Obama: Hillary presidency would turn back clock

January 30, 2008 6:44:51 PM PST
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama said Wednesday a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidency would be a step back to the past, turning her husband's image of a bridge to the future against her. The former first lady decried the tenor of his comments in an interview with The Associated Press.

"I know it is tempting - after another presidency by a man named George Bush - to simply turn back the clock, and to build a bridge back to the 20th century," the Illinois senator said in Denver.

"... It's not enough to say you'll be ready from Day One - you have to be right from Day One," he added in unmistakable criticisms of Clinton, who often claims she's better prepared to govern, and her husband, who pledged during his own presidency to build a bridge to the 21st century.

Within hours, Hillary Clinton pushed back in an interview with the AP - and got in her own dig.

"That certainly sounds audacious, but not hopeful," said Clinton, in a play on the title of Obama's book, "The Audacity of Hope." "It's not hopeful and it's not what we should be talking about in this campaign," said Clinton, suggesting Obama was abandoning the core of his campaign.

"I would certainly, through you, hope we could get back to talking about the issues, drawing the contrasts that are based in fact that have a connection to the American people," Clinton said.

In his speech, Obama depicted Clinton as a calculating, poll-tested divisive figure who will only inspire greater partisan divisions as she sides with Republicans on issues such as trade, the role of lobbyists in politics and national security. At the same time, he elevated McCain, fresh off victory in Florida's crucial primary, as the likely Republican nominee.

In the AP interview, Clinton vowed to take the high road and warned that voters in the mega-primaries next week expect that.

"I'm going to continue to talk to people about what we need to do in our country to try to lift people up, to keep focused on the future to be very specific about what I want to do as president because I want to be held accountable," she said.

Obama drew more than 10,000 people for his speech at the University of Denver. They packed a hockey arena and crammed into two overflow rooms and still were lined up outside to get in. Colorado is a caucus state, one of 22 to hold nominating contests Tuesday, and is one of a handful of states where the Obama campaign is predicting victory. Clinton has the advantage in several others, while several are still up for grabs.

"Democrats will win in November and build a majority in Congress not by nominating a candidate who will unite the other party against us, but by choosing one who can unite this country around a movement for change," Obama said, speaking as rival John Edwards was pulling out of the race in New Orleans, leaving a Clinton-Obama fight for the Democratic nomination.

"It is time for new leadership that understands the way to win a debate with John McCain or any Republican who is nominated is not by nominating someone who agreed with him on voting for the war in Iraq or who agreed with him in voting to give George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran, who agrees with him in embracing the Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to leaders we don't like, who actually differed with him by arguing for exceptions for torture before changing positions when the politics of the moment changed," Obama said.

"We need to offer the American people a clear contrast on national security, and when I am the nominee of the Democratic Party, that is exactly what I will do," he said.

The two rivals fought hard prior to the South Carolina primary, but the tenor has eased a bit since then.

"I've been trying to keep this on a level where the contrasts and comparisons are certainly fair, this is an election after all," said Clinton. "I've been trying very hard to set the right tone, to be focused on bringing the party together, bringing the country together but around specific goals."

Clinton spent her day in Little Rock, Ark., before heading to Atlanta for speeches to the Southern Baptist Convention and a major Democratic fundraiser. She took a colorful diversion on the trip to Atlanta, heading down the aisle of her campaign plane serving peach cobbler to reporters and staffers.

"I love anything peach," Clinton said.

Obama said he understands voters might feel some comfort at the idea of returning to another President Clinton after eight years of Bush. But he cautioned voters not to buy the argument that Clinton's experience is what the country needs.

"It is about the past versus the future," he said. "And when I am the nominee, the Republicans won't be able to make this election about the past.

"If you choose change, you will have a nominee who doesn't just tell people what they want to hear," Obama told them. "Poll-tested positions, calculated answers might be how Washington confronts challenges, but it's not how you overcome those challenges; it's not how you inspire our nation to come together behind a common purpose, and it's not what America needs right now. You need a candidate who will tell you the truth."

Later Wednesday, Obama gave a 10-minute talk by live broadcast to a joint meeting in Atlanta of four historically black Baptist denominations, where Clinton appeared later. These groups produced some of the most prominent civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whom Obama quoted.

"Pastors are pushing this movement forward," Obama said of his campaign, "and I need each and every one of you in this fight."

He asked the audience to imagine what it would mean for the country to see him with his hand on the Bible, taking the presidential oath of office.

"Our children will look at themselves differently and their possibilities differently. They'll look at each other differently," he said.

Clinton addressed the same group with a theme that aides described as a call for togetherness they contrasted with Obama's criticism. "Let us consider how we may spur one another to love and good deeds," Clinton said. She ended the day with a speech to a rowdy fundraising dinner.

"This has been a vigorous campaign," she said. "Whatever differences we have, they pale with the differences we have with Republicans."

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Associated Press Writer Mike Glover reported from Atlanta.


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