Chicago Tribune: Obama defends war funding vote
By John McCormick
Sen. Barack Obama used a midday appearance in Chicago today to respond to Republican criticism that his vote Thursday night against an Iraq spending bill is the equivalent of "waving a white flag" to terrorists.
"The way that we are going to show that we support the troops is by [starting to bring] some of them home," Obama told an international convention of more than 1,200 members of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.
His fiery speech came after a vote in Washington where Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton opposed an Iraq war spending bill because it didn't contain a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops.
Those votes triggered blistering responses from Republicans this morning, including GOP presidential candidates Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
"I was very disappointed to see Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton embrace the policy of surrender by voting against funds to support our brave men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan," McCain said in a statement. "This vote may win favor with MoveOn and liberal primary voters, but it's the equivalent of waving a white flag to al Qaeda."
In response, Obama in part pointed to the high level of security McCain needed for his recent visit to the war-torn nation.
"Sen. McCain required a flak jacket, 10 armored Humvees, two Apache attack helicopters, 100 soldiers with rifles by his side, so he could stroll through the market in Baghdad just a few weeks ago," Obama said. "That's the truth in Iraq."
Obama said the status quo in Iraq is no longer acceptable.
"I know the toll of this war," he said. "And what I know is that what our troops deserve is not just rhetoric. They deserve a new plan."
The gathering of African-American union members was an important sub-constituency for Obama to address, and he offered them plenty of applause lines during a speech that highlighted his community organizing efforts in Chicago.
"I know who brung me to the dance," he said. "And I know who is going to take me on to the next dance."
After spending the start of his Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, Obama is set to campaign in New Hampshire on Sunday and Monday. He then flies to Iowa for an appearance in Davenport Monday night and a health-care policy speech Tuesday in Iowa City.