MANCHESTER, N.H. --Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama told New Hampshire voters Friday that President Bush grossly misunderstands his role as commander in chief.
"When President Bush says, 'I just want to give the commanders what they want, listen to the generals,' he doesn't understand how we work here in America. Civilians control the military and we are supposed to set the mission for the generals and then the generals should carry out the mission," Obama said at an outdoor town hall meeting.
"The military has done all we asked. We just asked the wrong things of them. That's not their fault. That's the president's fault. And we've got to stop enabling him to do it."
He said, though, that negotiations might be pointless with some terrorists.
"There are only about 20,000 -- let's say -- activist extremists. I don't have the precise number, but it's in that range. Most intelligence estimates are there are 10,000 to 30,000 people who are actively involved in extremist movements," said Obama, a longtime critic of the war in Iraq. "We are not going to be able to negotiate with them. We have to hunt them down and take them out."
Earlier, in Hampton, Obama told voters the change in direction needed to end the war in Iraq begins with them.
"Change in America never starts from the top down. It starts from the bottom up," the first-term senator from Illinois told a crowd at an elementary school.
"The country is ready for change. It's hungry for change. If we put our shoulder against the wheel, we can move our country in a better direction. That's how we brought an end to segregation. ... That's how we brought an end to the Vietnam war, and that's how we'll bring an end to the war in Iraq."
He also said he opposed any move to withdraw from Afghanistan.
"I do not believe we get out of Afghanistan now. Al-Qaida is gathering there and they are a tremendous threat. Bin Laden is still there, un-captured. We haven't handled Afghanistan well because we've been distracted," Obama said.
Obama's early opposition to the war in Iraq has helped him do as well as he has. Iraq was the top issue in this week's poll.
The latest University of New Hampshire poll for CNN and WMUR-TV of likely Democratic primary voters, released this week, gave Obama 25 percent to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's 33 percent. It's a gap that has remained nearly constant in state polls.
"We've got a war that leaves us with no good options. We've got bad options and worse options," Obama said in a line he uses repeatedly. "We can still act responsibly. We can be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in."
Even so, Obama said he remains hopeful he would convince voters his optimistic message is enough to build support.
"Sometimes the Washington press corps sounds cynical. ... 'People with experience don't talk about hope.' They say, 'he's a hope-peddler. He's a hope monger,'" Obama said in Manchester.