Clinton questions Obama's Democratic credentials

During a fiery, populist address before an estimated crowd of more than 2000 at Rhode Island College this afternoon, Hillary Clinton laced into Barack Obama's health-care plan. Describing it as a faulty partial solution, she questioned whether Franklin D. Roosevelt would have gone just part of the way with Social Security, or Lyndon B. Johnson with Medicare. "We're Democrats," she thundered. "We stand for the principle of [universal health-care]." Clinton panned Obama's health-care plan as weaker than John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich's, and a recipe for little change from the status quo.

The implication was that Obama isn't ready for the presidency, a theme that Clinton reiterated at other points in her address. Noting events of the last week -- the election in Pakistan, change in Cuba, independence in Kosovo, and the attack on the US Embassy in Belgrade -- she said experienced leadership is needed in the White House.

Clinton tried to reposition herself as the candidate of change, asserting that there is no contradiction between change and experience. She unloaded on President Bush and vowed to press for a rapid withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Considering her comments, you'd never have known that she voted in favor of authorizing the war.

The senator from New York succeeding in presenting a raft of policy pronouncements while coming across with a warm personality. Conceding that delivering change in Washington will be very difficult, Clinton said she was under no illusion -- in a dig against her opponent -- that if she wins election, "the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing." 

While press accounts, like one in today's New York Times, talk about the possible demise of the Clinton campaign, Hillary gave no quarter before this adoring audience, which included unionists like Mike Downey and Scott Duhamel and a cross-section of age groups. Conspicuously absent were black Rhode Islanders.

Introduced by US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and US Representative Jim Langevin, Clinton bounded onto a stage about 45 minutes after her scheduled start time, backed up on the podium by a chorus of supporters, including state Representative Grace Diaz, state Senator Juan Pichardo, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts, Treasurer Frank Caprio, and Secretary of State Ralph Mollis.

Clinton and other speakers sought to capitalize on the notion of a special relationship between Rhode Island the Clintons. "I can't do this without your help," Hillary implored. On March 4, "Rhode Island is right up there with Ohio and Texas in terms of being important."

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