Posted: December 14, 2007 6:50 PM
Obama Outlines First Year in Office, Fires Back at Clinton Camp Jabs
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., joined five of his fellow candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday for the last debate before the Jan. 3 caucuses in Iowa.
Sponsored by the Des Moines Register and Iowa Public Television, the debate touched on several issues, including the federal deficit, education and the candidates’ New Year’s resolutions. At one point, Obama was asked how he will take the country in a new direction if many of his advisers would include former members of the Clinton administration. Obama laughed and then turned to his main opponent.
“Well, Hillary, I’m looking forward to you advising me, as well,” he said to Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
The senator also addressed what he would do during his first year as president. He listed three main priorities: reversing Bush administration policies that he believes violate civil liberties, devising a plan for health care reform and ending the war in Iraq.
“I will call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff and tell them they have a new mission, which is to, in a responsible, careful way, end this war in Iraq, bring our combat troops home,” Obama said. “I will initiate the kind of diplomacy that’s necessary to stabilize the country and the region as we’re pulling out.”
“[Obama] used almost every answer to make his case that real change in politics is only possible if he is the nominee, and to broaden the argument from one about specific issues to one about the tenor and tone of political discourse,” blogged Chris Cillizza of Washingtonpost.com shortly after the debate.
After the debate, Obama was scheduled to attend a town hall meeting in Dubuque with Gayle King, best friend of talk show host Oprah Winfrey. That event will kick off an extended stay in the Hawkeye State, with the campaign planning events around Iowa through Tuesday. Another poll released Wednesday indicated the Democratic race in Iowa remains too close to call.
Rasmussen shows Clinton leading the pack by a slim 3-point margin. She garnered 29 percent of the vote, compared to Obama’s 26 percent and John Edwards’ 22 percent.
The Obama campaign this week also tried to take advantage of some controversial comments made by a Clinton adviser. Bill Shaheen, a national co-chairman of Clinton’s campaign, told the Washington Post he thought general-election voters would be concerned about Obama’s drug use in his youth if he wins the Democratic nomination.
Obama admitted to using marijuana and cocaine in his memoir, “Dreams from My Father.”
“It’ll be, ‘When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?’” Shaheen said in a Washington Post article.
Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe immediately fired back.
“Senator Clinton’s campaign is recycling old news that Barack Obama has been candid about in a book he wrote years ago, and he’s talked about the lessons he’s learned from these mistakes with young people all across the country,” Plouffe said in a statement.
Plouffe also sent an e-mail to supporters asking for donations to help “reject this kind of divisive politics.”
“These remarks crossed a line that should never be crossed in a Democratic primary,” Plouffe wrote. “In fact, even Republicans think it’s beyond the pale. When asked about this very topic recently, one of the GOP presidential front-runners actually commended Barack’s candor and honesty.”
The Clinton campaign quickly disavowed Shaheen’s statements and, in fact, Clinton “personally apologized”: http://thepage.time.com/2007/12/13/another-political-apology/ to Obama before the two left Washington en route to Thursday’s debate.
Hoping to diffuse the story, Shaheen resigned from the Clinton campaign on Thursday.
“I would like to reiterate that I deeply regret my comments yesterday and say again that they were in no way authorized by Senator Clinton or the Clinton campaign,” Shaheen said in a statement.
Finally, Obama picked up a key endorsement on Wednesday in New Hampshire. Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter threw her support behind the senator during a conference call with reporters.
“Watching him — and listening to — and watching how people respond to him, he is, and can really be, our future,” she said.
“With [New Hampshire] Gov. John Lynch staying out of the presidential endorsement game (although his wife, Susan Lynch, recently endorsed Hillary Clinton), Obama now has the backing of several of the state’s most prominent Democratic politicians,” writes Sarah Liebowitz of the Concord Monitor. “In July, the state’s other U.S. representative, Concord Democrat Paul Hodes, signed on to Obama’s campaign. Hodes was also named a national co-chairman.”
With the latest polls showing an increasingly tight race in the Granite State, Shea-Porter’s endorsement came at an opportune time for Obama.