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Clinton, Obama and the Experience Question

Obama in Fort Dodge, Iowa on Monday (AP.)

In speeches in Iowa today, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama debated over the same word: experience.

While giving a speech in Knoxville, Iowa about problems in the housing market, Clinton said, "More than ever before, our workers will need good job training for the jobs of this new century. But we can't afford on-the-job training for our next president. That could be the costliest job training in history."

Meanwhile in Clarion, Iowa, Obama, asked if he had the foreign policy experience to be president, cited his time living abroad.

"I spent four years living overseas when I was a child living in Southeast Asia," said Obama, who was born in Hawaii and spent four years in Indonesia. "My father is from Kenya. That's where I got my name. He's passed away now, but I still have family."

"A lot of my knowledge about foreign affairs is not what I just studied in school. It's actually having the knowledge of how ordinary people in these other countries live."

Clinton, without naming Obama, also continued to blast him for proposing to the lift the cap on the taxing of Social Security benefits, which are currently taxed at 6 percent, but only on the first $97,000 of a person's income.

"We don't need more Republican scare tactics about a 'Social Security crisis,'" Clinton said. "And we don't need a trillion-dollar tax increase that will hit families already facing higher energy, health care and college costs. What we need is to focus on the real crises of health care and Medicare, and on expanding opportunities for poor, working and middle class families who are struggling now."

Obama was asked about Clinton's comments on the housing market and the discussion of her experience at a town hall meeting later in the day. "My understanding is she wasn't Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. I don't know exactly what experience she's claiming," Obama said. "Rather than just assert experience, if she has specific differences with me in regard to economic policy then let's have that debate."

Clinton and Obama did argue about Social Security benefits in the last presidential debate, with Clinton saying lifting the cap would affect middle class earners, while Obama noting that only a small percentage of Americans earn more than $97,000. Obama has been criticizing Clinton for not offering a detailed proposal on Social Security, which she argues has been overstated as a crisis.

In her speech today, Clinton called for increasing funding at the Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist state programs for at-risk borrowers and convening a "crisis conference" for different groups to discuss the mortgage industry's problems. In his remarks, Obama proposed a refundable tax credit of $4,000 for paying college tuition, which he said would make it community-college attendance free for most Americans.

--Perry Bacon Jr.

By Washington Post editors  |  November 19, 2007; 4:20 PM ET
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