Obama's antiwar message receives cheers in Nashua, Durham
By Susan Milligan, Globe Staff
Senator Barack Obama of Illinois brought a strong antiwar message yesterday to New Hampshire, winning enthusiastic applause from audiences in Nashua and Durham who said they were tired of the unpopular war and eager to find a candidate who would get the country out of it.
"We are now in the midst of a war that never should have been authorized, never should have been waged," Obama told a crowd of close to 3,000 packed into the gymnasium at the University of New Hampshire. "Unless we bring that war to a close, we cannot deal with those other problems I just mentioned," such as education and healthcare, Obama added, his words nearly drowned out by the wild applause that followed his denouncement of the war.
Obama also cautioned against a US intervention in Iran, saying he was skeptical of reports by the Bush administration that Iran is helping to supply weapons to insurgents in Iraq.
"I don't doubt that there are some weapons coming over from Iran into Iraq. I have no doubt Iran has a history of sponsoring terrorism and doing mischief," Obama said. But "I am less persuaded by what we're seeing over the last couple of weeks, and that is that the intervention of Iran into Iraq somehow justifies what seems to be a mounting case for intervention or even forays into Iran," he said, drawing applause.
The Iraq war is emerging as a major issue in the nascent primary season, and New Hampshire Democrats -- who won control of the state Legislature as well as both of the state's congressional seats with an antiwar theme -- have been pressing candidates to condemn the war and explain how they would extricate the United States from the conflict.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York was dogged by questions about the war at every public event she held over the weekend as voters asked her repeatedly to renounce her 2002 vote authorizing force in Iraq. Clinton refused each time and said she would not have voted for the war resolution if she had known in 2002 what she knows now about the flawed intelligence offered by the Bush administration.
Obama did not criticize Clinton or any other Democratic rival by name yesterday, but told voters at a house party in Nashua that "you've got to ask for a specific plan from all of the candidates" on how to end the war. Obama has called for a redeployment of troops out of Iraq, while Clinton has called for a cap on the number of troops and a cutoff of funds to the Iraqi government if it does not meet certain conditions.
The Illinois senator defended his lack of experience, calling it an asset. "I have been in Washington for two years, so if your criteria for leadership is how long you've been in Washington, I'm definitely not your choice," Obama told the crowd of mainly young voters in Durham. But "I've been in Washington long enough to know Washington has to change," he said, drawing loud cheers.
Obama spoke of the need to improve education and to provide healthcare to the uninsured. But he gave no details of how he would accomplish those tasks, instead keeping largely to a theme of uniting the country and healing the political divisions in Washington.
"I'm running because I believe we've got to build a consensus in this country. . . . We've got to break out of the gridlock and politics as usual," Obama said in Nashua.
"I just turned 30, and the only politics I've known have been divisive," said Garth Corriveau , a lawyer who attended the Nashua event. "I'm ready for a new kind of politics, and I hope he's the one who can deliver it."