October 2nd, 2007
12:30 PM ET
7 years ago

Obama: Congress 'failed' the American people

Watch a clip of Sen. Obama's foreign policy address.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - In a speech Tuesday marking the fifth anniversary of the first time he spoke out against the Iraq war, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, emphasized that he had opposed combat from the beginning and said Congress "failed" the American people for voting to authorize it in the first place.

"This was a vote about whether or not to go to war," the Democratic presidential candidate said in Chicago. "That’s the truth as we all understood it then, and as we need to understand it now. And we need to ask those who voted for the war: how can you give the President a blank check and then act surprised when he cashes it?"

In his speech five years ago, Obama first publicly voiced his opposition to the war just a week before Congress voted to give President Bush the authority to send troops to Iraq. At the time, he was running for the U.S. Senate. (Related: Obama: Clinton blurring distinctions between us)

"I don't oppose all wars,” Obama said in 2002. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. A war based not on reason, but on passion. Not on principle, but on politics."

In his speech on Tuesday, he reiterated that he had opposed the war from the start and said would start to bring troops home immediately. He said he is the most qualified candidate to end the war, since he "got the single most important foreign policy decision since the end of the Cold War right."

"The first thing we have to do is end this war," Obama said. "And the right person to end it is someone who had the judgment to oppose it from the beginning. There is no military solution in Iraq, and there never was."

Obama's comments were a thinly-veiled attack on his two closest rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination - Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards - who voted to authorize the war in 2002.

Obama also criticized President Bush for refusing to deal diplomatically with countries like Iran and North Korea and said America needs a leader who would "talk to all nations, friend and foe." Obama received heavy criticism earlier this year for saying that he would agree to talk to Iran's president.

The Democratic presidential candidate heads to Iowa Tuesday afternoon for more speeches on the Iraq war.

- CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Lee, Mays Landing NJ

    Obama is calling it like it is, and it's about time someone says it.

    It was a disaterous decision.

    I'm not for Obama (although I much prefer him of Hillary) but I'm beginning to like him more because he deals with the truth and deals with it head-on.
    On the Reoublican side, no one is doing it except Ron Paul, and of the rest, only Huckabee sounds genuine, although I disagree with him.
    People need to face reality and deal with the truth when there is a collasal blunder like this one, not finishing when Osama was trapped in Afghanistan or all the failures of 9-11 that no one was held accoutable for.
    The truth can be unpleasant but we must have full accountability for the past before we can move forward.

    October 3, 2007 03:23 am at 3:23 am |
  2. Cassandra, Slippery Rock, PA

    It seems that someone has to continually remind Americans to view its leaders with skepticism, so if Obama is saying "I told you so" too often, he is only saying what those of us who opposed the war from the beginning have wanted to say, over and over. Why? Because you didn't want to listen to us. Because you just shut your ears and called us traitors for daring to criticize the course our President wanted to pursue.

    Vietnam, Watergate...this is recent history. Many of us lived through it and still we were stupid enough to be led into war with Iraq by our current Pied Piper in the White House. Our Founding Fathers rightfully mistrusted government, which is why they made such an effort to build checks and balances into ours. Congress failed in that role by issuing that blank check to the Executive branch rather than doing its job to ensure that war with Iraq was the right decision for this country, rather than concentrating our efforts on bringing bin Laden and al Quaida to justice.

    Grow up, America. When are you going to learn from history? Government can't be trusted. Not even our own government. Just how many proofs of that do you need?

    October 3, 2007 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  3. AJ; Montpelier, VT

    blah, blah, blah. The only thing Obama has to offer is arrogance.

    October 3, 2007 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  4. Katie Portland, OR

    Congress was not allowed to fail the American people.

    October 3, 2007 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  5. Teri Wenninger Somerset Kentucky

    We all have come to rationalize that Iraq was a bad judgement call for the United States and our military need to come home. What we need to rationalize is that countries like Iraq, Afganistan and Iran are not going to see this war end of terrorism if the United States votes a Female Leader. Our country has great stakes in the 2008 Election. We need a President that other countries will accept as a leader. Foriegn Affairs is a priority and a Female president is not the best interest at this time for our country and to ending the War in Iraq! Our election is being watched all over the globe. In all reality, will other leaders accept and listen to Hilary Clinton or any female for that matter? NOT TODAY, NOT TOMARROW.

    October 3, 2007 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  6. dawn -- Gaithersburg, MD.

    NOW, we know that President George Bush lied when he asked for the use of force authorization, not as a "blank check," but for the purpose of pressuring Saddham Hussein into a diplomatic settlement. Our PRESENT KNOWLEDGE wouldn't have justified Democrats or anybody else in calling the President a liar THEN. But it surely entitles us to hold him accountable for using that authorization in a manner directly contrary to his promise. Despite Sen. Obama's claim, we CAN and do blame the president for "cashing" a check we never gave him.
    The American people (that's what our elected representatives are, "American people") are ENTITLED to rely on the President's words when they concern matters of U.S. policy. This is particularly true when that policy implicates the nation's prestige and requires the sacrifice of American lives, as war surely does.
    The President lied over and over to EVERY AMERICAN and THE WORLD: subsequent documents like the Downing Street Memo reveal this. The fault lies with the liar, not with those who reasonably believed him.

    October 3, 2007 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  7. dawn -- Gaithersburg, MD.

    Dan in TX.:

    Kyl-Lieberman is a non-binding request to treat the Quds Force as a terrorist organization. I don't believe it mentions attacking Iran (although it requests sanctions); moreover, it contains no use of force authorization. (In any case, to confer authority, such an authorization would have to be passed by both Houses of Congress.) Sen. Clinton's vote for the resolution does not sound like a "blank check," but a lesson learned.

    October 3, 2007 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  8. slimegreen

    "Congress 'failed' the American people"

    How very astute.., for a LAW PROFESSOR!

    October 3, 2007 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  9. dawn -- Gaithersburg, MD.

    Sen. Obama is more than happy to do the right thing when it poses no political risk to him. But when it means standing by a suddenly unpopular friend, or making the hard choice between looking naive (by trusting the President to take appropriate actions against the Quds Force), or appearing uncaring and unpatriotic (for permitting the same forces to continue harming American soldiers), Sen. Obama is suddenly not in the house (or the Senate).

    October 3, 2007 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  10. you know who.

    Good Work Editor/Admin! Way to fix YOUR MISTAKE. I APPRECIATE IT.

    October 3, 2007 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  11. James, Phoenix AZ

    Of COURSE the Congress has failed the American people.

    It has been under Republican control for too long.

    Posted By Conservative James, Phoenix AZ : October 2, 2007 6:06 pm

    – + – + – + – + – + – + –

    Considering you're a fraud – I can understand how you would fall for Pelosi's "reclaiming" Congress promising to end the War in Iraq.

    You have neither the depth of intelligence nor character to be yourself – so you steal other identities on CNN's blog. What a sorry sorry life you must have.

    October 3, 2007 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
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