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Campaign Notebook

Obama, Clinton resume battle over leading the world

Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois sparred in Monday night's debate in Charleston, S.C., with Clinton claiming the mantle of wisdom and Obama saying America needs to chart a new course. Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois sparred in Monday night's debate in Charleston, S.C., with Clinton claiming the mantle of wisdom and Obama saying America needs to chart a new course. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama tussle over foreign diplomacy in Monday night's debate resumed in earnest yesterday, with the two camps sparring over which candidate is better prepared to assume leadership of the free world. The battle lines were familiar to anyone who has followed the Democratic primary race closely: Clinton claimed the mantle of wisdom and experience, while Obama argued that America needs to chart a new course.

The dispute began when a questioner asked the candidates on Monday whether they would commit to sitting down unconditionally with the leaders of rogue nations such as North Korea, Syria, and Iran. Obama said he would, arguing that a pragmatic approach would keep the country safer and solve problems. Clinton said she would not, arguing that a US president shouldn't engage with wayward leaders without preconditions.

Yesterday, Obama's campaign tried to clarify his remarks by saying that he wouldn't agree to meet with such leaders before lower-level diplomatic work was done. But Clinton's campaign seized on their divergent answers, arguing that it exposes both her command of world affairs and Obama's greenness. "Senator Clinton is committed to vigorous diplomacy but understands that it is a mistake to commit the power and prestige of America's presidency years ahead of time by making such a blanket commitment," her campaign wrote in a memo.

Obama's campaign put out its own memo yesterday saying his is the approach that would keep America safe.

"Obama's tough but smart approach to America's diplomacy is exactly the kind of change and new thinking that excites voters about an Obama presidency," the memo said. His campaign also pointed to a remark Clinton made this spring in which she said, "I think it is a terrible mistake for our president to say he will not talk with bad people."

Clinton's campaign yesterday also employed former secretary of state Madeleine Albright to speak to reporters about Clinton's knowledge of diplomacy and the appropriate use of American power. "When all is said and done she knows that being president is about protecting the country and advancing national security interests," Albright said, adding that Clinton shows "a very sophisticated understanding of the whole process." (Scott Helman)

Efficiency fund planned
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- Hillary Clinton said yesterday that as part of her plan to address global warming she would create a "green building fund" that would provide money to make public buildings more energy-efficient.

Clinton said she would allocate $1 billion annually for grants and low-interest loans for public buildings such as schools or police stations to become more energy-efficient. She believes the fund would create 50,000 new jobs.

"We know we can create millions of jobs if we are smart about how we go about addressing the environment and global warming," Clinton said.

Clinton made the remarks at a forum dedicated to global warming sponsored by the Seacoast Media Group, owner of the Portsmouth Herald.

Earlier in the year, the newspaper company hosted Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, who addressed healthcare.

Clinton also talked about taxing oil companies for drilling on public lands.

"I can hear people on cable TV right now saying I am going after oil companies," Clinton said. "Well, I am going after the oil companies."

A University of New Hampshire poll last week showed Clinton the front-runner in New Hampshire, leading Obama, her nearest opponent, 33 percent to 25 percent. (James W. Pindell)

Thompson shakes up camp
WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson is shaking up his still-unofficial campaign, replacing his top aide with a former Michigan senator and a veteran Florida strategist.

The shake-up comes amid consternation inside the campaign about the active role played by Thompson's wife, Jeri, a lawyer, media consultant, and former Republican National Committee official.

"Rumors are rumors," Thompson spokeswoman Linda Rozett said. "It is not a personal issue. It's an organizational issue. We are strengthening the organization as we enter the next phase."

Acting campaign manager Tom Collamore will still advise Thompson, but his presidential operation will be run by the duo of former senator and energy secretary Spencer Abraham and a Florida GOP strategist, Randy Enright, according to Rozett.

Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and John McCain head the nine-man GOP field, but Thompson often registers in double digits in public opinion polls. A recent Associated Press-Ipsos survey showed general dissatisfaction among Republicans with their choices, underscoring the volatility of the 2008 GOP race.

Enright is a veteran operative in Florida who was part of President Bush's political operation in the key swing state; he also was executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa.

Abraham served in the Bush administration after losing reelection in 2000 to Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan; in 2006, he joined a French-owned nuclear company, Areva Inc., as chairman of its board of directors.

Rozett said both men would be in charge of Thompson's campaign. Enright is heading the political operation, while Abraham doesn't yet have a title, Rozett said.

Scott Reed, a GOP strategist and campaign manager for Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign, said Collamore had put a good structure in place.

"Now the campaign can move to the next level with a formal announcement," Reed said. (AP)