- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton told news editors this afternoon that President Bush has tried to turn the executive branch into an imperial presidency.

The New York senator did not mention her Democratic presidential rival, Sen. Barack Obama, or presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, instead focusing on what she said were Mr. Bush’s harmful mistakes that “weakened our nation” and “corrupted and corroded our moral authority.”

Speaking at the Newspaper Association of America’s annual conference, Mrs. Clinton derided Mr. Bush, saying that “rather than defending the Constitution, he has defied its principles and traditions.”

She noted the long nomination battle but said, “When the campaigns conclude … all that’s left is the choice we have made.

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    “We have seen the power of the presidency placed in hands unready or unwilling to address the tasks that lie ahead,” she said, adding an accusation that Mr. Bush squandered an opportunity to unite the world after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

    Mrs. Clinton said the Bush administration has “dramatically widened the definition of classified information” to shield its work from the public.

    “The president is not above the law in our system of government, and we need to make that absolutely clear starting next year,” she said.

    If she is elected, “starting from Day One, the Bush-Cheney era will be over in name and in practice,” she said.

    Though she has used many recent speeches to criticize Mr. Obama’s remarks about how some rural Americans are “bitter” and “cling” to guns or religion, Mrs. Clinton did not mention the comments this afternoon. After her sharp rebuke of the Bush administration, she closed her speech with an optimistic line.

    “We must not turn away from the urgency of our times and the immediacy of the tasks before us. I know that we are fully up to it,” she said. “No matter how daunting it may seem, there is no one who can count us out if we are willing and able to rise and meet the challenges and seize the opportunities before us. It would be a grave abdication of our birthright, of our history as Americans were we to do any less.”

    During a question-and-answer session later, Mrs. Clinton drew loud applause for saying that no matter the results of the 2008 election, “Never, ever again will any child growing up in America think that an African-American or a woman cannot be the president of the United States.”

    Mrs. Clinton opened the forum with a joke, saying she had drawn “great strength and encouragement over the last months” over the famed newspaper headline “Dewey beats Truman.”

    She also spoke to journalism-specific issues such as reporters imprisoned or killed at war. She lauded The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series on the failures at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and spoke fondly of slain journalist Daniel Pearl.

    She noted the “still very profound power of the traditional press to serve and shape public interests.”

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