Clinton, On Offense, Strikes At Obama's "experience"

In a clear swipe at Barack Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton says the economic travails of the country are too important to be left to a candidate with little domestic policy experience.

"There is one job we can't afford: on-the-job training for our next president," Clinton told a crowd in Knoxville, IA today, according to excerpts obtained by the AP's Clinton beat writer, Beth Fouhy. That could be the costliest job training in history."

"Every day spent learning the ropes is another day of rising costs, mounting deficits and growing anxiety for our families. And they cannot afford to keep waiting."

Clinton does not use Obama's name, but the actions by her campaign to make sure reporters noticed the speech today suggests that Obama's experience is the prime target. It's the first time, in fact, that Clinton has used a speech to directly challenge Obama's credentials. Generally, Clinton says that "change" is "just a word without the strength and experience to make it happen." Today, she elaborates: "It’s easy to make up a program to address every economic problem. But it’s hard to figure out how to pay for it."

Clinton also says she "can’t wait to get on the stage to debate the Republican nominee as we make the case for change, and they argue for the status quo. To them, it’s “leave no Bush economic policy behind.”

“The next president will be a steward of our economy at a time when the bills from eight years of neglect and mismanagement will be coming due. He – or she – will have to turn our nation and our economy around.

“More than ever before, our workers will need good job training for the jobs of this new century. But there is one job we can’t afford on-the-job training for – our next president. That could be the costliest job training in history. Every day spent learning the ropes is another day of rising costs, mounting deficits and growing anxiety for our families. And they cannot afford to keep waiting.

“We need a president who understands the magnitude and complexity of the challenges we face – and has the strength and experience to address them from day one. A president who has faith that the American people and the American economy are up to the task. If you give me that chance, I will be that president.”

***

“Now, it’s no surprise that the President continues to stand by his failed economic policies. This is, after all, a man who believes that stubbornness is a virtue.

“What is truly amazing, however, is that the Republican candidates for President are determined to continue these failed policies. In fact, we can describe their approach to the economy in four simple words: More of the same.

“They see $9 trillion in debt – and say why not trillions more? They see tax cuts for wealthy Americans and big corporations – and say, why not some more? They see one attempt to privatize Social Security – and say why not one more?

“In short, they see eight years of Bush economics – and say, why not eight more?

“Well, here’s my response to that: You’ve got until January 20, 2009, and not another day more.

“I can’t wait to get on the stage to debate the Republican nominee as we make the case for change, and they argue for the status quo. To them, it’s “leave no Bush economic policy behind.”

“Today, America is ready for change. But change is just a word without the strength and experience to make it happen. It’s easy to give a speech about restoring the middle class. But it’s hard to actually do it. It’s easy to make up a program to address every economic problem. But it’s hard to figure out how to pay for it.

“We’ve been here before with a President who leaves the economic cupboard bare on election day. This time, however, we won’t just have to clean up the economic mess he made – we’ll also have to end the war he started and address the healthcare crisis he left behind.

“So we don’t need more Republican scare tactics about a “Social Security crisis.” And we don’t need a trillion dollar tax increase that will hit families already facing higher energy, healthcare and college costs.

“What we need is to focus on the real crises of healthcare and Medicare, and on expanding opportunities for poor, working and middle class families who are struggling now. If the gathering economic challenges strike all at once in a perfect storm, these families will be hardest hit.

“So in short, President Bush has abandoned the middle class, tilted the playing field against them, and said, “you’re on your own.” Republicans running to replace him say it’s time for more of the same. I say we need a new direction – and that I am the Democrat with the strength and experience to make the change we need.”

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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