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Obama goes on the offensive

Latest update : 2008-02-04

US Senator Barack Obama openly criticised Senator Hillary Clinton, his rival for the democratic presidential nomination, saying that her vote labelling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organisation could be used as an excuse for war.

Aug. 1, 2007 -- Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama on Friday took his most hostile swipe yet at rival Hillary Clinton, pouring scorn on her judgement on foreign policy hotspots Iraq and Iran.
The Clinton campaign hit straight back, after what appeared to be a strategic shift by Obama, accusing him of abandoning his signature "politics of hope" theme in a desperate bid to carve into her huge lead in opinion polls.
Senator Obama upbraided Clinton over her support last month for a Senate resolution which declared Tehran's Revolutionary Guard a terror organization -- which critics say could give the White House a rationale for war with Iran.
He linked it to Clinton's vote in the Senate five years ago to authorize President George W. Bush to wage war in Iraq.
"I don't want to give this President any excuse, or any opening for war," Obama said in a speech in Des Moines, in the midwestern state of Iowa, expected to hold first party nominating contests in early January.
"As we learned with the authorization of the Iraq war -- when you give this President a blank check, you can't be surprised when he cashes it."
Obama, using the words "Senator Clinton" for the first time in direct attacks on his rival, rejected her argument that the 2002 Senate vote was meant to pressure deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and that Bush misused his authority.
"She says she wasn't really voting for war back in 2002, she was voting for more inspections, or she was voting for more diplomacy.
"No one thought Congress was debating whether or not to conduct diplomacy ... the headlines on October 12, 2002 did not read 'Congress authorizes diplomacy with Iraq' -- the headlines on October 12, 2002, read 'Congress backs war.'"
The Clinton campaign responded with a memo listing Clinton's wide opinion poll leads over Obama, nationally and in key states.
"Apparently Senator Obama's fall in the polls has led him to abandon his pledge to change our politics and bring people together," the memo said.
The Clinton campaign also pointed out that Obama was not in the Senate to cast a vote on the Iranian resolution.
"If Senator Obama believed the measure was as dangerous as he says, wouldn't he have some obligation to stand up, speak out, and fight against it?"
The Edwards campaign meanwhile seized on remarks by Clinton in New Hampshire on Thursday, that she would talk to Iran with "no conditions."
In a debate in July, Obama said he would be ready to sit down in his first year in office as president with leaders of US foes including Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela, prompting Clinton to call him "naive" and "irresponsible"
Edwards communications director Chris Kofinis accused Clinton of reversing herself.
"The American people deserve a president who will tell them the truth and offer straight answers, not flip-flops and political double speak."
But Clinton, speaking in Georgia, rejected claims that she had changed her policy, saying she had long advocated talking to Iran, but that did not mean she would do so personally as US president.
"What I have been saying for a long time is that the United States of America should negotiate with Iran," Clinton said.
"That's a very big difference between setting up a structure for diplomatic negotiations than saying that as president, any president, would meet with dictators of countries like that in the first year personally without preconditions."
Clinton has consistently argued that the Bush administration has erred by not holding direct and comprehensive talks with Iran, which is locked in a dispute with Washington over its nuclear program and activities in Iraq.
"I would engage in negotiations with Iran, with no conditions because we don't really understand how Iran works," she said in New Hampshire on Thursday, in the remarks seized upon by the rival campaigns.

Date created : 2007-12-24