NEW HAMPTON, Iowa - Randall Rolph said he came to New Hampton, Iowa, on Sunday to see Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) with an open mind about whether to support her candidacy. After a tough exchange over Iran, he left saying he had ruled her out.
Rolph was one of several hundred people who turned out in this small town in northern Iowa for Clinton's appearance. When she called on him for a question, he pulled out a piece of paper and read a question about Iran.
Rolph asked Clinton to explain her Senate vote Wednesday for a resolution urging the Bush administration to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Rolph interpreted that measure as giving Bush authority to use military action against the Iranians.
"Well, let me thank you for the question, but let me tell you that the premise of the question is wrong and I'll be happy to explain that to you," Clinton began.
She offered a detailed description of the resolution, which she said stressed robust diplomacy that could lead to imposing sanctions against Iran, and then pointedly said to Rolph that her view wasn't in "what you read to me, that somebody obviously sent to you."
"I take exception," Rolph interjected. "This is my own research."
"Well then, let me finish," Clinton responded.
Rolph, from nearby Nashua, fired back that no one had sent him the material.
"Well, then, I apologize. It's just that I've been asked the very same question in three other places," she said.
Clinton then explained that she had gone to the Senate floor in February to state that Bush does not have the authority to use military action against Iran and that she is working on legislation to put that into law. Rolph once again challenged her recent vote, suggesting that it amounted to giving Bush a free hand..
"I'm sorry, sir, it does not," she said, her voice showing her exasperation. "No, no, let me just say one other thing because I respect your research. There was an earlier version that I opposed. It was dramatically changed ... I would never have voted for the first version. The second version ripped out what was considered very bellicose and very threatening language."
The campaign said later that the excised language stated that "it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran," and "to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including ... military instruments, with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
The New Hampton audience gave Clinton a round of applause. Some said later that she was right to stand her ground.
When the event was over, Rolph was surrounded by reporters and said he felt the need to stand his ground when Clinton challenged him: "She tried to ... accuse me of using someone else's words and being stupid. And that offended me. I felt the need to defend myself in view of that kind of comment."
Had he come to the meeting supporting any candidate? "I came here with an open mind, that's why I had to ask this question. By asking this question, that was going to be the defining moment for me. But it has been a defining moment," Rolph said.
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