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Obama Convenes National Security Working Group

By Anne E. Kornblut
As Sen. Barack Obama convened the first meeting of his new "senior working group on national security" in Washington on Wednesday, he put Madeleine Albright at the head of the table -- strongly signaling that he is reaching out to the Clinton policy apparatus.

In the other prominent front seat: Lee Hamilton, former co-chair of the 9-11 Commission, demonstrating that Obama is pushing back hard in the current fight with Sen. John McCain over terrorism policy.

Obama allowed reporters in at the beginning of the hour-long meeting and was scheduled to do so again at the end. Other participants: Richard Danzig, James Steinberg, Greg Craig, Susan Rice, Tim Roemer, William Perry, Tony Lake and David Boren. Sam Nunn and Warren Christopher were there via conference call.

A prominent absentee: Eric Holder, who reportedly had a scheduling conflict and did not make it. But he is, the campaign said, still a part of the working group.

Obama's opening remarks follow the jump:

Let me just open up by thanking this group of distinguished Americans for joining me today. This is the first meeting of what we're calling a senior working group on national security that I will be consulting between now and the election. Every single individual here has provided extraordinary service to our nation, in the executive branch or in Congress, the 9/11 commission. Several have been advising my campaign for some time.

I'm also honored to be joined by those who were advising Senator Clinton's campaign in the role of senior advisers. In the months to come we expect to be reaching out to others.

Today we're going to have a wind-ranging discussion about the national security challenges facing the United States. We are fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; we continue to face great threats not only from terrorism but also nuclear proliferation, climate change and poverty, genocide and disease.

Nearly all these threats have grown over the last 8 years because of the policies of George Bush, which I believe have left us less safe and less respected in the world.

There's going to be a clear choice in this election: John McCain wants to continue the Bush-Cheney foreign policy. I want to turn the page.

Instead of adhering to a rigid ideology, I want to get back to a pragmatic tradition of American foreign policy which has been so ably advanced by the people in this room.

A policy that's focused on using all elements of American power to protect our people and to advance our interests. Yesterday, Senator McCain showed yet again...(inaudible). He is also going to use the Bush-Cheney political playbook that's based on fear. He put a bunch of staunch Iraq war supporters on the phone to accuse me of having a pre-9/11 mindset. I believe actually that I am very clear about the threats America faces, as do the people around this table and those who are on the phone. And I think in fact it's the failed policies of the Bush administration, the unwillingness to look toward the future, that is causing us so many problems around the world.

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 18, 2008; 2:04 PM ET
Categories:  Issues , National Security , On the Issues  
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