Questions about Hillary Clinton’s allegations about facing sniper fire in Bosnia and Barack Obama’s relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright loomed large at the Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia Wednesday.
Both candidates sought to tamp down the importance of these issues that have raised questions about their credibility.
“For us to be obsessed with these kinds of errors is mistaken,” Obama said.
The debate was held at the National Constitution Center, less than a week before the Pennsylvania primary. The last Democratic debate was held on February 26 in Cleveland, Ohio. Since then, both campaigns have encountered stumbling blocks. Obama’s relationship with his longtime friend and former pastor Rev. Wright was called into question after news outlets discovered video footage of the Reverend making anti-American and racist statements.
Obama discussed his relationship with Wright in a highly-publicized speech on race last month, which he referred to in his remarks at the debate.
Obama was asked why he chose to rescind an invitation to Wright to speak at the event where Obama announced his intention to run for the Democratic nomination and chose to remain a member of his church.
ABC News’ debate moderator Charles Gibson questioned, “If you knew he got rough in sermons, why did it take you more than a year to publicly dissociate yourself from his remarks?”
Obama said he rescinded the speaking invitation based on things Wright said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine and he was not aware of the racist and anti-American rants that were later carried by news networks.
“There is anger in the African American community that sometimes gets expressed, whether in the barbershop or the church,’ Obama said. “That’s not just in the African American community. That’s true in other communities as well. But what we have the opportunity to do is move beyond it. And that’s what I think my candidacy represents.”
Clinton was made accountable for one of her gaffes at the debate as well.
Weeks ago Clinton admitted she made “misspoke” while recounting a trip she took to Bosnia as First Lady in which she alleged she encountered sniper fire. Her former president husband Bill Clinton recently defended her story saying his wife was “exhausted” when she told the story, although she told it on multiple occasions.
ABC News, which hosted the debate, aired a clip from a voter that asked Clinton, “How do you reconcile the campaign credibility that you have when you made those comments about what happened getting off the plane in Bosnia, which totally misrepresented what really happened on that day? You really lost my vote. And what can you tell me to get that vote back? “
Clinton said she hoped the incident was “something that you can look over.”
“On a couple of occasions in the last weeks, I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case and what I had written about in my book,” she said. “And, you know, I'm embarrassed by it. I have apologized for it. I've said it was a mistake. And it is, I hope, something that you can look over.”
“You know, that happens when you're talking as much as we have talked,” she said. “But, you know, I'm very sorry that I said it. And I have said that, you know, it just didn't jive with what I had written about and knew to be the truth.”
Both Clinton and Obama expressed fear these issues would be fodder for Republicans to use against them in a general election.
Clinton noted “the Republicans, who are pretty shrewd about what it takes to win” were eager to “jump on the comments” Obama recently made at a private fundraiser in San Francisco. There, he suggested “bitter” Americans, like those in Pennsylvania “cling” to issues like gun rights, marriage and border security when faced with economic hardship.
Obama similarly said, “I promise you, if Senator Clinton got the nomination, there will be a whole bunch of video clips about other things [other than Rev. Wright]. In a general election, we know that there are going to be all kinds of attacks launched and leveled…you know, the notion that somehow the American people are going to be distracted once again by comments not made by me, but somebody who is associated with me that I have disowned, that doesn’t give the American people enough credit.”
Obama clarified after making this statement that he had not disowned Wright, but rather the controversial statements Wright has made in the past.