Thursday, January 19, 2006

Obama Backs Clinton's Criticism of GOP

Wed Jan 18, 9:55 PM ET

Sen. Barack Obama and other black Democrats are defending Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's description of the House of Representatives as a "plantation." First lady Laura Bush says Clinton's remark was "ridiculous."

Clinton, D-N.Y., a potential presidential candidate for 2008, did not retreat from the "plantation" remark, telling reporters the term accurately describes the "top-down" way the GOP runs Congress.

Obama said Wednesday he felt her choice of words referred to a "consolidation of power" in Washington that squeezes out the voters.

The Illinois senator told CNN's "American Morning" he believed that Clinton was merely expressing concern that special interests play such a large role in writing legislation that "the ordinary voter and even members of Congress who aren't in the majority party don't have much input."

"There's been a consolidation of power by the Republican Congress and this White House in which, if you are the ordinary voter, you don't have access," Obama said. "That should be a source of concern for all of us."

New York Rep. Gregory Meeks (news, bio, voting record) also defended Clinton.

"There was no race card played here. If any card was played here it was a joker, because that's who seems to be running the House right now if you look at the leadership," said Meeks, a black Democrat.

First lady Laura Bush, en route home from a visit to West Africa, criticized Clinton.

"It think it's ridiculous — it's a ridiculous comment," Mrs. Bush told reporters when asked about the senator's remark.

Obama, D-Ill., told ABC's "Good Morning America" that under GOP control in Washington, "what one has seen is the further concentration of power around a very narrow agenda that advantages the most powerful."

Obama also said New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was correct to apologize for suggesting that the hurricane-ravaged city would be majority black again because "it's the way God wants it to be."

"If I'm the mayor of New Orleans, I want everybody to come back," said Obama, the Senate's only black member.

Clinton, who is seeking re-election this year, said during a Martin Luther King Day event in Harlem this week that the House "has been run like a plantation," in that "nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard."

Clinton appeared briefly in Washington Wednesday at a Democratic event, but quickly slipped out a back door far from reporters. On Tuesday night, she adamantly stood by the comments, saying "top-down" decision-making by GOP congressional leaders was bad for the country.

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