Rivals criticize Clinton’s Iran vote during debate
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) ” Hillary Rodham Clinton accused presidential rival John Edwards of making “outlandish political charges” in portraying her vote against Iran as a pretext for war as the Democratic contenders confronted each other in a debate in Iowa just one month before the state’s leadoff caucuses.
Clinton came under criticism from her rivals, who highlighted her September vote in Tuesday’s debate, which came the day after release of a new intelligence report that says Iran stopped development of a nuclear weapon four years ago.
Edwards said Clinton gave President Bush just what he wanted when she voted to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Clinton said her vote was meant to encourage diplomacy.
“Declaring a military group sponsored by the state of Iran a terrorist organization, that’s supposed to be diplomacy?” Edwards interjected. “This has to be considered in the context that Senator Clinton has said she agrees with George Bush terminology that we’re in a global war on terror, then she voted to declare a military group in Iran a terrorist organization. What possible conclusion can you reach other than we are at war?”
Clinton objected. “You know I understand politics and I understand making outlandish political charges, but this really goes way too far,” said the New York senator, who is locked in a tight three-way race with Edwards and Barack Obama in this first-voting state.
“None of us is advocating a rush to war,” said Clinton, the only Democratic candidate to vote for the resolution.
Joe Biden, a senator from Delaware who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, responded by telling Clinton that “terminology matters.”
“It’s not about not advocating a rush to war,” he said. “I’m advocating no war.”
The seven candidates participating in the debate broadcast on National Public Radio stood together in criticizing Bush’s assertion that “nothing’s changed” despite the new intelligence report. They began their debate at the Iowa State Historical Museum by agreeing that the United States should shift its focus in dealing with Iran to diplomatic engagement.
“President Bush continues to not let facts get in the way of his ideology,” said Illinois Sen. Obama. “They should have stopped the saber rattling, should have never started it. And they need, now, to aggressively move on the diplomatic front.”
Clinton said it’s clear that pressure on Iran has had an effect ” a point disputed by Biden.
“With all due respect with anybody who thinks that pressure brought this about, let’s get this straight. In 2003, they stopped their program,” Biden said.
Unlike previous wide-ranging debates, NPR limited its two-hour exchange to three topics: Iran, China and immigration.
On China, none of the candidates was willing to raise import taxes to make higher-priced U.S. products more competitive with Chinese products. Edwards pledged that none of his children’s Christmas toys would come from China, and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd interjected to up the ante.
“My toys are coming from Iowa,” Dodd said in an appeal to the race’s first voters.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson missed the debate to attend a memorial service for a Korean War soldier whose remains he brought home from North Korea in April.
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