ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., pushed her speech back to Wednesday morning at the "Take Back America 2007" conference, which drew some 3,000 liberal activists around the country to a Washington hotel this week.
But as the presidential candidates took their turns in front of the gathering on Tuesday, Clinton took plenty of hits in absentia — albeit without her name attached to the barbs.
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., reminded the gathering that he was the only top-tier presidential candidate to have opposed the war since before it started.
"I am proud that I stood up in 2002 and urged our leaders not to take us down this dangerous path," Obama said. "This is a war that never should have been authorized, a war that should have never been waged. Many of us knew back then — even when it wasn’t popular to say so — even back then, this war was a mistake."
Former senator John Edwards, D-N.C. — who, like Clinton, voted for the war in 2002 — noted that he has apologized for his vote, something that Clinton has refused to do. He chastised congressional leaders for not acting more quickly to end the war after voters handed Democrats control of Congress last fall based largely on the war issue.
"For me it’s very simple, and this is it: No more pontificating. No more vacillating. No more triangulating, " Edwards said. "No more tomorrow. For the men and women who are leaving this country to go serve in Iraq, there is no tomorrow."
The sharpest words of the day came from Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., who contrasted his plan for Iraq with those of all of his rivals. The crucial difference, he said, would be that he would leave "zero troops" in Iraq.
"Senator Clinton has told her miltary adviser that if she were elected there might still be troops in Iraq at the end of her second term," Richardson said.
Clinton, who was famously booed at the "Take Back America" gathering a year ago, told a labor forum Tuesday that she does envision keeping US troops in Iraq in the intermediate term to protect the nation’s "remaining national security interests that are important to America."
"That doesn’t take a lot of American forces, but I think we have to look very carefully about continuing that," she said. "We will have to protect our interests."