White House documents reveal that Hillary Clinton lied to voters about her opposition to a trade pact blamed in industrial states for killing jobs, Barack Obama's campaign said Thursday.
A trawl through more than 11,000 pages of schedules from Clinton's time as first lady fueled friction between the two Democratic White House contenders, as they also brawled over holding new contests in Florida and Michigan.
Republican nominee-elect John McCain meanwhile raked in campaign funds during a trip to London, and assailed Obama after the Illinois senator said the Iraq war could cost as much as three trillion dollars.
Obama aides said the schedules, which were released Wednesday after much back and forth between Clinton lawyers and the National Archives, undermined the New York senator's most contentious claims of foreign policy experience.
Seizing on the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement, they highlighted an ABC News report which cited participants at one White House meeting in 1993 as saying Clinton was "fully supportive" of NAFTA.
"It does make you wonder if this was one of the reasons why there was such a reluctance to get those records out there on a timely basis," Obama strategist David Axelrod said on a conference call.
Before the March 4 primary in Ohio, Clinton had savaged the Obama campaign for its alleged inconsistency on NAFTA and asserted her own opposition to the pact, which her husband Bill had fought hard to get through Congress.
The New York senator carried the economically depressed state, along with Texas, to breathe new life into her faltering campaign.
"There was only one problem: she wasn't telling the truth to Ohio voters," Axelrod said.
"Misrepresenting your position and carefully parsing your words when you don't think you'll get caught are the hallmarks of the kind of politics that Barack Obama is running to change."
Heading into the next Democratic clash on April 22 in another rust-belt state, Pennsylvania, the Clinton campaign denied any mendacity over the trade agreement grouping the United States, Canada and Mexico.
"It is no secret that passing NAFTA was a priority of the Clinton administration, but numerous contemporary accounts make clear that Hillary Clinton was personally opposed to NAFTA, and her position on NAFTA was and remains consistent," it said.
The schedules seemed to show little evidence to back up Clinton's assertion that she played a hands-on role in foreign policy crises during her husband's administration, such as Northern Ireland and Kosovo.
After a failed attempt by Hillary Clinton to overhaul healthcare early in the administration, she took refuge in traditional first-lady duties on the social circuit and foreign travel, the documents showed.
Clinton spokesman Jay Carson said the documents should not be seen as a "comprehensive compendium of every minute of Senator Clinton's time as first lady."
Obama, hurt in the polls by incendiary sermons by his former pastor Jeremiah Wright, went on the offensive with a speech in West Virginia assailing the hefty costs of the Iraq war five years into the US-led invasion.
Citing some estimates that the war could end up costing more than three trillion dollars, he said: "When are we going to stop mortgaging our children's future for Washington's mistake?"
McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker retorted that Obama favored "an irresponsible policy" of withdrawal from Iraq and wanted to "rehash the past" instead of safeguarding America's future.
Clinton meanwhile kept up pressure on her Democratic adversary over Michigan and Florida, which were stripped of their delegates to the party's August convention as punishment for advancing their primaries into January.
"I do not understand what Senator Obama is afraid of, but it is going to hurt our party and our chances in November," she said in Indiana.
But Florida has already ruled out a repeat vote, and state legislators in Michigan looked set to miss a deadline to schedule a new primary for June.
Obama said Clinton had been "completely disingenuous" over the row and was maneuvering for political gain.
With the Democrats' delegate race on a knife-edge, Clinton aides are telling wavering party elders that Obama's ties to Reverend Wright could "doom their party in the general election, The New York Times reported.
Copyright 2008 AFP