Sunday, July 13, 2008

Obama Says Yall Ain't Listening!!!

Obama Says His Critics Haven’t Been Listening

By MICHAEL POWELL Of The New York Times

POWDER SPRINGS, Ga. — Senator Barack Obama on Tuesday forcefully addressed concerns that he had moved too quickly to the political center, acknowledging complaints from “my friends on the left” about his statements on Iraq, his approaches to evangelicals and his remarks on other issues that have alarmed some of his supporters.

“Look, let me talk about the broader issue, this whole notion that I am shifting to the center,” he told a crowd gathered at a town hall-style meeting in this Atlanta suburb. “The people who say this apparently haven’t been listening to me.”

“I am someone who is no doubt progressive,” he said, adding that he believed in universal health care and that government had a strong role to play in overseeing financial institutions and cracking down on abuses in bankruptcies and the like.

Mr. Obama has faced a wave of complaints from his followers in recent weeks that he is tacking hard toward the political center and moving away from his liberal base now that he is in a general election campaign. His critics note that he recently applauded a Supreme Court decision overturning a District of Columbia ban on handguns, supported a proposed wiretap law that he once promised to oppose and, in response to another Supreme Court ruling, spoke in favor of the death penalty for child rapists.

He has also endorsed a role for religious organizations in delivering social services, which many critics, including some who support him, fear would blur the line between church and state.

So when a Republican here who said he planned to vote for the Illinois senator in the fall asked him about his views on Iraq, Mr. Obama took the opportunity to expound more broadly on his political philosophy.

“I believe in a whole lot of things that make me progressive and put me squarely in the Democratic camp,” he said. But, he noted, he does not believe that the active hand of government is a replacement, say, for parental responsibility in education.

“I believe in personal responsibility; I also believe in faith,” he said. “That’s not something new; I’ve been talking about that for years. So the notion that this is me trying to look” — he waved his hands around his head — “centrist is not true.”

Regarding his position on Iraq, he said, “Don’t be confused: I will bring the Iraq war to a close when I am president of the United States of America.”

His remarks came as his campaign and that of his opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona, each released new television commercials on Tuesday.

The McCain advertisement, called “Summer of Love,” contrasts the free-wheeling counterculture of the 1960s with Mr. McCain’s experiences fighting and being taken prisoner in Vietnam. The advertisement takes some jabs at the themes of the Obama campaign by subtly equating them with the hopes of the counterculture movement.

“John McCain doesn’t always tell us what we ‘hope’ to hear,” an announcer says. “Beautiful words cannot make our lives better. But a man who has always put his country and her people before self, before politics, can. Don’t ‘hope’ for a better life. Vote for one.”

The Obama advertisement, his first negative one of the general campaign, calls Mr. McCain “part of the problem” of high gasoline prices. It likens the energy policies of Mr. McCain to those of President Bush, noting that both support easing restrictions on offshore oil drilling and linking the two to support for tax breaks for oil companies.

The two candidates not only battled on the airwaves, but also vied for the support of Hispanic voters with appearances Tuesday before the League of United Latin American Citizens, where Mr. McCain pledged to pass the kind of immigration legislation that angered many Republican voters last year, after first securing the nation’s borders.

But Mr. McCain may face a tough time courting these voters. Since the immigration debate stirred up the country, Republicans have been losing the support of Hispanics, polls have shown. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll showed Mr. McCain losing the Hispanic vote to Mr. Obama by a two-to-one ratio.

In his address to Hispanic leaders, Mr. Obama said Republicans had let them down. “For eight long years, we’ve had a president who made all kinds of promises to Latinos on the campaign trail, but failed to live up to them in the White House.”

Michael Cooper contributed reporting from Washington.

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