Gloves Off in Clinton, Obama Race

Washington (CBS/AP) - Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential frontrunner, is discovering the drawbacks of leading the pack. Two of her presidential rivals criticized the New York senator hours after a Hollywood mogul launched a blistering attack on her and her husband.

At the first all-candidates forum of the 2008 Democratic presidential campaign in Carson, City, Nevada, former Sen. John Edwards criticized Clinton for failing to admit that her 2002 vote authorizing President Bush to attack Iraq was a mistake.

“We need a leader who will be open and honest with you and with the American people — who will tell the truth, who will tell the truth when they’ve made a mistake, who will take responsibility when they’ve made a mistake,” Edwards said.

Edwards said her refusal to disavow a 2002 vote on Iraq was "between her and her conscience." Edwards also voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, but he has since apologized for his vote.

Another Clinton rival, Sen. Chris Dodd, said there were "two responses people in public life never like to give, and I don’t understand why: ‘I made a mistake’ and ‘I don’t know.’” Dodd has also said his Iraq vote was an error. The event format did not permit Clinton to respond to the remarks by Edwards and Dodd.

Their comments were mild by the standards of the exchange unleashed by Hollywood mogul David Geffen, who once backed Bill Clinton but now supports his wife's top rival, Sen. Barak Obama.

Geffen told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd that while "everybody in politics lies," the former president and his wife "do it with such ease, it's troubling."

The Clinton campaign quickly demanded that Obama denounce the comments and called on him to give back Geffen's $2,300 contribution.

Campaigning in Iowa, Obama refused.

"It's not clear to me why I'd be apologizing for someone else's remark," the Illinois senator said.

"My suspicion is that the voters of Iowa are probably more concerned about what both myself and Senator Clinton think about Iraq, health care and jobs," Obama told reporters in a brief news conference at the Iowa Statehouse.

For her part, Clinton sidestepped questions, leaving the issue to her aides to discuss.

"I'm just going to stay focused on my campaign and I'm going to run a positive campaign about the issues that affect the people in our country," she told The Associated Press in an interview in Nevada where she was participating a candidate forum.

The Clinton team, nonetheless, seemed eager to continue the attack. With Obama in Iowa, aides arranged for former Iowa attorney general Bonnie Campbell to criticize him in a conference call with reporters.

In the newspaper interview, Geffen also said Bill Clinton is "a reckless guy" and he does not think Hillary Clinton can bring the country together during a time of war, no matter how smart or ambitious she is.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs later added another criticism of Clinton.

"It is also ironic that Senator Clinton lavished praise on Monday and is fully willing to accept today the support of South Carolina state Sen. Robert Ford, who said if Barack Obama were to win the nomination, he would drag down the rest of the Democratic Party because 'he's black,"' Gibbs' statement said.

Ford later apologized. The Clinton campaign said it disagreed with Ford, but the senator has embraced his support.

Copyright 2007 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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