Surrounded by cornstalks and pumpkins in the cold, drafty Festhalle Barn in Amana, Iowa, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., pledged that as president he would unite the country and move it forward.
"People don't want to just be against something, but to be for something," he said. "They want to get a sense that we can still come together as a nation."
Making the case that he is the candidate most able to foster cooperation between Republicans and Democrats, the senator said people at his campaign events often quietly confess their support for him despite identifying as Republicans.
Mary Roberts, a Coralville resident, lent credence to the senator's claim during the question-and-answer session after Obama's speech. She said her husband used to be a Republican, but he has recently registered as a Democrat so he can caucus for Obama.
Continuing with his bipartisan theme, the senator said the United States faces challenges too great for any one politician or party to surmount.
"It's not just enough to change political parties in the White House," he said. "We also have to change our politics."
As evidence of the nation's need for political cooperation, Obama cited the lack of progress on health-care reform and energy independence. Politicians have talked about such issues for decades, but neither Republican nor Democratic administrations have made significant progress, he said.
While discussing past attempts at health-care reform, Obama criticized Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., for the way she handled the issue when her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was in office. Rodham Clinton's efforts failed, Obama said, because she developed her health-care plan behind closed doors without sufficient transparency.
Regarding the quest for energy independence, the senator said no magic bullet exists. However, he said, the country can pursue a number of strategies simultaneously that will help end American dependence on foreign oil.
Obama said scaling up the use of solar power and biofuels in conjunction with capping carbon emissions and increasing fuel-efficiency standards in cars would put the country on the right path. Though moving away from oil will not be easy, the senator insisted that doing so is essential.
"We give $800 million a day to hostile nations, fueling terrorism and melting the polar ice caps," the senator said noting the nation's current level of oil consumption.
Not limiting his discussion of national security to the nation's use of fossil fuels, Obama also discussed Iraq. Upon being elected president, he said he would immediately begin withdrawing American combat forces from that country.
West Amana resident Julie LeClere said she likes Obama's stance on the Iraq war.
"I appreciate that he never supported the war, but I wouldn't rule out voting for someone who changed his mind," she said.
Byron Preston, who lives in Homestead, also said the Iraq war is a major issue for him this election cycle.
"I think it shows character that he opposed the war from the beginning," he said. "Some candidates, like Hillary Clinton, were not willing to do that."
"This story appears courtesy of UWIRE, a news service powered by student journalists at more than 800 universities. To learn more, visit UWIRE.com."
© 2007 The Daily Iowan via U-WIRE