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Clinton goes after McCain, Wright

From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
GREENSBURG, Pa. -- Hillary Clinton compared her Republican rival McCain to Depression-era President Herbert Hoover in response to his criticism of her proposal to help homeowners facing foreclosures.

She also told reporters Tuesday that had the Rev. Jeremiah Wright been her pastor, she would have left the church and reiterated her explanation for misspeaking about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia.

VIDEO: Hillary Clinton takes questions from reporters during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania.

Clinton has proposed the government help people who are struggling to keep their homes by freezing foreclosures, guaranteeing new loans and possibly acting as a temporary purchaser of mortgages. McCain today warned against this kind of action saying, "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."

Clinton bashed him for those remarks, which were read to her by a reporter.

"It sounds remarkably like Herbert Hoover," she said, "and I don't think that's good economic policy. You know, we have a framework of regulation. It needs to be updated and modernized. The government has a number of tools at its disposal that are well-suited for just this situation, and I think that inaction has contributed to the problems we face today, and I believe further inaction would exacerbate those problems."

She said that to say the government should not help banks or people would mean a "downward spiral" for the country's economy.

Clinton repeated comments made earlier in an interview with a Pennsylvania newspaper regarding the Rev. Wright, Obama's controversial former pastor.

"Given all we have heard and seen, he would not have been my pastor," Clinton said. "I gave a speech at Rutgers, about a year ago, that was triggered by the Don Imus comments, and I said it was time for standing up for what is right, for saying enough is enough, for urging that we turn a culture of degradation into a culture of empowerment, for saying that, while we, of course, must protect our right to freedom of expression, it should not be used as a license or an excuse to demean and humiliate our fellow citizens."

She then went further, saying, "We don't have a choice when it comes to our relatives. We have a choice when it comes to our pastors and the churches we attend."

Clinton said she was pleased Obama had released his tax returns and called for more disclosure.

"I think that's a good first step," she said. "Now he should release his records from being in the state senate and any other information that the public and the press need to know from his experience, because I think that, you know, we should continue to make available the information that we have. She added that she plans to release her own returns shortly.

As her aides allowed yesterday, the senator said she had indeed misspoken when it came to dodging sniper fire on arrival for a trip to Bosnia during her husband's presidency, but argued that was not the central issue.

"I did make a mistake in talking about it the last time and recently," she said, "but look, this is really about what policy experience we have and who's ready to be Commander-In-Chief, and I'm happy to put my experience up against Sen. Obama's any day."

She deflected a question about whether allowing the superdelegates to decide the nominee would mean disenfranchising voters, something she and her campaign have said Obama is doing by not backing re-votes in Florida and Michigan.

Economy speech
The press conference followed a speech that focused on Clinton's proposals to encourage families to save for retirement and to strengthen Social Security, an address possibly best categorized as Iowa redux.

With about a month to go before the primary, the senator is making her case to Pennsylvanians by laying out much of the platform she first proposed during the long run up to the Iowa caucuses, albeit relating it to voters in the Keystone State. The addresses today and yesterday in Philadelphia on the mortgage crisis are part of Clinton's efforts to show she is best prepared to manage the American economy.

In Greensburg, she hit McCain for his support of President Bush's goal of privatizing Social Security.

"When I am president, privatizing Social Security will be completely out of the question," Clinton said to applause. "That's another big difference between Sen. McCain and me. Sen. McCain said something stunning the other day. He pledged to continue President Bush's attempts to privatize Social Security. He said, and I quote, "As part of Social Security reform, I believe that private savings accounts are a part of it, along the lines that Pres. Bush proposed." Now Sen. McCain has already promised to continue Bush's failed Iraq policy and to make permanent his tax breaks for the wealthy few, now he's taking up President Bush's assault on Social Security. So in a nutshell, that's John McCain's plan for America: four more years of the same."

She went on to say she could not understand how McCain could find the money to keep troops in Iraq for 100 more years and give tax cuts to the wealthy, while urging people to gamble on the stock market with their Social Security savings. "You don't need to look any further than Bear Stearns and Wall St. lately to know that our workers and seniors simply can't afford the Bush-McCain privatization scheme," she said.

Clinton also had a message for the media, ending her speech with a pointed remark about allowing the remaining states to have a part in the nomination process. "I know there are some in Washington and there are some in the media who want this race to be over," she said to shouts of protest from the crowd. "There are some who seem to think we don't need to hear the voices of people in Pennsylvania or Indiana or North Carolina or Montana or any of the other states that haven't had their chance to vote. Well, I disagree. I think everyone deserves to be heard."

The senator noted that 10 contests remained and there were millions of people left to vote and said to wild applause "with Pennsylvania's help, I believe I will be the Democratic nominee."

For the second day in a row, Clinton talked about Iraq at the top of her speech. "Today we read yet another report that Pres. Bush is planning to keep as many of our young men and women in Iraq after the surge as before, so by the middle of this summer we'll be right back at square one with 140,000 troops on the ground in Iraq," she said. "That Pres. Bush seems to want to keep as many troops in Iraq after the surge as before and says that doing otherwise would endanger our progress is a clear admission that the surge has failed to accomplish its goals."

Clinton appeared with Gov. Ed Rendell and Westmoreland County Commissioner Thomas Ceraso and had several locals come on stage to talk about their economic struggles during the event.