LAS VEGAS – Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson suggested on Thursday that Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton's lack of clarity in her answers at the debate raises questions about her ability to handle diplomacy.
Addressing a crowd of Republican donors, the former Tennessee senator joined Clinton's Democratic opponents in seizing on her debate answer on whether she supported a plan by New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer to grant drivers' licenses to illegal immigrations.
At first, Clinton appeared to praise the plan. Pressed later in the debate, she seemed to backtrack, saying she didn't say it should be done. Her campaign sought to clarify her comments on Wednesday, saying she supported the governor's effort.
"Yes, it's about Hillary, and we have our fun, but it's also about something else," Thompson said. "When our worst enemy sits down at the negotiating table and looks across the table ... how much can they get away with, how much of what they're hearing is really true? Are they going to mean what is said on the other side of the table? The question is, 'Who do we want on the other side of that table facing them?"'
Responding to the criticism, Clinton spokeswoman Hilarie Grey said if the New York senator is at that table, "they'll face someone who has the strength and experience to protect America's standing in the world and reverse the disastrous Bush foreign policies. If it's any of the Republican candidates, it'll be someone who wants to continue the Bush Iraq policy and cowboy diplomacy."
Thompson said he opposes granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
"It just like sanctuary cities, saying 'Well, (illegal immigrants) are here, you know, we might as well just throw up our hands, there's nothing you can do about it anymore,"' he said.
The former Tennessee senator also mocked Clinton's performance with a baseball reference more likely to come from GOP rival Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor.
"I never thought that I would see Joe Torre be the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And I never thought I'd see Hillary Clinton get pinned down and have to answer a controversial question," Thompson said.
Torre is the former New York Yankees manager who is talking with the Dodgers about their job.
Nevada holds its caucuses on Jan. 19, but the state hasn't attracted the same amount of attention as the other early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Thompson, who entered the presidential race about two months ago, was making his first public appearance in the state.
The Nevada Republican Party fundraiser was held in a country-themed night club with bikini bull riding and the "HOTTEST cowboys and cowgirls that Las Vegas has to offer."
On Thursday morning, the club hosted about 100 Republicans, including Gov. Jim Gibbons, who has not endorsed a candidate.