Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has renewed his call for Iowans to lobby Senator Chuck Grassley to be among the Republicans pressuring President Bush to change course in Iraq.
Earlier this week, Grassley said it was not "senatorial" for Obama to come into Iowa this past Sunday and make such a statement, but the Illinois Senator said it again in Indianola on Thursday night. "I talked to Chuck on the floor of the Senate and it’s nothing personal. I think Chuck is a good and decent man. He and I have had a terrific relationship and we’ve worked together on a lot of things in the past," Obama said during an interview with Radio Iowa. "What I said in Waterloo, though, stands which is that if we want to bring this war to a close we need 16 votes in the Senate for a veto-proof majority…because this president doesn’t seem to be willing to give any kind of definitive timeframe for bringing our troops home."
On Wednesday, Grassley accused Obama of lacking "political class" by coming into Iowa and issuing such a challenge to a fellow senator on his home turf. In a written statement, Obama said he’s not interested in "Washington etiquette."
"I think that this is too important to pretend that it’s not an issue," Obama told Radio Iowa. "We can express sort of the sense of urgency that’s needed during the course of this campaign, that people need to get involved and let their legislators know how they feel."
In the on-going test of wills in the nation’s capitol, President Bush said Thursday that he would accept an Iraq war spending plan that includes political and military goals for the Iraqi government. Obama says that seems like "empty" talk to him. "First of all, these benchmarks should have been in place two, three years ago. I don’t know exactly what the administration’s been telling the Iraqi government, but it is important for us to send a message that we’re not going to be there forever," Obama says. "Without any consequences, though, benchmarks alone don’t mean much."
During an interview with Radio Iowa on Thursday afternoon, New York Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton labeled Bush’s "benchmark" offer as evidence "the message may be getting through to Bush" that the country wants U.S. troops withdrawn from Iraq.
Obama held a town hall meeting in a Simpson College gymnasium on Thursday night and he began by reminiscing about his previous visit to Indianola, as the main draw for Senator Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry last fall.
The crowd last night was much smaller, about 250. "The last time I was in Indianola I had a great time at the Harkin steak fry. We had a huge turn-out and in fact, that was my first visit to Iowa as a U.S. Senator so in some ways Indianola’s maybe responsible for me taking this path that I’m on. I don’t know whether my wife thanks you or not," Obama said, as the crowd laughed.