- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2008

LORAIN, Ohio — Sen. Barack Obama said today Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton presents herself as if she was “co-president” from 1993 to 2000.

Mr. Obama, holding a town hall forum at a wall board manufacturing plant here, said his criticism of her position on the North American Free Trade Agreement is fair because she includes her time as first lady for eight years as part of her claim to “35 years of experience.”

“She has essentially presented herself as co-president during the Clinton years,” the Illinois senator charged during a press conference after the town hall concluded. “Every good thing that happened she says she was a part of, and so the notion that you can selectively pick what you take credit for and then run away from what isn’t politically convenient, that doesn’t make sense.”

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson responded to the co-president remark on a conference call later: “I don’t accept that charge.”

“There’s no question that Senator Clinton … was a key and valued adviser to her husband [and] took the lead in several significant areas,” he said, but, “that is not a title that Senator Clinton or her husband would accept as valid.”

Mr. Wolfson said the former first lady “is pretty clear about the areas she was particularly involved in,” such as helping created the children’s health care program for 6 million kids.

“She was proud as first lady to be a part of that administration,” he said.

During the press conference, a reporter asked Mr. Obama how he would respond to Republican attacks on his patriotism, including e-mails that point out he didn’t put his hand over his heart when singing the National Anthem.

Mr. Obama gave an off-the-cuff answer saying such “nonsense” will always happen in elections. He said attempts to discredit his candidacy based on his “name” and false suggestions he is a Muslim and “hasn’t worked out so well.”

“The reason I came to national attention was a speech in which I spoke of my love of this country,” he said.

He will respond to such accusations “with the truth,” he said. In the National Anthem instance, where he was singing but didn’t put his hand over his heart, “that would disqualify about three quarters of the people who have ever gone to a football game or a baseball game.”

Should Republicans make those suggestions he said he would remind them they are the party “that presided over a war in which our troops did not get the body armor they needed,” and have supported warrantless wiretapping, among other things.

“That is a debate I am very happy to have. We’ll see what the American people think is the true definition of patriotism,” he said, drawing applause from the several dozen in the audience.

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