Clinton on the attack

In an escalating war of words, Clinton attacks Obama on experience, character and courage.

By Tim Grieve

Published December 3, 2007 8:26PM (EST)

Declaring that the "fun part" was about to start, Hillary Clinton said Sunday that she was going to "start drawing the contrast" between herself and her Democratic presidential opponents.

She wasn't kidding.

During an appearance in Clear Lake, Iowa, today, Clinton hammered Barack Obama -- not by name, but still -- on everything from the arguments he's making to the experience she says he's lacking.

Clinton said Americans want a "doer," not a "talker," and she made it clear that she thought Obama belongs in the latter category. She referred to him as "someone with little national or international experience, who started running for president as soon as he arrived in the United States Senate." She suggested that he'd need to "learn" to be president "from a book."

Clinton attacked Obama on healthcare. She attacked him on Social Security. She attacked him for attacking her on Iran. "I took a stand for aggressive diplomacy, and one of my opponents made a different choice," Clinton said of her vote on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment. "He didn't show up for the vote. He didn't speak out during a presidential debate that night. And, finally, he decided to play politics and claim that the vote he missed, a vote for diplomacy, was really a vote for war. Well, if he really thought it was a rush to war, why did he rush to campaign and miss the vote?"

Then Clinton attacked Obama on his record as a state legislator, saying that he had repeatedly voted "present" on issues that ought to matter to Democratic voters. "A president can't vote 'present,'" Clinton said. "A president can't pick and choose which challenges he or she will face ... A president can't dodge the big fights, can't find political cover or have words speak louder than actions. A lot of words we have these days aren't matched by action, and much of the actions I see I simply disagree with."

The response -- for now -- from the Obama campaign: "The truth is, Barack Obama doesn't need lectures in political courage from someone who followed George Bush to war in Iraq, gave him the benefit of the doubt on Iran, supported NAFTA and opposed ethanol until she decided to run for president."

Tim Grieve

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

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