Starting Gate: Sniper Fire

(White House Photo)
As CBS News' Sharyl Attkisson reports, Hillary Clinton's 1996 visit to war-torn Bosnia wasn't quite the harrowing experience that she recounted in a campaign speech last week. While campaign "embellishments" aren't exactly a novel part of politics, their unveiling can be especially damaging when it involves the underlying argument a candidate is selling.

In recent weeks we've seen a bit of erosion in Clinton's claims of "experience," aided by the release of her public schedules as First Lady and an examination of her role in national security and international relations during the 1990s. That 3am phone call ad suddenly doesn't look like such a good idea right now.

When confronted with a different tale than the one Clinton had relayed in last week's speech, in which she said her plane had landed amid sniper fire and resulted in a dangerous dash to the waiting cars, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson allowed that the candidate has misspoken. "The facts are clear from contemporaneous news accounts that she was entering a potentially dangerous situation," Wolfson told reporters in a conference call. "She has written about this before, she has talked about this before and there you have it. Now, is it possible that in the most recent instance in which she discussed this that she misspoke."

Clinton herself echoed that characterization. "I went to 80 countries, you know," she told the Philadelphia Daily News editorial board. "I gave contemporaneous accounts, I wrote about a lot of this in my book. You know, I think that, a minor blip, you know, if I said something that, you know, I say a lot of things - millions of words a day - so if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement."

That all doesn't quite add up to Roger Clemens' contention that his friend and colleague "Andy Pettitte "had "misremembered" about steroid use but it's not helpful all the same.

It was just a week ago when the feeding frenzy surrounded Barack Obama and his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and that's where Clinton needed it. Faced with a thread-the-needle campaign strategy that rests on winning big in Pennsylvania and carrying that through to victories in Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky and Puerto Rico, every day spent on something like this only adds to the challenge.

At the end of the day, even if Clinton were to run the table in the next ten contests, it will be the superdelegates who will most likely decided this nomination fight. In order to make the sale with them, she needs to be nearly perfect. Misstatement or not, she can't afford those kinds of mistakes.

My Kingdom For A Fixed Rate Mortgage: John McCain will address the housing situation in remarks to the Orange County Hispanic small business roundtable today and, according to prepared remarks released by the campaign, will say he's prepared to approach solutions with an open mind. "I will consider any and all proposals based on their cost and benefits," the remarks read. "In this crisis, as in all I may face in the future, I will not allow dogma to override common sense."

McCain says he "will not play election year politics with the housing crisis. I will evaluate everything in terms of whether it might be harmful or helpful to our effort to deal with the crisis we face now." But he does say that he'll draw the line at rewarding what he calls irresponsible decisions. "I have always been committed to the principle that it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers. Government assistance to the banking system should be based solely on preventing systemic risk that would endanger the entire financial system and the economy."

Democratic Enthusiasm Boosts PA Numbers: The number of registered Democratic voters in Pennsylvania ran past four million for the first time in the state's history as the registration period for the state's April 22nd primary ended yesterday. In the past year, Democrats have added 161,000 voters to their rolls, according to the AP while GOP registration declined about one percent to just over 3.2 million. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, 14,256 voters registered as Democrats in just the week between March 10 and 17th and over 29,000 switched their party affiliation to Democrat in that week.

Around The Track

  • It's getting harder and harder to envision but the very tone of the Democratic contest is keeping the idea of a dream ticket somewhat open, as the USA Today notes. "The fact is you've got a very close race … and people on both sides are getting more dug in with their particular candidate," says former Clinton Chief of Staff Leon Panetta. "That raises the potential that whoever gets the nomination, the other candidate will feel like he or she has been robbed." And what better way to soothe those feelings than a dream ticket?
  • The Democratic National Committee yesterday approved Puerto Rico's plan to switch its nominating contest from a caucus to a primary, opening the process up to a great many more voters for one of the final scheduled contest of the campaign, on June 3rd.
  • Bill Clinton continues to be the focus of the campaign's rural strategy. In recent days he's been in Indiana and West Virginia. Today, he's in Kentucky which holds its primary on May 20th.
  • "Obama Girl" is back and is on the attack in a new video, chastising Clinton for staying in the race and asserting that "we all have a crush on Obama." Obama Girl sings, "these attacks are insane, they just help John McCain."