Hillary Rodham Clinton accused presidential rival Barack Obama of political plagiarism, 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 at the debate on Thursday night, 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.”
Obama and Hillary’s debate in Austin, Texas, was just days ahead of the important March 4 primaries in Texas and Ohio — contests that even some of Hillary’s supporters say she must win to sustain her campaign for the White House.
The Democrats disagreed on the proper response to a change in government in Cuba in the wake of Fidel Castro’s resignation. Hillary said she would refuse to sit down with incoming President Raul Castro until he implements political and economic reforms. Obama said he would meet “without preconditions”, but added the US agenda for such a session would include human rights in the Communist nation.
They also sparred frequently about health care, a core issue of the campaign. Hillary said repeatedly that Obama’s plan would leave 15 million Americans uncovered. But he accused her of mishandling the issue by working in secrecy when her husband was in the White House in the 1990s.
* Hillary was combative and complimentary by turns and reflected on her personal struggles in the final moments of the debate. Then, offering unprompted praise to her rival, she said: “No matter what happens in this contest, I am honoured to be here with Barack Obama.”