Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are complaining about which candidate is the biggest complainer.
The issue is their treatment in debates. Obama is objecting to the questions posed this week in one moderated by ABC News. Many of the toughest questions were targeted at Obama, the front-runner for the nomination, and he’s said too much time was spent on political divisions instead of issues that matter to Americans.
Clinton said Friday that if Obama thinks the debate was tough, it pales in comparison to the pressures a president faces.
“I’m with Harry Truman on this — if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen,” she told voters while campaigning in Pennsylvania. “Just speaking for myself, I am very comfortable in the kitchen.”
But it wasn’t so long ago that Clinton was the front-runner and complaining about her treatment in debates. After a debate last fall, her campaign compiled clips of her being targeted, and called it the “Politics of Pile On.” In late February, Clinton complained that she always got asked the first question.
“Her blatant hypocrisy here is stunning,” responded Obama spokesman Bill Burton.
The most recent debate Wednesday night was the most watched of this election cycle and has generated some negative reviews for ABC. Obama supporters have made some of the loudest objections, and the Obama campaign sent out a fundraising appeal off the debate titled “Gotcha.”
Obama said Thursday that the moderators “like stirring up controversy and they like playing gotcha games, getting us to attack each other.”
Clinton said Friday that getting tough questions is part of what happens in a debate and campaign. “Having been in the White House for eight years and seeing what happens in terms of the pressures and the stresses on a president, that was nothing,” she said.
Both Clinton and Obama were campaigning Friday in Pennsylvania, which holds its primary Tuesday — their first contest in seven weeks. Obama leads Clinton in overall delegates, 1,645-1,507, but neither is close to achieving the 2,025 needed to win the nomination.
One of Clinton’s supporters, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, said Friday that Clinton needs a big win in Pennsylvania if she hopes to overtake Obama. A loss in the Keystone state would be “pretty much a door closer,” Corzine said.
Another Clinton supporter encouraged her to challenge Obama all the way to the convention.
“I think I also speak for more than 1,500 delegates who want you to go to the convention and to fight for your right to represent our country as president of the United States,” Luis Cortez said as he introduced Clinton to speak at Esperanza High School, the Philadelphia charter academy that he heads.
The online Huffington Post reported Friday that Clinton criticized the liberal organization MoveOn.org and caucuses in general at a private gathering after the Super Tuesday primaries on Feb. 5. According to the Huffington Post, which posted an audio recording from the event on its Web site, Clinton said that her campaign had been less successful with caucuses because they bring out the “activist base” of the party.
“MoveOn didn’t even want us to go into Afghanistan,” she was quoted as saying. “That’s what we’re dealing with. You know they turn out in great numbers. They are very driven by their view of our positions. It’s primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don’t agree with them. They know I don’t agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me.”
Eli Pariser, the executive director of MoveOn, disputed Clinton’s comments.
“MoveOn did not oppose the war in Afghanistan — we set the record straight when Karl Rove used that line in 2005,” Pariser said in an e-mail early Friday. “And were proud that our members have been part of the record-breaking participation in this election. Senator Clintons remarks attacking them are unfounded and categorically false … ”
Clinton had spoken positively at times about MoveOn, which endorsed Obama before the Super Tuesday primaries.
Asked for comment on the report, Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee said Friday night that Clinton agreed with MoveOn on some issues and disagreed on others. “There have been well-documented instances of intimidation in the Nevada and the Texas caucuses and it is a fact that while we have won four of the five largest primaries, where participation is greatest, Senator Obama has done better in caucuses than we have. ”
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