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Seattle Times: Packed House Cheers Obama As He Talks Of Transforming U.S.

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Seattle Times: Packed house cheers Obama as he talks of transforming U.S.

By David Postman

Sen. Barack Obama appeared in Seattle on Friday to recruit thousands of paying supporters to something he said was bigger than his campaign for president.

He compared his campaign to the civil-rights movement, saying the same sense of purpose that led Americans to join with Southern blacks in the 1960s is how America battled its biggest problems, from abolishing slavery to ending the Vietnam War.

"That's how things happen in this country," he yelled in a full-pitch close to his 30-minute speech at a raucous rally at Qwest Field Event Center.

"That is how we are not going to just win an election in 2008, we are going to transform this country of ours."

The crowd was by far the largest and most enthusiastic here in the early days of the presidential campaign. It cost at least $25 to get in, and the campaign said about 3,500 people - the most the fire marshal would allow - were inside the WaMu Theater at the event center.

There were a lot of young people in the crowd. Jarred Lathrop, 25, came with four friends. He supported Howard Dean in 2004 and sees some similarities.

"There was a strong energy around Dean. But there is a different aura around Obama," he said. "I'm only 25. But I've never seen anything like this."

Neither had some of those who are older.

"I'm so excited about Barack," said Pam Tufts, 59. "History is going to be made here tonight. I want to say I was here."

Tufts said she has read Obama's book but hasn't yet made up her mind which candidate to back in the Democratic primary.

In his speech Friday, Obama complained of a system of politics that has become infected with cynicism and self-dealing.

"As we've become cynical, you've seen the void filled by lobbyists and special interests and narrow agendas," the Illinois Democrat said.

"People are ready to turn that page on that old, outdated politics."

Obama wants to be the new thing in politics - a freshman senator who stands apart from what he describes as the decaying institution of American politics and government.

"It is time to turn the page and write a new chapter in American history," he said. "This campaign has to be a vehicle for your hopes; it has to be a vehicle for your dreams."

Obama's speech was designed to rouse the crowd. It was not a policy address, though he did mention his recent call for a universal health-care plan. He said that could be a reality by the end of his first term.

He also touched briefly on education and environmental programs. But that brought him to the subject of the Iraq war. And that brought the loudest response of the evening.

"Some of these things are going to cost money and we cannot do a lot of these things if we keep on spending $275 million a day on a war that is not making us safer in this world," Obama said. "It is time to bring our troops out of Iraq.

"It is time to match the might of our military with the strength of our diplomacy and the power of our alliances and the wisdom of our strategy."

Obama supports a phased withdrawal of troops with a goal of getting the last soldier out by March 31.

Even before Obama spoke, state Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser issued a statement criticizing Obama's health-care plan. The plan was announced earlier this week and Obama said it would be financed in part by repealing some of President Bush's tax cuts.

"It's nothing but the same old tax-and-spend politics we've seen from liberal presidential candidates for decades," Esser's statement said. "It's pretty ironic that the candidate whose allies spoofed the famous 1984 Apple ad is reviving his party's 1984 pledge to raise taxes."

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