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Clinton stresses her credentials at S.C. campaign stop

Aaron Gould Sheinin
McClatchy Newspapers
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) speaks at Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina, Sunday, February 19, 2007. (Tim Dominick/The State/MCT)

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Hillary Clinton told a crowd of more than 3,000 at Allen University on Monday she's "proud to be a woman," but she's not basing a run for president on her gender.

She's running because she believes she's the most qualified.

"Can a woman be president?" Clinton asked the crowd, which responded with a roar. "One of the great things about America is anyone can be president. What it depends upon is the individual."

In an upbeat and wide-ranging town hall event at this historically black university, Clinton, a Democratic U.S. senator from New York, made her first appearance in the state as a candidate.

In her 50-minute visit, she stressed credentials of having worked "most of my adult life" for children and family issues and said she gained needed experience by her husband's side in the White House and during her own stint on the Armed Services Committee.

On the war in Iraq, Clinton did not stray from previous statements that President Bush acted in a "reckless and pre-emptive" way in taking the country to war.

Clinton voted to authorize military force against Iraq in 2002 and has not declared that vote a "mistake," as has presidential candidate and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.

In response to an audience member's question about the war - one of eight she fielded - Clinton said America faces a dire threat from terrorism.

"To underscore a point, some people may be running who tell you we don't face a real threat from terrorism," she said. "I'm not one of them. We have serious enemies who want to do us serious harm."

She also repeated her call for a redeployment of U.S. combat troops out of Iraq and said it was "a position I've supported for two years and the president's policy hasn't changed. What he's doing now is more of the same."

Clinton was often serious, as she was while discussing the war, and at times playful and lighthearted. Shortly after taking the stage, where she spoke through a wireless microphone, she told a story about being in the Girl Scouts and tentatively sang a few bars of a Girl Scouts song.

But she was quick to admit her singing talents are limited.

"I am not running to be chosen the American Idol, but to be elected president of the United States."

She was greeted like a star, regardless. People were lined up for more than a block down Pine Street in near freezing temperatures to get a seat in the John Hurst Adams Gymnatorium. Organizers estimated more than 3,200 people were on hand, many of them in an overflow room.

Clinton twice mentioned her work with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and about a half-dozen times mentioned her husband, former President Bill Clinton. The former president spoke at Allen in March 2000 at an event to honor Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.

One man, who was not identified, told Clinton that Bush should be impeached.

"The president has broken his contract with the soldiers, and the president needs to be impeached," he said to great applause from the crowd.

Clinton nodded her head but did not directly say whether she agreed or disagreed.

"The country spoke loudly and clearly November 2006, and the country said we want a change in direction and we want the Democrats back in the majority in Congress," Clinton said in response. "And that is the beginning of taking our country back."

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