He drew an implicit contrast with both Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former senator
"When I opposed this war before it began in 2002, I was about to run for the United States Senate
, and I knew it wasn't the politically popular position," Obama said during a town hall meeting in Des Moines
"But I believed then and still do that being a leader means that you'd better do what's right and leave the politics aside, because there are no do-overs on an issue as important as war," Obama said.
Obama spoke at the Des Moines Area Community College, a few blocks from where Clinton delivered her own speech on Iraq. The two Democrats have been in a cat-and-mouse chase for more than a week, with both campaigning in Iowa over the Fourth of July holiday and rolling out their plans on Iraq for the Senate to consider this week.
Clinton, in her address at the Temple for Performing Arts, repeated her commitment to ending the U.S. involvement in the war if she is elected president. "It is time to begin ending this war -- not next year, not next month -- but today," she said.
"We have heard for years now that as the Iraqis stand up, our troops will stand down. Every year, we hear about how next year they may start coming home. Now we are hearing a new version of that yet again from the president as he has more troops in Iraq than ever and the Iraqi government is more fractured and ineffective than ever," Clinton said.
With support for the war continuing to crumble across the political spectrum, Senate Democrats, and in particular the four running for president, are making a renewed push to take control of war policy away from President Bush in the form of amendments attached to the Defense Department's spending authorization bill up for debate this week. Clinton would repeal the congressional authorization for the war. Obama would increase oversight of military contractors and provide more funding for mental health services for veterans.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who is supporting Obama, noted his colleague's advantage in being a consistent war critic, as Durbin has himself been, having opposed the war from its start.
Durbin singled out Edwards for helping to fuel antiwar expectations for congressional action. Edwards has chastised his fellow Democratic candidates who are serving in the Senate for not pushing hard enough to end the war.
"I recall when John voted for this war. So it's understandable that he feels badly about that decision and wants to see something done to undo the harm that has happened," Durbin said during an appearance on washingtonpost.com's "Post Talk." "But it has to be done in a sensible way."