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Clinton To Bush: Clean Up Your Mess
CBS News/AP
January 29, 2007

(CBS/AP) Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that President Bush has made a mess of Iraq and it is his responsibility to "extricate" the United States from the situation before he leaves office.

It would be "the height of irresponsibility" to pass the war along to the next commander in chief, she said.

"This was his decision to go to war with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy," the Democratic senator from New York said in her initial campaign swing through the early-bird caucus state of Iowa.

"We expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office" in January 2009, the former first lady said.

The White House condemned Clinton's comments as a partisan attack that undermines U.S. soldiers.

About 130,000 American troops are in Iraq and Mr. Bush has announced he was sending 21,500 more as part of his new war strategy.

Clinton held a town hall-style forum attended by about 300 activists, giving a brief speech before taking questions for nearly an hour. Pressed to defend her vote to authorize force in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, Clinton responded by stepping up her criticism of President Bush.

"I am going to level with you, the president has said this is going to be left to his successor," Clinton said. "I think it is the height of irresponsibility and I really resent it."

Mr. Bush describes Iraq as the central front in the global fight against terrorism that began after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "The war on terror will be a problem for the next president. Presidents after me will be confronting ... an enemy that would like to strike the United States again," he recently told USA Today.

One questioner asked Clinton if her track record showed she could stand up to "evil men" around the world.

"The question is, we face a lot of dangers in the world and, in the gentleman's words, we face a lot of evil men and what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men," Clinton said. She paused to gaze while the audience interrupted with about 30 seconds of laughter and applause.

"I assume she was referring to Bill Clinton," Democratic campaign consultant told CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger. "I think alot of people in that audience assumed that too. But she did it in a playful way and it worked, I think."

Meeting later with reporters, she was pressed repeatedly to explain what she meant. She insisted it was a simple joke.

"I thought I was funny," Clinton said. "You guys keep telling me to lighten up, be funny. I get a little funny and now I'm being psychoanalyzed."

She told reporters that evil men included al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who remains at large. "Isn't it about time we get serious about that?" she said.

The Politico.com's Ben Smith said Clinton was well received on her first trip to Iowa.

"People were surprised. She has this great advantage, people expect her to be a diva," said Smith. "But she's very good at these settings. She's very human. She talks a lot about being a woman and at the same time is hard on the Bush administration."

CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports Clinton is polling well behind John Edwards in Iowa in a field that now includes nine Democrats. It is even more crowded on the other side. In a surprise announcement, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Sunday became the tenth Republican to join the race.

Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani, one of the early GOP favorites, took a "pre-announcement" fund-raising trip to the other small state with a big say – New Hampshire.

He told supporters this race is about bridging the political divide.

"It is not just about ideologies or political parties, it's about who can do it better for our city, our state and our country," Giuliani told GOP activists in Manchester.

The Politico's Jonathan Martin said Giuliani received "a very positive response. Mayor Giuliani still retains the positive glow from 9/11. He was a celebrity candidate and people flock to him. He still has that sort of star power that brings a lot of folks out to see him at events."

© MMVII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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