Polito.com – Kenneth P. Vogel – February 23, 2008
CINCINNATI — Hillary Rodham Clinton ripped Barack Obama Saturday for mailings his campaign is sending to Ohio voters that Clinton said distorted her record on NAFTA and universal health care.
“Shame on you, Barack Obama,” Clinton said angrily when talking to reporters after a rally in a technical college gym here. “It is time you ran a campaign consistent with your messages in public. That’s what I expect from you,” she said, calling on Obama to repudiate and stop the mailings, which she waved demonstratively.
“Meet me in Ohio. Let’s have a debate about your tactics,” she said, calling the mailings “tactics that are right out of Karl Rove’s playbook.”
Her comments about the mailings, coupled with her comparison of Obama and President Bush during the preceding rally, were far sharper than any she has made lately about her opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination.
It’s unclear whether Saturday’s attacks portended a shift to a more negative strategy as the campaign hurtles toward March 4 contests in Ohio and Texas, where Clinton needs big wins to reverse her slide. Obama has won 11 straight contests after the Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, contests. (Rhode Island and Vermont also hold contests Tuesday.)
The comments seemed to signal that Clinton is not resigned to defeat, as some had inferred from her comments at the end of Thursday’s televised debate in Austin, Texas, in which she said “whatever happens” in the election, she and Obama are “going to be fine.”
Clinton said Saturday that she received the mailings, both of which were paid for by the Obama campaign, from a supporter she met in the rope line after the rally at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.
During her next speech, at a high school in Huber Heights, Ohio, Clinton again blistered Obama over the mailings. Holding them up, she asked the crowd of more than 1,000 people how many had received them. Many in the crowd reacted with puzzlement and relatively few people raised their hands.
One flier alleges Clinton’s plan for universal health care “forces everyone to buy health insurance, even if you can’t afford it,” while the other says she “believed NAFTA was ‘a boon’ to our economy.”
Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton defended both mailings, calling them “completely accurate” in a statement. He added, “We look forward to having a debate this Tuesday on the facts,” which he said back the mailers’ claims.
The candidates’ health care plans have been a flash point in their race, and they sparred politely over them at a Thursday debate.
But Saturday, Clinton said Obama’s mailer on the subject is “not only wrong, but it is undermining core Democratic principles.”
The mailing, which pictures a young couple huddling at their kitchen table leafing through brochures and paperwork, touts Obama’s plan as “health care we can afford. Change we can believe in.”
She said, “It is exactly the talking points that the health insurance industry and the Republicans use on a daily basis.”
On the NAFTA mailing, which features a photo of a “closed” sign on padlocked metal gate, Clinton said that Newsday, the New York newspaper to which the “boon” quote is attributed, “corrected the record.
“We have pointed it out. The newspaper has pointed it out,” Clinton said.
In fact, the Long Island-based newspaper did not quote Clinton as saying “boon” but rather paraphrased her comments that way in a chart that compared her stances on a variety of issues with those of her challenger in the 2006 Senate primary election.
Still, Newsday did not issue a correction and, in recently revisiting the issue, it pointed out that Clinton did not contact the paper to question the item after it appeared.
The paper did concede, however, that “Obama’s use of the citation in this way does strike us as misleading. The quote marks make it look as if Hillary said ‘boon,’ not us. It’s an example of the kind of slim reeds campaigns use to try to win an office. That said, we should have been clearer.”
In her rally speech, Clinton touted her own experience and obliquely compared Obama’s to Bush’s when he first ran for president in 2000.
She said Bush “promised change as a compassionate conservative, and the American people got shafted and we’re going to have to make up for it,” she said. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Obama’s campaign did respond to that attack, pointing out that a Clinton campaign spokesman last year called it “the worst kind of tactical political maneuvering” for one Democrat to compare another to Bush.