Democrat Clinton touts ability to fend off attacks

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WASHINGTON, Sep 23 (Reuters) Democrat Hillary Clinton, in a whirlwind tour of the Sunday TV talk shows, sought to defuse complaints that she's too polarizing to win the White House or lead the nation, particularly out of Iraq.

Clinton said she expects whoever wins the 2008 Democratic nomination to succeed President George W. Bush to face ''withering attacks'' from the political right.

''I think I've proven that I not only can survive them but surpass them,'' the former first lady turned two-term senator from New York told NBC's ''Meet the Press.'' ''As I have traveled around the country, my support has grown,'' said Clinton, describing herself as a senator who has sought and found ''common ground'' and ''stood my ground.

Polls show Clinton leading seven Democratic rivals for the presidential nomination, including fellow Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois, Joseph Biden of Delaware, Chris Dodd of Connecticut and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

But surveys also find her with high negatives, prompting some Republicans to suggest she may be an easy target in the November 2008 election and raising fear by some Democrats she may be unable to win.

Appearing on ''Fox News Sunday,'' where a year ago her husband, former President Bill Clinton, accused a commentator of a ''conservative hit job on me,'' she was asked why ''you and the president have such a hyper-partisan view of politics?'' Clinton replied with a loud laugh and then said, referring to political attacks on the two of them, ''If you had walked ever a day in our shoes over the last 15 years, I'm sure you'd understand.'' ''But you know, the real goal for our country right now is to get beyond partisanship, and I'm sure trying to do my part, because we've got a lot of serious problems,'' Clinton said.

Former Republican House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, who clashed with the Clinton White House, said on the same show she appears to be seeking to broaden her appeal.

''So in some ways, for a very liberal candidate who has a very liberal background, she's doing what she can to try to move toward the center, plus she knows if she's going to be the nominee, she's not going to win on the left,'' Gingrich said.

Clinton reiterated her intentions, if elected, to redeploy U.S. troops in Iraq, now numbering about 160,000, and again accused Bush and the Iraqi government of bungling the war, now in its fifth year.

''The best way to support our troops is bringing them home,'' said Clinton, who along with other Democrats in Congress have been blocked from doing so by Bush and his fellow Republicans, who have managed to erect procedural roadblocks.

Clinton said she would keep some U.S. forces in Iraq for limited roles, such as training Iraqi troops, protecting the U.S. Embassy or fighting al Qaeda, though she refused to estimate how many.

''There's no doubt that if we're making progress against al Qaeda in Iraq that we want to continue that. But we don't need 160,000 troops,'' Clinton said on CNN's ''Late Edition.'' Clinton, who announced a proposal last week to provide health insurance for all Americans, said she learned from her failed effort on this front as first lady in 1994.

''You get knocked down, you get back up. I've learned a lot and I think I now know better how to do what -- there is a consensus-building that we must do,'' she told ABC's ''This Week.'' On CBS's ''Face the Nation,'' Clinton replied, ''No, no,'' when asked if she would give her husband a policy-making position in her administration beyond being a sort of roving ambassador promoting the United States.

''Among the many lessons that I have learned, we want to be sure that the president, my husband, does whatever he can, just as I tried to do whatever I could, and I think he has a very special and important role in reaching out to the rest of the world,'' Clinton said.

REUTERS AB RK2335

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