Monday, February 11, 2008
OBAMA HITS AT KIBAKI!
Obama takes aim at McCain
Feb 11, 2008 04:30 AM
WASHINGTON–In shifts both subtle and significant, Barack Obama has begun looking past Hillary Clinton to a general election matchup with Republican John McCain, telling voters how his presidency will change the world's perception of America.
He is doing so as the perception of the Democratic race is also changing, a reassessment fuelled by Obama's fourth victory of the weekend yesterday in the Maine caucuses and a shakeup at the top of the Clinton campaign.
Obama's Maine victory comes on the heels of sweeping victories he racked up Saturday in Washington state, Louisiana and Nebraska and amid expectations he could repeat the feat tomorrow when Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia all vote in the so-called "Potomac Primary."
The Clinton camp sought to couch the resignation of campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle as part of a "seamless" transition. But it comes in the midst of what is promising to be a grim month for the New York senator, who has fallen behind in pledged delegates and the money race to her younger challenger from Illinois.
She had sought her port in her February storm in Maine with its 24 delegates, but Obama won the caucus handily.
Solis Doyle, a long-time aide to Clinton, will remain with the campaign but will be replaced at the top by Maggie Williams, another close confidante of the candidate.
At a rally yesterday in a Virginia suburb of Washington, Obama fleshed out his policy on Latin America and Africa and said he would have credibility in the Muslim world that no previous president had.
He also addressed a voter from his native Hawaii who said her heart was "torn'' because her 9-year-old son adored the Illinois senator, but her husband was knocking on doors in support of Clinton.
"The day I am inaugurated, I think this country looks at itself differently," Obama told the woman.
To put the exclamation point on the weekend, Obama even won a Grammy award for the spoken edition of his book The Audacity of Hope, beating out, among others, former president Bill Clinton.
Obama also appears to have now taken the lead in delegates chosen by voters, while Clinton maintains a slim lead overall thanks to her support among the so-called "superdelegates'' comprised of elected Democrats and party brass.
She is attempting to tread water until March 4, when she believes Ohio and Texas can revive a flagging campaign.
Obama stressed his electability yesterday. Clinton, he said, starts with 47 per cent of the country against her. "That's a tough place to start," he said.
Obama said he has the ability to bring people together because he refuses to "demonize" opponents and can forge the working majority needed in the U.S. Congress to enact his policies.
"It is very hard for Senator Clinton to break out of the politics of the last 15 years," he said in Alexandria, Va. He also reminded his backers that Bill Clinton was president in 1994 when Democrats lost the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, a number of governors and state houses in mid-term elections.
"Regardless of what policies they wanted to promote, they didn't have a working majority for change," he said.
His ability to reach out to independents and disaffected Republicans is the reason why he consistently outperforms Clinton in polls testing Democratic support against McCain, Obama said.
"That's where it matters."
In Manassas, Va., Clinton told supporters she is constantly asked by supporters why she is being so specific in her stump speeches.
In an apparent swipe at Obama, she said she has taken that campaign tack because she wants voters to hold her accountable.
"People come to me all the time and say, `why don't you just give us one of those great rhetorical flourishes and get everybody all whooped up?'" she said.
Obama, in a question-and-answer with supporters, said the U.S. had neglected Latin America under George W. Bush and he said he would meet Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
He said Chavez was consolidating power, had "despotic tendencies" and was using oil money to fan anti-Americanism, "but it is not enough to say `I oppose (Cuba's Fidel) Castro and I oppose Chavez and that's the end of it."
He said Latin America will no longer be a junior partner in its relationship with Washington, and he will travel the region to talk to leaders about human rights, political prisoners in Cuba and hemispheric trade ties.
He also accused Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki of being unwilling to ensure votes were properly counted in that country's recent election which sparked ethnic tension and tribal clashes that killed thousands, damaged tourism in the country and drained its coffers.
"The transitioning of power peacefully is something African leaders must embrace," he said.
The most poignant moment of the day, however, came when he tried to sell the woman from Hawaii on his candidacy over Clinton's, bringing her 9-year-old son up on stage.
He spoke of his birth in Hawaii, to a Kansas mother and a Kenyan father, as well as his childhood time spent in Indonesia.
Her son, one day, will look at America's 44th president and think, "hey, he's got a funny name like me," Obama said.
He said he would change the perception of the presidency in the U.S., but also the perception of America in the world because when he travels to Africa, he would have credibility not just because he knows the leaders, but he knows the people. And when he travels to Muslim countries, he could say he knows the leaders but also the culture of the Muslim nations he visits.