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The Passport Primary

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton mocked Sen. Barack Obama's statement yesterday that living abroad as a child had given him valuable insights about foreign policy -- and drew rebukes from Obama as well as former Sen. John Edwards' campaign.

Clinton in Beijing in 1995 (Reuters)

In remarks after an event today in Shenandoah, Iowa, circulated by the Clinton campaign as "New HRC Comments on Experience," Clinton was quoted as saying, "I have traveled the world on behalf of our country - first in the White House with my husband and now as a Senator. I've met with countless world leaders and know many of them personally. I went to Beijing in 1995 and stood up to the Chinese government on human rights and women's rights. I have fought for our men and women in uniform to make sure they have the equipment they need in battle and are treated with dignity when they return home."

She continued, "I believe I have the right kind of experience to be the next President. With a war and a tough economy, we need a President ready on Day One to bring our troops home from Iraq and to handle all of our other tough challenges."

But then came this zinger, directed at Obama: "Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next President will face. I think we need a President with more experience than that. Someone the rest of the world knows, looks up to, and has confidence in. I don't think this is the time for on the job training on our economy or on foreign policy."

"I offer my credentials, my experience, and qualifications which I think uniquely equip me to be prepared to hit the ground running on Day One."

Clinton also counted her years in the partisan trenches. "And I offer the experience of being battle tested in the political wars here at home. For 15 years, I have been the object of the Republican attack machine and I'm still here," she said.

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

"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."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton responded within minutes to Clinton's critique:

"Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld have spent time in the White House and travelled to many countries as well, but along with Hillary Clinton they led us into the worst foreign policy disaster in a generation and are now giving George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran. The real choice in this election is between conventional Washington thinking that prizes posture and positioning, or real change that puts judgment and honesty first," said Burton.

Edwards spokesman Chris Kofinis also weighed in with this statement:

"mudslinging" (also mud-slinging)noun informal -- the use of insults and accusations, esp. unjust ones, with the aim of damaging the reputation of an opponent. As in: Hillary Clinton said about Barack Obama, 'Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next president will face.'

"Now we know what Senator Clinton meant when she talked about 'throwing mud' in the last debate," said Kofinis. "Like so many other things, when it comes to mud, Hillary Clinton says one thing and throws another."

--Shailagh Murray

By Washington Post editors  |  November 20, 2007; 4:05 PM ET
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