Presidential

Clinton flip-flops on need for more presidential debates

Report: Hillary sent 6 top secret memos from server

 

It's a blast from the past that Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton probably does not want voters to see.

Fox News has obtained a copy of a long-forgotten television ad that Clinton ran in Wisconsin during the 2008 presidential campaign, when she was trying to take out Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama by blasting him for ducking debates and avoiding tough questions.

"Both Democratic candidates were invited to a televised debate here in Wisconsin," intoned the Clinton ad. "Hillary Clinton has said yes. Barack Obama has not. Maybe he'd prefer to give speeches than have to answer questions -- like why Hillary Clinton has the only health care plan that covers every American and the only economic plan that freezes foreclosures. Wisconsin deserves to hear both candidates debate the issues that matter and that's not debatable. I am Hillary Clinton and I approve this message."

This time around the script has been reversed, and Clinton has flip-flopped on the need for more head-to-head debates in the Democratic primaries. She is the embattled frontrunner, who's trying to limit the number of Democratic debates to just a handful sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee as she ducks tough questions about her email controversy.

Yet a growing list of Democratic power brokers are joining former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley and Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders in urging the DNC to increase the number of debates. 

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On Tuesday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters the Democratic candidates could even add a debate on Christmas Day beyond the four already approved by the DNC because the economic issues that would be hashed out are so important to organized labor.

"I like to have the debate," Trumka said. "I like to have things open."

Clinton and Obama sparred 19 times in the 2008 campaign (some were one on one but most included other candidates at the time, like then-Sen. Joe Biden who is once again mulling a bid).

In contrast, this time there are only the four Democratic debates scheduled before the Iowa caucuses, plus two more debates tentatively planned after Iowa and the New Hampshire primary. Though Democrats like O'Malley fear that if Clinton stabilizes her campaign and starts to lock up the nomination early next year, the other debates will disappear.

"Four debates? Four debates," O'Malley thundered last Friday in a speech at the DNC's summer meeting in Minneapolis. "Four debates and four debates only -- we are told and not asked -- before voters in our earliest states make their decision."

O'Malley, who spoke shortly after Clinton and the other major Democratic candidates had addressed DNC members, charged that party leaders had set up a "rigged process" to help the frontrunner. He leveled that allegation as the DNC's chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, sat stone-faced just feet from the podium and gave him the cold shoulder when he wrapped up his remarks.

O'Malley's campaign on Wednesday also circulated to reporters a letter that Clinton's campaign sent to the 2008 Obama campaign urging there be more debates. His deputy campaign manager, Lis Smith, said O'Malley is now "completely in agreement with Secretary Clinton's comments in 2008."

During that past campaign, Clinton also launched a petition on her website to push Obama to agree to more debates in the critical battleground of North Carolina. "Tell Senator Obama that having a debate in North Carolina is important to you," said the petition. "Add your name. Make your voice heard."

This time around, some Democrats are particularly irked that their first debate is not until Oct. 13 in Nevada. By then, the Republican presidential field will have already had two debates.

Ben Doernberg, a 26-year-old independent who lives in Boston, has started a group called #AllowDebate that is planning a protest outside the DNC's headquarters in Washington on Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. ET, just as the second Republican debate will be getting underway.

Doernberg told Fox News in a phone interview he is not aligned with O'Malley or any one candidate. "To me it is just a fairness and democracy question. I think it's incredibly undemocratic to tell the candidates they're not allowed to debate the issues."

Ed Henry currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) chief White House correspondent. He joined the network in June 2011.