Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.
Mark J. Terrill  /  AP
Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., speaks during a presidential forum on health care coverage, Saturday, March 24, 2007, in Las Vegas.
updated 3/26/2007 10:23:31 PM ET 2007-03-27T02:23:31

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday dismissed any comparison between the firing last fall of eight U.S. attorneys with the replacement of 93 U.S. attorneys when her husband became president in 1993.

"That's a traditional prerogative of an incoming president," Clinton said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Once U.S. attorneys are confirmed, they should be given broad latitude to enforce the law as they see fit, she said.

"I think one of the hallmarks of our democracy is we have a devotion to the rule of law," Clinton said.

She conceded that should she win the presidency in 2008, she likely would replace all of the U.S. attorneys appointed by President Bush. She said that's merely following traditions in which presidents appoint prosecutors of their own party.

Clinton argued that the Bush administration's firing of the eight federal prosecutors has caused an uproar because it is seen as a conservative push to shift the balance of power in favor of the executive branch.

Democrats have accused the Justice Department and the White House of purging the prosecutors for political reasons. The Bush administration maintains the firings were not improper because U.S. attorneys are political appointees.

Iraq funding
On another topic, Clinton said the Senate is struggling to find a way to deal with an Iraq funding measure. A House-passed measure includes a timetable for pulling troops out of Iraq, but Clinton said there's no consensus in the Senate.

"We don't have the votes to pass anything," she said.

Clinton spoke after events earlier in the day in Des Moines. She held a forum, broadcast on ABC's "Good Morning America," focused on health care issues and she collected the endorsement of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.

At the forum, Clinton said she "learned a lot" during the failed health care effort of her husband's presidency.

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"We're going to have universal health care when I'm president - there's no doubt about that. We're going to get it done," the New York senator and front-runner for the 2008 nomination said.

Health care times have changed
Clinton focused on health care issues during an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America" broadcast from the state where precinct caucuses will launch the presidential nominating season.

Asked how she could improve on her failed effort to reform health care during her husband's presidency, Clinton said pressure for change has built in the last decade and that would make tackling the issue easier.

"I believe the American people are going to make this an issue," said Clinton. "I believe we're in a better position today to do that than we were in '93 and '94. ... It's one of the reasons I'm running for president."

After the televised meeting, Clinton headed to a Des Moines elementary school to receive the endorsement of former Gov. Tom Vilsack and his wife, Christie.

"Hillary Clinton has been tried and tested like no other candidate for president," Tom Vilsack said.

His wife added, "To me, this is not just an endorsement but a commitment."

In her earlier appearance, Clinton argued that health coverage has deteriorated over the last decade, and that's increased public pressure to act.

"The number of uninsured has grown," said Clinton. "It's hard to ignore the fact that nearly 47 million people don't have health insurance, but also because so many people with insurance have found it's difficult to get health care because the insurance companies deny you what you need."

No specific health plan
However, while Clinton said the issue continues to be a high priority for her, she has not offered up a specific plan. One questioner at the town hall meeting held up a copy of a DVD containing a detailed description of Democratic rival John Edwards' plan for universal health care, asking Clinton if she will also offer specifics.

The reason she hasn't "set out a plan and said here's exactly what I will do," Clinton said, is that she wants to hear from voters what kind of plan they would favor. Video: Vilsack supports Clinton

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator and 2004 Democratic runningmate, has said it's inevitable that taxes would have to go up to finance an expensive health care plan. Clinton disagreed.

"We've got to get the costs under control," said Clinton. "Why would we put more money into a dysfunctional system?"

Clinton sidestepped a question on whether she'd consider Vilsack as a potential runningmate should she win the nomination.

"I am a very big fan of Governor Vilsack," Clinton said, adding that he has "the kind of practical but visionary leadership we need in our country."

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