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Obama Skips Vote,
Iowa Debate

Twice in one day, Barack Obama is making himself conspicuous by his absence.

He has absent on Capitol Hill today when the Senate voted on a resolution by Texas Republican Jon Cornyn condemning MoveOn.org for its newspaper ad attacking Gen. David Petraeus. His primary rivals Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd were among the 25 senators who voted against the resolution; also absent was Joe Biden, who previously had been the only Democratic candidate to speak out against the ad.

In a written statement, Obama framed his ducking of the resolution as a principled stand against stooping to the level of a petty dispute. "The focus of the United States Senate should be on ending this war, not
on criticizing newspaper advertisements," he said. "This amendment was a stunt designed only to score cheap political points while what we should be doing is focusing on the deadly serious challenge we face in Iraq. It's precisely this kind of political game-playing that makes most Americans cynical about Washington's ability to solve America's problems. By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against this empty politics. I registered my views on the ad itself the day it appeared.

He added, "All of us respect the service of General Petraeus and all of our brave men and women in uniform. The way to honor that service is to give them a mission that is responsible, not to vote on amendments like the Cornyn amendment while we continue to pursue the wrong policy in Iraq."

Later in the afternoon, he headed south for a rally in Atlanta, which means he will not be joining all the other Democratic candidates at a debate this evening in Iowa that is sponsored by the AARP and focused on senior issues. It is an eye-catching decision, considering that voters over 60 typically make up a sizable chunk of the caucus electorate. Is Obama sending a signal that he'll be leaving the graybeards for others to fight over and instead seeking to expand his base of enthusiasm among the young? Not so, said his spokesman Bill Burton. Obama is simply keeping with his new practice of attending only Democratic National Committee-sanctioned debates. And he'll be holding a senior-focused town hall meeting tomorrow in Ames, Burton added. "We look forward to the opportunities we've got to build our organization with seniors in Iowa," Burton said.

--Alec MacGillis

By Washington Post editors  |  September 20, 2007; 4:30 PM ET
 
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Comments

Bottom line, that vote was a free speech issue and no one should have voted for it. Skipping it should be no crime. Any candidate crazy enough to miss an chance for face time does so at their own risk.

Regardless, Obama is a lightweight anyway and has no real place in this bunch!

Posted by: razor4sale | September 22, 2007 1:41 AM | Report abuse

Obama gets points added for these plays. He understands that these organizations have been coopted and serve themselves at least as much as the populace they were intended to serve. The AARP chose to allow a "reform" that enriched pharmaceutical companies, MoveOn chose to get itself attention rather than organize to end the war/occupation. Obama chose long ago to only attend DNC-sanctioned debates and to focus on meeting with people personally instead of pandering to every host group that puts a debate together. I'm disabled, eligible for AARP, but I'm waiting for a more representative organization to join. I don't presume a candidate's statements in these debates are the end-all of his/her policies; I look up their records and their donors. That's why I support Obama, not because he appears at debates I don't even watch unless something new came to light, then I watch snippets online. Obama's policies would help me most, as someone lacking quality health care, as someone on a limited income after working 25 years, as someone living on the edge of homelessness because I can't afford my own apartment on this income.

Posted by: VCubed | September 21, 2007 5:53 PM | Report abuse

This is disturbing. It sounds as if Sen. Obama's campaign has developed a hillarrhoid. Maybe Ankleless Annie & the nanny-staters have decided to go after him for his cigarette habit (which he ought to do something about). Lest we forget, either Bush I or the 2-headed 4-flatfooted Billary monster made the White House smoke-free (save, apparently, for Mr. Smug's subscriptorial "see-gars"). !Anota, Oprah! !Pita, camion!

Posted by: philip_riggio | September 21, 2007 5:42 PM | Report abuse

I am dismayed that the media paints Mr. Obama's actions in such a negative light. As the previous comments stated, Mr. Obama did what he said he would do back in August, and that was, WOULD PARTICIPATE ONLY IN THOSE DEBATES/FORUMS SANCTIONED BY THE DNC. If he had changed his mind, then he would have been a flip-flopper. To revisit that discussion now seems to me to be attempting to again put a negative spin on the issue. Second, what about his vote? Was it not meaningless and everyone knew it? Yes, I am an Obama supporter, but I am concerned about the press he's getting because I feel that it is often unfair and unjustified.

Posted by: bjmoody | September 21, 2007 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I am 61 years old and a member of AARP. I have NO PROBLEM with Obama missing this debate - he is DOING EXACTLY WHAT HE SAID HE WAS GOING TO DO. Isn't that refreshing? Are we so cynical that we cannot stand up for someone who is standinng up for US?? WaPo should be ashamed of these headlines.

Obama is the only real thing out there (at least of those who are running for President!). Wake up, America!!

Posted by: sheridan1 | September 21, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I am shocked at the Post's lack of clarity about this. Why is no one questioning how this even became a vote in the first place? What a waste of our time and money. We sent these people to Washington to represent us. I can complain about or praise a privately funded free press newspaper ad on my own, I don't need congress to do it for me. How inane.

And then for the Post to attack Obama saying that he "skipped" a vote and a debate? Seems to me he is sticking with what he said he was going to do; no one cried foul when he said this in the first place; in fact I recall several news organizations saying, good idea. Why frame it as skipping now? I look to you for the NEWS, not your opinions. If you are going to put opinions in such a straight forward piece, how can I trust you when it's an issue that's not so clear?

Posted by: maryTnurse | September 21, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Please. Rationalize all you want, but missing a debate by a respected organization on health care and other important issues--not to attend the duties of his elected office--but because he preferred to campaign and fundraise elsewhere--is not the kind of leadership this country needs. His face may look different, but his politics is business as usual.

Posted by: MamaBear2008 | September 21, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, we've got exactly what we deserve in congress. Time and again the same do nothing lobbyist pandering politicians are elected and re-elected. Every election year there is clamor for change,throw the bums out etc etc and yet those same bums always return. They don't speak to the interest of their constituents. Instead they waste time with silly ammendments about a newspaper advertisement. Sen Obama was 1000 percent right to have no part of that foolishness. As to passing up the debate, he said a month ago he would do so. The debates have produced nothing of substance and have become a 30 second sound bite contest and a chance for the moderators to ask meaningless questions and to hear their own nauseating voices. Obama has a seniors issue town hall meaning scheduled in Iowa. That is a much better forum then the debates. It allows citizens to question him and hear his answers without a "talking head " saying times up.

Posted by: mazd273 | September 21, 2007 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Seems to me Obama's stand on Moveon is smart and consistent with his position.

It's worth noting that these sort of bills form the majority of his main opponent's sponsored legislation. They are, of course 'full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.'

I may not like the fact that Obama will not pander to _me_, but that's a reassuring trait overall.

Posted by: carringtonward | September 21, 2007 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I can't believe the excuses the Obamamanics give their gutless leader. He should have taken an stand--yah or nay--on the Move-on org. ad. He claims he's above such politics but his decision not to vote was motivated by politics: he doesn't want to alienate the Moveon.org people since he need to compete in the democratic primaries, but he still wants to be seen as a moderate in the general elections. It was a political move, not a courageous one.
Leadership is about courage. If he's too pure for dirty politics, then what does he want to be President for?
And where was he in Jena, by the way??

--Recovered Obamamanic

Posted by: sheila.jager | September 21, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

FOCUSING ON REAL THREATS

To the times:

I am a vietnam veteran. I know how our soldiers feel to be in a war we should have never been in. Please tell your readers that we need to get out of Iraq and do what Barack Obama says. Barack says our real enemy is Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Tell your readers to do a search on A.Q.Khan, the real threat.

DANIELLE CLARKE

Barack also knows the priorities and thats what he is doing.

GOBAMA

Posted by: DANIELLECLARKE | September 21, 2007 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Obama recently said: "[E]verybody knows a lot of 50-, 60- and 70-year-olds that don't have good judgment, because they keep on making the same mistakes over and over again."

Not the most convincing statement to impress seniors you respect them.

Posted by: citizen53 | September 21, 2007 2:12 AM | Report abuse

I have to agree with the previous few posters -- Barack refuses to get embroiled in petty political showmanship, while sticking with his word and what is most important. He was scheduled to attend an event, and this silly and pointless vote wasn't worth missing that. He will also speak to seniors in a much more thorough, personal manner than these endless "debates" and forums. He's already said he won't be attending any but DNC-sanctioned debates, and he has the courage to stick to his word, even if it earns him the criticism of rags like this.

~~Cheryl

Posted by: cherylkopec | September 21, 2007 1:13 AM | Report abuse

I cannot believe the senate would spend hours debating a NYT's article when our soldiers are dieing every day for no reason.

Every time we think our government has reached the absolute highest level of stupidity, the congress surprises us with another dumb thing they're talking about.

Sen. Obama appears to be one of the only senators with good sense. When I heard about the vote I couldn't believe it. Our senate is so pathetic that it would spend time giving speeches on the senate floor and voting on a NYT's article that hurt a few folks feelings?

I don't agree with the article. I thought it was petty of MoveOn to run it. It makes no sense to me why MoveOn would attack the messenger. It seems MoveOn doesn't understand that the military is all about taking orders. You can't have an independent brain in the military. You simply do what your commanding officer tells you to do.

But to take the article to the senate floor is ridiculous. I've always voted Democrat. I've never been as disgusted with the Democratic party and its leadership as I am now. They are the weakest among the weak.

Sen. Obama is the only hope for the Democratic party. He's tough, principled, honest, trustworty, fairminded, and highly intelligent. The Democratic party hasn't seen all those qualities in one person since JFK and RFK.

Posted by: ItsTimeToTurnThePage | September 21, 2007 12:54 AM | Report abuse

Obama is leading again. He is showing the spineless leadership that dems do not have to play the silly games of the republicans. he shows how to take a stand and say 'screw you' to the gop and their attempt to split the democrats.
As for the debates. Has anyone really learned or found anything other than empty 30 second soundbites from these? it is a waste of everyone's time. Seniors would be better served by seeing the candidates and talking to them at events rather than this useless forum.
he is showing that democrats do not have to bend over every time just to make the pundits happy because they get to pretend to be real journalists questioning the candidates with fluffy questions.

Posted by: vwcat | September 21, 2007 12:44 AM | Report abuse

This is leadership. Senator Obama had stated that he would not be attending debates that were not mandated by the party. He made a statement regarding the vote.

Interestingly when he is at debates the media twists/distorts his valid points in favor of the dribble and pandering sound bites of Hilary Clinton.

A newspaper of the stature of the Washington Post ought to be asking Senator Clinton about her earmarks. When is she going to release them. That could be watershed moment for this election. You owe the American voters higher level of journalism.

Posted by: imanicongracia | September 21, 2007 12:27 AM | Report abuse

Whoever wrote this article should be ashamed. He did not duck a vote and you know that based on the statement he released condemning the useless exercise. Does the vote help any American? No. It is utter nonsense. Yet you report it as if it will impact the lives of every American. This stuff has to end. Please report accurately. This is the reason why Bush was elected and the reason we are in the war-the media fails to report facts and has yielded to sensationalism.

With respect to his skipping the forum, he is honoring his word, something that many politicans rarely do. Who honestly will watch that debate? No me or anyone I know, including my parents who are in that generation. Please stop acting as if he committed an inpardonable sin. Especially, when he informed you that he would be holding a town hall meeting next week in Iowa to address issues relevant to the seniors. Again, this is very sad reporting.

Posted by: adrobinson | September 20, 2007 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Senator Barach Obama has a new tax plan designed to appeal, in part, to seniors but he may need to be tougher and argue that only he is prepared to protect their health care against the deficit reduction crowd.

After all, ultimately, Bill Clinton sided with the balance the budget crowd. If Barack can suggest that a Hillary presidency will do the same, perhaps at their expense, he could turn those seniors to his side.

Most importantly though, he needs to make them see him as on their side. If he's just another good government politician, they will feel no obligation to vote for him and they may well be swayed by smaller matters, like who showed up for a debate.

Posted by: PAFriedman | September 20, 2007 8:36 PM | Report abuse

What a lame article. First of all, he announced his policy of sticking to sanctioned debates over a month ago. Second, this vote was a joke. Please. He can't be everywhere. Get a clue, WaPo.

Posted by: uhbkeys | September 20, 2007 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Obama is done with White House. He sees Hillary is so far ahead, he is giving up! Long pain is worse than short pain!

Posted by: missedyou18 | September 20, 2007 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Ummm...okay, this is a little discouraging. Part of leading is *showing up* (maybe this had something to do with Jesse Jackson's less than enthusiastic response to Obama's actions re: the Jena 6).

If this is coming from advisors, he needs to dump them.

Posted by: grannyhelen | September 20, 2007 5:27 PM | Report abuse

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