University of Chicago professor Austan Goolsbee was accused of telling Canadian officials that remarks Obama made about potentially renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) were campaign rhetoric that does not reflect Obama's real views. Goolsbee has disputed that account.
"While Senator Obama campaigns on his opposition to the war, his top advisers tell people abroad that he will not rely on his own plan should he become president," Clinton said in Hattiesburg, Miss., before traveling to Wyoming. "This is the latest example of promising the American people one thing on the campaign trail and telling people in other countries another. You saw this with NAFTA as well."
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Power's comments on the war did not represent a change in Obama's Iraq thinking. Obama and Clinton have both pledged to start removing one or two brigades a month if they are elected president, but Obama has committed to having all combat troops out in 16 months, which Clinton has not stipulated. Neither has defined how many noncombat troops would remain in Iraq or committed to the idea that all troops would be out in four years.
"On Iraq, he has been very clear. He offered a withdrawal plan well over a year ago. It's essential to his candidacy and a rock-solid commitment," Plouffe said. "He obviously feels incredibly strongly on this issue. It will be 16 months at the most where you can withdraw combat troops." "
He said Power had made the "right decision" in stepping down. Power, he said, is "a very brilliant person and a valuable part of the campaign, but [the campaign] can't condone those kind of comments."
Campaign officials spent yesterday slamming Clinton for not releasing papers from her and her husband's White House days and not disclosing her tax returns, which Clinton has said she will do next month.
Clinton is, "one of the most secretive politicians in America today. There is no reason why the six years of prior tax returns cannot be released right now," Plouffe said. "They can go to Kinko's and Xerox them. . . . Considering the huge amounts of money they have made in recent years . . . it's essential for the American people to know where they're getting money from."
Slevin, traveling with Obama, reported from Wyoming. Staff writers Perry Bacon Jr. and Alec MacGillis in Washington contributed to this report.