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From Clinton, Fresh Questions for the President - and Obama

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at a campaign event titled "Solutions for a Strong Military," April 9, 2008, at Hopewell High School in Aliquippa, Pa. From left are, retired Navy Rear Adm. David Stone; Clinton; retired Army Brig. Gen. John M. Watkins Jr.; Army Spc. Thomas Giza. (Associated Press)

Updated 2:43 p.m.
By Anne E. Kornblut
ALIQUIPPA, Pa. -- On the heels of congressional appearances by the top U.S. leaders in Iraq, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton took the war back to the campaign trail on Wednesday, challenging President Bush to answer questions she said were dodged during testimony.

"I asked General Petraeus for the conditions under which he would actually support a change of course in Iraq and to begin a drawdown of our troops, given that the surge has failed to achieve its stated goal of political reconciliation among the Iraqis," Clinton said. "Well, he didn't really answer me."

She echoed concerns from other Democrats that Petraeus had essentially said that U.S. troops will remain in place whether there is continued violence or a fresh peace.

But Clinton, locked in an uphill battle for the Democratic nomination, also sought to distinguish herself from Sen. Barack Obama -- arguing that he cannot be trusted to implement the exit plan he has proposed during the campaign.

"We need to be planning and preparing to start bringing our troops home, and I have committed to doing that within 60 days of my becoming president," she said. "Senator Obama, on the other hand, says he'll end the war, but his top foreign policy adviser said he won't necessarily follow the plan he's been talking about during this campaign. That the plan is 'just words.' Well, you can count on me to end the war safely and responsibly."

The Obama campaign has for weeks distanced itself from Samantha Power, who had said in a BBC interview earlier in the campaign that Obama's exit plans were a "best-case scenario" before she was ousted from her advisory role.

"Hillary Clinton's tired and discredited attack is just the same old politics that won't end this war that she voted to authorize, and won't change the fact that she has repeatedly misled the American people about her Iraq record," retorted Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan Wednesday afternoon. "We're happy to have a debate with Hillary Clinton over who the American people trust to end this war, since Barack Obama is the only candidate who had the judgment to oppose the war from the very beginning, not just from the beginning of a campaign for President."

Clinton, in a third swipe, reiterated the Democratic case that Sen. John McCain would consider keeping U.S. troops in Iraq for a century.

But in her appearance outside Pittsburgh, Clinton seemed to be fighting to remain relevant, as Obama and McCain engage increasingly in a two-way debate over Iraq. McCain is the presumptive Republican nominee, and Obama has a lead in pledged delegates to the Democratic convention, an advantage that will be difficult for Clinton to overcome in the contests ahead.

McCain did not even acknowledge Clinton in some of the remarks he made after the Petraeus testimony. Appearing on Fox News, McCain called on Obama to repudiate comments from a liberal radio host, Ed Schultz, describing the Arizona senator as a "warmonger."

"If Senator Obama is going to wage the kind of campaign that he says he is, I hope that he will, he personally, will repudiate that kind of language," McCain said, without mentioning the senator from New York.

Among Clinton's hopes for recovery is Pennsylvania, which holds a primary on April 22 -- and that is where Clinton appeared on Wednesday morning. She sat with a group of retired military officers onstage at a high school gym, not far from the border of Ohio, where Clinton had her last big victory. In her appearance here, she spoke in front of a new banner -- "SOLUTIONS FOR A STRONG MILITARY" -- and took a handful of questions. She later held a press availability before flying to New York for an event with Irish Americans, followed by a sold-out fundraiser at night featuring Elton John.

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 9, 2008; 12:20 PM ET
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