Obama at Coe College, responds to McCain’s “Paris” ad

Obama’s rally at Coe College in Cedar Rapids started nearly on-time.  Obama was introduced by a man who said: "For the first time in 25 years, I will vote for a Democrat for president."  The crowd got to its feet. 

About 11 minutes into the event, Obama shot back at McCain for an ad attacking Obama as a "celebrity."

"Given the seriousness of the issues….you’d think that we’d be having a serious debate, but so far all we’ve been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears," Obama said.  The crowd started laughing, then applauded.  "I do have to ask my opponent:  Is that the best you can come up with?  Is that really what this election’s about?  Is that what is worthy of the American people?"

The crowd replied: "No."

The whole section is just over two minutes.  Download Obama mp3

Here is the Radio Iowa story.

Obama’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, below:

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
Town Hall on Energy
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Thursday, July 31, 2008

It’s great to be back in Cedar Rapids, where we’ve made so many friends throughout this campaign.

This morning I met with some folks who’ve been devastated by the recent floods. Like so many people across the Midwest, they’ve seen their homes damaged, their lives turned upside down, and their future filled with uncertainty.

I’ve seen the flood damage here in Iowa and I’ve visited communities that have been devastated in my home state of Illinois. Now is the time for America to stand by those who have suffered so much, while helping them get back on their feet. We need to make sure that these communities have access to the disaster assistance that can help businesses reopen and people rebuild their lives. And we must make a firm commitment to rebuild stronger levees and higher floodwalls so that we prevent this kind of devastation instead of simply responding to it.   

We know that Cedar Rapids needs more than immediate assistance, because the problems that you’re facing in your daily lives go beyond this year’s storms. I’ve often said that this election represents a defining moment in our history.  You’re working harder for less, and for too many Americans, the dream of opportunity is slipping away. That’s why the decisions we make over the next few years will shape a generation, if not a century.

Given the seriousness of the issues, you’d think we could have a serious debate. But so far, even the media has pointed out that Senator McCain has fallen back on predictable political attacks and demonstrably false statements. But here’s the problem. All of those negative ads that he’s running won’t do a thing to lower your gas prices or to lift up the debate in this country. The fact is, these Washington tactics do the American people a disservice by trying to distract us from the very real challenges that we face.

That starts with energy. For decades, Washington has failed the American people on energy, and that failure has led directly to our current crisis. George Bush’s approach was to let the oil companies write his energy policy. Now, we can’t afford four more years of more of the same. We can’t afford to let dictators hold our national security hostage because of our energy dependence. We can’t afford to endanger our planet because we can’t shake an addiction to oil. And we can’t afford more tax breaks for oil companies while they make record profits and you pay $4 for a gallon of gas.

Just today, we learned that Exxon Mobil made nearly $12 billion last quarter. Think about that – 12 billion dollars. No U.S. corporation has ever made that much in a quarter. But while big oil is making record profits, you are paying record prices at the pump, and our economy is leaving working people behind. For far too long, we’ve had an energy policy that has worked for the oil companies – I think it’s time that we had an energy policy that worked for the American people, and that’s a change that we can’t wait any longer to make.

The choice in this campaign could not be clearer. Senator McCain’s proposing a corporate tax plan that would give $4 billion each year to the oil companies, including $1.2 billion for Exxon-Mobil alone. He’s proposing a gas tax holiday that will pad oil company profits and save you – at best – half a tank of gas over the course of an entire summer. So under my opponent’s plan, the oil companies get billions more and we stay in the same cycle of dependence on big oil that got us into this crisis. That’s a risk that we just can’t afford to take. Not this time.

Instead of offering any real plan to lower gas prices, Senator McCain touts his support for George Bush’s plan for offshore oil drilling. But even the Bush Administration acknowledges that offshore oil drilling will have little impact on prices. It won’t lower prices today. It won’t lower prices during the next Administration. In fact, we won’t see a drop of oil from this drilling for almost ten years. While this won’t save you at the pump, it sure has done a lot to raise campaign dollars. Last month, Senator McCain raised more than a million dollars from oil and gas company executives and employees – most of which came after he announced his drilling plan in front of a bunch of oil executives in Houston. This is not a strategy designed to end our energy crisis – it’s a strategy designed to get politicians through an election, and that’s exactly why Washington has failed to do anything about our energy dependence for the last thirty years.

It’s time to ease the burden on working families. That’s why I support energy rebates that will provide immediate relief for the American people. You won’t have to trust the oil companies to pass the savings on to you – you will get these rebates directly.

We do need to bring down gas prices, and as President, I will. It’s time to crack down on speculators who manipulate the market. It’s time to close the loopholes that allow them to game the system. It’s time to make Washington work for the American people, not the special interests. That’s what we can do to bring down gas prices.

And we do need to increase domestic production, and as President, I will. Right now, oil companies have access to 68 million acres where they aren’t drilling, including 40 million offshore. Instead of simply giving the oil companies more, it’s time to give them a choice: use the land you have, or lose access to it. If we drill in the 68 million acres that are available, we can double our domestic oil production and increase natural gas production by 75 percent.

Now if I thought that we could solve all our problems by opening up areas for drilling outside the existing moratorium, I’d be for it. But the truth is, that kind of drilling is not the answer to this crisis. America consumes 25 percent of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. Even more drilling will leave us with a permanent oil deficit, while we’d still be dangerously energy dependent. I don’t want to look up in four years and see that oil companies and OPEC still have our economy in their grip. We can’t have a policy that tinkers around the margins while going down an oil company’s wish list – it’s time to fundamentally transform our energy economy so that it works for the American people. My plan makes that change, my opponent’s doesn’t, and that’s the clear difference in this election. 

My energy plan will invest $150 billion over the next ten years to establish a new American energy sector, and Senator McCain’s won’t. We’ll create up to five million American jobs – good jobs, jobs that can’t be outsourced.  And we’ll help American manufacturers – particularly in the auto industry – convert to green technology, and help workers learn the skills they need to stay ahead in the global economy.
I’ve supported investments in alternative energy, and Senator McCain has opposed them. And as President, I’ll invest in renewable energies like wind power, solar power, and the next generation of homegrown biofuels. That’s how America is going to free itself from our dependence on foreign oil – not through short-term gimmicks, but through a real, long-term commitment to transform our energy sector. That’s what we can choose to do in this election.

We’ve also got to change how we use energy. I’ve fought for higher fuel efficiency standards in the Senate, and when I’m President, we’ll double our fuel mileage standards over the next two decades. This will save America half a trillion gallons of gas – that’s the equivalent of cutting the price of a gallon of gas in half. And I’ll provide tax credits and loan guarantees for our automakers to help them make this transition.

Finally, one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to conserve energy and use less oil is to make America more energy efficient and more competitive with the world. That’s why, when I’m President, I will call on business, government, and the American people to make America 50 percent more energy efficient by 2030.

When all is said and done, my plan will create entire new industries and thousands of new businesses, while working to strengthen our national security and save our planet. These steps are not far-off, pie-in-the-sky solutions – the American people are ready to make this change. Today, there are waiting lists for fuel-efficient cars. I’ve seen a steel mill in Pennsylvania that has become the home of a new wind turbine factory, a small business in Nevada powered entirely by solar power, and farmers here in Iowa who are testing the new, efficient generation of biofuels that can drive our economy. Across the planet, countries like Germany and the United Kingdom have already implemented clean energy polices. Now it’s America’s turn to lead.

This election – at this moment in history – is too important for half-measures. We started this campaign over eighteen months ago on the steps of the old statehouse in Springfield with a simple belief that it was time for the American people to seize control of our destiny so that we could take this country in a new direction.

After I announced my run for the presidency, our very first campaign stop was right here in Cedar Rapids. It was the dead of winter. The skeptics predicted we wouldn’t get very far. The cynics dismissed us as a lot of hype and a little too much hope. And by the fall, the pundits in Washington had all but counted us out.

But the people of Iowa believed that this moment could be different. You believed that Democrats, Independents, and Republicans could come together behind a common purpose. You believed that with our nation at war and our American Dream slipping away, this time, Washington had to change. That’s what it’s going to take to work for a new energy future. Now is the time to rise above the old politics and a broken energy policy. Now is the time to move in a bold, new direction that lifts up our economy and secures our country.

UPDATE:  Here is the response delivered via email late this afternoon from Wendy Riemann, an Iowa spokeswoman for the McCain campaign.  "The ad uses humor and a tough stance to celebrate Obama being a celebrity.  Earlier this week, Obama told Congressional Democrats that he has become the "symbol" for the world’s aspirations for America and that we are now at "the moment … that the world is waiting for."

At the same time, Americans are beginning to really question whether being famous makes him a credible leader who is ready to serve as commander in chief. 

On issues big and small, there is a gap between Barack Obama’s soaring celebrity rhetoric and the facts behind them.  What he says and what he does are often very different.  He says he will change Washington, but in the U.S. Senate, he has requested nearly $1 billion in pork-barrel spending. He says he will only raise taxes on the rich, but he voted to raise the taxes of those making just $32,000 per year. He says he wants energy independence, but he opposes new drilling at home.  He opposes nuclear power; and Obama opposes encouraging the invention of an advanced, affordable electric car. On Iraq, he says he wants peace, but even today opposes the surge strategy that has succeeded."

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About O.Kay Henderson

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


  1. It’s good to see people in my hometown aren’t falling for the McCain trash.

  2. http://learfield.typepad.com/radioiowa/2008/07/obama-at-coe-co.html
    Congressman Hinchey is perpetuating a fraud created by the House Committee on Natural Resources claiming that 4.8 million barrels of additional oil can be produced from the 68 million acres of non-producing leases. The 4.8 million figure is completely bogus because the method to derive the amount is a total fraud.
    The fraud was created by the House Committee on Natural Resources, with their June 2008 special report, which was released 18 June 2008. The report provides neither data.or method. I had been trying for 10 weeks to obtain the method. On the rare occasion when someone at CNR would answer the telephone, I was shuffled off to someone else resulting in voice mail and never a return call. Previous attempts through Rahall\’s office were always back to the CNR switchboard. This time I told Rahall\’s district staffer I had been trying for 10 weeks and that I watched Rahall on CSPAN talk about this great openness that now exists.
    The confirmation as to the CNR method was from Katherine Romans, Policy Section, House Committee on Natural Resources. The confirmation started with a 25 September 2008 telephone call to her that was made via Rahall\’s district office. I finally came up with the method on my own and Ms Romans confirmed that I was correct in her 26 Sepember 2008 email to me, which is below
    The Method
    – created a percentage of non-producing acreage to producing acreage for the two lease types, onshore and offshore
    – multiplied each percentage by the amount of daily production from each of the two lease types that produce oil
    – added the two numbers together
    The method is fraud for no one in oil and gas or the government agencies that provide production estimates to the government (US Geological Survey, Energy Information Administration, Minerals Management Service) would ever use such a method. Production estimates are based on estimated reserves, which Mr Feldgus did not use. Production estimates are always given with a low, mean and high amounts, which reflects the uncertainty yet Mr Feldgus issued a single number, which denotes certainty. Production estimates are uncertain because the amount of oil is uncertain and is reflected in reserves being comprised also of three amounts of low, mean and high. The difference between high and low are in the billions of barrels. As a professional staffer who deals with energy matter, Mr Feldgus knows how production estimates are made and why so for him use the method that he did is fraud and he knows it. There is not one shred of validity in the method Mr Feldgus used.
    The amount and method was the creation of Steve Fledgus, staffer on the CNR subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources. On the afternoon of 2 September 2008, Debroah (subcommittee Energy and Minerals) confirmed to me, by telephone, that the data came from Materials Management Service but did not say what the data was. I called back the same afternoon to the subcommittee and spoke to one of the other two subcommittee female staffers who said Steve Feldgus did the work. I left a voice mail twice with Mr Feldgus for the method but did not return my telephone call.
    If you want verification, contact HCNR (202-225-6065) and ask for the method and all of the needed data? Also ask them to explain the validity of their method when no other organization would use it
    America can not continue using oil as we have and we can not produce enough oil to get us to energy independance. New sources of energy are needed as well as increased efficiencies. But oil and gas will still be the dominate sources even in 2030, according to the Energy Information Administration and even the Wilderness Society.
    Though I live in Houston, I do not work in oil and gas and I am not an operative for any group. I am one citizen who delved deeply into the condition of our nation\’s oil and gas.
    Partisan politics is the way the system works because there are different views on issues but that does not give anyone in Congress the right to lie and perpetrate a fraud to further any cause.