ALIQUIPPA, Pa. - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday demanded that President Bush disclose his "endgame" in Iraq and asserted that she was the only White House candidate who can be counted upon to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from there.
She also asked Bush to pledge in a speech today on Iraqi policy that he would allow Congress to "review and vote on" any long-term security pact the administration negotiates with the Iraqi government.
"President Bush must not saddle the next president with an agreement that extends our involvement in Iraq beyond his presidency," Clinton said. "We have lost more than 4,000 of our best sons and daughters. . . . This war has cost more than $1 trillion if you factor in the lifetime of care and support that is due to our returning veterans."
Referring to the security pact, she said later: "It certainly seems somewhat strange that such an agreement would be submitted to the Iraqi parliament and not the Congress."
One day after high-profile Senate hearings about Iraq, Clinton highlighted national security during a town-hall meeting with retired military brass at Hopewell High School here.
For his part, Sen. Barack Obama yesterday reiterated his long-held position on Iraq, saying that he would, if elected, begin withdrawing U.S. troops at the rate of one to two brigades a month. The goal, he said, would be to complete the withdrawal, except for a small residual force, within 16 months.
Speaking at a town-hall meeting in Levittown, he said that to move any faster would be irresponsible, adding that "we have to be as careful getting out as we were careless going in" and that the United States had a strong interest in preventing a total collapse of the Iraqi nation.
Clinton's military town hall outside of Pittsburgh was a departure from the relentless focus on the economy on the Pennsylvania campaign trail, with less than two weeks before the state's April 22 Democratic presidential primary and polls showing Clinton's lead over Obama shrinking.
Economic issues intruded, however, with Clinton denying in a news conference that there was conflict in her campaign because she opposes expanded trade with Colombia, in contrast to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and her former chief strategist.
"I don't think any married couple I know agrees on everything, and we disagree on this," Hillary Clinton said, adding that "there are two sides" in the debate over trade. She recently demoted chief strategist Mark Penn, who represents Colombia on the issue in his public-relations business.
Both Clinton and Obama have said they intend to vote against the Colombia deal, which Bush recently sent to Congress for approval. The North American Free Trade Agreement, blamed for the loss of thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania and other industrial states, has been a bone of contention between the Democratic rivals.
In Wisconsin, Obama used the Clinton administration's implementation of NAFTA against the former first lady, and in Ohio last month, she turned the tables after an Obama adviser met with Canadian officials and was characterized as saying Obama's complaints about the treaty were mere campaign rhetoric.
Likewise, Clinton said yesterday Obama's promise to end the war was "just words," noting that his former foreign-policy adviser said campaign promises were not binding.
"One candidate will continue the war," she said, referring to Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain. "One candidate only says he'll end the war. And one candidate is ready, willing and able to end the war."
After speaking at two Democratic Party dinners in Western Pennsylvania today, Clinton is scheduled to be in Philadelphia tomorrow. One event is closed, and the other is scheduled for 5 p.m. in the Main Building Atrium at Drexel.