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Carbondale Southern Illinoisan - Obama Discusses State, National Issues in Carbondale Meeting

Location: Carbondale, IL

Obama Discusses State, National Issues in Carbondale Meeting
Saturday, April 15, 2006

By Caleb Hale

CARBONDALE - U.S. Sen. Barack Obama fielded the usual questions - health care, gas prices, the Iraq war and education - during a town hall meeting at Southern Illinois University Carbondale Friday.

It was his 47th such meeting since taking office last year.

The Democratic senator provided a packed audience in the Lesar Law Building auditorium with a brief update on his doings in Washington, D.C., noting it was a relief to come to Illinois for town hall meetings for inoculation from what he called "Beltway fever."

"I have had a wonderful time, and it's just a great honor to represent you in Washington, D.C.," Obama told the crowd.

He said he's spent 16 months in office, has moved a few bills and moved up the ranks of Senate seats from 99 to 98.

"If I keep up the pace by the time I'm 120 I should be running the show," the junior senator joked.

Obama became more serious when he addressed ongoing U.S. efforts in Iraq, a campaign he said he still contends should never have been made in pursuit of the war on terror. He said between the billions of dollars spent on the military in Iraq and the heavy dependency the U.S. maintains on foreign oil, much of which comes from countries that support terrorist activity, Americans are "essentially funding both sides in the war on terror."

After the meeting Obama addressed further concerns over President Bush's intentions in Iran. The senator said there is no doubt the Iranian president is a dangerous man, who is likely developing nuclear capabilities for both civilian and military use. However, he added, the U.S. spent a great deal of political capital in Iraq and now needs a diplomatic solution to deal with Iran.

Obama said he isn't worried just yet about some reports that claim the Bush administration is planning military strikes in Iran.

"As I've said before, I don't think you take any options off the table," Obama said. He added the president has said any talk of an impending military campaign in Iran is purely speculative. The senator said he is apt to believe the U.S. will try diplomacy before force, since ending Iran's nuclear aspirations would take an extended bombing cycle with heavy civilian casualties.

Obama also addressed the increased calls for defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign. He said it is unprecedented that so many high-level generals have lost confidence in the secretary, and he said Bush should listen.

"Apparently the president still has confidence in him," Obama said.

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