Obama again stresses anti-war message

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is due here at the Polk County Convention Complex in Des Moines in a few moments to deliver a speech on Iraq.  He’s given this speech once today, in Chicago.  Here is the story Jeff Zeleny wrote for the NYT.

The "program" did begin at 4 p.m.  Some older gentleman is talking now.  I didn’t catch his name, but he’s explaining how people can go to the caucuss, vote for Obama and leave before all the debate about the party platform.  "You can be in and out in an hour," he says. 

"What’s the date of the Iowa Caucuses?" he asks the crowd.  One person offers up "January 14th."

The correct answer, according to our host: "to be determined" . 

"Can you cast an absentee ballot at the caucuses?" is his next question.  I’m told the gentleman behind the mic is Jim Mahoney, the Polk County Assessor.  Maloney tells the crowd even he doesn’t know the answer to this one.

Now, Maloney’s educating the crowd on whether 17 year olds can participate in the caucuses.  You have to be 18 by November 4, 2008 in order to participate — that’s his answer.

A few other local people who back Obama have been at the mic, too.  Now, it’s Dolph Pulliam, former Drake basketball star, KCCI sportscaster, children’s TV show host and now Drake athletic department personage.  Full discloser:  Dolph & I used to sing in the same church choir. 

Now, somebody who is not Barack Obama is back behind the microphone. 

"Are you fired up?" he asks.

"Fired up," the crowd responds. 

"Are you ready to go?" he follows.

"Ready to go," the crowd replies.

This an Obama mantra first unleashed in Iowa during Obama’s speech at the Harkin Steak Fry.  We are now advised that Senator Obama will be here "in a few minutes."

As Tina Turner sings to us via recording (Simply the Best), a group of Obama enthusiasts are assembled on the state as the backdrop for his speech.  There’s a huge American flag — it’ll be to Obama’s right — and a huge Iowa flag — it’ll be to Obama’s left.  There’s also (curiously) a flag extended from the ceiling that’s lit but it seems in a weird position.  This is a totally different look than today’s Chicago speech which saw Obama standing oin front of a row of American flags. 

Tina Turner fades.  Alicia Claypool, a local Obama backer, is now at the mic introducing Ted Sorenson, an aide to former President Kennedy. 

"Pay no attention to the fact that somebody had to lead me up to the stage here.  My eyesight might be bad, but I have more vision than the POTUS," Sorenson said.  The crowd applauded. 

Now, he’s talking about visiting Iowa — and being a lifetime member of the Iowa State Bar Association.  "I want you to know it hasn’t expired yet."

Now, he’s talking about 45 years ago — how Kennedy went to the nation in October and told the nation about Cuba & the Soviet missiles there.

"They said he was too young, but he had judgement and what counts most in a president is judgement," Sorenson said, to applause from the Obama crowd. 

Kennedy was "a man of faith" a man of peace, according to Sorenson.  "He selected not the most war-like, beligerant option — to bomb….but instead the more restrained siganl of putting the Naval blockade around Cuba that notified Soviets we wanted to get those…offensive weapons out of Cuba and ultimately that prevailed…without a nuclear war being started."

Sorenson called Obama "the only serious candidate…who five years ago today was the first and the only to oppose the single worst blunder in thehistory of American foreign policy, the needless, endless war & occupation in Iraq."  The Obama crowd applauded.

"Kennedy believed in negotiation and communication," Sorenson told the group.  Obama, too, "has enough confidence in our values & our diplomats not to be afraid of sitting down even with our adversaries."

Kennedy recognized the importance of world opinion, according to Sorenson.  Sorenson compared Kennedy’s Catholism with Obama’s blackness.

4:31 p.m.  Obama takes the stage.  No music.  Just applause from the crowd.

Obama’s making the sign-up pitch at the front rather than the end.  "If you are already a supporter, I would love for you to fill out another card indicating you would like to be a precinct captain," Obama said.  "…I know the rules here in Iowa.  I want all of you to Caucus for me.  You can’t say I didn’t ask you….There’s starting to get a little nip in the air and it is time to be making decisions."

I shall not transcribe the speech as a text is available and I shall try to link to it later.

The crowd clapped loudest when Obama pledged to close Gitmo and when he promised to tell the truth as president (in contrast to the applause levels during the parts of the speech about ending the war in Iraq).  The crowd grew unnaturally quiet toward the end as Obama talked about a man who’s serving in Iraq today. 

5 p.m.:  Obama ends speech.  "Thank you very much, Iowa.  I appreciate it."  Now, Aretha is singing (via recording) "Think."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.