Clinton Sticks To Criticizing Bush In Speech To Members Of The Pres

As Hillary Clinton's surrogates continue to batter Barack Obama for his "bitter" quotes, with her campaign releasing a new ad last night in the Keystone State depicting Pennsylvanians particularly offended by Obama's remarks on guns and religion, Clinton herself stayed silent on the issue when she addressed a crowd full of members of the media in Washington this afternoon.

"First, I want to say that this speech is entirely off the record," she joked to laughs from the audience of lunching reporters, editors, publishers, and various media types who had converged on Washington as part of the annual Capital Conference. She lambasted President Bush--not John McCain or Barack Obama--for his administration's failures and touched on everything from the economy to the freedom of the press, pledging her support in the Senate for the "Free Flow of Information Act," a federal journalism shield law.

She also took several unscripted questions from the audience. One journalist asked Clinton about campaign promises she made back in 2000, when she pledged to bring hundreds of thousands of jobs to upstate New York. Clinton had previously admitted she may have been a little overexuberant in her estimates but elaborated again on what had happened today.

"When I was campaigning for the Senate in 2000, I had every hope that Al Gore would be the president and we would build on the economic successes of the '90s," Clinton said.

"Unfortunately, much of the positive economic policies we saw in the '90s were slowly, steadily dismantled," she continued.

She was also asked about the ongoing dispute over whether or not delegates in Michigan and Florida should be seated at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this summer. While she said that she had agreed not to campaign in the states that cut to the front of the primary line, she said that issue differed from the actual seating of those states' delegates at the convention. "Nothing I signed at all said what would happen to the votes once they were cast; all of us kept our names on the ballot in Florida," Clinton said. She noted that despite the fact that Florida's delegate status was up in the air, there was a record turnout at the Florida Democratic primary. "The lesson is maybe we shouldn't campaign anywhere," she kidded.

The journalists asking questions didn't delve into her most recent "bitter" dispute with Obama. Obama had chosen this venue yesterday to address Clinton's criticisms, while McCain chose to discuss his relationship with the media.

And as McCain did when he talked to conference attendees a day before, Clinton too showed some appreciation for the press. "I want to thank newspaper publishers collectively for one of my favorite headlines of all time that has given me great strength and encouragement over the last months," Clinton said. "Dewey Defeats Truman."

By Nikki Schwab