No Knockouts (Yet)
Hillary Clinton on Tuesday unleashed a verbal tongue lashing of her chief rival, calling Barack Obama "naive" on foreign policy and sparking a sharp-edged response from Obama. The terse exchange of words has become a staple of the presidential campaign this year--Mitt Romney called out John McCain on immigration and got slapped back with a dig at his hunting skills. Democrat John Edwards called Bush's war policy "a bumper sticker" and was lectured by the GOP's Rudy Giuliani.
What's missing, so far, are the all-out battles between candidates, fueled not only by campaign memos but also by television ads, direct mail and telephone calls to voters. Instead, the candidates for now are mostly acting like big cats in the wild, warily circling each other and occasionally taking a swipe or two. What hasn't happened yet--on either side--is the big pounce.
But the first skirmishes give a hint of the bareknuckles attacks to come. Here are highlights from the early engagements:
* Foreign Leaders Faux Pas: After Obama said during Monday's debate that he would meet with any foreign leader, Clinton called him "irresponsible" and "naive." Obama's response: Clinton was creating a
* The Geffen Affair: When the Hollywood mogul and former Clinton supporter made critical remarks about her, the Clinton camp egged Obama's team into a war of words that left Obama's promise of a new kind of politics a bit tattered. "I would have thought that a campaign trying to change our politics would have disavowed those comments and moved on," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said.
McCain v. Romney
* You Say Immigration, I Say Flip-Flop: Romney offered his first direct challenge to McCain during the second debate, saying the immigration reform bill McCain supported "would do to immigration what McCain-Feingold has done to campaign finance and money in politics, and that's bad." McCain snapped back with a not-so veiled jab at Romney's reputation for flip flopping: "I haven't changed my position on even-numbered years or have changed because of the different offices that I may be running for."
* Varmint Venom: It wasn't long before the two were at it again, and this time McCain started it, accusing Romney of not having a plan for immigration reform and saying he he should "get out his small-varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn." Romney's camp responded icily that McCain "cannot even muster up a substantive argument in favor of [immigration reform]."
Brownback v. Romney
* The Mormon Missive: Brownback's aides sent out an email asserting that "the LDS Jesus is not the same Jesus of the Christian faith." Romney said the attack had "no place" in American politics, and Brownback promptly apologized.
Edwards v. Giuliani:
* Bumper Sticker Bumping: After John Edwards declared President Bush's war on terror a "bumper sticker" policy, Giuliani said Edwards was in denial. Edwards shot back that Giuliani "will give you four more years of what this president has given you."
Giuliani v. Ron Paul
* Blowback Blowup: When Ron Paul suggested that Islamic terrorism was motivated by American actions--a concept called "blowback"--Giuliani accused him of blaming the U.S. for 9/11. "That's really an extraordinary statement," the former mayor of New York said. Later, Paul "assigned" Giuliani a reading list of foreign policy books
and said "I don't think he's qualified to be president."
-- Michael D. Shear
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