Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama on Monday disavowed a memo criticizing rival Hillary Rodham Clinton’s financial ties to India, blaming his campaign staff for a “dumb mistake.”
In an interview with The Associated Press, Obama labeled the memo and its headline — “Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab) — as “unnecessarily caustic.” The memo had referred to Bill and Hillary Clintons’ investments in India; her fundraising among Indian-Americans; and the former president’s $300,000 in speech fees from Cisco, a company that has moved U.S. jobs to India.
“It was a dumb mistake on our campaign’s part and I made it clear to my staff in no uncertain terms that it was a mistake,” Obama told the AP in a brief interview.
The memo has created a furor in the Indian-American community and raised questions about Obama’s claims that he is above attack politics epitomized by secretly distributing opposition research about a rival. Placing the blame on his staff is not new. Earlier this year, Obama faulted his staff for comments in a dispute with the Clinton camp over Hollywood donor David Geffen.
Last Thursday, Obama’s campaign sent the memo to reporters, demanding that it not be attributed to their campaign. The Clinton campaign got a copy and sent it to reporters.
“It is not reflective of the long-standing relationship I have had with the Indian-American community,” Obama said in the interview.
“The issue of outsourcing is a genuine and important issue but to refer to one particular country was, I think, an error and I let all of us know that we’ve got to be more careful about how we communicate,” he said.
Takes responsibility for mistake
In a statement on his Web site, Obama said he was not aware of the contents of the memo before it was distributed. The Illinois senator said he was responsible for the mistake and the campaign had taken appropriate action “to prevent errors like this from happening in the future.”
The campaign said the new policy is to ensure that senior staff will review materials before they are distributed publicly.
Obama was campaigning in Iowa on Monday. Stopping in an Iowa town rocked by the closure of a Maytag plant, he called for new efforts to create jobs and end tax subsidies for companies that shift jobs overseas.
Obama focused on economic issues during his visit to Newton, a town of about 15,000 dealing with the loss of nearly 2,000 jobs due to the closure of a Maytag plant and offices. The appliance manufacturer based in Newton was bought last year by rival Whirlpool Corp.
“While it’s not possible to stop globalization in its tracks, what we can do is make sure we have a government that’s looking out for our workers,” Obama said. “We can do more to create a government that’s creating quality jobs here in America, and we can do more to create a government that’s helping workers who lose their jobs.”
In Newton, Obama spoke before about 300 people and promised to increase federal grants and job training programs to communities dealing with job losses.
Later, Obama visited Ottumwa, a blue-collar town in eastern Iowa that has endured changes in the meatpacking industry. More than 700 people jammed into a high school gymnasium to hear his speech.