Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Obama: Clinton too similar to GOP candidates on Iraq"

Rallying in the west with an all-star cast including Caroline Kennedy, Barack Obama sharpened his criticism of rival Hillary Clinton as a divisive, old-school politician as they formally entered a two-day race six days before Super Tuesday's primary blitz.
As speculation swirled that Obama might get the endorsement -- and delegates -- of John Edwards, who hours earlier had dropped from the presidential race, Obama turned up the heat on Clinton by casting her as scarcely different from GOP White House hopefuls including new frontrunner John McCain.

He particularly slammed her muscular foreign policy platforms, including her initial vote for the Iraq war, which he has consistently condemned.

"It's time for new leadership that understands that the way to win a debate with John McCain or any Republican who is nominated is not by having the Democrats nominate someone who agreed with them on the war in Iraq," Obama told a cheering crowd estimated at 9,500, with thousands more in overflow areas, at a University of Denver arena.

Like Republicans, Clinton gave President George W. Bush "the benefit of the doubt" on contemplating military action in Iran and other hardline policies, Obama said. Yet she "actually differed with John McCain by arguing for exceptions for torture before changing positions when the politics of the moment changed," he continued sternly.

"Talking tough, and tallying up years in Washington, that's no substitute for judgement or courage," Obama said.

"It is not enough to say you'll be ready from Day One," he continued, borrowing the same line from Clinton's campaign that his new mentor, Sen. Ted Kennedy, had done earlier this week. "You have to be right from day one."

He also slammed Clinton for having appeared in Florida after primary polls closed Tuesday night to thank voters, after all Democratic candidates had pledged not to campaign there.

"We can be a Party that tries to beat the other side by practicing the same do-anything, say-anything, divisive politics that has stood in the way of progress," Obama said amid rowdy cries of "Boo!"

"Or," he added, "we can be a party that puts an end to it."

Obama received as much applause as Caroline Kennedy, who turned out to salute him with Denver Broncos star Rod Smith and former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, a two-time presidential hopeful.

The willingness of the usually politically reclusive Camelot princess to stump with Obama in Denver and later Wednesday in Phoenix underscored the weight that American's most powerful political dynasty is throwing behind the Illinois senator, who is gaining on Clinton in nationwide polls. Ted Kennedy is to stump for Obama Thursday and Friday in New Mexico and California in an effort to boost his support among Latinos, where Clinton is seen as having an edge.

"Over the years, I've been deeply moved by the people who've told me almost all my life that they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president," John F. Kennedy's daughter said in soft, gracious tones. "I felt that sense of longing is more profound today than it has ever been."

"Fortunately, there is one candidate who offers that same sense of hope and inspiration," she continued with a smile. "That candidate is Barack Obama."

Paying her homage, Obama said: "I am almost speechless."

Wide receiver Rod Smith, a native of Bill Clinton's home state of Arkansas, said he felt compelled to stump for Obama after he was lying in bed one night and heard him speak from South Carolina. "I thought to myself, Wow," Smith said. "I've got to be part of this."

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