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Clinton ad criticized for attack on Obama

January 24, 2008|From the Washington Post

DILLON, S.C. — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign aired a new radio ad in South Carolina on Wednesday that repeated a discredited charge against Sen. Barack Obama in what some Democrats said was part of an increasing pattern of hardball politics by her and former President Clinton.

The ad takes one line from an Obama interview -- "The Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10, 15 years" -- and juxtaposes it with GOP policies that Obama has never advocated.

"Really?" a voice over says. "Aren't those the ideas that got us into the economic mess we're in today? Ideas like special tax breaks for Wall Street. Running up a $9-trillion debt. Refusing to raise the minimum wage or deal with the housing crisis. Are those the ideas Barack Obama's talking about?"

The Clinton campaign argued that it was simply quoting Obama.

But in the original context, Obama was describing the dominance of GOP ideas in the 1980s and 1990s, without saying that he supported them. He asserted that those ideas were of no use today.

The ad marked the escalation of a bitter fight between the two Democratic front-runners that has taken on a new dimension because of the involvement of Bill Clinton, the titular leader of the party.

The former president has made daily appearances in South Carolina while his wife campaigns elsewhere, and he has adopted the role of attacking his wife's opponent the way a vice presidential candidate would in a general election.

Responding to the ad aired by the Clinton campaign, Dick Harpootlian, former chairman of South Carolina's Democratic Party, accused the Clintons of using the "politics of deception," and compared the former president to Lee Atwater, the GOP operative from South Carolina who was known for his tough tactics.

In response, Bill Clinton said Harpootlian's comments were a distraction, and he accused the Obama campaign of funneling negative smears through a compliant media.

"They just spin you up on this and you happily go along," Clinton told a CNN reporter.

In Washington, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the judiciary committee chairman who endorsed Obama last week, castigated the former president for "glib cheap shots" at Obama. He called on both sides to settle down.

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