Clinton ad poses 'red phone' query

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., makes a campaign stop in Waco, Texas, on Friday.

The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, March 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 29, 2008 at 11:04 p.m.

HOUSTON - A stark new Hillary Rodham Clinton ad portrays her as the leader voters want on the phone when crisis occurs in the middle of the night, "while your children are safe and asleep." Barack Obama retorted that his Democratic rival already had her "red phone moment" and it helped draw the U.S. into a misbegotten war.

In a lightning response, Obama parodied her ad with one of his own - the same ominously ringing phone, the sleeping children, the mood lighting, even the same introduction: "It's 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep.''

The Obama ad intones:

"In a dangerous world, it's judgment that matters.''

His point: When Clinton had her "red phone moment,'' as he put it in a speech earlier in the day, she helped send the U.S. into Iraq, while he stood against the war from the start.

Clinton's foreboding ad, shown in Texas, prompted an immediate denunciation from Obama, who said it's meant to scare people.

Clinton later told a rally, "I don't think Texans scare very easily.

"We have never had a presidential campaign where national security wasn't an issue and we're not about to start now,'' she told more than 500 people. She was flanked by former top military leaders backing her campaign, including retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark.

Obama rolled out testimonials from his own national security supporters that the Illinois senator has the temperament and judgment for perilous times.

The commercials stirred waters heading into the final weekend of the campaign for Ohio and Texas presidential primaries Tuesday that could make or break Clinton's campaign.

The Clinton ad evoked comparisons to Lyndon Johnson's infamous "Daisy ad'' against Barry Goldwater in 1964 - the safety of children in a crisis - but without the mushroom cloud image and alarmist words that prompted that ad to be pulled after one showing, and talked about ever since.

Clinton, a second-term New York senator and former first lady, is casting herself as the candidate with the years of service needed to take command on Inauguration Day.

Obama, a first-term senator, is seeking to chip away at those arguments by suggesting he would have superior judgment.

His Exhibit A: He opposed the Iraq war before it started, while she voted for it, and now wishes she could take that vote back.

To the sound of a ringing phone, the Clinton ad shows children sleeping at night and a mother checking on a child as an announcer says a phone is ringing in the White House and something has happened in the world.

"Your vote will decide who answers that call,'' the voice says. "Whether it's someone who already knows the world's leaders, knows the military - someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world.''

It ends with an image of Clinton on the telephone as the announcer reprises the line, "It's 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep,'' and adds: "Who do you want answering the phone?''

Obama responded that he called it right on the war, "the most important foreign policy decision of our generation, and that's the kind of judgment I'll show when I answer that phone in the White House as president of the United States.''

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