Sen. Clinton turns up the heat with anti-Bush jabs


U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., delivers a policy address Wednesday at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J.

The Associated Press
Published: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 11:35 p.m.
Hillary Rodham Clinton has come out swinging.
Up until recently, the New York senator has been under fire from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party for refusing to join the call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and for her finely modulated criticism of President Bush. But there is a new tough-talking Clinton these days.
At a Harlem church on Martin Luther King Day, she said that Bush's presidency would "go down in history as one of the worst" and that the GOP-controlled House "has been run like a plantation."
In a post-New Year's Day thank-you note to donors, Clinton assured them she would fight for "an end to cronyism, incompetence and cover-ups."
And during a foreign policy address Wednesday at Princeton University, she accused the Bush administration of "downplaying" the threat posed by Iran and its nuclear program.
The Harlem speech drew a rebuke from the White House, where spokesman Scott McClellan declared her remarks "out of bounds." On her way home from Africa, first lady Laura Bush called her predecessor's plantation remark "ridiculous." Even former Clinton White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers called Clinton's choice of words "unfortunate."
Clinton's language is not much sharper than what other Democrats are saying as the mid-term elections approach. But her words are amplified because of her status as the Democrats' leading contender for the 2008 presidential nomination.
One Democratic strategist suggested she is probably trying to show she is tough enough to move to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
"Presidents of the United States don't allow themselves to be pushed around," said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based consultant.
A potential Republican challenger to her Senate re-election bid this year, former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, said there is also another agenda at work, given the powerful influence of liberals in the Democratic presidential nominating process.
"She's trying to appease the far left, keeping an eye on her national ambitions," Spencer said, adding that she is also working hard to portray herself as a moderate for the New York Senate race and for a possible national election. "It's Clintonesque - trying to be all things to all people."
Clinton campaign adviser Ann Lewis said any change in tone "reflects the change in current events," starting with the much-criticized federal response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster and including the indictment of Tom DeLay, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and the exposure of the administration's electronic eavesdropping program.
A Clinton fundraising letter from October was tame in comparison to her recent writings. The harshest language: "I can't remember a time when our government has been more out of touch with the concerns of most Americans."
Sheinkopf, who worked on Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign but is not part of the senator's political team, said talking tough is important for Democratic presidential candidates in general, and for Sen. Clinton in particular.
"We live in a very dangerous world. The president has to be able to deal with that, and that means being tough when you have to be," he said. But he added: "The problem here is, as a woman, she can't be shrill. If she's shrill, she loses the whole impact of it. So, being firm is what she's doing, and that works for her."
Republicans, though, see her stingers as a return to the politics of her husband and his allies.
"It's more of the scare tactics, negative attacks that we've become accustomed to from the Clinton campaigns over the years," said Ryan Moses, executive director of New York's Republican Party.
Spencer said: "She's kind of morphed into Al Gore - ranting and raving." He called on her to apologize on the Senate floor for her "plantation" remark, calling it "race baiting."

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