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A Fatigued Obama Tells Minority Media Conference About His Overseas Trip

By Ed O'Keefe
CHICAGO -- As he prepares for a week of campaign appearances focused on the economy, Sen. Barack Obama today repeatedly suggested a domestic economic benefit to improved American relations with the world.

"When you think about the big problems we face here at home, they're connected to the problems we face abroad," Obama said before an audience of several hundred here during an address at the quadrennial UNITY Journalists of Color Conference. More international involvement in Afghanistan and drawing down forces in Iraq, Obama said, have the potential to "free up money to keep folks in their homes" and provide funds for other domestic concerns.

"We can't keep spending $10 billion a month in Iraq, at a time when we have pressing needs here in the United States of America," he said.

"While I was traveling, obviously I was monitoring carefully the situation in the United States," Obama said. He called the new housing bill "a good start in creating a floor beneath which the housing market will not sink," adding later that "We're going to have to do more." He mentioned his scheduled appearance on Monday with top economic advisers, including Warren Buffet and former treasury secretary Robert Rubin.

While the senator from Illinois tried to keep his remarks focused on domestic concerns during the appearance in his home state, he did share impressions of his world tour.

"The world is waiting for the United States to reengage. In the Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians are waiting for us to get involved," he said, adding there should be "sustained American engagement" in the region's peace process. He said reaction to his Berlin speech "was a testimony for how hungry Europeans are for American leadership."

Following at least a dozen television and newspaper interviews over the course of his eight-day journey abroad, Obama subjected himself to another round of questions from the journalists at the convention, which ends today. One member of the audience asked Obama if he felt he had gone too far in distancing himself from virally circulating false assertions that he is a radical Muslim.

"This is a classic example of a no-win situation," Obama said, his voice rising, visibly agitated.

"I just don't like the idea of somebody falsely identifying my religion. I suspect that you wouldn't appreciate that either," Obama said to the questioner, after reminding the audience of his record defending Muslim and Arab Americans.

"What I would ask is that I am treated like other candidates in terms of expectations and that people look at my entire record. When it comes to anti-Muslim bias, when it comes to discrimination against Muslim or Arab Americans, I have been at the forefront of the fight," he said.

The senator appeared visibly tired, admitting to "not enough sleep," having returned the night before.

"I'm going back and taking a nap after this," he said.

He also said he was surprised to find his wife and two daughters greeting him at the airport upon his return last evening.

"Usually I have to beg just to make sure they're not asleep when I get home," he said.

Obama's appearance was during a session sponsored by CNN and Time Magazine and aired live on the news network.

UNITY had originally extended invitations to Obama and Sen. John McCain to appear for one hour each during a Thursday night forum that would have aired live on CNN.

The McCain campaign declined the invitation due to a scheduling conflict with his appearance at Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG forum in Columbus, Ohio, according to McCain campaign spokeswoman Hessy Fernandez, and the Obama campaign rescheduled the senator's appearance for this morning, following his return last night from his overseas travels.

By Web Politics Editor  |  July 27, 2008; 2:48 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama  
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