SHENANDOAH, Iowa – Hillary Rodham Clinton ridiculed Democratic rival Barack Obama on Tuesday for his contention that living abroad as a child helped give him a better understanding of the foreign policy challenges facing the U.S.
"Voters will have to judge if living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next president will face," Clinton said. "I think we need a president with more experience than that, someone the rest of the world knows, looks up to and has confidence in."
Obama's retort: "I was wondering which world leader told her that we needed to invade Iraq."
Clinton's conclusion: "This campaign is getting kind of heated now. It's getting a little more exciting and intense."
A day earlier, touting his foreign policy credentials, Obama had said his life experience gave him a better feel for international issues than most candidates gain from official trips to other nations.
He noted his father was from Kenya and that he himself spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. "Probably the strongest experience I have in foreign relations is the fact I spent four years overseas when I was a child in Southeast Asia," he said Monday.
Clinton has been slapping harder at Obama on the issue of experience — on Monday she said the nation's economy "can't afford on-the-job training" for the next president — as surveys show them in a tight race with former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards for January's leadoff caucuses in Iowa.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Obama with 30 percent support among likely Democratic caucus-goers, Clinton with 26 percent and Edwards with 22 percent. About half the Clinton supporters who were surveyed said they had never attended a caucus compared with 43 percent of Obama supporters — a finding that could be significant because voters considered the most reliable caucus participants are those who have caucused before.
After learning of her comments Tuesday, Obama responded during a town hall-style meeting in a gym in Conway, N.H.
"I mentioned that one of the reasons that I got it right when it came to Iraq was because I lived overseas when I was a child," he said. "It gives me some judgment and perspective around what other people think about America and how they might react or respond when we make some of the decisions that we do."
"Of course, both the Republicans, in their talking points, as well as Senator Clinton said, 'Well, I don't think that what Senator Obama did when he was 10 years old is relevant to our national security.' I didn't say that."
Clinton made her remarks to a crowd in Iowa Tuesday — but from a state away. She had been scheduled to open the second day of a campaign trip through Iowa with a town hall meeting in Shenandoah, but aides said her plane was unable to land because of fog, disappointing more than 400 people gathered to hear her speech. She addressed them by speaker phone — from Omaha.
She sought to compare her experience — a two-term New York senator after eight years as first lady — with that of Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois.
"I offer the experience of being battle-tested in the political wars here at home," said Clinton, arguing that her background not only was superior as a potential president but also made her the most electable Democrat.
"For 15 years I've been the object of the Republican attack machine and I'm still here," she said.
She said she would be ready to address the problems facing the country on her first day in the White House.
"We have so many issues to deal with," she said. "I've traveled the world on behalf of our country. I've met with countless world leaders and know many of them personally."
Aides said she made more than 70 overseas trips during her time as first lady, was actively involved in policy during her husband's tenure in office and has been closely involved in foreign policy issues during her Senate tenure.
Obama's take on that: "A long resume does not guarantee good judgment."