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From Bilingual Education to the War, Obama Plans Big

By Jonathan Weisman
SAN ANTONIO -- In 1992, Bill Clinton sought to prove he was a New Democrat, not beholden to his party's Balkanized interests, by standing up to a controversial black rapper. Sen. Barack Obama swept into Texas today ahead of the pivotal March 4 showdown with Hillary Rodham Clinton, promising once again to bridge the partisan divide -- not, however, by standing up to anyone, but seemingly by offering something to everyone.

During an extended question-and-answer session in San Antonio, summarized below, Obama ran the gamut:

Q: How are you going to help the refugees in Chad and Darfur?
A: Train, equip and deploy a United Nations protection force and police a no-fly zone over Sudan.
Q: My son is in college, my husband is in chemotherapy, and I have three family members in Iraq. How are you going to help my family?
A: Don't worry, I'll bring all combat troops out of Iraq by the end of 2009.
Q: What are your thoughts on bilingual education?
A: I want everyone to be bilingual. I want every child to learn a second language.
Q: My brothers, a Marine and a soldier, are coming back from Iraq and having a harder time than I am with student aid.
A: I passed an amendment already making sure wounded soldiers at Walter Reed don't have to pay their phone bills.
Q: The tax code is old, unfair and needs fixing. What are you going to do?
A: I'll close $1 trillion in corporate loopholes and use that money to offset the first $1,000 in payroll taxes. Seniors with less than $50,000 in income won't have to pay income tax on their Social Security. People can choose to have their W-2s sent straight to the IRS to have the government do their tax returns for them. The child tax credit will be expanded, as will the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The back-and-forth went on and on, for nearly a half-hour beyond Obama's announced end point, with no confrontation and no disappointment. The crowd at a community center at the Plaza Guadalupe filed out happy.

There was no expression of concern on how to pay for it all, and little mention of how difficult those promises would be to fulfill.

Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod said after the San Antonio event that Obama "has not hesitated" to say no to a questioner. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he refused to agree with a voter's demand to cut defense spending. In Detroit, he promised to raise fuel efficiency standards to 40 miles per gallon.

But he acknowledged that the Republican Party is increasingly focusing its fire on Obama, whom the GOP has labeled the nation's "most liberal senator."

Will Obama tack to the center now that he is in the Republican National Committee's crosshairs? Will he talk more about how to pay for all this?

"We don't want to arrogantly assume too much," Axelrod said. "We understand we have a long way to go before he is the nominee of the Democratic Party."

By Web Politics Editor  |  February 19, 2008; 5:57 PM ET
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Posted by: Tristan birfv | April 20, 2008 2:21 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: dimako jpnvocmt | April 16, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: dimako jpnvocmt | April 16, 2008 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Obama's speech (October, 2002):

Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.

The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don't oppose all wars.

My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton's army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain.

I don't oppose all wars.

After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administration's pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

I don't oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income - to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear - I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He's a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.

So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let's finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn't simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.

The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not - we will not - travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

Let's turn the page,


Posted by: supportobama | February 20, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Hello WP,

I hope Barak Obama in White House will usher in change and hope not only for Americans but for rest of the world.

Obama promised bi-lingualism, promises troops to return from Iraq by end 2009, save tax through loophole from tax on the rich and compensate the less rich and suggests 40 MPG as auto efficiency but does not promises reduction in defence expenses.

The US president, considering the overwhelming economic, military, political and cultural weight of the country is not like head of state of any other country.

The fate of the whole world depends on the man or woman in the white house. They simply cannot afford to be less intelligent and less compassionate.

Many in the developing world look forward to him in the seat of commander in chief.

I hope he also promises troop withdrawal from not only Iraq but also Afghanistan or else where. This action will not only save others from the oppression of USA and earn good name for the US.

On a persoanl note I would also like him to promise opening the road in front of US Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan. All common commuters have to follow a much longer route instaed of taking the short path in front of the consualte. People say Pakistan will be a soveriegn country when we can chose our routes ourselves.

In the realm of foreign policy Mr Obama should aim at giving a good face to the US within and outside the nation.

It had been the immigrants traveling to the USA that made it so big and strong. It is time that the US decides to become a universal community than a home for immigrants from the British Isles only speaking English.

When we have tolerated a darker skin in the whitehouse we should not be grudging more of the kind on streets outside the whitehouse. Let USA be a world of a smaller size.

The relationship with Muslims and China! The two people, over one billion each needs to be treated with more concern. It is far better to live in a understandable way with them than confrontation.

Also it should be the time when US use not firepower but more of sincere diplomacy.

Distancing from Israel is certainly going to help the interest of people of the US Arabs and Israel as well. IF NOTHING MORE THE us SHOULD HAVE MORE JUST POLICY TOWARDS ALL PARTIES INVOLVED.

OBAMA IS ALSO EXPECTED NOT TO THE THE GUARDIAN OF ALL DICTATORS AND ATHORITARIANS IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD. governments that are in position in accordance with the will of the people are easier to deal with and for better effect. Let him try this approach.

I wish well for people of the US and people of all lands on this globe.


Tariq Mahmood
Peshawar, Pakistan

Posted by: zaogirwazir | February 19, 2008 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone in the press actually been evaluating Obama over the past few months?? Or were there just too many people in the democratic field that his positions just got lost in the haze???

I am very concerned about all the Obama fantasy in his speeches.

David Brooks was almost mocking Obama today in his piece. Obama runs the risk of becoming a running joke about hope and change, hoping for change, changing for hope.

Posted by: Miata7 | February 19, 2008 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Obama, the great snake oil salesman, will promise anything to everyone in order to win the nomination.

Where is he going to get the money to pay for it? Do a Republican second act? Borrow and spend? Rip off the great great grandchildren?

Every con man makes you believe you can get a lot for nothing. The gullible fall for it.

Obama has the gullible vote!

His problem is that the liberal elite and Afro/Americans will get him the nomination, but the vast majority of Americans are neither liberal or Afro/Americans.

Republicans are counting on Obama getting the Demo nod. They know they can crush him despite all the wishfull thinking and vicious posts of the Obamanuts on this site.

The most important issue now is who will McCain pick as his running mate. A Hispanic would be a wise choice -- say Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Double benefit. Will prove McCain reaches out, and Hispanics outnumber Afro/Americans.

Posted by: wj_phillips | February 19, 2008 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Obama's answers just go to show how he will say yes to everything asked of him. Like the person who wants to please everyone and saids no to no one.

Sounds like his themes of HOPE and UNITY and CHANGE. Promise them everything, but provide no details as to how these will be accomplished .... or paid for.

JUST WORDS! ALL TALK and NO ACTION! Promise them anything and everything. I'll worry about the details after I get elected.

Posted by: David2007 | February 19, 2008 8:54 PM | Report abuse

So Obama is gonna wave his magic wand and achieve all these things overnight just like that, is he? Because he sure ain't giving any actual policy detail nor costings as to how he is going to achieve all of his boasts.

The voters are selecting someone for one of the most powerful and demanding jobs in the Western world and they don't demand these details from Obama?

Crazy, absolutely crazy.

Posted by: Couzensjanet | February 19, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

You imply first that Obama is standing up to no one and offering something for everyone, and then in the next breath you claim his positions show how liberal he is.

Which is it? Is he telling everyone what they want to hear? Or is he presenting a progressive viewpoint? Don't you see your own incoherence here?

How are pulling troops from Iraq or supporting bilingual education not mildly controversial stands?

Posted by: pete0erickson | February 19, 2008 7:00 PM | Report abuse

What exactly is so grand a promise here? Obama answered the questions honestly about his own views, and he laid out solutions that he could do pretty easily as president. Pull troops out of Iraq? Sure. Get together an international force for Darfur? A solid goal. And he indicated his personal support for foreign language programs at schools.

I'm baffled why you insisted on working in your little plug for the right-wing screed against Obama that he's too liberal.

Posted by: pete0erickson | February 19, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse


Hillary Rove is at it Again !

Hillary Rove is at it Again !

Hillary Rove is at it Again !

Hillary Rove is at it Again !

Hillary Rove is at it Again !

Hillary Rove is at it Again !

Hillary Rove is at it Again !

Hillary Rove is at it Again !

Hillary Rove is at it Again !


Posted by: LeftwithNochoice | February 19, 2008 6:39 PM | Report abuse

With this barrage of desperation,one can sense Hillary sliding down the hill. Hurry up!

Posted by: ds_cenpak | February 19, 2008 6:28 PM | Report abuse

The Founding Fathers wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence with great hope for the future, knowing the dangers of their actions... America has a history of taking chances in favor of hope for a better future....

Posted by: glclark4750 | February 19, 2008 6:21 PM | Report abuse

buried within this article:

"Clinton has her own, also tenuous, Weatherman connection. Her husband commuted the sentences of a couple of convicted Weather Underground members, Susan Rosenberg and Linda Sue Evans, shortly before leaving office in January 2001. Which is worse: pardoning a convicted terrorist or accepting a campaign contribution from a former Weatherman who was never convicted?"

Posted by: maq1 | February 19, 2008 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, Earmark Hillary isn't exactly known for with holding promises or special favors

Posted by: maq1 | February 19, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Don't you think that this post is a little biased against Obama. Hillary has made all sorts of promises herself, but you don't even mention her. Let's try to report in an evenhanded way...

Posted by: johnatbd | February 19, 2008 6:05 PM | Report abuse

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