The claws came out in the Hillary Clinton camp in the wake of a CNN youtube presidential debate among the Democratic candidates two nights ago.
Clinton called rival Sen. Barack Obama’s willingness to sit down with government leaders who are enemies of the United States "irresponsible and naive."
But U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman disagrees. In fact, the New Jersey Congressman said when he watched that debate he finally decided he was going to support Obama for president, and today he fired off a press release enthusiastically endorsing Obama ‘08.
"Barack’s appearance in the last debate confirmed for me what I’ve believed all along," said Rothman. "It’s new thinking versus old thinking. This notion of Hillary Clinton’s that we should continue down this path of not talking to our enemies is a policy that has proven to be disastrous to our country. These are not the views of someone who professes to be an agent of change."
The only member of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation to endorse Obama, Rothman said the Illinois senator’s public opposition in 2002 to sending 160,000 U.S. troops to Iraq gives him foreign policy cred that Clinton frankly lacks.
"I made the similar vote," the Congressman admitted of his 2002 thumbs up signal authorizing President George W. Bush to use force in Iraq. But he added that he later "declared it to be a mistake."
Clinton, meanwhile, dug in unaplogetically on her Iraq War authorization vote – an error, in Rothman’s judgement.
"I think Barack Obama has a new way of thinking and the intellect that would present to our people and to the world the new face of America," said the Congressman.
Often mentioned as a likely candidate to run for higher office when U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg retires, Rothman now has an edge if the longshot Obama becomes the Democratic nominee. If the New York senator wins the presidential nomination, Clinton backers U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone and U.S. Rep. Bob Andrews would be in a better position to pursue the Senate seat.
"It ain’t over until it’s over," the Congressman said of Obama’s prospects. "It’s a long way to the finish line."
Rothman said either Democratic candidate would be superior to the Republicans.