- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2007

Handicapper

Even though he’s trying to help his wife into the White House, former President Bill Clinton was more than happy to handicap the Republican presidential contest during an appearance yesterday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Mr. Clinton said he thought former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson was the early choice among conservatives, but said questionable comments may have hurt him with Republican primary voters, reports Times reporter Eric Pfeiffer.

“I think in an amorphous way, they’d like for Thompson to be their nominee because it’s like Reagan in 1980 and President Bush in 2000,” the Arkansas Democrat told moderator Tim Russert. “Real conservative, but enough pizzazz that independents can read whatever they want to into it.”

“I think that Giuliani proved quite durable. And we don’t know whether this will end, or when they start to advertise,” Mr. Clinton said of former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, his wife’s one-time senatorial rival.

Mr. Clinton said he thinks the primary will come down to whether former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s lead in Iowa and New Hampshire will translate to other states and whether Mr. Giuliani’s national lead in the polls could withstand the scrutiny of paid campaign advertisements focusing on his socially liberal positions on issues such as abortion.

The former president also said Arizona Sen. John McCain could make a comeback and that former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was the one “dark-horse” candidate with a shot at winning.

“He’s the best speaker,” Mr. Clinton said. “And as he said, he’s extremely conservative, but he’s not mad at anybody about it.”

‘Unwise’ on Iran

Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson said yesterday it would be “enormously unwise” for the Bush administration to take military action against Iran before it gets out of Iraq.

“I believe it would be enormously unwise for the Bush administration to start another war before ending this tragic war we’re in today, and it does sound like the administration is ramping up. You can just see it,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

The New Mexico governor pointed to a 76-22 vote in the Senate last week on a resolution urging the State Department to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was the only Democratic senator who is running for president to vote for the measure. Mr. Richardson criticized her vote.

“Calling them names, labeling them terrorists, drawing up military options is just making the situation worse and inflaming the Muslim world,” he said.

U.S.-Iran tensions are running high over a belief that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and supplying Iraq’s Shi’ite militias with weapons that have killed U.S. troops.

“Once again, the administration seems to be preparing the American people for a ramp-up in action, and it would be, I believe, another disastrous foreign-policy decision,” Mr. Richardson said.

An ‘extension’

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said yesterday that the front-runner for his party’s nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, does not offer the break from politics as usual that voters need.

Both Mrs. Clinton, New York Democrat, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have criticized Mr. Obama for his lack of political experience.

Mr. Obama said he understands their argument.

“They want to make the argument that Senator Clinton is just an extension of the Bill Clinton presidency,” Mr. Obama said in an interview in Columbia, S.C., with the Associated Press. “They’ve been the dominant political family in the Democratic Party for the last 20 years now. So it’s not surprising that they want to focus on their longevity.”

But, Mr. Obama said, “My belief is that the American people are looking for a fundamental break from the way we’ve been doing business.”

Mr. Obama said his opposition to the Iraq war before combat began shows his experience. Mrs. Clinton voted to authorize military action in Iraq.

“On the single most important foreign-policy issue of our time, I got it right,” Mr. Obama said.

This week marks the fifth anniversary of a speech Mr. Obama gave in 2002 opposing the Iraq war, and he’ll spend the week revisiting that address and discussing the foreign-policy challenges he says it has created, the Associated Press reports.

Christians first

Sen. John McCain said in an interview published Saturday that he would prefer a Christian president over someone of a different faith, calling it “an important part of our qualifications to lead.”

In an interview with Belief net.com, a multidenominational Web site that covers religion and spirituality, the Republican presidential hopeful was asked whether a Muslim candidate could be a good president, the Associated Press reports.

“I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles … personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith,” the Arizona senator said. “But that doesn’t mean that I’m sure that someone who is Muslim would not make a good president.”

Later, Mr. McCain said, “I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values.”

Asked about Republican rival Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, Mr. McCain said, “I think that Governor Romney’s religion should not, absolutely not, be a disqualifying factor when people consider his candidacy for president of the United States.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washington times.com.

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