From NBC's Mark Murray and NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
The back-and-forth over Clinton's new ad in Texas continues... In an hour-plus conference call with reporters, the Clinton campaign rebutted Obama's criticism that Clinton had her red-phone moment -- the 2002 Iraq war authorization -- and failed.
"The question is not about who will be picking up the phone. The question is what kind of judgment will you exercise when you answer the phone," Obama said today. "We've had a red phone moment -- it was the decision to invade Iraq. Senator Clinton gave the wrong answer. George Bush gave the wrong answer. John McCain gave the wrong answer."
In the conference call, referring to the remarks Obama gave in 2002 opposing the Iraq war, Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson said, "Sen. Clinton understands there is a big difference between giving a speech and picking up a phone call at 3:00 am in the White House."
Citing Obama's remarks during the 2004 Democratic convention defending John Kerry's vote for the war authorization, as well as Obama's Senate votes in 2005-6 to fund the war, Clinton chief strategist Mark Penn added, "Time and time again, you have heard talk from Sen. Obama that's quite different from action."
During the call, however, reporters twice asked Wolfson and Penn when Clinton had ever been tested on foreign policy -- or had to pick up the phone at 3:00 am. "She has been tested throughout her life on so many matters," Penn answered, citing her "strength," her service on the Armed Services Committee, and when she went to China as first lady and said that human rights and women's rights.
"I am not arguing that Sen. Clinton was president of the United States," Wolfson later added. "What I am arguing is that she has the strength and experience to step into the situation." He also noted the numerous former generals and military officers who have endorsed her candidacy.
The argument from the new ad, Wolfson went on to say, is who has the strength and experience to answer that call at 3:00 am. "We believe that person is Sen. Clinton."
Also in the call, the Clinton campaign argued -- as it did in a memo -- that if Obama doesn't win in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont on Tuesday, that would signal "buyer's remorse" among Democrats. In other words, if Obama loses even one state next week -- making the race since Feb. 5 14-1 -- it would show voters have big concerns about him.
Wolfson argued the Obama campaign had anointed itself as the front-runner and that it holds numerous advantages over Clinton, including "enormous" financial resources. If Obama doesn't win all four states, Wolfson reasoned, it would show there was dissatisfaction with him as a candidate and send a "very clear signal that Democrats want this campaign to continue."