Obama Confronts Clinton Attacks; Calls Ex-President's Advocacy Troubling, Hits Claims as False

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Byline: Donald Lambro, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Sen. Barack Obama shot back at Bill Clinton yesterday, charging the former president's combative advocacy of his wife's presidential bid has reached troubling levels and warning that he would "directly confront" him if he continues to hurl false accusations at his candidacy.

Mr. Obama said Mr. Clinton "continues to make statements that are not supported by the facts - whether it's about my record of opposition to the war in Iraq or our approach to organizing in Las Vegas."

"This has become a habit, and one of the things that we're going to have to do is to directly confront Bill Clinton when he's making statements that are not factually accurate," the Illinois Democrat said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

In an escalating war of words between New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's husband and her chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Clinton accused Mr. Obama of saying Ronald Reagan's presidency was better than Mr. Clinton's and that Mr. Obama courted Republicans in the Nevada caucuses.

In a campaign speech for his wife in Buffalo, N.Y., on Sunday night, Mr. Clinton said Mr. Obama had made "an explicit effort to get Republicans to come and vote for him in the Democratic caucus" Saturday.

"[Obama] said President Reagan was the engine of innovation and did more, had a more lasting impact on America than I did. And then the next day he said, 'In the '90s, the good ideas came from the Republicans.' Which it'll be costly maybe down the road for him because it's factually not accurate," Mr. Clinton said.

What Mr. Obama said about Mr. Reagan focused on how he had sensed the country was ready for a major change in direction, a central theme in the freshman senator's presidential campaign. Here is what he said last week during an editorial board meeting with the Reno Gazette-Journal:

"I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it," he said.

Obama campaign officials now say it was a mistake not to respond more forcefully to the charges made by Mr. Clinton and the Clinton campaign during the New Hampshire primary and, in a major change in strategy, have decided that they will reply more aggressively to future attacks.

During the campaign in the Granite State, Mr. Clinton said Mr. Obama's claim to have opposed the Iraq war from the beginning was "a fairy tale," a charge that angered black leaders, including South Carolina Rep. James E. Clyburn who said the tone of Mr. …