Sen. Obama Offers Kind Words for Hillary Clinton

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama spoke at a charity event about the possibility of a win by Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 presidential race and commented on the fatal police shooting of a 23-year-old in Queens, saying the 50 bullets that officers unloaded struck him as "excessive."

Obama, also a potential contender for the presidency in 2008, did not elaborate on his own shot at the White House during the charity event Monday night for Kids in Distressed Situations Inc., an organization that helps children living in poverty.

Instead, Obama had some kind words for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the powerful New York senator, who tops every national poll of likely Democratic candidates. He called her smart and tough.

"I'm not one of these people who thinks she can't win," he told reporters at a news conference after the charity event.

He said he understood why the media kept asking about whether he and Clinton would square off in a primary: It's "fun" to set up those scenarios, he said.

When Obama was asked about the fatal police shooting of 23-year-old groom Sean Bell in Queens more than a week ago, he didn't shy away from the question.

Obama said his assessment of what happened was similar to that of Mayor Michael Bloomberg: The dozens of bullets fired by five officers "strikes me as excessive," he said.

Obama said police operate with restraint 99 percent of the time, though "this may be one of the times they did not."

Police have said they fired on Bell's car because they believed someone in it had a gun, but no gun was found. Two of Bell's friends were wounded in the Nov. 25 shooting.

The Democrat quoted Ronald Reagan and told a story about Bobby Kennedy visiting the Mississippi Delta in 1967. He talked about the current minimum wage being insufficient and how single mothers like his do a heroic job.

Once his speech was over, he received a rousing standing ovation from the scores of people in the audience gathered at a midtown Manhattan hotel.

One woman couldn't stop taking pictures of the charismatic, sharply dressed senator from Illinois.

"I love him," she said.