DURHAM, N.H. -- In his first stumble, White House hopeful Barack Obama on Monday took back words from the day before, when he said the lives of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq were "wasted."
Following his Springfield launch on Saturday, Obama wrapped up a three-day swing in the key primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, ending at a University of New Hampshire rally where he assailed the "trivialization of politics" where "it is all about who makes a gaffe."
In this case, that would be Obama, the Illinois Democrat.
During his first press conference as a presidential candidate at Iowa State University, Obama, discussing his opposition to the Iraq war, said the war "should have never been authorized, and should have never been waged, and on which we've now spent $400 billion, and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted.''
He immediately realized he made a mistake, he later told a reporter. Even the most severe war critics in Congress have been very careful to praise U.S. troops and say nothing that could upset mourning families.
Reaches out to families
Obama, in an interview with the Des Moines Register right afterward, told the paper, ''I was actually upset with myself when I said that, because I never use that term,'' he said. ''Their sacrifices are never wasted. . . . What I meant to say was those sacrifices have not been honored by the same attention to strategy, diplomacy and honesty on the part of civilian leadership that would give them a clear mission."
By Monday, reporters covering Obama making his first visit as a presidential candidate in New Hampshire, asked Obama, campaigning in a Nashua home, if military families deserved an apology.
"Well as I said, it is not at all what I intended to say, and I would absolutely apologize if any of them felt that in some ways it had diminished the enormous courage and sacrifice that they'd shown. You know, and if you look at all the other speeches that I've made, that is always the starting point in my view of this war.''
At a rally in the gym at the university here -- not quite the stemwinder Obama delivered for University of Illinois at Chicago students on Sunday night -- Obama made a similar point about the Iraq war deaths, talking about the need to "bring that war to a close."
Those who died, he said, were "extraordinarily brave soldiers."