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Clinton Avoids 'Bitter' Talk at Newspaper Conference

Hillary Clinton delivers a speech and answers questions from journalists at the Newspaper Association of America's Annual Conference in Washington D.C. April 15, 2008. (Melina Mara / The Washington Post)

By Shailagh Murray
"Bitter" got a breather when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed a newspaper conference this afternoon.

During the hour-long session, Clinton never took a shot at
Sen. Barack Obama over comments about small-town America that she has decried as "elitist" and "out of touch" on multiple occasions over the past five days. Obama addressed the same group yesterday, and suggested Clinton was abetting the Republican cause by attacking him so aggressively. But Clinton opted to ignore the controversy in her 30-minute opening statement, and when a newspaper editor brought up the issue during the question and answer session, the New York senator didn't take the bait.

The editor, Margaret Sullivan of the Buffalo News, asked Clinton about a promise she had made to upstate New York residents during her 2000 Senate campaign to bring 200,000 jobs to the region. It was the sort of unrealized commitment that Obama ridiculed in his San Francisco comments, to explain why small-town Rust Belt residents are "bitter" about politics and "cling" to forces like religion and guns.

"You have admitted, in hindsight, that you may have been -- quoting -- 'a little exuberant' with those numbers," Sullivan said. "More realistically, then, how would you improve the economic conditions of suffering Americans?"

Clinton responded, "Well, you know, Margaret, when I was campaigning for the Senate in 2000, I had every hope that Al Gore would be the president, and that we would build on the economic successes of the '90s." Then she listed a menu of corporate tax changes and energy and infrastructure investments that Clinton said would steer jobs to troubled regions.

She never uttered buzzwords like "bitter," "cling," "religion," or "guns," although she had plenty to say about Iran, the First Amendment, stem-cell research, and education. Clinton thanked the "hard-working reporters and editors" who had covered her campaign, and her one joke was self-deprecating:

"I want to thank newspaper publishers collectively for one of my favorite headlines of all time, which has given me great strength and encouragement over the last months, 'Dewey Beats Truman.'"

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 15, 2008; 4:36 PM ET
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