March 17, 2008
US presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton seized on the approaching fifth anniversary of the Iraq war to criticise her rival, Barack Obama and Republican John McCain for their positions on the war.
Her speech was billed by her campaign as a major policy address.
Clinton, wearing a shamrock scarf for St Patrick's day, outlined how she would start pulling troops out of Iraq within sixty days of taking office. And she renewed her criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the conflict and of McCain for declaring his support for keeping American forces in the country.
"Senator McCain and President Bush claim withdrawal is defeat. Well, let's be clear, withdrawal is not defeat. Defeat is keeping troops in Iraq for 100 years," said Clinton.
"Defeat," she said, "is straining our alliances and losing our standing in
the world. Defeat is draining our resources and diverting attention from our key interests."
Clinton also criticised Obama for failing to launch his anti-war campaign
until he started running for president.
"Senator Obama holds up his original opposition to the war on the campaign trail, but he didn't start working aggressively to end the war until he started running for president," Clinton said.
At a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania, Obama shot back at his opponent, saying that it was he, not Senator Clinton, who opposed the war from the start.
"Let me be absolutely clear, I opposed this war in 2002. I opposed it in
2003, 04, 05, 06 and 07. I have been clear that this was a strategic error, unlike Senator Clinton who voted for this war and has never taken responsibility for this vote," Obama told a crowd of cheering supporters.
While the war in Iraq remains a very powerful campaign issue for both
parties, it has been over-shadowed by the stumbling US economy in the minds of American voters.
And it was foremost on the minds of the candidates, Monday, too.
At that same town hall, Obama described the economy as "in a shambles," adding that, to many, it feels like the American dream "is slowly slipping away."
Clinton criticised President George W. Bush for failing to exercise
leadership to address the nation's economic problems.
"There is no sense of urgency or presidential leadership. When OPEC refused to moderate its position, the president said he was disappointed. When the president went to New York City last week, he said he was aware that there was a problem.
That is not showing leadership, that is not sending the kind of message
of confidence and take-charge management of the economy that we need from the president," she said.