Clinton basks in support here

After Masloff endorsement, she criticizes Bush, McCain, Obama


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Invoking her mother, her daughter and the other women in her family, Pittsburgh's first female mayor endorsed a candidate battling to be the first woman to preside in the Oval Office.

Sophie Masloff and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton mined the lode of Pittsburgh cliches as they stood together in Heinz Field last night, Mrs. Masloff waving a "Terrible Towel" as Mrs. Clinton displayed a Steelers jersey with the number "1" and the label "Hillary."

Women, Democratic Party officials and Western Pennsylvanians in general have proven to be early assets for Mrs. Clinton in her drive to capture the state's primary April 22, and she nurtured her ties to all three groups as she campaigned across the region yesterday.

Along the way, she denounced President Bush's newly announced plans regarding Iraq troop levels, criticized Arizona Sen. John S. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, over his Iraq stance and proposals to deal with the nation's mortgage crisis, and her Democratic rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, over his failure to join calls for a boycott of the Summer Olympic Games' opening ceremony in Beijing.

Echoing the message of her new Pennsylvania radio ad, Mrs. Clinton mocked Mr. Obama's boast that he does not take money from oil companies. She noted that no politicians take money from oil companies because such corporate contributions are illegal, and she pointed out that her opponent has received personal contributions from oil company executives.

In a television commercial widely aired in the state, Mr. Obama states that he does not take oil company contributions, based on the fact that he doesn't accept contributions from political action committees and oil company lobbyists.

Earlier, Mrs. Clinton told hundreds of Beaver County Democrats crammed into The Fez restaurant -- where she entered to the strains of the theme for the "Rocky" movie --"[We need a president] who will not waver, who will not bend with the winds of the moment or break when the attacks start flying. We need a candidate and a president who will stand strong for the middle class -- who will not be of two minds on issues as crucial as health care for everyone, fair-trade policies like fixing NAFTA and withdrawing our troops from Iraq."

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama will be discussing the North American Free Trade Agreement again Monday, as both appear, at separate times, before a Downtown trade forum sponsored by the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

At a news conference after her afternoon arrival at Pittsburgh International Airport, Mrs. Clinton faulted President Bush's decision, declared earlier yesterday, to halt troop reductions in Iraq after previously announced drawdowns are complete in July, so their impact can be evaluated. "The president refuses to face the reality that we are confronted with in Iraq," she said.

"Now, once again, President Bush is asking Americans for time and patience -- but the American people are saying he's had enough of both. Our troops have done all that's been asked of them and more," she said. "It's time for the president to answer the question being asked of him in the wake of the failed objectives that were laid out to be met by the surge. ... As president, I will do what this president has failed to do: recognize reality and end the war responsibly."

In his earlier speech, the president said he would follow the advice of Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Baghdad, and afford the commander at least 45 days to evaluate the effects of the spring-summer drawdown. The president also announced that he would order a cut in the length of combat tours from 15 months to 12 months starting Aug. 1.

Mr. Obama, who was campaigning in Indiana, issued a statement similarly critical of the president's stand. "The decision to go to war in Iraq was an enormous strategic blunder, and President Bush is only adding to his disastrous legacy by refusing to show the American people any clear goal or any clear plan to end the war," he said. "When I am president, I will bring our combat brigades home in 16 months, engage in the direct diplomacy in the region that is necessary to stabilize Iraq, restore our military strength and renew our security and standing in the world.

In her news conference and again in her dinner remarks, Mrs. Clinton also dismissed new proposals from Mr. McCain about shoring up the nation's housing market. She scorned the Republican's housing market proposals as "warmed-over" and "half-hearted" versions of her own plan. Campaigning in New York yesterday, Mr. McCain offered a series of proposals to help families facing foreclosure restructure their mortgages.

Turning to her Democratic rival, she faulted Mr. Obama for taking a wait-and-see attitude toward a boycott of the Olympics' opening ceremony in Beijing in reaction to China's human rights abuses in Tibet and elsewhere. Mr. Obama has said he would consider such a step, but would not make a decision until a point closer to the Games' start.

Mrs. Clinton took a detour on her way to Beaver County to greet patrons of the Hot Metal Diner in West Mifflin. The restaurant is owned by Wendy Betten, who is one of five "diner ladies" who have an informal alliance to promote their businesses mutually.

In an orchestrated show of support coinciding with her visit, the Clinton campaign also released a roster of 270 Pennsylvania local and party officials who had endorsed her candidacy.

Roughly 30 were from Allegheny County, and most of them -- like county Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who joined Mrs. Clinton last night -- had expressed their presidential preferences earlier.

The New York senator has consistently led in surveys of the state, although Mr. Obama has closed the gap between them in several recent polls.


Politics Editor James O'Toole can be reached at jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.


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