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Obama Says He's as Qualified as Clinton, McCain

(CBS)

From CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic

CHICAGO -- Surrounded by retired military officers and American flags, Barack Obama presented his case for why he is the most qualified candidate to become commander-in-chief.

"On the most important national security question since the Cold War, I am the only candidate who opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning," he said. "This judgment was not about speeches, it was about whether or not the United States of America would go to war in Iraq."

He argued that his judgment supersedes arguments about his experience. "After years of being told that Democrats have to talk, act, and vote like John McCain to pass some commander-in-chief test, how many times do we have to learn that tough talk is not a substitute for sound judgment?" Obama asked. "After years of a war in Iraq that should've never been authorized, how many more politicians will appeal to the American people's fears instead of their hopes?"

Obama was asked if he thought Hillary Clinton was qualified to be commander-in-chief. "Yes, as I believe Senator McCain is. And, as I believe, I am," Obama said.

Clinton's campaign said today's event was simply a stage show. "The Obama campaign knows well that he has not yet passed the commander-in-chief test which is why they are doing events like the one today," said Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson. "The fact is that many voters still have concerns about his readiness to be commander-in-chief on day one." Clinton held a similar event back on March 6th to highlight her qualifications as a military leader.

Decorated officer and Obama surrogate, General Tony McPeak, disagreed with that, describing the Illinois senator as "no shock Barack, no drama Obama." "So when that phone rings, when that red phone rings at three a.m., you want a guy with this kind of temperament to answer that telephone," McPeak said.

The drama in recent days hasn't been about current military affairs, though, but about former Democratic vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro, who said Obama was "very lucky to be where he is." Although Obama hesitated to call the comments racist, he described them as "ridiculous and wrong headed."

"I think they're not borne out of our history or by the facts," he said. "If you pulled out a handbook of how to weigh your assets and liabilities in a presidential race, I don't think my name or my skin color would be in the asset column."

Obama said he had hoped that the issue of race would be been dispelled by now, but acknowledges that it has not. While he didn't accuse the Clinton campaign of heightening the issue of race, he does believe that they have contributed to the controversy.

"I do think that the Clinton campaign has talked more over the course of the last month of what groups are supporting her and not supporting me and making the case that there are a set of voters that Obama may not get," he explained. "I disagree with that and I believe that there are certain voters that she can or can't get – she can't get Republicans or independents."