Is Obama qualified? Don't ask Hillary

She says she has no opinion one way or the other.

Published January 23, 2007 4:10PM (EST)

When Hillary Clinton entered the presidential race over the weekend, Barack Obama responded with a statement in which he said that she is a "good friend and a colleague whom I greatly respect" and an ally in the work of "getting our country back on track."

How does Clinton feel about Obama?

ABC's Charlie Gibson asked Clinton last night whether she thinks Obama is qualified to be president. "Well," she said, "he's a terrific guy and we're going to have a great group of talented competitors in this contest, and I'm looking forward to everybody putting out their qualifications and letting the voters decide."

Gibson told Clinton her answer was "something of a dodge" and then put the question to her again: "In your mind, is he qualified to be president?" "You know Charlie, this is such an intensely personal decision that voters make," Clinton said. "We're all going to get out there, we're going to say what we believe in, put our experience out there before the voters. And that is what is so great about our system, all of the people watching you tonight are going to make that decision -- about me and everybody."

This morning on "Good Morning America," Diane Sawyer tried once again to get Clinton to answer the question. Even having had the night to think about it, the senator from New York decided to punt again.

"Well, you know, Diane," she said, "we have a terrific, talented group of people running for the nomination on our side, and he certainly is one of them and has a lot to contribute to this campaign. But at the end of the day, because I have been around so much, and I have watched how voters weigh how serious a decision it is to decide who will be president and commander-in-chief, I think it is for the voters to determine, and that's what the campaign will be about. The campaign will test us all. The campaign will come at us in unexpected ways. And how people respond and what they have to say and what their values are all will come out in the campaign."

Sawyer broke in: By declining to comment on whether Obama is qualified, did Clinton mean to imply that she had doubts? "I have no opinion one way or the other," she said -- then added that she herself has "a bit of an inside track in understanding" the job that the next president will face.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Hillary Rodham Clinton War Room