Illinois Sen. Barack Obama repeated his apologies for an offhand remark that the lives of U.S. troops killed in Iraq were "wasted."
At an appearance in Iowa on Sunday, the Democratic presidential candidate told listeners: "We now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted."
He immediately apologized on Sunday, saying the remark was "a slip of the tongue."
During an appearance Monday in Nashua, he apologized again, telling reporters he meant to criticize civilian leadership of the war, not those serving in the military.
"Even as I said it, I realized I had misspoken," Obama said. "It is not at all what I intended to say, and I would absolutely apologize if any (military families that) felt that in some ways it had diminished the enormous courage and sacrifice that they'd shown."
Obama made his second visit to New Hampshire on Monday, following a weekend announcement speech in his home state and a visit to the first-caucus state, Iowa. His appearances have come with packed audiences, enthusiastic crowds — and, until the controversy over his remarks emerged, scant scrutiny.
Obama came to New Hampshire on the heels of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. She faced criticism last weekend for not saying her vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq was a mistake.
Obama, by contrast, faced little of that skepticism. Even his sharpest questioners began by offering praise and support.
"He hasn't gotten into specifics, but that'll come," state Rep. Jeffrey Fontas said after a Nashua house party with 60 activists. "It's early, so we'll see more and more."
That house party in Nashua brought questions about:
Even while the first-term senator from Illinois didn't have specific solutions, voters in this first-in-the-nation primary state gave him a pass.
"He takes time, he answers fully," said state Rep. Melanie Levesque. "I think we need people who can bring people together. He can do that. We're going to have a tough decision to make."
Obama called for a national solution to health care but stopped short of endorsing or rejecting proposals for mandatory insurance. He said more young people should consider teaching but stopped short of specific incentives.
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Later Monday, at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, Obama discussed Iraq.
"Unless we bring that war to a close, we cannot deal with all those other problems I just mentioned," he said. "Not only has it resulted in the tragic loss in our brave soldiers, but it means we're spending $400 billion rebuilding Iraq with money that could have been used here."
Obama did outline an energy plan — a reduction in emissions, cap-and-trade plans for polluting industries, and development of biofuels including ethanol. He also repeated his stance on gay marriage — that civil unions are fine, but marriage is a religious bond.
"I believe that every American has basic rights that have to be respected," said Obama, who noted that his parents perhaps broke the law when they entered into a biracial marriage in the 1960s.
A member of the university audience asked about his appeal to social conservatives. Obama said one of the best lessons he learned in politics was that he couldn't make 100 percent of voters happy. He then noted his friendship with the Rev. Rick Warren, who leads one of the nation's largest megachurches.