SAN MARCOS, Texas—Barack Obama continued a sharp counter-offensive against John McCain on Wednesday night, bringing a day of intense campaigning to an end before a crowd of several thousand people here at Texas State University.
“There was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq until he followed George Bush into war in Iraq,” Obama proclaimed. “All he’s done is follow George Bush into the quagmire.”
Obama’s comments came in response to remarks made earlier in the day by McCain, who had, in turn, been responding to something Obama had said during Tuesday’s MSNBC debate with Hillary Clinton. The Democratic front-runner had said then that he would, as president, reserve the right to reintroduce U.S. troops into Iraq, “if Al Qaeda is forming a base” there.
“I have some news,” McCain said sardonically in Tyler, east of Dallas, on Wednesday morning. “Al Qaeda is in Iraq. Al Qaeda is called ‘Al Qaeda in Iraq’.”
Obama seemed to take real umbrage at the comment. He alleged that McCain and the President had “taken their eyes off the ball” with respect to Al Qaeda. “So that’s the news–I have been paying attention,” he added.
After the “quagmire” remark, Obama said, “That’s the news, John McCain. And I am happy to have that debate with you in November.”
Obama otherwise hewed very closely to his standard stump speech, though he did make a handful of remarks that held local relevance.
He emphasized, for instance, that his environmental plan would include the promotion of wind power in Texas.
Texas State’s total enrollment is around 28,000 and it seemed like the number of people packing Sewell Park for the open air nighttime rally amounted to at least a quarter of that figure. Obama’s 40-minute speech did not begin until 9:35 p.m., but his points about the powerful political influence of lobbyists and the need for change in Washington were enthusiastically received, as were promises to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq and make college more affordable.
Twenty-two-year-old Samantha Manley said that she would much prefer Obama to win the Democratic nomination (“I don’t like Hillary at all,” she stated), but that she would not necessarily vote for him in a general election. “I thought he was great, very inspirational,” she said, “but I would want to hear both sides before I made up my mind.”
Friends Kaitlin Murphy, 21, and Courtney Parker, 22, both Texas State students, were just as emphatic about their distaste for Obama’s primary opponent.
“I think she’s a dirty politician, I don’t trust her,” Murphy said emphatically. “Even in the debates, she sits there and smirks, she interrupts [Obama], she always has to have the last word.”
“I feel like she has memorized everything she says,” Parker added. “It is like she is reciting stuff all the time.”
As for Obama?
“I feel it’s important that even if you don’t agree with absolutely every policy of a politician, you still trust them to basically make good decisions,” Murphy said. “I trust him, and I haven’t felt that for a long time.”