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Clinton tackles ‘black enough’ question at Vegas conference


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton focused on her experience and years of public service Thursday when asked the question: “Are you black enough?”

At a conference of black journalists meeting in Las Vegas, CNN reporter Suzanne Malveaux asked Clinton, “Are you black enough? What makes you the better candidate over a black man in representing the issues confronting African Americans?”

The New York senator, who is competing with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the support of black voters, cited her years of public service and advocacy, and described herself as the more experienced candidate.

“My attitude is, I don’t deserve anyone’s vote. I have to earn everyone’s vote. I think that I can make a very strong case that my experience and my ideas, going back into the White House, is exactly what we need at this point in history,” Clinton said.

Clinton used the appearance at the National Association of Black Journalists conference to outline her youth opportunity agenda aimed at a handful of issues affecting urban and black America.

Clinton is proposing a $10 billion investment in universal preschool, and $100 million for internships giving middle-school and high-school students job skills. She said she would increase funding for the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and reverse proposed federal cuts in child support enforcement.

Clinton also said she wants to spend $200 million over the next five years on community partnerships aimed at helping ex-offenders re-enter the job market.

But the former first lady became most passionate when defending her longtime advocacy for health care reform to a questioner who compared her proposals to health systems in Canada and Britain.

“I have never advocated socialized medicine and I want all the journalists to hear that loudly and clearly. That has been a right-wing attack on me for 15 years,” Clinton said, adding that her staff would provide the questioner information, “if you’re interested in being educated instead of being rhetorical.”

The crowd erupted in applause.

Obama was scheduled to address the convention Friday.

Clinton went on to campaign at the Culinary Workers Union hall, a group currently embroiled in prolonged contract negotiations with casino giant MGM Mirage Inc.

Its endorsement is coveted by each of the Democrats in the field, and both Obama and former vice-presidential nominee John Edwards have promised to walk the picket line with members should the MGM talks lead to a strike.

Clinton made the same promise Thursday, before a group of about 400 union members.

“Let me be clear, I believe in negotiations,” she said. “But if it comes to a strike, I will be with you on the picket line.”

The promise appeared welcome, but was received with skepticism by some in the union, which represents hotel and restaurant workers in Las Vegas casinos.

“My first thought is, I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Lynn Baker, 49, a waitress at the Excalibur hotel-casino. The union has set a strike vote for Sept. 12.

Clinton later campaigned at a house party for campaign workers in a Hispanic neighborhood in Las Vegas, before heading to Los Angeles for a presidential candidates forum on gay and lesbian issues.

– Associated Press

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