Obama goes after HRC on Iraq war resolution vote

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is due to start speaking here in Old Main on the Drake University campus in "minutes."  The venue is on the second floor of Old Main, in a room often used as a press filing center for past campaign events at Drake.  (I have an unhappy memory of Bob Graham singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in this room.)  While Old Main is the venue used for the ABC debates in August, those were staged on the, er, stage in the auditorium.  This is a room with a ceiling that’s about 15 feet tall, a chandelier hangs from the center and there is a familiar navy-blue curtain along the north wall.  There are six American flags in stands, two-by-two-by-two, to provide backdrop for the candidate.

A young woman who identified herself as being part of the "Bulldogs for Barack" group (Drake’s mascot is the bulldog) did the "Obama quiz" for the audience as they waited.  She started with a question that got chuckles from many. "Approximately when will the Caucuses be held?"  The answer?  "Early January."  The "t-shirt level" question she ended with was this:  can you vote by absentee ballot in the Caucuses?  The answer is no.

Now, there’s general milling about, plus a fair amount of chatting and the temperature in the room climbs above comfortable as we wait for the candidate to appear.  There are nine video cameras standing in a row in front of me, prepared to record this event.  Now, Quentin Stephens, Junior, a Drake law student who was in the Navy, is addressing the crowd.  "He opposed the war in Iraq from the start, even when it was unpopular," Stephens tells the crowd. "…He’d never place American men & women in danger for political gain." 

Obama begins with thanks to Stephens:  "He’s getting married tomorrow…so he needed permission from his soon-to-be bride to do this," Obama said.  Obama advised Stephens to leave immediately.

Then Obama sent a shout-out to Al Gore.  "Let me start by congratulating Al Gore for winning the Nobel Peace Prize….He is an extraordinary leader."

Now, Obama is into his speech.  I’ll link to the text later.

Obama contends the war in Iraq is based on "unconvincing" intelligence.  "I just did not see how Saddam Hussein posed a threat," Obama said just now.  "I didn’t get into politics to stay silent on tough issues or to tailor my positions to the polls."

Obama charges Clinton "echoed the erroneous line" that there was a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Obama is now praising Edwards for not "pretending that vote (on the resolution was) for anything but war.  Senator Clinton has made a different argument…but all of us knew what was being debated in 2002….No one was debating whether or not to conduct diplomacy."

Now, Obama says different candidates have drawn "different lessons" from that vote.

"Five years later…we should have all learned that you can’t give the Bush Administration an excuse to wage war, but just last month (the Iran resolution passed)….George Bush and Dick Cheney could use this language…to justify an attack on Iran…I don’t want to give this president any excuse or any opening for war….when you give this president a blank check, you can’t be surprised when he decides to cash it," Obama just said.  (Sounds a lot like what John Edwards has been saying.)

FYI – Obama was applauded as he entered, but there have been NO interruptions for applause during this speech.  "Let there be no doubt I will end this war," Obama just said.  No applause.  He continues.

"I’m not sure exactly where she’s standing on this issue," Obama said of Clinton’s remarks about pursuing diplomatic options in the dispute with Iran.

"I think the pundits have it wrong.  I think the American people have had enough of politicians who go out of their way to look tough, who say one thing in a caucus and another in a general election," Obama said.  "…We’ve had enough of politicians who put power over principle."

Obama is now winding down. Speech lasted about 20 minutes.  There was applause at the end.  (Again, no applause DURING the speech.)  Now, Obama is taking a couple of questions "from the crowd, not the press."

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About O.Kay Henderson

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