Demo­cratic de­baters go af­ter front-run­ner Hil­lary

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Christina Bellantoni

Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton of New York was the clear tar­get of her Demo­cratic ri­vals Oct. 30 as the pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls sparred on Iran, hon­esty in pol­i­tics and whether il­le­gal aliens should get driver’s li­censes.

Mrs. Clin­ton was on the de­fen­sive for most of the de­bate at Drexel Univer­sity in Philadel­phia, and was ac­cused in the last few mo­ments of dou­ble-speak about il­le­gals.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illi­nois opened the fo­rum by say­ing to­day’s prob­lems re­quire “big, mean­ing­ful changes” that can be achieved by of­fer­ing a “sharp con­trast with the other party” and by fight­ing spe­cial in­ter­ests.

“It doesn’t mean chang­ing po­si­tions when­ever it’s po­lit­i­cally con­ve­nient,” he said, turn­ing his at­ten­tion to the for­mer first lady.

Mrs. Clin­ton smiled wide when likened to Repub­li­cans — point­ing out that at a re­cent de­bate of those can­di­dates, she was the most fre­quent punch­ing bag.

“I have been stand­ing against the Repub­li­cans, Ge­orge Bush and Dick Cheney,” she said. “I will con­tinue to do so, and I think Democrats know that.”

For­mer Sen. John Ed­wards of North Carolina blasted Mrs. Clin­ton’s vote in fa­vor of a Se­nate res­o­lu­tion declar­ing the Ira­nian Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion and said it sug­gests she al­ready is pre­par­ing for a “gen­eral elec­tion mode” against Repub­li­cans.

“I think that our re­spon­si­bil­ity as pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates is to be in tell-the-truth mode all the time. We should not be say­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent in the pri­mary than we say in the gen­eral elec­tion,” he said.

Sens. Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. of Delaware and Christo­pher J. Dodd of Con­necti­cut op­posed the Iran mea­sure as saber-rat­tling, with Mr. Dodd say­ing the vote was “go­ing to come back to haunt us.” Mr. Obama missed the vote but has since said the res­o­lu­tion sends the wrong sig­nal to al­lies and en­e­mies in the re­gion.

Mr. Bi­den called it “bad pol­icy” that has “hurt” the United States, while Mr. Ed­wards said the res­o­lu­tion “looks like it was writ­ten, lit­er­ally, by the [neo­con­ser­va­tives].”

Mrs. Clin­ton dis­missed their ar­gu­ments as “miss­ing the point”: “We’ve got to do ev­ery­thing we can to pre­vent Ge­orge Bush and the Repub­li­cans from do­ing some­thing on their own to take of­fen­sive mil­i­tary ac­tion against Iran. [. . . ] We’re not, in my view, rush­ing to war.”

Asked about New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to give driver’s li­censes to il­le­gal aliens, Mrs. Clin­ton said the pol­icy could make the streets safer and fills a “vac­uum” left by the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion for fail­ing to pass a com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion plan. She also called the Spitzer pol­icy “an hon­est ef­fort” to know who is in New York, but added it may not be the best plan.

Both Mr. Ed­wards and Mr. Obama said her an­swers were in­con­sis­tent, though Mr. Obama said Mr. Spitzer has the “right idea” be­cause it could make the roads safer. Mr. Dodd dis­agreed, say­ing a driver’s li­cense is a “priv­i­lege not a right.”

An­other defin­ing mo­ment came when co-host Tim Russert of NBC pressed Mrs. Clin­ton to say she would re­lease some of her White House doc­u­ments that for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton asked the Na­tional Archives to keep private un­til 2012.

She dodged the ques­tion, say­ing the doc­u­ments are “be­com­ing avail­able.”

New Mex­ico Gov. Bill Richard­son was the only can­di­date to avoid a Clin­ton crit­i­cism, com­plain­ing it sounded like the oth­ers had a “holier-than-thou at­ti­tude” to­ward the front-run­ner.

“We need to be pos­i­tive in this cam­paign. [. . . ] I think it’s im­por- tant that we save the am­mu­ni­tion for the Repub­li­cans,” he said.

Rep. Den­nis J. Kucinich of Ohio pushed his call for im­peach­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney and also ad­mit­ted he had seen a UFO. For­mer Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska did not par­tic­i­pate, af­ter or­ga­niz­ers said he did not meet fundrais­ing and polling thresh­olds.

Bloomberg News

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates met Oct. 30 in Philadel­phia. From left: Sens. Christo­pher J. Dodd and Joseph R. Bi­den Jr., for­mer Sen. John Ed­wards, Sens. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Barack Obama, Rep. Den­nis J. Kucinich and Gov. Bill Richard­son.

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