HILLARY CLINTON accused presidential rival Barack Obama of political plagiarism on Thursday night, but drew boos from a Democratic debate audience when she ridiculed him as the candidate of “change you can Xerox”.
Obama dismissed the charge out of hand, then turned the jeers to applause when he countered: “What we shouldn’t be spending time doing is tearing each other down. We should be spending time lifting the country up.”
Facing off in the red (Republican leaning) state of Texas on Thursday may have been Clinton’s last stand. She needed to stop Obama from bulldozing through primaries in the end-game state after his 11 straight wins since Super Tuesday.
The first half of the debate limped along but then it took an uncivil turn.
Stopping short of calling him “all hat and no cattle”, a phrase she’s often used to describe President George W Bush, she dished out a series of barbs questioning Obama’s ability to lead and cited one of his aides who couldn’t list any of his accomplishments.
Clinton turned on Obama when he was questioned on his rousing speeches that the Washington Post reported were plagiarised from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.
“If your candidacy is about words they should be your own words,” she said to a chorus of boos. “Lifting passages from someone else’s speeches isn’t change you can believe in, it’s change you can Xerox.”
She tried to recover but only reinvigorated Obama and gave him an opening to trot out the jingle, “it’s silly season in politics”.
The exchange marked an unusually pointed moment in an otherwise civil encounter in the days before March 4 primaries in Texas and Ohio — contests that even some of Clinton’s supporters say she must win to sustain her campaign for the White House.
The former first lady has lost 11 straight primaries and caucuses, and trails her rival in convention delegates. Obama has won a pair of big union endorsements in the past two days.
In a university auditorium in the heart of Texas, the two rivals agreed that hi-tech surveillance measures are preferable to construction of a fence to curtail illegal immigration.
They also sparred frequently about healthcare, a core issue of the campaign.
Clinton repeatedly said Obama’s plan would leave 15 million Americans uncovered. But he, in turn, accused the former first lady of mishandling the issue by working in secrecy when her husband was in the White House.
In a recent delegate count, Obama had 1,358.5 to 1,264 for Clinton. It takes 2,025 delegates to claim the nomination at this summer’s convention.
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