Clinton Says Obama 'Looking for a Fight'
By BETH FOUHYAssociated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday accused Barack Obama of "looking for a fight" in their rancorous debate and suggested her presidential rival acted out of frustration over primary campaign losses in New Hampshire and Nevada.
Obama argued that the Clintons—Hillary and Bill—have been distorting his record.
"When it comes to Senator Clinton's remarks, I think it's very clear that Senator Clinton has and President Clinton have been spending the last month attacking me in ways that are not accurate," Obama told reporters in a conference call.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, Hillary Clinton belittled Obama's various criticisms at the debate as "rehearsed points."
"I think what we saw last night was that he's very frustrated," she said. "I believe that the events of the last 10 or so days, the outcome of New Hampshire and Nevada, have apparently convinced him to adopt a different strategy. He clearly came—he telegraphed it, he talked about it—he clearly came last night looking for a fight. He was determined and launched right in."
The morning after the debate, the back-and-forth between the two leading Democrats continued unabated. The two had argued bitterly and in personal terms at Monday night's debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., over issues such as the Iraq war and Bill Clinton's role in the campaign. The two also traded accusations over Hillary Clinton's work as a lawyer for anti-union Wal-Mart and Obama's relationship with a political patron facing fraud charges.
"He was determined and launched right in. And I thought it was important to set the record straight," Hillary Clinton said.
She restated her argument that Obama was unwilling to answer hard questions about his record, from his opposition to the Iraq war but support for military budgets to his "present" votes as a member of the Illinois legislature.
Obama countered that this was all part of Clinton's strategy.
"Senator Clinton announced while we were still in Iowa that this was going to be her strategy and called it the fun part of campaigning. And, you know, I don't think it's the fun part to fudge the truth," he said. "The necessary part of this campaign is to make sure that we're getting accurate information to voters about people's respective records."
The New York senator also defended her husband's aggressive criticism of Obama, saying it didn't contradict the former president's role as senior statesman and Democratic Party leader. Obama has recently complained about Bill Clinton's role in the campaign and suggested he has repeatedly misrepresented Obama's record.
"I can tell you that never crossed our minds. That's not how we think," she said. "It has absolutely nothing to do with a unified Democratic Party around a nominee and a full support for whoever our Democratic president will be. That is just the way it works."
Clinton also rejected the notion she had used patronizing or racially charged language against Obama. She has called him, among other things, a "talented" and young" African American man.
"I really cannot strongly enough just reject that," Clinton said. "I think this is totally about us as individuals. He is African American. I am a woman. This obviously brings with it an enormous historical significance on both of our behalfs."
Obama said to make progress on issues such as the economy, it is necessary to bring the country together and be honest with the American people.
"If you get the kind of looseness with the facts that Senator Clinton's displayed and you're willing to say anything to get a political or tactical advantage—that erodes people's trust in government.
It makes them cynical. It's part of the perpetul campaign that is how Washington all too often operates these days and it keeps us from solving problems."
The New York senator was flying to California Tuesday to accept the backing of the United Farm Workers Union, a senior campaign official said on condition of anonymity because the endorsement had not yet been publicly announced.
Founded by famed labor activist Cesar Chavez, the union represents a heavily Hispanic work force. Clinton won Nevada's presidential caucuses Saturday in part because of a strong showing among Hispanic voters—a central part of her strategy to win several states holding contests Feb. 5, including California, Arizona and New Mexico.