U.S. News

Clinton defends husband's record, sets self apart

HANOVER, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Sen. Hillary Clinton, put on the spot in a U.S. presidential debate on Wednesday over her husband’s White House record, declared she was running on her own and freely disagreed with her spouse.

The Democratic front-runner, who is seeking to become both the first woman and the first president’s wife to win the nation’s highest office in 2008, defended former President Bill Clinton while staking out her own territory.

“I thought Bill was a pretty good president,” the New York senator said, when asked whether political family dynasties are healthy in a democracy. “The values that he acted on, on behalf of our country, both at home and abroad, are ones that stand the test of time.

“But, look, I’m running on my own. I’m going to the people on my own.”

Her comments about the former president were interrupted with applause from the audience. He remains hugely popular among Democrats, and he has proven to be a powerful fundraiser and support-gatherer for his wife’s pioneering political bid.

One area of disagreement was highlighted at the Democratic debate at Dartmouth College when Clinton was asked if she saw any exceptions to the ban on the use of torture.

She said no, and moderator Tim Russert said her husband had suggested the possibilities of exceptions in the past, when the former president was a guest on his “Meet the Press” program.

“He’s not standing here right now,” Clinton said.

“I’ll talk to him later,” she added dryly.

Clinton said she and her husband “started a conversation 36 years ago and it never stopped. What I believe is that it is the ultimate responsibility of a president to seek out a broad cross-section of advisers who will have different points of view and provide different perspectives.

“That’s what I intend to do, and that is certainly what my husband did as well.”

Following the debate, Clinton campaign strategist Mark Penn said, “It was a clear assertion of who’s running for president and the kind of president she’s going to be.”

Additional reporting by Steve Holland