CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Monday if U.S. troops aren't out of Iraq by the time he's president, the first thing he'd do in office is order the Joint Chiefs of Staff to "get a plan to begin withdrawing" troops from Iraq. He was careful not to say he'd try to bring troops home immediately."This will be a messy withdrawal," Obama said. "People who say we'll just pull them out are irresponsible."
Obama made his comments at a town hall meeting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to a group of about 600 people, according to the campaign.
The Illinois senator also devoted a substantial amount of time to ethics reform in Washington, taking a few shots at the Bush administration and "no-bid" contracts.
"When our government gives Halliburton seven billion dollars in taxpayer dollars to put out Iraqi oil fires that don't exist, when we hand over Katrina contracts to more of George Bush's FEMA friends, it doesn't just violate the American people's trust," Obama said. "It takes away the tax dollars they've earned and the valuable services they need."
Obama said that lobbyists "stop us from addressing issues that matter" and that the country needs to "change the way business is done in Washington."
"It's not our agenda being moved forward in Washington," he said. "Special interests dominate on a day to day basis in terms of legislative activity. If we can't change that, we're not going to change anything."
Touting what he says is his refusal to accept money from political action committees has become a staple in Obama's bid for the nomination.
-CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch