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U.S. News

Obama, Clinton exchange fresh blows

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a flap that has shifted the Democratic 2008 presidential race to a more negative tone, Barack Obama on Friday said Hillary Clinton was showing bad judgment for refusing to consider a dramatic change in U.S. foreign policy.

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks as U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) listens during the Democratic presidential candidates' CNN/YouTube debate in Charleston, South Carolina on the campus of The Citadel, July 23, 2007. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Visiting the early voting state of Iowa, Obama kept up the attack on Clinton in a dispute that has lasted all week over whether the next president to be elected in November 2008 should be prepared to meet leaders of hostile nations like Iran, Cuba, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela.

Clinton, leading in the Democratic contest, considers the first-term senator from Illinois naive for saying he would be willing to meet the troublesome leaders, while Obama thinks Clinton is sticking to the foreign policy status quo of the much-criticized Bush administration.

“So often in Washington, experience means doing what we’ve been doing over and over and over again. Well, to me that’s not experience if what you’re doing isn’t working,” Obama told a crowd on a farm in Adel, a field of corn behind him.

“It’s bad judgment and if you want to show good judgment, then you’ve got to be open to changing the way we do things in order to get different outcomes,” he said.

Clinton, a two-term senator from New York and former first lady, did not back down from her belief that any meetings with the leaders should be preceded by lower-level diplomacy to make sure there is a reason for the leaders to meet.

But at a campaign event in West Virginia, she stressed that her diplomacy would be more expansive than that of the Bush White House, saying “we will get back to working with other countries.”

‘COMMON GROUND’

“I want to make it absolutely clear that I will be sending high-level presidential envoys, including my husband, all over the world, to send a message to not only leaders but countries, ‘We are back and we want to be working to find common interests and common ground with all of you,’” she said.

The Obama camp, looking for an opening to use the feud to cut into Clinton’s lead in the polls, put up an advertisement on news sites on Friday in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The ad criticizes Clinton for her initial vote in support of the Iraq war and asks the question, “Ready for a New Direction?”

The Clinton camp placed comments from her and Obama on her web site, HillaryHub.com, and provided a link to an opinion article written by conservative Charles Krauthammer that described “how the grizzled veteran showed up the clueless rookie.”

The Clinton camp also cited the episode in a letter seeking campaign contributions. It was e-mailed to supporters.

Former Sen. John Edwards, in third place in the polls behind Clinton and Obama to become the Democratic presidential nominee, tried to take the high road, saying the Clinton-Obama feud was an example of “what’s wrong in Washington.”

“We’ve had two good people, Democratic candidates for president, who’ve spent their time attacking each other instead of attacking the problems facing our country,” Edwards, the party’s 2004 vice presidential candidate, told the Urban League annual conference in St. Louis.

Another Democratic candidate, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, called the conflict “just another personal argument among politicians, and that’s lamentable given the stakes in this election.”

Still another Democratic candidate, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has done his share of international diplomacy as a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said he did not see what all the fuss was about.

“You know, I’ve actually met a lot of these guys already -- I’ve met (Cuban leader Fidel) Castro, I’ve met (Venezuelan President Hugo) Chavez,” he told The Washington Post.

Additional reporting by Kay Henderson

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