The Gazette - Obama Likens Himself to Roosevelt
James Q. Lynch
Casting himself as a 21st Century Teddy Roosevelt, Barack Obama called for breaking with the politics as usual and putting the common interests of Americans first.
"It's time to get off of the conventional wisdom and try something new," the Democratic presidential hopeful told a crowd of more than 500 people at Roosevelt Middle School in northwest Cedar Rapids this morning. "And that's what we're going to do in the Obama administration."
That rhetoric fills Kathy Kilbourn with hope. The retired Cedar Rapids school teacher introduced Obama as "the person who can pull us together and lead us in a new direction -- I mean all of us."
Taking a populist tack, Obama said one of the biggest challenges of the 2008 campaign will be how to change the way business is done in Washington.
America's problems are not due to a lack of good ideas, the Illinois senator said, but because nothing gets done that isn't on the agenda of special interests who set that agenda.
Roosevelt took office early in the 20th Century when robber barons and powerful interests groups set the agenda and "government played along," Obama said. Roosevelt said he wouldn't play along and set about busting trusts and leveling the playing field for ordinary Americans.
"More than a century later, American needs that kind of leadership," Obama said.
His challenge as a candidate and as president, Obama continued, will be the challenge of bucking the conventional wisdom of Washington, the kind of thinking that keeps people and institutions doing the same things whether they work or not.
That applies to diplomacy, as well, Obama said, continuing a running debate between him and Sen. Hillary Clinton. Obama has said he would meet with hostile leaders in the first year of his administration. Clinton called that naive.
The U.S., he said, "should not be afraid to talk to anybody.
"I am not worried about losing a public relations debate with some tin pot dictator," Obama said, a reference to Clinton's claim that foreign leaders may attempt to use face-to-face meetings for propaganda purposes.