Las Vegas Review-Journal: Obama campaigns in Reno
Sen. Barack Obama on Thursday blasted the White House for saying the war in Iraq could involve a decades-long commitment of U.S. troops similar to that in South Korea.
"Yesterday, he said that he thinks that Iraq is going to be like Korea, that we may be there for decades to come," Obama told a sun-drenched crowd in a park in Reno.
"That is not acceptable. That is not the way that we are going to make ourselves more secure. We have to bring this war to an end."
The White House had made the comparison Wednesday in announcing that all 21,500 additional troops sent to Iraq as part of the president's new strategy have now arrived.
On his first presidential campaign trip to Northern Nevada, Obama gave a version of his usual stump speech to an enthusiastic crowd that organizers estimated at 3,500.
Obama is scheduled to be in Las Vegas today, speaking to the Culinary union this morning and having a rally at a high school at noon.
Obama emphasized his theme of bringing earnest new blood to a political system that has become corrupt and cynical.
"America wants a new message," he said. "America wants a new spirit. America wants to turn the page on a selfish politics, on a small politics, on a politics obsessed with who's in power and who is not and partisan bickering and ideological decision-making."
Obama said he had predicted, in opposing the war as a Senate candidate in 2002, that it would "let off the hook al-Qaida and bin Laden and allow them to resurge in Afghanistan, and that is what happened."
"The war in Iraq has never been better for al-Qaida right now," Obama said. "They are gaining strength because we have neglected the war that we should have finished in Afghanistan. They are now recruiting actively inside Iraq."
To end the war, Obama called on the audience to lobby their representatives to vote for troop withdrawal, saying a veto-proof majority is needed in light of Bush's previous veto of a troop funding plan that included a withdrawal timeline.
Obama last week voted against the final funding bill, in which the Democratic Congress gave up the timeline in order to get a passable measure.
"It's only going to be when the American people make a decision that the situation is intolerable and that we've got to bring our young men and women home, that it's actually going to happen," he said. "And I believe that it can happen, but let me say this: If you guys don't convince them, then I promise you as president of the United States one of my first tasks will be bringing an end to this war in Iraq."
Obama also touched on his newly unveiled health care plan, education and energy. On global warming, he said, "Nobody has more of a stake than the people of the West, out here in places like Nevada, in reversing this."
Speaking to the media afterward, Obama said he was "going to be competing actively and vigorously here in Nevada."
Asked why he hadn't addressed immigration, a hot-button issue especially relevant in the Southwest, Obama said he hadn't wanted to make his speech too long or people might have started fainting in the sun.
He said he is "a strong believer in comprehensive immigration reform," meaning a combination of border security, employer enforcement and a means to achieve citizenship.
"That's what I hope will be accomplished with this reform package," he said of the compromise legislation the Senate is considering. But he said he had problems with a couple of parts of the current legislation, including the temporary worker program and the point system that emphasizes job skills over family unification.
Obama said his would be a grass-roots campaign that would get people excited to participate.
"My campaign is bringing in new people," he said. "It's galvanizing a new generation of voters, and we have the capacity to break out of the political gridlock we've been involved in for a long time."
Some of those new people might not be old enough to vote. Thirteen-year-old Ryan Dhindsa has had fundraisers at his Reno school for the cause to end the genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.
Dhindsa and a friend were impressed that Obama mentioned Darfur, if only in passing. Dhindsa brought his mother, Shilpa Dhindsa, 42, and she liked what she heard, too.
"I hadn't listened to him at all before," she said of Obama. Her biggest priority, she said, is "putting an end to the war. That's the most important thing to me."