The Associated Press - Obama Says Only Outsider Can Bring Changes that Rivals Have Failed to Enact
By PHILIP ELLIOTT
Democrat Barack Obama says voters should elect him president, "not because I have some perfect solution" to pressing problems, but because he's the candidate who can get things done.
Campaigning as an outsider, Obama, who was elected to the Senate three years ago, acknowledged Tuesday that some of his proposals aren't that different from those of rival candidates. The difference is that the others have had years to turn plans into action.
"I know change makes for good campaign rhetoric, but when these same people had the chance to make change happen, they didn't lead," Obama said at a campaign stop in New Hampshire.
He also said he would join his colleagues and support a pending trade deal with Peru that already has passed key House and Senate committees.
"The Peruvian agreement contains the very labor agreements that labor and our allies have been asking for. ... What I'm saying, is that the same provisions that we fought for - and that the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations had been asking for and that weren't contained in NAFTA - they are in this agreement," Obama said.
Obama said he supports the foreign trade deal, which is especially important to labor and U.S. manufacturers. He said active trading is a key way to keep the United States competitive.
"We're not going to draw a moat around the United States' economy. If we do that, then China is still trading, India is still going to be trading," said Obama, who voted against the recent Central American Free Trade Agreement and opposes the current pending trade deal with South Korea.
"I think that NAFTA and CAFTA did not reflect the interests of American workers but reflected the interests of the stock owners on Wall Street, because they did not contain the sorts of labor provisions and environmental provisions that should have been embedded and should have been enforceable in those agreements. ... You got the stock market sky-high. Corporate profits going up, but those workers who get laid off as a consequence of displacement, there's some sort of weak retraining program that trains people for jobs that don't exist in communities all across the country."
A day earlier, Obama outlined an environmental plan that includes some goals included in other candidates' plans, and he acknowledged on Tuesday his health care plan is similar to top rivals' thoughts on the subject.
"I would not be running for president if I did not believe this time could be different, not because I have some perfect solution that every other expert and every other candidate has somehow missed, but because I believe the American people are ready for a president who can unite us around a common purpose," Obama said Tuesday.
Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, is in a tight race against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards in polls and fundraising. He did not name them but said current leaders in Washington have failed - a charge that earned him applause among the mostly Democratic-leaning crowd.
"That's why America isn't leading when taking on the threat of climate change. Washington's failure is the failure of a president who has spent most of his time in office denying the very existence of global warming, suggesting that it might be a hoax," Obama said.
On one specific energy matter that is important to many in New Hampshire, he would not pledge to stop all new nuclear power plants.
"When you're a politician, you're always tempted to get some applause, but on this one I have to be more qualified," Obama said.
"We shouldn't simply remove nuclear power from the equation," Obama said. "But there has to be a high standard and a high threshold. ... I'm not going to automatically rule it out as a reasonable option."
Obama said because he doesn't accept federal lobbyist dollars and has fought an insider's mentality, he will be able to affect change in how policy is established.
"If everything is out front, you know who is doing (lobbyists') bidding and who is doing the bidding of the American people," Obama said at an evening event at Plymouth State University. "And that's the kind of politics we need to set up."
He also made the case for his candidacy over his rivals.
"We've got a great slate of Democratic candidates. They're all very good and I respect all of them," Obama said. "But here's what I think I can do that no other candidate can do: I think I can bring people together to get things done. Partly that is generational. I am tired of fighting the battles of the '60s or the '90s."