RENO - The Clinton administration's attempt to reform health care in 1993 failed partly because then-first lady Hillary Clinton worked only with "her own people" and shut out other potential allies, Sen. Barrack Obama said Thursday.
The Democratic presidential candidate also said that his rivals seeking the nomination who voted to authorize the war in Iraq would be subject to Republican criticism that they "flip-flopped" now that they oppose the war.
In the context of Iraq, Obama did not name Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, who along with fellow senators, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd and former Sen. John Edwards, voted to give the president the authority to go to war.
But he did single her out later as he explained why his decision to speak out against the war in 2002 when others in his party were keeping quiet is an example of how he bucks conventional wisdom and "inside" politics of Washington.
"I give Senator Clinton credit" for trying to reform the nation's health care system, Obama told about 2,000 people at a townhall-type meeting in a hotel-casino theater.
"The problem was that she closed the doors. So she just worked with her own people. She locked out potential allies," he said.
"While they were trying to do their planning inside closed doors, you had those ads from the insurance companies, Harry and Louise out there, saying how, 'Oh, this is going to be socialized medicine and you'll have all these folks in your medicine cabinets,"' he said.
The result, Obama said, was the American people were excluded and "they didn't know all this was going down."
"I will open up the process. We will have a big table in my first 100 days. Doctors and nurses and patients and consumers groups and yes, the insurance companies, they'll get a seat. They just won't be able to buy all the chairs," he said.
"And if those insurance companies and drug companies start trying to run ads with Harry and Louise, I'll run my own ads as president. I'll get on television and say 'Harry and Louise are lying,"' he said.
Hilarie Grey, spokeswoman for Clinton's campaign in Nevada, said later Thursday that unlike Obama, Clinton has a plan to deliver universal health care and is the "candidate that voters trust the most to end the war in Iraq."
"Its unfortunate that Senator Obama is abandoning the politics of hope and instead employing the same old attack politics as his campaign stalls. Nothing says politics as usual more than that," she said.
On Iraq, Obama said that while his rivals' views have evolved over the years, he has stood firm in his belief that "the war in Iraq should have never been fought."
"The American people were failed by a president who rushed to war and didn't tell the whole truth. ... But the American people were also failed by the majority of Congress that didn't ask the hard questions," he said.
"We need to ask those who voted for the war: How can you give the president a blank check and then act surprised when he decides to cash it?"
"Let's be clear. Without that vote, there would be no war," he said.
Obama, who also scheduled a campaign appearance in Las Vegas Thursday night, said if he is the party's nominee he'll be immune to criticism the others would likely face.
"My Republican opponent won't be able to say that we both supported this war in Iraq in the beginning," Obama said.
"They won't be able to say I'm being inconsistent or that I'm flip-flopping. They won't be able to say that we really agree about using the war in Iraq to justify military action in Iran," he said.
"They won't be able to say that I haven't been open and straight with the American people about what I believe - that I've changed my positions."
Obama said he didn't bring the issue up again "to re-litigate the past."
"It's not just a matter of debating who was right and who was wrong back then. It's about who has the best judgment to make critical decisions for the future," he said.
"Will we make these decisions based on polls or will be base them on principles? Will we have the courage to make the tough choice or we will just choose the course that makes us look tough," Obama said.
"The first thing we are going to have to do is bring this war to a close. And the right person to end it is someone who had the judgment to oppose it from the beginning."