Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama accused each other of repeatedly and deliberately distorting the truth for political gain Monday night in a highly personal, finger-wagging debate that ranged from the war in Iraq to Bill Clinton’s role in the campaign.

Obama told the former first lady he was helping unemployed workers on the streets of Chicago when “you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart.”

Moments later, Clinton said that she was fighting against misguided Republican policies “when you were practicing law and representing your contributor … in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago.”

Obama seemed particularly irritated at the former president, whom he accused in absentia of uttering a series of distortions to aid his wife’s presidential effort.

“I’m here. He’s not,” she snapped.

“Well, I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes,” Obama countered.

The two rivals, joined by former Sen. John Edwards, debated at close quarters five days before the South Carolina primary — and 15 days before the equivalent of a nationwide primary across 20 states that will go a long way toward settling the battle for the party’s nomination.

Hillary Clinton was the national front-runner for months in the race, but Obama won the kickoff Iowa caucuses three weeks ago, knocking her off-stride. She recovered quickly, winning the New Hampshire primary in an upset, and on Saturday, won the popular vote in the Nevada caucuses while Obama won one more delegate than she.

The Democratic electorate in South Carolina is expected to be roughly 50 percent black, an evident advantage for Obama in a historic race that matches a black man against a woman.

Even in the superheated atmosphere of the primary, the statements and exchanges between Clinton and Obama were unusually acrimonious. The debate came as the two campaigns continued to complain about dirty politics and disenfranchisement of voters in last Saturday’s Nevada caucuses.

Obama suggested the Clintons were both practicing the kind of political tactics that had alienated voters.

“There’s a set of assertions made by Senator Clinton as well as her husband that are not factually accurate,” Obama said. “I think that part of what the people are looking for right now is somebody who’s going to solve problems and not resort to the same typical politics that we’ve seen in Washington.”

Clinton countered: “I do think that your record and what you say does matter.”

Edwards, who badly trails his two rivals, tried to stay above the fray while pleading for equal time.

“Are there three people in this debate, not two?” he asked.

“We have got to understand, this is not about us personally. It is about what we are trying to do for this country,” Edwards said to applause from the audience.

Hillary Clinton, who was close with the Walton family, served on the Wal-Mart board from 1986 to 1992. In 2006, her Senate campaign returned $5,000 to the company’s political action committee while citing differences with company policies.

A blind trust held by Clinton and her husband, the former president, included stock holdings in Wal-Mart. They liquidated the contents of the blind trust in 2007 because of investments that could pose conflicts of interest or prove embarrassing as she ran for president.

Chicago real estate developer and fast food magnate Antoin “Tony” Rezko was a longtime fundraiser for Obama. Prosecutors have charged him with fraud, attempted extortion and money laundering in what they allege was a scheme to get campaign money and payoffs from firms seeking to do business before two state boards.

Obama’s campaign said Saturday it was giving to charities more than $40,000 from donors linked to Rezko. In 2006, when charges against Rezko were made public, Obama gave $11,500 in Rezko contributions to charities.

Often speaking over each other, Obama and Clinton bitterly complained about each other’s legislative records. Obama questioned why the New York senator had voted for a bankruptcy bill that she later said she was glad hadn’t passed, and Clinton criticized Obama for voting “present” on dozens of occasions while a member of the Illinois legislature.

“Senator Obama, it is very difficult to have a straight-up debate with you because you never take responsibility for any vote,” Clinton said to loud boos.

Obama accused Clinton of playing loose with the facts and saying anything to get elected, while Edwards joined Clinton in criticizing Obama for the “present” votes.

“Why would you over 100 times vote present?” Edwards pointedly challenged Obama. “What if I had just not shown up to vote on things that really mattered to this country? It would have been safe for me politically. It would have been the careful and cautious thing to do, but I have a responsibility to take a position even when it has political consequences for me.”

Obama said most of his present votes didn’t have political consequences but were because of technical or legal concerns.

“Don’t question, John, the fact that on issue after issue that is important to the American people, I haven’t simply followed, I have lead,” Obama said.

“Present” votes are common in the Illinois legislature, and they have the same impact as a “no” vote. Legislators use them for a variety of reasons, from registering doubts about a measure’s legality to avoiding a firm position.

Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn, an influential leader in South Carolina, suggested on Monday that Bill Clinton tone down his rhetoric. Questioned about it, Hillary Clinton said her husband was “a tremendous asset. .. I believe that this campaign is not about our spouses. It is about us. It is about each of us individually.”

Obama said he would expect the ex-president to campaign for his wife, but “I have been troubled … the degree to which my record is not accurately portrayed.”

With the holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as a backdrop, the candidates also addressed questions of racial equality.

Clinton and Edwards compared their records on helping to alleviate poverty, while Obama was asked if he agreed with the famed black novelist Toni Morrison who dubbed Bill Clinton “the first black president.”

Obama praised the former president’s “affinity” with black people but also drew laughs.

“I would have to investigate more of Bill’s dancing abilities and some of this other stuff before I accurately judge whether he was in fact a brother,” Obama said.

“I’m sure that can be arranged,” Clinton joked.

The debate was sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and CNN.


Associated Press Writers Beth Fouhy in South Carolina and Christopher Wills in Illinois contributed to this report.


  1. “If Bushco doesn’t declare martial law and do us as a nation on his watch, then rest assured she has no plans to disassemble his constitutional destroying traps that are set in place; ie., the Patriot Act, suspension of habeas corpus initially for so-called terrorists, but could be applied to anyone designated as an enemy combatant.”

    … designated as an enemy combatant or someone just generally annoying to the despot, including writers of letters to editors and such, otherwise known as “political enemies” and the “politically incorrect”.

    — Kent Shaw

  2. “I for one don’t want universal forced participation for profit health care as Obama seems to prefer.”

    Didn’t they recently do that in Massachussetts? Simply mandated that every MA resident is required to purchase health care insurance? Or maybe it was Connecticut… hmmm… another google task for yours truly…

    Wonderful. Problem solved.

    — Kent Shaw

  3. Hi JimC

    Again, thanks for your thoughts. Nowhere in my critique of the Clintons did I say to vote for a Republican, quite possibly John McCain from what seems to be developing in the primary process; ie., “The Red Queen”, Manchurian candidate”… :-s With his continual infantile, crapped in his diaper grin, he’s one that truly causes myself great concern. Mr. “bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran” will bring us WWIII courtesy of onset senility…!

    You do have some other choices on how to vote. Firstly, vote on every issue from local to national in November, but refrain from voting for the presidential slot. Another is to write-in the Democratic candidate of your choice such as Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich etc.?

    Voting for the lesser of two evils to me is the wrong way to go. Hillary is a genuine “republicrat” and you’ll think in short order that it’s still George Bush in office except wearing a skirt.

    This discussion reminds me of one of my favorite alltime bumper stickers…”Don’t vote it only encourages them”… :))

    As far as I’m concerned with my knowledge base on how the U.S. election process actually works in this country and has so since the entrenchment of the two-party system, it’s always a “we’ve gotcha” on behalf of the corporatist oligarchs that are running the U.S. It’s simply reached a level where it’s no longer an illusion, or even veiled, but an in our face type of reality when you analyze how Congress votes on most issues. They’ve become an American version of the old Soviet politburo as far as I’m concerned.

    In this election the most important candidacies upon which U.S. voters need to be focusing their attention is their Congressional district representative slots and their U.S. Senator that’s coming up for reelection. They need to research how these reps have been voting and if it’s been an ongoing “Blue Dog” democratic style;ie., blindly supporting the republican agenda then they need to be given the boot regardless of how much pork they’ve been pitching back to Mayberry.

    We need the right type of people in Congress that will finally take a genuine interest in ending our toning down our involvement in Iraq and the Middle East and elsewhere bigtime, the debacle having virtually broken our financial back under Bushco’s leadership. This war is no longer a dark luxury that we can afford…period!

    Carl Nemo **==

  4. I will cast my vote for the democrat . The reality is , we will have a choice between two candidates , so you pick one that is closest to your views . Not to do so is in fact a default to the more objectionable option . I agree with the republican candidates on nothing . I agree with all of the possible democrats on some things , some more than others , so , what to do , what to do ? While I may have to hold my nose , I will vote . If necessary for the least of two evils . If there is a viable third party option , please , let me know who it is ; If not , we’ll just have to hope for the best with what we have .

  5. Smirk need look no further than his daddies breakfast table and guest list for the true terrorists,eh Mr Nemo.Thanks again for the links.

  6. Hi Jim C…

    Thanks for the feedback and your comments.

    Possibly you didn’t view the two links which I thought best demonstrated the Clintonista’s scamster behavior; ie., both attorneys at that time and their very evident scorn for ethical behavior. It also demonstrates their scorn for the rule of law which was demonstrated throughout Bill Clinton’s terms in office and no doubt will continue if Hillary makes it to the Whitehouse.

    These two people are dangerous to our very breath of life as a nation! Bill Clinton compromised the security of the United States by selling both nuclear secrets and delivery system guidance technology to the “Red Chinese” for simply campaign contributions …!

    To myself , with my backgroud, this man is an absolute traitor to the Republic and needs to be brought to justice for his crimes. I’ll give him no quarter and rest assured his “Red Chinese” sympathizing wife will continue his legacy of selling us out for just a few bucks more or worse with bogeys incoming…! No problem, she and Billy will be in the bunker with a 10+ year supply of food, and movies courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers, now reduced to shadows in green glass.

    Go ahead cast your vote for Hillary and reap the whirlwind of that which Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have sown so effectively in the past sixteen years. I guarantee it will be the “twilights last gleaming for this once great nation”…! Blink, concerning another Clinton presidency and we’re dead.

    Carl Nemo **==

  7. Carl , I understand your frustration . But , this is a much too important an election to cast a protest vote , in effect throwing ones vote away out of spite . I’m pretty sure that if Hillary is elected ( no sure thing ) she may very well be far from my ideal leader . But , I also feel that there is a very good chance that she would make decent court picks , I will cast a democratic vote on that alone . We can stand no more right wing neanderthals on the court . Any warm fuzzy feeling I might get out of casting a protest vote would be erased by waking up to president Mcain , Romney or Rudy and knowing I played a small part in their election . While I’m no fan of Hillary , I don’t hate her either . You never know , she might not be all that bad , certainly better than the alternative republican .

  8. Carl , while I am no fan of Hillary ( I am much more comfortable with Kucinich or Edwards ) the republicans need to be removed from the white house . If she is nominated , I hope she isn’t , I will hold my nose and vote for her . I am not crazy about Hillary or Obama , they’re both corporatists . The problem is that the democratic party has moved way to far to the right , mainly because of the insane way we finance elections and the conservative stranglehold on the media ( and the rewritting of history ) . I don’t see things getting better any time soon , so we’re kind of forced to do the best we can with what we can get . There’s no FDR or Kennedy on the horizen and things may have to get worse before they can get better , maybe much worse . That said , it seems we’re not going to have a particulary good choice this year , but , think supreme court . About your reference to Machiavelli , read ” The Discourses ” , it balances ” The Prince ” . Reading one without the other doesn’t give a clear picture of his views .

  9. I rarely repost one of my commentaries twice on this site, but I feel that the election of Hillary Clinton to the presidency of the United States will result in the most tragic consequences for this once great nation. I give the Clintons absolutely no quarter, they are toxic to this nation…period! So without further ado my repost.

    As many readers readers of CHB content know; I am no fan of the Clintons. My problem is that I “know” too much about them and their shenanigans over the past 30 years. My knowledge does not simply come from modern era www links either.

    Though the Clintons are both lawyers by profession, Bill now having been disbarred; the most troubling thing about both of them regardless of the plot is their ongoing scamster personas at work. They are both highly intelligent people that are on the make and the take. They have no respect for the rule of law. They both ascribe to Nicolo Machiavelli’s concept that the “end justifies the means” found in his seminal work “The Prince” and are world class practitioners of his principles for both the aquisition and the maintenance of power.

    Discount my thoughts concerning the Clintons at your own hazard. America is in great danger with her ascendancy to the presidency post Bushco. If Bushco doesn’t declare martial law and do us as a nation on his watch, then rest assured she has no plans to disassemble his constitutional destroying traps that are set in place; ie., the Patriot Act, suspension of habeas corpus initially for so-called terrorists, but could be applied to anyone designated as an enemy combatant. The modification of posse comitatus which prevents the military from policing Americas’ streets, and both pre 9/11 and post 9/11 spying activities on U.S. citizens’ communications traffic without a warrant or FISA oversight.

    Everything is now in place that any future leader that does not have our best interest at heart can instantly implement draconian martial law over “we the people” with engineered provocation. She is surely the wrong person to succeed G.W. Bush. The Clintons and the Bush’s have had a close alliance since the Reagan era Iran/Contra scandal where Bill allowed the CIA to operate an illegal base out of Mena, Arkansas. The Clintons ran Arkansas like many tin horn dictators you might find in third world countries. The promise on behalf of then V.P., H.W. Bush, Mr. CIA, code name “poppy” is that good things would happen for them both in the years to come; ie., both ascending to the presidency if they played ball with the company; ie., the CIA.

    What’s wrong with this flow chart:?!

    Reagan/H.W. Bush > H.W. Bush/ D.Quayle > Clinton/Gore > G.W. Bush/Cheney > Hillary Clinton/? ~

    If this were reduced to a basic excercise in fractions and we were told to find the lowest common denominator we come up with the Bush’s and the Clinton’s as our denominator; ie., dynastic control of the U.S. and to this nations hazard.

    Reagan/Bush brought us Iran/Contra, H.W. Bush/Quayle brought us Gulf War I, Clinton/Gore brought us the continuous revelation of corruption and scandals, G.W. Bush/Cheney brought us 9/11, an engineered war in Iraq, and and endless supply of scandals and continual disassembly of the Constitution and protections under the law. So my question is what do “we the people” get with the election of “Billary” to the highest office in the land? I personally don’t want to know. I hope this outline helps sober people up to the hazards of these continual dynastic presidencies.

    I highly recommend folks “take the time” to view the two vidclips that I’m going to supply concerning Hillary and Bill which is also an expose’ how they operate and the powerful network of supporters and protectors who’s interest is to see that they both will have held office as president of this nation. They are soldiers for the implementation of the Cecil Rhodes dream; ie., the implementation of the New World Order with its goal the destruction of the nation-state and turning the world into corporatist/fascist enterprise zones for the purpose of free trade and ever escalating unfettered worldwide “pirate capitalism”…!

    The destruction; ie., pacification of United States of America happens to be the NWO’s assigned mission for the Bush/Clinton presidencies both families solid foot soldiers for the implementation of their agenda.

    Carl Nemo **==

  10. Perhaps the ” debates ” would be more informative if they were back in the hands of The League of Women Voters rather than held by the ratings and controversy driven conservative media . I have noticed that all of the so called ” news ” shows , including the ones on PBS are about the horse race , nothing about the issues or where the candidates stand on them . About my above comment on Obama , I keep hearing he’s all about ” new ” ideas , OK so what are they ? I do know that his ” new ” idea about health care is to invite the executives over for tea , make friends and let them help write policy . No thanks , how about lets get them out of the business of being middle men syphoning off as much money as they can while giving as little care as possible ? I for one don’t want universal forced participation for profit health care as Obama seems to prefer . How about single payer health care like the rest of the modern world ?

  11. “Questioned about it, Hillary Clinton said her husband was “a tremendous asset. .. I believe that this campaign is not about our spouses. It is about us. It is about each of us individually.”

    What a load of horse manure. Her whole campaign is based on the idea that, with a nod and a wink, “Bill’s back!” The Clintons disgust me as much as the Bushes. We’ve had 20 years of the Bushes and the Clintons. That is more than enough thank you. Together they have managed to increase our national debt from ONE Trillion to NINE Trillion dollars. So by all means, let’s elect another one. 24 years of Bush/Clinton by the end of Hillary’s first term, and the U.S. will be well along on its way to becoming just another third world country. All Bushes and Clintons are warmongers and globalists.


    — Kent Shaw

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