The leading Democratic candidates for president sparred with each other over the issue of nuclear weapons Thursday and the result was pure heat.
In another broadside indicating the increasingly heated race for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., implied Thursday that comments made by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., were careless and unpresidential.
Sen. Clinton was referring to Obama's statement earlier in the day that he had ruled out using nuclear weapons against al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
Clinton also suggested Obama's high-profile speech earlier in the week in which he said would be willing to invade Pakistan to attack high-profile al Qaeda targets, given actionable intelligence, was inappropriate, further evidence that she is painting her challenger as unprepared for the job of commander in chief.
Regarding terrorist targets in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region, Obama told The Associated Press Thursday: "I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance." He then added: "Involving civilians."
Seeming to think twice about his response, Obama then said, "Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table."
Clinton, asked about his remarks Thursday afternoon, took issue with them.
"Presidents should be very careful at all times in discussing the use or nonuse of nuclear weapons," Clinton said. "Presidents since the Cold War have used nuclear deterrence to keep the peace. And I don't believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or nonuse of nuclear weapons."
On Wednesday, Obama delivered a major anti-terrorism speech in which he essentially threatened the government of Pakistan that as president he would attack al Qaeda targets in the country with or without the permission of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will," Obama said.
Clinton did not take issue with that as an option, but suggested Obama should not have been delivering such messages publicly.
"I am concerned about talking about it," she said. "I think everyone agrees that our goal should be to capture or kill bin Laden and his lieutenants but how we do it should not be telegraphed and discussed for obvious reasons."
Clinton didn't seem to have any problem "talking about" the subject on Wednesday, when interviewed on American Urban Radio News Network.
"I've long believed that we needed tougher, smarter action against terrorists by deploying more troops to Afghanistan, and if we had actionable intelligence that Osama bin Laden or other high-value targets were in Pakistan I would ensure that they were targeted and killed or captured," she said.
Other Democrats seeking the White House criticized Obama, describing the candidate who just three years ago was an obscure Illinois state legislator as in over his head.
"Over the past several days, Senator Obama's assertions about foreign and military affairs have been, frankly, confusing and confused," said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. "He has made threats he should not make and made unwise categorical statements about military options."