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Cedar Falls Courier - Obama Pledges Open Government, Accountability During C.F. Stop

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Cedar Falls Courier - Obama Pledges Open Government, Accountability During C.F. Stop

CEDAR FALLS (AP) --- Presidential hopeful Barack Obama on Wednesday said the nation needs more than a Democrat in the White House.

Although he criticized the Bush administration, Obama said the nation's problems couldn't all be blamed on the president. He said Americans needed to change the nature of politics and institute greater openness in the government.

"Part of the problem here is not just George Bush and the White House," Obama told a crowd of hundreds gathered at a park in Cedar Falls. "We can't just change political parties and continue to do the same kind of things we've been doing. We can't just go about business as usual and think it's going to turn out differently."

He said average Americans must be brought back to the table when dealing with every issues, from health care to education to trade.

"We've got to make sure workers are represented, not just CEOs. We've got to make sure patients are represented and the nurses are represented, not just drug companies," he said.

To aid accountability, Obama said he would post all non-emergency bills online for five days before he signed them into law, allowing Americans a chance to weigh in on the legislation. In addition, he said he would post all meetings between lobbyists and government agencies online.

Obama said he would require cabinet officials to speak to Americans via national broadband town-hall style meetings to discuss issues at their respective agencies. He also pledged to restore meaning to the Freedom of Information Act, and said he would issue an executive order that information must be released to those seeking it unless it could harm a protected interest.

Obama noted his record of backing ethics and lobbying reforms, including co-authoring a bill that requires all government spending to be posted online -- allowing anyone to do a simple Internet search and find that information. During his time as a state lawmaker, he said he helped to create hospital report cards so that patients could understand the quality of care offered at each hospital.

In addition to criticizing Bush, Obama spoke of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, which met in secret. That task force, he said, invited in big oil and gas companies 40 times, but listened to renewable energy representatives just once.

"Is it any wonder that Exxon Mobil made record profits while you're paying over 3 bucks a gallon for a gallon of gas?" he asked. "It should not come as a surprise because your agenda was not represented at the time of the energy bill was fashioned."

Before he took the stage, Obama was introduced by his wife, Michelle, and the couple was flanked by their two children. While "life would be easier outside of the White House," she said that like so many in the crowd, she wants to "see a fundamental change in this country."

"The thing about this man that I have been so proud of throughout his political career ... is that he comes to this process fresh and new and untainted," she said.

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