By Indira Lakshmanan
March 28 (Bloomberg) -- Hillary Clinton, accused of exaggerating her experience and reversing policy positions, risks a widening credibility gap that may undermine her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The New York senator, who this week admitted to misrepresenting the danger she confronted in Bosnia, also has come under fire for allegedly distorting her role in opposing free trade and the war in Iraq, and overstating her involvement in bringing peace to Northern Ireland and health insurance to children.
The debate over these and other statements is fueling distrust among voters, according to analysts and recent polls. A Pew Research survey released yesterday showed 30 percent of white Democrats -- a group Clinton needs in order to win the remaining primaries -- regard her as a ``phony,'' twice as many as those who perceive rival Barack Obama that way. In late February, just 7.8 percent of voters surveyed by Pew described her as ``untrustworthy.''
``She's either fudged her positions or been downright disingenuous,'' said Dan Gerstein, a Democratic strategist who isn't working for any candidate. ``Any one'' episode ``wouldn't hurt her, but the accumulated weight has turned Democratic voters against her.''
Clinton spokesman Jay Carson dismisses questions about her credibility. ``She made a mistake recounting a trip she made as first lady to what was in fact a war zone,'' he said, referring to Bosnia. Voters ``don't ask for perfection, they just want to know that you are working hard for them, and no one works harder than Senator Clinton.''
More to Mine
While Obama, 46, an Illinois senator, has also been accused of padding his resume and taking more credit than he deserves, Clinton's longer record offers more material to mine for contradictions. And some observers say she's held to a tougher standard.
``We pay more attention to her because we know more about her,'' said Hank Sheinkopf, an unaligned Democratic strategist. ``The Clintons have been part of the daily American soap opera for 20 years.'' By contrast, ``Barack Obama doesn't have enough experience in the Senate to `get him' on things,'' he said.
A Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll conducted Feb. 21-25 found registered voters thought Senator John McCain, 71, the presumed Republican nominee, ``has more honesty and integrity'' than Clinton by a margin of 45 percent to 31 percent. Obama rated equally with McCain on those qualities. (That's gonna change. You can bet on that. McCrackers' character isn't as wonderful as everyone seems to think. Being tortured and held as a POW does not a saint make.)
Sheinkopf said Clinton hasn't done any more ``issue switching'' in the campaign than most candidates. ``What is new is the ability to catch it,'' he said. ``You can go online and check stuff instantly. Nobody gets away with anything.''
So, how smart can she be? The Blogosphere has been catching Junior and the Dick, etal in lie after lie for years now. Is she unaware of that? Perhaps, she was only briefed on the crime/lie catching abilities of the Blogosphere from time to time, as she was briefed on the NIE before the Iraq war vote.
Still, Clinton, 60, has provided ammunition to opponents. She has insisted that she supported weapons inspections, not war, in Iraq in 2002, although she gave speeches that year advocating action against Saddam Hussein before voting to authorize the use of force.
Clinton did another turnabout on Jan. 25, 10 days after she won the primary in Michigan, where she was the only major candidate on the ballot. She said both Michigan's and Florida's delegates should count -- even though she had previously agreed they wouldn't because the states had violated party rules.
While she has asserted on the campaign trail that she opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement from the start, Robert Reich, who was secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton, said she never expressed to him concern about the labor and environmental issues that she highlights today.
``It was clear her concern about Nafta was about timing,'' Reich said in an interview, adding that she was afraid it might interfere with her universal health-care initiative.
Clinton has said she helped ``bring peace to Northern Ireland'' and ``create the Children's Health Insurance Program.'' Those are overstatements, according to principals in those events, some of whom say that while she was supportive, she wasn't a main negotiator.
Her Northern Ireland claims are a ``wee bit silly,'' Nobel laureate and former First Minister David Trimble was quoted as saying March 8 in the Telegraph, the British newspaper. ``Being a cheerleader'' is ``different from being a principal player,'' he said. But John Hume, who shared the Nobel Prize with Trimble, credited Clinton with ``playing a positive role for over a decade in helping to bring peace.''
Last month, she called on Obama to reject support from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan because of anti-Semitic remarks. When a Dallas TV station challenged her to denounce a Hispanic leader who said black politicians had never helped her people, Clinton replied, ``People have every reason to express their opinions. I just don't agree with that'' -- before her campaign rejected the remarks.
I would dearly love to know who is behind the release of the "Wright videos." Not that knowing would change the content of the videos nor make them less embarrassing, to say the least, but for the simple reason that no one else seems to care who was behind it.
This week, Clinton said if she were Obama, she would have left the church of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, his longtime pastor from whom Obama distanced himself only after videos of incendiary remarks circulated. (But we will never know, will we, because Hill is just saying all kinds of crape' de'olla, these days. Yet Clinton critics said she embraced Suha Arafat in November 1999 after a speech in which the late Palestinian leader's wife, in Arabic, accused Israel of using toxic gas on Palestinians.
Clinton said the translation she heard was incomplete; hours later, when she received a fuller transcript, she condemned the remarks. (Without checking out the accusation? How did she know whether or not to condemn the remarks or not, or are any accusations made against Israel to be condemned out-of-hand, true or not, by any U.S. politician and/or his/her wife/husband?)
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.