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Obama tells huge Dem crowd he'll fix Washington

Associated Press | 9/3/2008, 5:12 a.m.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., hugs his wife, Michelle Obama, after giving his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver last Thursday. AP /Alex Brandon

The speech didn’t mention it, but Obama has called for raising taxes on upper-income Americans to help pay for expanded health care and other domestic programs.

He did not say precisely what he meant by breaking the country’s dependence on Middle East oil, only that Washington has been talking about doing it for 30 years “and John McCain has been there for 26 of them.”

Criticized by the GOP for his thin foreign policy portfolio, Obama said he welcomed a national security debate with McCain.

“We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country,” Obama said. “I will never hesitate to defend this nation.”

He said McCain had no standing on foreign policy, not after backing the Iraq war from the start and rejecting timetables for withdrawal now accepted by Bush.

“John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war,” he said.

Obama’s pledge to end the war in Iraq responsibly was straight from his daily campaign speeches.

“I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” he added.

As he does so often while campaigning, Obama also paid tribute to McCain’s heroism — the 72-year-old Arizona senator was a prisoner of war in Vietnam — then assailed him.

“Sen. McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush was right more than 90 percent of the time?” Obama asked.

Former Vice President Al Gore picked up on the same theme.

“If you like the Bush-Cheney approach, John McCain’s your man. If you want change, then vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden,” he declared.

The much-discussed stage built for the program was evocative of the West Wing at the White House, with 24 American flags serving as a backdrop. A blue-carpeted runway jutted out toward the infield, and convention delegates ringed the podium. Thousands more sat in stands around the rim of the field.

The wrap-up to the party convention blended old-fashioned speechmaking, Hollywood-quality stagecraft and innovative, Internet age politics.

The list of entertainers ran to Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder and will.i.am, whose Web video built around Obama’s “Yes, we can” rallying cry quickly went viral during last winter’s primaries.

In a novel bid to extend the convention’s reach, Obama’s campaign decided to turn tens of thousands of partisans in the stands into instant political organizers.

They were encouraged to use their cell phones to send text messages to friends as well as to call thousands of unregistered voters from lists developed by the campaign.

In all, Obama’s high command said it had identified 55 million unregistered voters across the country, about 8.1 million of them black, about 8 million Hispanic and 7.5 million between the ages of 18 and 24.

Those are key target groups for Obama as he bids to break into the all-white line of U.S. presidents and at the same time restore Democrats to the White House for the first time in eight years.