ATLANTIC, Iowa - Candidate says good judgment is more vital than experience. Sen. Barack Obama on Thursday sought to reframe and defend some of his recent controversial foreign policy statements, including those that have triggered suggestions that he lacks the experience to be president.
"My sense is that some of the reports on what we've said have strayed a little bit from what I actually said," Obama told reporters at the Cass County Fairgrounds, before speaking to several hundred people under a show barn.
The foreign policy discussion was a weighty topic on a often light-hearted day as the Illinois Democrat campaigned with his wife and two daughters.
The family capped its appearances with a two-hour, chaotic stroll through the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, a requisite stop for all presidential candidates in the early voting state.
"The problem is I was going to have a pork chop after this," Obama said, as his two daughters petted a baby pig.
He later had that pork chop, and some lemonade, and some caramel corn and a corndog, all amid a mob of reporters and roughly 20 photographers who followed his every move from the bumper cars to the Big Ben ride, which thrust the family dozens of feet in the air.
"It was terrifying," he said later. "What I do for my 9-year-old."
Earlier in the day, Obama forcefully defend his willingness to talk to leaders of regimes hostile to the United States without preconditions, as well as his call for a potential unilateral U.S. military strike in Pakistan if that nation did not act on actionable intelligence showing Al Qaeda activity that could include Osama bin Laden.
"It's time to turn the page on conventional foreign policy thinking," he told several hundred in Council Bluffs, Iowa. "Nobody had more experience in Washington than Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, and what they lacked was good judgment. I'm running on my judgment and I will tell the American people where I stand."
Obama also suggested there are distinct differences between his positions on foreign policy and those of fellow Democratic contender Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.
"What I have been struck by is the unevenness of how the senator's campaign has come at us," he said. "It's not always clear whether it is substantive, or whether it is stylistic."
Obama suggested he is best positioned to bring a new foreign policy that would help America's global relations. "Not just with Sen. Clinton, but with a lot of my opponents, there is a premium on reciting the conventional wisdom in Washington," he said.
Asked why it is necessary for him to restate his past statements, Obama said he wanted to counter any misunderstandings about his views.
"We want to make sure that the people of Iowa and people around the country understand that there is a consistent and clear rationale for the various components of foreign policy that we have been discussing over the last several weeks," he said.
Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director, said Obama was simply trying to make sure his statements include the full context of what he has said. "Common sense versus conventional Washington thinking is something he will talk about the rest of this campaign," he said.
Introducing her husband, Michelle Obama stressed the importance of family values during the stop here, although it was unclear whether she was suggesting previous occupants have been lacking in that area. "If you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House," she said.
At an earlier stop, she described Blair Hull, an opponent in her husband's 2004 U.S. Senate primary contest, as "a billionaire," an exaggeration of the $150 million to $600 million his net worth has been estimated in the past.
Her husband's stumbles, meanwhile, were more noticeable.
In Council Bluffs, he repeatedly struggled to pronounce the name of the county he was visiting, even though Pottawattamie County, the state's eighth largest, is pronounced pretty much the way it is spelled.
"You know it's still early in the morning," he said, after getting it right on his fifth attempt following some help from the audience.
Obama also briefly misstated that he was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, before quickly correcting himself to say he is a member of the Veterans Committee.
Obama, meanwhile, left the fair disappointed that he did not get a chance to see the giant boar. "I still want to see hogzilla," he said as his tour drew to an end.