October 2nd, 2007
12:30 PM ET
4 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. laurinda,ny

    He sounds like a broken record. Another Mr. Perfect.

    October 2, 2007 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  2. Fred, Herndon, VA

    Who cares!! We all know the war was a bad idea. But, you cannot ride that argument all the way to the White House; especially when you have DONE NOTHING TO STOP THE WAR ONCE YOU ACTUALLY HAD THE CHANCE TO aside from making loquacious and empty speeches.

    October 2, 2007 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  3. slimegreen

    "How can you give the President a blank check and then act surprised when he cashes it?"

    AMEN to that.., but to little to late!! Obama doesn't represent the change America needs either.

    October 2, 2007 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  4. Trollmaster, CA

    "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?"

    He's so right. Hillary, Kerry, Edwards, etc. were foolish to think that Bush wouldn't abuse his power and only use war as a last resort.

    I really want to see the Democrat voters wake up, reject the phony Hillary and make sure Obama gets in the primaries.

    Hillary was proven to be fooled before, what other lame mistakes will she makes.

    October 2, 2007 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  5. Jessica, Akron, OH

    I liked some of the other ideas that Obama discussed today too. For example,
    Mr. Obama, if elected, would deliver an annual State of the World Address and would hold fireside chats on the Internet.

    October 2, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  6. Joe Stebbins

    Senator Obama has failed us too. As a Senator he has sponsored no major legislation in any form. Whether it is to stop funding and end the war or a simple bill. Nada. Nothing. So, as soon as Senator Obama can start legislating as the people of Illinois elected him to do he would be wise to stop pointing at himself.

    Sure, we were all misled about Iraq. Sure, we can go back and wish things were different. Sure, we can blame Hillary Clinton for wanting to change how things happened. She has done a lot for the state of New York.

    Obama start leading and we would see you as a leader. Keep whining about who keeps stealing your thunder and we will continue to see you as a whiner.

    October 2, 2007 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  7. Brian, Erie, PA

    Hmm...if congress has failed so much than why Barack Obama aren't you in congress half the time (it seems like) fighting for what's right for the american people?? You're out on the campaign trail soliciting your big ideas, making money and trying to win yourself over by the american people. I'm certainly not a republican but god...come on now.

    October 2, 2007 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  8. Jeannie, Sacramento, CA

    So why won't you bring the troops home by 2013? Why the namby-pamby "I can't promise I'll end the war because I don't know what I'll be inheriting when I get into the White House?" Baloney....!!! Just another politician guilty of double-speak. Stop repeating that you opposed the war. That's in the past. Now BRING THE TROOPS HOME!

    October 2, 2007 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  9. Pam Holt Los Angeles, CA

    Barack, you have authorized the war many times when you voted to give Bush a blank chack to give to Halliburton and the rest with exclusive war contracts. The only reason you voted "no" this last time, voting late, as did Clinton, knowing it would pass anyway by that time, is because you want to appeal to the majority of the country that wants this war over. You didn't even care enough about military action in Iraq to show up to vote for or against it.

    Kucinich is the only one with bragging rights about truly opposing this war.

    October 2, 2007 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  10. pam Eugene OR

    He was right then and he is right now.
    Obama 08

    October 2, 2007 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  11. Mike, Milwaukee, WI

    Senator Obama is right! I wouldn't trust writing my girlfriend a blank check! I sure as hell would'nt trust writing George Bush one.

    October 2, 2007 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  12. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Take a couple of terms in the Senate and call us in 2012.

    October 2, 2007 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  13. Kim, Sacramento, CA

    This is what we need – a good person, with judgement, wisdom and good old common sense. A President who makes a decision and sticks with, a President who makes decisions for the right reasons – the reason to benefit the country not himself. What we need is a President who has experienced real life and can identify with the other 95% of us who have as well. This candidate is Barack Obama – he has proven this time and time again.

    October 2, 2007 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  14. J Houston, TX

    All of Washington is failing us. Both parties are no longer interested in the common man. Fixing the problems with America should begin with fixing the pork bellies of Washington. Most of Congress are millionaires representing the rest of us. The demographics of Congress reflect more minorities and special interests than the actual percentages of the population. None of these are common men, and yet we are surprised they fail to represent our interests.

    There is a military and a political solution to everything. The political solution was to accept Saddam for who he was and buy oil from him, probably much cheaper than from Iran. He was MORE than willing to sell and make himself rich. Despite common belief, this war had nothing to do with Saddam's oil, but with political stability and the FUTURE of all middle eastern oil.

    The military solution was a scale 10x larger than the American people were willing to give. 5% of the GDP is spent on the war. Only 5% of our production goes to our efforts. During WW II that number was over 60%. We don't care if we win, we didn't care if we won, the American people are NEVER convinced they should fight for anything anymore. Even during WW II they spent YEARS getting the public to back a deployment into Europe.

    Obama wants to fix everything, but he seems to think all the fixes are simple. The fact is, life is compromise, and Mr Obama continually fails to recognize that he can't get everything we want out of the world when we refuse to recognize the consequences of ALL decisions, instead of just the one that was made.

    October 2, 2007 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  15. talor reed

    This mans personifies greatness.

    He is a visionary leader and this country is in dire need of his courageousness and his integrity to tell the people the truth

    October 2, 2007 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  16. LOYDA, WDC

    OBAMA GOT TO START CHANGING HIS SPEECHES..... THE "I TOLD YOU SO" IS GETTING TIRESOME, AND AS RIDICULOUS AS RUDY'S "conection" TO 9-11....

    GET OVER IT....

    WHAT HAVE YOU DONE INTHE 4 YEARS YOU AHVE BEEN IN CONGRESS??? HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU VOTED AGIANST FUNDING THE WAR YOU CALL "WRONG"??????

    October 2, 2007 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  17. William Courtland, Waterford, Ontario

    War is a place; it does not by itself hold the values of a revolution, or when it is present explain the understanding of why such a place is created ‘a war-zone’ when seeking justice with a backwards method for the humane proper.

    The question for the United States Congress and for all the Senators is: is the United Nations state security method worth backing with an all-in military attitude when a nation only holds the right to appeal the Security Council’s final decisions.

    Bringing import and export sanctions against a nation to punish a despot will only create and drive soldiers in arms under a dictatorship as they join to fight for the family blessings once found plentiful when sitting at the table. Sanctions stop work, and adding propaganda only creates minor insurgent gangs, and too often all rebels will be shot.

    October 2, 2007 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  18. Ronnie.Irving,Texas

    No Obama it is you who have let down the American people with your run for president.Stop taking money that could be used for better causes than your ill attempt to become president.

    October 2, 2007 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  19. Quentin C. Atlanta GA

    When is Barack Obama going to realize that he is a member of the Congress. What has he done since he has been a Senator to end the Iraq war that he so proudly says was and is against? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!

    I really agree that this "I told you so" diatribe is getting old and he really needs to come up with something more tangible to show the American people that he is a leader and simply not the alternative to Hillary. He really has NO PLAN for what to do once we remove the troops, he says he would leave forces in Iraq for protection of our national interests....HELLO THAT'S KEEPING THE WAR GOING. And they call Hillary calculating. Obama knows that he has to pander to the far left get out of Iraq democrats, yet not alienate others in the party that may view him as weak on defense.

    Like Hillary or not, Hillary knows what she is doing. In case Obama or his supporters haven't realized, politics is like a game of chess. Candidates do things to make themselves more appealing to a broader audience i.e. Obama not voting to fund the war since he became a Presidential candidate. Hillary's vote to authorize the war may have been politically motivated but at least she stands by it. Do you know the type of attacks and vitriol she would have to endure not only from her constituency but from the Republicans for denouncing her own vote? It would make the Swift Boat Vets look like kindergarters!!!

    The United States for now is the worlds remaining superpower and occasionally we will have to call out the calvary to defend our nation our sovereignty or answer the call to defend the defenseless. We need a person that is strong and will do this not only in a cautious manner but in a manner that exudes strength. This is why we need Hillary.

    HILLARY 2008

    OBAMA 2017

    October 2, 2007 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  20. Luara - Tulsa, OK

    Thank you first poster for just saying the obvious. Obama is basing his campaign on dissing the present admin., which is fine, but what has he done that makes him the best leader to take over our country?

    All the candidates, Dem and Republicans alike could make this a lot more focused by just coming on and listing their own accomplishments instead of tearing down someone else. That only makes the person doing the tearing down look petty and political.

    October 3, 2007 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  21. Dan, TX

    Obama was right. Not only about not supporting the war, but in predicting the outcome. He had better judgment that most of Washington.

    Clinton continues the same mistakes over and over. Now she invites BUSH to bomb Iran with her latest ill-advised support of the resolution designating Iranian troops as terrorists. Disaster.

    October 3, 2007 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  22. Trollmaster, CA

    Luara, Hillary and Edwards were more afraid of looking bad, soft, and unpatriotic, than they were concerned about the lives of our US soldiers. That alone makes Obama a better choice for president than those 2.

    Despite Obama's lack of political experience, he had the wisdom to oppose the war, where his more experienced rivals did not.

    Granted one needs to say what they will do once in office, but making sure the public knows you were opposed from the start compared to Hillary jumping on the anti war bandwagon way too late is vital in Obama's campaign.

    And if it's so obvious how come there's still a sizable chunk of America that still thinks invading Iraq was still the right thing to do?

    October 3, 2007 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  23. sonya, atlanta, ga

    one of the best line in his speech was you gave the president a blank check and acted suprised when he cashed it. Knock out punch to Hillary's oh I didn't think Bush would go to war, I was expecting him to leverage more UN inspectors. Everyone knew back in 2002 we were debating about going to war. That what the NIE report was about, but HRC didn't read it. Now the same drum beats are beating for war with Iran and again, she voted to call the Iranian guard a terrorist cell. America has never signaled a countries faction as a terrorist group. Not the KGB or Hilter's gustopo guards or Saddam's military guards nor the Huntas in Nicurgra. This is insanity.

    October 3, 2007 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  24. Michael James -- Illinois

    It's more than just being right about the war itself, it's the fact that he predicted the consequences.

    Barack was right about Iraq, he's right about Afghanistan and Pakistan and he's right about Iran.

    Meanwhile, Hillary has apparently learned nothing from her Iraq vote experience since she supported Lieberman-Kyl.

    Time after time, issue after issue, Barack displays the wisdom and judgment needed in our president.

    Vote Obama!!!!!

    October 3, 2007 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  25. Pam Holt Los Angeles, CA

    I'm sorry I didn't proofread my earlier comment "blank chack" should be "blank check", and the last sentence: "You didn't even care enough about military action in Iraq to show up to vote for or against it" should have be Iran, not Iraq, referring to the vote last week for authorizing military action against Iran that Hillary voted for, and Obama failed to vote at all.

    October 3, 2007 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
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