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Question of the Day
Hillary vs. Barack
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's camp pounced on her 2008 White House rival Sen. Barack Obama yesterday, implying he was too inexperienced to be president, after he said he would meet leaders of U.S. foes Iran and North Korea, among others.
In the most direct attack of the Democratic race so far, Clinton aides said her more circumspect comments proved she was fit to be commander in chief, raising questions about Mr. Obama's inexperience — likely a pivotal campaign issue.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright weighed in on behalf of Mrs. Clinton after Mr. Obama offered to meet leaders of the two "axis of evil" states and those of Cuba, Venezuela and Syria during his first year in office, Agence France-Presse reports.
She praised Mrs. Clinton for her more nuanced answer at a debate in South Carolina — that she was open to diplomatic contacts but wary of handing U.S. enemies a "propaganda" coup.
"I felt that she gave a very sophisticated answer that showed her understanding of the whole process," Mrs. Albright said.
Later, in a memo, the Clinton campaign said the debate revealed a clear difference between their candidate and Mr. Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois.
"Senator Obama has committed to presidential-level meetings with some of the world's worst dictators without precondition during his first year in office. Senator Clinton is committed to vigorous diplomacy but understands that it is a mistake to commit the power and prestige of America's presidency years ahead of time by making such a blanket commitment."
The Obama campaign argued that Mrs. Clinton had reversed herself, distributing a report from early this year in which she rebuked President Bush for not talking to "bad people."
"For Hillary Clinton, the presidency is not in the bag. Even winning the Democratic presidential nomination is considerably less than a sure thing," Fred Barnes writes at www.weeklystandard.com.
"But of the 18 Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, Clinton is the most likely to be the next president. And she did nothing [Monday] night in the bizarre presidential debate in Charleston, S.C., to alter that," Mr. Barnes said.
"Clinton managed to maintain at least the outward appearance of seriousness in a debate that included a taped question from someone dressed as a snowman, another from a sanctimonious Planned Parenthood official who asked if the candidates had talked to their kids about sex, and an especially silly one about whether the candidates would be willing to be paid the minimum wage as president. Most of them lied and said yes.
"This was the first of six debates sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee. Based on this one, there's a long and tedious season of yakking ahead in the presidential race. With YouTube providing the questions and the candidates offering special one-minute commercials, the idea was to make [Monday] night's debate livelier and more fun. Often, though, it was merely unserious, excessively cute and frivolous."
Mr. Barnes added: "There was a key moment, however," when Mr. Obama, in response to a question, promised as president to meet with the leaders of Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria. That showed "his inexperience, and perhaps his naivete as well, in foreign affairs."
Political briefings given by Bush White House aides to high-ranking diplomats "were probably inappropriate," the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said yesterday.
The comments by Indiana Sen. Richard G. Lugar were in contrast to White House assertions that the private briefings were not unusual or improper, the Associated Press reports.
Starting in 2001, White House political aides gave at least a half-dozen briefings to top diplomats about key congressional and gubernatorial races and Mr. Bush's re-election goals, according to documents obtained by the Senate committee.
In a January 2007 session, senior Bush adviser Karl Rove briefed six ambassadors about Democratic incumbents targeted for defeat in 2008. Another political briefing occurred after the 2002 elections at the Peace Corps headquarters, the documents said.
The diplomats were Bush appointees, several of whom had contributed heavily to the campaigns of Mr. Bush and other Republicans. Administration officials said yesterday there was nothing surprising or inappropriate about the briefings.
"You've got political appointees getting political briefings," White House press secretary Tony Snow said with sarcasm. "I'm shocked. Shocked."
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the briefings did not violate the Hatch Act nor the department's "very strict guidelines" that bar partisan political activity by diplomats.
A planned Republican fundraiser in New Hampshire aims to promote gun ownership in America by letting supporters fire powerful military-style weapons — from Uzi submachine guns to M-16 rifles.
The Manchester Republican Committee is inviting party members and their families to a "Machine Gun Shoot" where, for $25, supporters can spend a day trying out automatic weapons, said organizer Jerry Thibodeau.
"It's a fun day. It's a family day," said Mr. Thibodeau of the Aug. 5 event. "It's quite exciting."
Local Democrats say the event is in poor taste in light of a spike in violent crime in Manchester and seeks to glorify the use of machine guns for political gain, Reuters news agency reports.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama is reaching out to fellow blacks in his first advertising effort in South Carolina, a 60-second spot scheduled to begin airing today on 36 radio stations with predominantly black listenership, the Associated Press reports.
The ad includes excerpts from Mr. Obama's speech to the NAACP, in which he lists problems facing blacks — more black men in prison than in college, serious illnesses disproportionately affecting blacks and the argument that it takes a hurricane to show the rest of the country about problems of race and poverty.
"I know what you know," Mr. Obama says. "Despite all the progress that's been made, we have more work to do."
Soft jazz plays in the background as a deep-voiced announcer describes Mr. Obama as a Christian family man, a former civil rights lawyer and state legislator. "It's time for Barack Obama," the announcer says repeatedly.
Not a Hillary backer
Juanita Broaddrick, who appeared on "Dateline NBC" in January 1999 to accuse then-President Bill Clinton of raping her in Arkansas back in 1978, is supporting the most serious rival to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic presidential contest.
According to a money-in-politics database at www.opensecrets.org, which is operated by the Center for Responsive Politics, Ms. Broaddrick has contributed $450 so far this year toIllinois Sen. Barack Obama.
Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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