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Taking the War into the Election: Obama in Beaver County
by Carl Davidson Tuesday, Mar. 18, 2008 at 12:40 AM Raccoon Twp

My take and the AP take on Obama at Beaver County Community College today, March 17.

Taking the War into ...
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By Carl Davidson

Senator Barack Obama spoke this morning, March 17, to a full house of 1700 residents of Western Pennsylvania in the athletic ‘Dome’ of the Beaver County Community College, one of the largest venues in the area.

It was a good day for Obama and Beaver County, both of which are embroiled in the hotly contested presidential primary.

It was also a good day for those of us working on the ‘Voter Engagement’ project of UFPJ and Peace Action.

When we arrived, the local Obama team had already set up a Voter Registration Table. I approached the guy in charge, a retired member of the local teacher’s union, and said we were going to distribute voter guides against the war. 'Against the war? You mean against the INVASION, don’t you?' and added some colorful terms for President Bush. It set the tone—we were very welcome to get on with our project.

There was a last minute rush to get in, and thorough-going security, and we just made it in time.

Inside, waiting for the speech, we made a point of talking with the reporters from the Beaver County Times, one of whom we had had a relationship with on earlier stories. We discussed the debate on the war in the editorial pages, noted that this was very new for Beaver County, and agreed to talk at length later.

The crowd was obviously self-selected and mostly pro-Obama. But it was still a cross-section of the county’s demographics—mostly working class (the young volunteer who opened the day used the term ‘working class’ like it was the most normal thing in the world, and his crowd did, too), Italian-American, Serbian-American, African American, union jackets and veterans, young and old, men and women.

The youth were lively, multinational and kept trying to get ‘the Wave’ going in the stands, but the old folks weren’t cooperating too well. Still, they got the rhythmic chants going, ‘Ba-Rack!, O-Bam-A!, It Can Be Done! It Can Be Done!’

Obama was warmly greeted, and got into his regular speech, but said he would be short. He wanted to field questions. He stressed some economic issues, since the area is a poster child for the ravages of deindustrialization. He knew who he was talking to.

But it was when he condemned the war, and declared he would end it in 2009, that he got his first and loudest ovation, followed by another, when he stressed the need not to abandon veterans on their return. This was clearly an antiwar crowd, from young high school kids to grey-haired Vietnam vets. The economy was important, as was health care, prisons, and education, but Obama himself linked them to the war, and was cheered every time.

We left quickly at the end, to position ourselves outside, with our stacks on Voter Guides. ‘Make the Election about Ending the War! Take one and pass them on!’ Most people snapped them up, and a few came back for more. A few, mainly African American, were dubious, and wanted to know more. ‘It rates all the candidates on the war, and your guy does very well.’ That would click, and they would ask for extra copies.

One group of about a dozen students were standing together reading it. We joined in, and got a good number of e-mails on the sign up sheets on our clipboards. One of the kids claimed to be a Republican. Interestingly enough, the sidebar article in the Beaver County Times later in the day was on a student who said he changed his registration to Democrat that morning, so he could get behind Obama.

Make no mistake. McCain is strong here, even if people hate the war. But we had a good day—we got our message out, we formed some positive ties on voter registration, we renewed some ties with the local media, and got a list of new youth contacts. Not bad for a morning’s work.


Obama and Clinton vow to end war

By David Brown

Monday, March 17, 2008

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Presidential candidate Barack Obama, speaking in Beaver County today, renewed his pledge to end the war in Iraq in 2009 if he is elected.

Obama charged that Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, a fellow U.S. senator, is trying to misrepresent his opposition to the war.

"I've been clear that this was a strategic error, unlike Sen. Clinton who voted for this war and has never taken responsibility for that vote," he told about 1,000 supporters at a town hall meeting at Community College of Beaver County in Center.

"It was an unwise war. It has distracted us from going after our real enemies in Afganistan, those who killed 3,000 Americans and fanned the flames of anti-American sentiment," Obama said. "That is why I opposed it in 2002 and why I will bring the war to an end in 2009."

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Obama noted the war has cost the "hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of precious lives."

"This is a real difference I have with Sen. Clinton. With all due respect, she spoke about Iraq today and she tried to suggest that, well, my opposition was just a speech in 2002 and since that time I've been inconsistent," Obama said.

Speaking in Washington today, Clinton said the Iraq war may cost Americans $1 trillion and add strain to the buckling U.S. economy as she made her case for a prompt troop pullout from a war "we cannot win."

With the United States this week marking the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the economy's assorted strains competed for attention as the top issue facing voters when they choose their next president in November.

The money to fund the war, she said, could be used to provide health care to 47 million uninsured Americans, solve the mushrooming U.S. housing crisis and make college affordable.

"Our economic security is at stake," she said. "Taking into consideration the long-term costs of replacing equipment and providing medical care for troops and survivors' benefits for their families, the war in Iraq could ultimately cost well over $1 trillion."

Clinton took aim at the likely Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, accusing him of joining President Bush in pushing a "stay the course" policy that would keep U.S. troops in Iraq for 100 years.

"They both want to keep us tied to another country's civil war, a war we cannot win," she said. "That in a nutshell is the Bush/McCain Iraq policy. Don't learn from your mistakes, repeat them."

She said if elected she would convene military advisers and ask them to develop a plan to begin bringing U.S. troops home within 60 days of her taking office next January.

Today marks Obama's first foray into Western Pennsylvania since it became clear the state's April 22 primary would be a factor in the hard-fought nominating contest. The state, with 187 delegates, is the last big prize before the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August.

"He has that combination of intellect, character and judgment that we rarely see in a presidential candidate. He is really worthy of the office,said Zack Byrnes, 23, of Butler.

With polls showing her leading in Pennsylvania by double-digits, Clinton spent most of last week campaigning across the Keystone State while Obama appeared at one town hall meeting in Bucks County. He had been scheduled to appear at an event Thursday in Beaver County, but cancelled the appearance to tend to Senate business.

Obama is scheduled to speak tonight at the Society of Irish Women dinner in Scranton, before heading to Philadelphia for an event Tuesday.

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