Clinton, Obama hold bitter debate


Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., listens as Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks during a Democratic presidential debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Monday.

The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 21, 2008 at 11:03 p.m.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama accused each other of repeatedly and deliberately distorting the truth for political gain Monday night in a highly personal, finger-wagging debate that ranged from the war in Iraq to Bill Clinton's role in the campaign.

Obama told the former first lady he was helping unemployed workers on the streets of Chicago when "you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart.''

Moments later, Clinton said that she was fighting against misguided Republican policies "when you were practicing law and representing your contributor ... in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago.''

Obama seemed particularly irritated at the former president, whom he accused in absentia of uttering a series of distortions to aid his wife's presidential effort.

"I'm here. He's not,'' she snapped.

"Well, I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes,'' Obama countered.

The two rivals, joined by former Sen. John Edwards, debated at close quarters five days before the South Carolina primary.

Obama suggested the Clintons were both practicing the kind of political tactics that had alienated voters.

"There was a set of assertions made by Senator Clinton as well as her husband that are not factually accurate,'' Obama said. "I think that part of what people are looking for right now is someone who is going to solve problems and not resort to the same typical politics that we've seen in Washington.''

Clinton countered: "I believe your record and what you say should matter.''

Edwards, who badly trails his two rivals, tried to stay above the fray while pleading for equal time.

"Are there three people in this debate, not two?'' he asked.

Hillary Clinton, who was close with the Walton family, served on the Wal-Mart board from 1986 to 1992. In 2006, her Senate campaign returned $5,000 to the company's political action committee while citing differences with company policies.

Chicago real estate developer and fast food magnate Antoin "Tony'' Rezko was a longtime fundraiser for Obama. Prosecutors have charged him with fraud, attempted extortion and money laundering in what they allege was a scheme to get campaign money and payoffs from firms seeking to do business before two state boards.

Obama's campaign said Saturday it was giving to charities more than $40,000 from donors linked to Rezko.

Obama and Clinton bitterly complained about each other's legislative records. Obama questioned why the New York senator had voted for a bankruptcy bill that she later said she was glad hadn't passed, and Clinton criticized Obama for voting "present'' on dozens of occasions while a member of the Illinois legislature.

"Senator Obama, it's hard to have a straight up debate with you because you never take responsibility for any vote,'' Clinton said to loud boos.

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