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Sen. Clinton backs husband's efforts to fight terrorism

Story Highlights

New: Sen. Clinton defends husband after heated Fox News interview
• Rice says the Bush administration was as "aggressive" as Clinton before 9/11
• She denies Clinton officials left behind a full strategy to deal with al Qaeda
• Rice, president cite 9/11 panel's report, which faults both administrations
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Tuesday defended her husband in an ongoing war of words with conservatives over whether the administration did enough to fight terrorism.

The exchange started during a Sunday TV interview in which President Clinton defended his efforts to track down and kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

"I think my husband did a great job in demonstrating that Democrats are not going to take these attacks," Sen. Clinton said. (Watch Clinton vs. Rice on terrorism -- 2:11)

"You know, and I'm certain that if my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report entitled 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States' he would have taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team."

During his interview with Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday," President Clinton also said he came the closest to killing bin Laden and suggested that his administration took the threat of terrorism more seriously than the Bush administration did before the September 11, 2001, attacks. (Watch as Clinton says he tried to kill bin Laden -- 1:18)

Clinton also lashed out against "the right-wingers who are attacking me now," saying the same people had accused him of being "obsessed" with bin Laden.

"They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried. So I tried and failed," he told Wallace.

He added that he "left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy" for the Bush administration. (Watch as analysts debate Clinton's effectiveness -- 2:36)

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has taken on former President Clinton, strongly rejecting that notion. (Your e-mail: The Clinton-Rice war of words)

"What we did in the eight months [between Bush's inauguration and 9/11] was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years," Rice told the New York Post in comments published Tuesday.

"The notion that somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't do that is just flatly false."

But Rice told the Post that "we were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda."

Both Rice and Clinton pointed to the bipartisan commission that investigated the September 11 attacks, which also traced the steps the two administrations had taken before the attacks. In a 2004 report, the 9/11 commission criticized both for not having done enough.

In December, the commission slammed the Bush administration for failing to implement many critical recommendations from that report.

President Bush sidestepped the controversy Tuesday when asked about it at a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who came to power after the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban following 9/11.

"I've watched all this finger-pointing and namings of names and all that stuff," Bush said. "Our objective is to secure the country.

"And we've had investigations, we had the 9/11 commission, we had the look-back this, we had the look-back that. American people need to know that we spend all our time doing everything we can to protect them. I'm not going to comment on other comments."


SPECIAL REPORT

• Slide show: Know your enemy
• Slide show: Bin Laden up close
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