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Obama makes Estherville campaign stop – Several hundred attend Sunday event

By Staff | Dec 18, 2007

ESTHERVILLE–Despite fog-laden weather and a full itinerary of area holiday programs, several hundred turned out to hear 2008 presidential hopeful Barack Obama on Sunday at the Regional Wellness Center in Estherville.

With the Illinois senator’s campaign recently receiving a boost from an endorsement from none other than talk show mogul Oprah Winfrey, Obama made a whirlwind tour of northern Iowa in the waning days before the holidays. And, with the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses close at hand, it was likely the last time most people in the area would have the chance to see a presidential candidate before the first vote.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Obama in the lead among Democrats with 30 percent. That compares to 26 percent for Hillary Clinton and 22 percent for John Edwards.

Emmet County Attorney Doug Hansen told those in attendance on Sunday why he is supporting Obama as he introduced the candidate.

Hansen said the war in Iraq was the defining issue for his endorsement of Obama. He said he personally supported the earlier war in Iraq in 1990-91 and the war in Afghanistan later in 2001 to root out the Taliban.

“I supported our president going to Afghanistan and taking out the Taliban,” Hansen said. “But when it came to the war in Iraq, I couldn’t figure out why we were going.” He said the rumors of weapons of mass destruction proved later not to be true.

“I don’t think we should be doing business that way,” Hansen said. “As a prosecutor in this county, I can’t have our police go out and arrest somebody because of what might happen.”

Hansen said Obama stood against the war in Iraq from the start.

Obama began his remarks by echoing his mantra of “Change We Can Believe In.” He said people have lost faith in the future because of the billions of dollars spent on the war in Iraq not to mention the thousands of lives lost there.

He then shifted his comments to domestic policies, beginning with health care.

“We’ve been talking about the health-care crisis for decades now,” Obama said. He said drug and insurance companies spend $1 billion yearly lobbying against health-care reform.

Obama also chided the Bush administration on stalling on energy independence.

He then segued to why he was the best contender to the Democratic nomination.

“If we’re talking about real change, we have to do more to change parties in the White House,” Obama said. “We need to change how politics is done in a fundamental way.”

Obama alluded that his message might actually be a centrist position for many voters.

“I want everybody’s vote. I’m going after Democrats and Republicans and Independent voters,” he said.

Despite his current lead, Obama asked the audience to look deeper than the latest polls as the Jan. 3 caucuses approach.

“We have made the biggest changes in people’s lives when we lead not by polls but by principles,” Obama said of the Democratic party. “We need real meaningful change–change that Americans can believe.”

Obama underlined his electability, saying he has been in public service for over two decades, having taught constitutional law as a professor and working against nuclear proliferation and promoting alternative energy.

He then addressed the accusation that he is inexperienced.

“What I realized what they meant was that you weren’t in Washington long enough,” Obama said. By contrast, he said Vice President Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “have the longest resumes in Washington.”

Addressing the issues of an adequate minimum wage and affordable college, Obama said he was best suited to represent the middle class.

“I don’t take PAC money. I don’t take money from federal lobbyists,” Obama said. “I want to take the tax breaks away from the companies that are shipping jobs overseas and put them in the pockets of everyday Americans.”

Like other Democratic contenders, Obama took on the issue of 47 million Americans without health care.

Obama said his plan would offer every American the same health care available to Congress. “We’re going to do it before the end of my first term as president of the United States of America,” he said.

Regarding education, Obama said America needs to invest more in early childhood education “so every child is prepared by the time they enter school.”

He also urged that America foster its energy independence, a topic of particular interest to Iowa farmers.

“We can grow our own fuel here in the United States,” Obama said, also advocating greater development of solar and wind energy.

The country could also set a fuel efficiency standard of 40 miles per gallon for new vehicles.

Reaching back to Hansen’s comments, Obama offered his plan for withdrawal from Iraq, saying he opposed the war from the start.

“I revere our military,” he said. “We have the finest military on earth. The war in Iraq was ill-conceived by civilians.” He said he would end the war within 16 months then finish the war in Afghanistan.

Obama drew another contrast between himself and Clinton, saying he would deal with governments such as Syria and North Korea.

“We should not only talk to our friends, we should talk to our enemies as well,” Obama said. “Strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries and tell them where we stand.”

Obama said the U.S. can also lead by helping educate those in poorer countries.

Among other issues, Obama said he would close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, restore habeas corpus, and close the income gap that has developed in America.

“I’m running because of what Dr. King called the fierce urgency of now,” Obama said. “I don’t want to see homeless veterans on the streets. I don’t want that future for my children. I don’t want that future for your children. I don’t want that future for America.”

Rather, Obama said he wanted change “not from the top down but the bottom up.”

He then offered a promise.

“I will always tell you what I think. I will always tell you where I stand. I will listen and I will invite you back to participate in your government again.”

In a question-and-answer session that followed, Obama addressed several issues including illegal immigration, renewable energy, health care and gun control.

Obama concluded by urging everyone to participate in the Jan. 3 caucuses.

“Even if you’re not caucusing for me, caucus for somebody,” Obama said. “Your voice matters. One voice can change the world. Your voice can change the world.”

Contact Michael Tidemann at (712) 362-2622 or mtidemann@esthervilledailynews.com and visit our photo sharing Web site at cu.esthervilledailynews.com