The week-long battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took a nasty turn Thursday when Clinton mocked Obama's "Politics of Hope" speech, suggesting his call for altruistic politics in 2004 is now an empty political slogan. Howie P.S.:
The fight began during Monday night's YouTube-CNN debate, when Obama said he'd negotiate with foreign despots unconditionally during his first year in office; Clinton said she wouldn't -- to deprive enemies of a "propaganda" coup.
Seizing a chance to portray the first-term Illinois senator as a foreign-policy rookie, Clinton called his position "naive" and "irresponsible." Obama used the same language to describe her support for the 2002 Iraq invasion, and the fight was on.
"I'm not afraid to lose the PR war to dictators," said Obama, keeping the fight alive Thursday during a speech in Concord, N.H. "I'm happy to look them in the eyes and say what needs to be said. ... I don't want Bush-Cheney Lite."
In a later conference call, Obama explained, "Part of the Bush doctrine has been to say 'no' [to negotiating with foreign leaders]. You'll have to ask Senator Clinton what differentiates her position from theirs."
Clinton, on CNN, upped the ante by taking a shot at Obama's reputation-making 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, in which he urged voters to reject cynicism and embrace the "Politics of Hope."
"I've been called a lot of things in my life, but I've never been called George Bush or Dick Cheney, certainly," she said. "We have to ask what's ever happened to the politics of hope?"
After months of smiling with pained sincerity across debate podiums, Clinton and Obama have set upon each other with stunning vehemence since the YouTube debate, exposing a reservoir of mutual disdain. Yesterday, Clinton hinted that the era of good feelings isn't likely to return anytime soon.
"I think that we do have some disagreements, and those are obviously going to start coming out because this is a very intense period, for the primaries," she told CNN's John King. "I welcome that debate."
The fight has advantages for each candidate. Clinton, who has been embarrassed by Obama's fundraising superiority, is going for the jugular on experience. Obama, who trails Clinton by 15 points, needs to demonstrate their differences and must quell murmuring among supporters that he's been too civil.
The one scintilla of civility in evidence yesterday came from an unusual quarter. Defense Secretary Robert Gates apologized to Clinton after a Pentagon subordinate accused her of requesting deployment information he said would endanger U.S. troops.
I said I would be offline until Sunday, but the campground was full and we had to get a room in town. There's a free computer in the lobby, so I took this as a sign from "The Higher Power" to stay "engaged," as Michelle Obama requested.
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