Feisty Obama comes out swinging in Troy appearance

BTL Capitol Reporter

TROY – With over 1,000 enthusiastic and energetic fans in attendance Monday, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) laid out the problems in America he wants to fix and drew a sharp contrast with the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Obama is close to taking the Democratic nomination over New York Senator Hillary Clinton.

And Obama, acknowledging a rift between Clinton supporters and Obama supporters, reached out a hand to the Senator.

"I know that during this campaign there have been some worries about the Dems, that we will be divided after this is all over," he said. "Are the Clinton folks going to support the Obama folks, and are the Obama folks going to support the Clinton folks? First of all, Senator Clinton has run an outstanding race and been a fine public servant…she and I will be working together in November."

The statement was met with mild applause and no elaboration. It also comes on the heels of Obama's resounding defeat by Clinton in Puerto Rico's primary yesterday — where Clinton won 70 percent of the vote. But Obama also had a significant win on Saturday with the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee deciding to seat both the Michigan and Florida delegations, awarding each delegate one half of a vote. Obama is just shy of three dozen delegates away from clinching the nomination.

As Obama continues on to Minnesota today, Clinton is flying back to New York state, and the Telegraph newspaper in the United Kingdom is reporting she is preparing to end her bid for the White House. (

Obama started the day's event at Troy High School by taking aim at McCain and the economy.

"Because while we've been talking about a recession in this country for a few months now, Michigan has been living it for a very long time," Obama said. "Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the nation and workers and communities across this state have been struggling for years with the downturn that all of America is feeling today."

"But there is no doubt that the Bush economic policies have done little to help the working families of Michigan or build a better future for America," he said. "Because Senator McCain says we have made, and this is a quote, 'great progress economically' these past eight years, and he promises more of the same."

This comment brought vigorous boos from the crowd, many of whom were dressed in a variety of Obama "Change We Can Believe In" clothing and buttons.

The Senator also connected the war in Iraq to the nation's economic woes.

"A big part of it is that George Bush and John McCain have been so focused on pursuing a flawed and costly war in Iraq that they've lost sight of our mounting problems here at home," Obama said. "Instead of working to fix our economy and lift up hardworking families, they've fought to extend a war that's costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars without making us any safer — a war that has strengthened our enemies and distracted us from the real battle with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

To show the economic impact of the war in Iraq, Obama said, "Just to put this in perspective, for what taxpayers here in Oakland County have spent in Iraq, you could be providing health care for nearly 900,000 people, or offering more than 200,000 college scholarships for Michigan students, or hiring more than 30,000 elementary school teachers."

"And now it seems like all Senator McCain is talking about on the campaign trail is Iraq – instead of offering real solutions to the problems you face every day," Obama said. "In fact, Senator McCain conceded not long ago that he didn't know much about the economy. That's not his interest. That's not his priority. But it will be mine."

"That's the choice in this election. Are we going to continue the failed Bush-McCain economic policies and remain mired in an endless and costly conflict in Iraq, or will we change course, and focus on the problems that working families in Michigan and across America are facing every day?" Obama asked. "I believe strongly that we are on the wrong path, and that we need new priorities and a new direction and that is why I'm running for President or the United States."

Following these prepared remarks, Obama launched into a town hall style meeting, answering questions from several audience members.

The opening question came from a self-described "new driver," but his question echoed that of many in the room. ""I'm a new driver; I wanna know if gas prices are going down soon."

"I'm gonna be honest with you — gas prices are not going down anytime soon," Obama said.

Obama was also queried about how his health care plan would address the disparity in mental health services and coverage.

He said he would force parity in coverage, saying that severe depression should be covered just like medical coverage for a broken leg. The candidate also pointed out that the country is losing millions of dollars in revenues and productivity as a result of mental health concerns, and that many of those issues end up costing states money in law enforcement costs, such as incarceration and court fees.

After this question, a woman who identified herself as a worker from American Axle, which is a UAW represented auto parts maker recently on strike, asked Obama what he would do about outsourcing and "corporate greed."

"To all the workers at American Axle: we are with you," the senator said. "Number one: no tax breaks for companies outsourcing overseas; number two, roll back Bush tax cuts on wealthiest Americans; number three, labor laws more conducive to allowing workers who want to get organized to organize — we've had one of the most anti-labor administrations in a very long time."

Obama then took a question from an Oakland University student who noted his tuition increased 14 percent this year alone.

Obama launched into an explanation of his $4,000 tuition program as well as an expansion of Pell Grants on the federal level. Then he mentioned the needs of returning veterans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We are trying to pass a GI bill for the 21st century so the benefits the G.I.'s get today is as good as the benefits my grandfather got when he came back after World War II," Obama said, to cheers.

But he also said government is not the only solution. He said some institutions will need to take a tough look at their own spending.

"Some colleges and universities are not spending as wisely as they can," the candidate said. "Maybe they don't need the student center, but could use the money on books and computers."


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