BERLIN, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Democratic presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday called U.S. President George W. Bush’s policy in Iraq incompetent but came under pressure to explain her own vote to authorize the war.
“If you had been so obsessed with doing this, why were you so incompetent in carrying it out?” the New York senator said of Bush on her first political visit in a decade to New Hampshire, the state that helps kick off the White House race.
“I gave him the authority to send inspectors back in to determine the truth. I said this is not a vote to authorize pre-emptive war,” she said in answer to a question from one of about 250 voters crammed into Berlin’s city hall in New Hampshire’s frozen north.
Clinton, an opponent of Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq, has been criticized by some Democrats for being slow to turn against the conflict and for her hesitance to renounce her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq war.
At the start of a two-day weekend swing across the state, Clinton said the United States needed a new diplomatic touch to fight terrorism and deal with the Middle East.
“As president I know I can’t kill, jail or occupy every nation we don’t agree with and I cannot just wish that all the terrorists be wiped off the face of the Earth,” said Clinton, who aims to become the first female U.S. president.
The wife of former U.S. President Bill Clinton is running first among New Hampshire Democratic primary voters with 35 percent support in a University of New Hampshire survey released last week.
Democrat Barack Obama, who launched his 2008 White House run on Saturday with a pledge to end the Iraq war, is second with 21 percent, and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards third with 16 percent, the survey showed.
New Hampshire law requires its primary to be held at least one week before any other primary.