Mike Allen (Politico):
Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the second-ranking party leader in the Senate, says President Bill Clinton’s comments about Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) are getting “too personal” and called on the former president to refrain from attacking Obama’s integrity.Barack Obama
“I’m really troubled by his questioning the sincerity of Barack Obama’s opposition to the war in Iraq,” Durbin said. “I really think it is unfortunate to question Barack’s sincerity on the war. He has been there from the start, opposing this war.”
The unsolicited comments — in a phone call to Politico from Springfield, Ill. — were a sign that the Obama campaign is going to react aggressively to perceived attacks on the senator’s character.
“I really had hoped ... that it wouldn’t become too personal or too negative,” Durbin said. “I don’t think that’s good for either of the candidates or for our party. There may be clear some clear differences on some issues.”
Durbin suggested that the former president has been giving somewhat revisionist accounts on the way the Iraq war debate played out.
“It was not easy to be against that war back when we cast that vote in October of 2002,” Durbin said. “I was one of 23 who voted against the war. Barack was supportive — one of the few candidates speaking out strongly against it in Illinois.
“If President Clinton had opposed that war as strongly as Barack Obama at the time, it would have helped a lot of us who had voted against authorizing an invasion.”
Durbin, the majority whip, was reacting to comments the former president has made in several recent forums suggesting that Obama’s opposition to the Iraq war has not been as steadfast as he has suggested on the stump.
“I think that his story line is not accurate,” Clinton said Friday on a liberal talk show on Sirius satellite radio.
Clinton, seeking to tamp down discontent among black leaders about comments he made about Obama in New Hampshire, told Mark Thompson on the Talk Left channel:
“This is what happens any time anyone tries to question a statement or a position of Sen. Obama. The response is, ‘You’re attacking me personally,’ and that relieves him of the obligation to address the substance.”
Durbin has endorsed Obama but says he is friends with both Clintons and noted that his voting record was strongly supportive of Bill Clinton when he was in office. Durbin and the former president overlapped at Georgetown University: Durbin got his undergraduate degree in 1966, and Clinton graduated in 1968.
“I really worked hard for him when he was a candidate,” Durbin said. “And I’ve had a very strong and warm relationship with Sen. Clinton, as well. So none of this is personal. I respect them both very much.”
Asked his outlook on the Democratic primary campaign, Durbin said: “In this business, you step back as a candidate and you say, 'Would I rather be in my opponent’s shoes or in my shoes?' I’d rather be in the Obama camp today, I think. We really have momentum behind us.”
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