by Mike Dorning
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama sharpened criticism of rival Hillary Clinton's frequent use of Bill Clinton's term in office as a qualification for the presidency, comparing the argument to his wife Michelle hypothetically claiming to be "best-qualified" for the U.S. Senate because she confers with him "on occasion."
In an interview aired Monday night on ABC's Nightline, Obama also accused Clinton of "cherry-picking" her husband's record to her best advantage.
"There's no doubt that Bill Clinton had faith in her and consulted with her on issues, the same way that I would consult with Michelle if there were issues," Obama added. "On the other hand, I don't think Michelle would claim that she is the best-qualified person to be a United States senator by virtue of me talking to her on occasion about work that I've done."
Obama also sharpened his tone while reiterating past criticism that Clinton has simultaneously sought to distance herself on politically disadvantageous parts of the Clinton White House record such as passage of NAFTA while embracing popular achievements.
"Sen. Clinton is claiming basically the entire eight years of the Clinton presidency as her own, except for the stuff that didn't work out, in which case she says she has nothing to do with it," Obama said in the television interview.
"I have no problem with her making claims on behalf of her work as first lady being relevant to the presidency. That's her prerogative," he said later in the interview. "What she can't be is selective in terms of, you know, cherry-picking and making determinations that she's now suddenly the face of foreign policy, that she shaped economic policy, except for the stuff that didn't work out, in which that was somebody else's problem or that was somebody else's fault."
The Clinton campaign returned fire with a statement read on the air at the end of the pre-taped interview.
"Considering that Sen. Obama was just a state senator three years ago, he is the last person to be questioning anyone's experience. If he is elected, he would have less experience than any American president of the 20th century," the Clinton campaign statement said.