Democrat Barack Obama said Wednesday that rival Hillary Rodham Clinton's less-than-straightforward answers in a Democratic debate raise questions about her ability to assume the presidency.
"This may be smart politics by Washington's standards, but it's not what America needs right now," the first-term Illinois senator told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Chicago. "Turning the page means offering the American people a clear sense of your principles and where you'd lead."
Obama complained that during Tuesday night's debate Clinton didn't provide clear answers on a number of occasions.
"After the most secretive administration in memory, an administration that consistently misled the American people, we need a president who is going to be open and forthright," Obama said. "I think last night's debate really exposed this fault line. Senator Clinton left us wondering where she stood on every single hard question from Iran to Social Security to drivers' licenses for undocumented workers."
Obama said he was especially concerned by Clinton's response when asked if she would release her papers from her years as first lady.
"Her big answer on whether she would release the papers from her White House years was particularly troubling because she is running on her record as first lady as much as on her record as a senator," he said. "How can people fully judge that record if the documents from those years remain locked away?"
Tuesday's debate was the first in a month, and during that time Clinton has gained in the polls and firmly established herself as the front-runner. The debate also came soon after Obama said he would step up his criticism of the New York senator to make clear their differences.
Clinton's campaign responded that Obama has abandoned his pledge to run a positive campaign, or as he described it, the politics of hope.
"With each attack, Senator Obama undermines the central premise of his candidacy. The politics of hope that once characterized his remarks has now been replaced by the kinds of jabs one typically sees from candidates desperate to gain traction in the polls," said Mark Daley, a Clinton spokesman.
The Clinton campaign also posted a Web video arguing that her rivals had been piling on.
"The politics of hope does not mean hoping that your opponents aren't going to point out the differences between you and them," Obama said.
He pledged to continue to draw clear differences between himself and Clinton.
"And frankly, Senator Clinton did it for us yesterday with some of her answers," he said.
Obama said he has based his career on transparency with voters. While in the Illinois Legislature, he said he pushed for ethics reform. In Washington, he said he has released his congressional earmark requests and worked to ensure that lobbyists disclose bundling practices used in fundraising.
He boasted that he has "put forward probably the toughest set of ethics rules for how an Obama administration would operate compared to any other candidate."