Sunday started and ended well for Barack Obama. Following an endorsement by retired Gen. Colin Powell on NBC’s Meet the Press that morning, Barack Obama made his case for a pro-veteran, anti-Iraq War presidency before a crowd of 10,000with an overflow of several thousand in Fayetteville, N.C., home to the U.S. military installation at Fort Bragg.
“Before we begin, I’d like to acknowledge some news that we learned this morning,” Obama began, followed by deafening applause.
“With so many brave men and women from Fayetteville who are serving in our military, this is a city, and a state, that knows something about great soldiers. This morning, a great soldier, a great statesman, a great American, has endorsed our campaign for the presidency,” he said, referring to Powell.
The largely African-American crowd was with Obama at every stepoften interrupting his speech with shouts of encouragementand reacted strongly to his focus on providing tax relief for the middle class, and free college education to students willing to serve in the military, Peace Corps or other national service.
“You invest in America, and America will invest in you,” Obama said.
Kimbrie Esters of Bladen County said Obama’s emphasis on public school funding, and the role parents must play in raising children, had “inspired” her to vote early.
“I’m making sure my son has the opportunity I had,” she said, adding that “things aren’t going so well” with the economy.
Obama also capitalized on Powell’s damning assessment of John McCain’s presidential campaign, particularly the xenophobic tone Powell attributed to McCain’s handlers in the Republican Party.
“(Powell) reminded us that, at this defining moment, we don’t have the luxury of relying on the same political games, the same political tactics that have been used in so many elections to divide us among one another, and make us afraid of one another,” Obama said.
“We’ve seen some of these tactics in this election. They’re getting uglier, and more intense. And they’ll probably get a little bit uglier in these last 16 days. You’ll get more of these robo-calls, making outrageous accusations,” he said.
The audience booed the mention of automated telephone calls, which, paid for by the McCain campaign, accuse Obama of associating with terrorists, and imply he does not want to “keep you safe.”
Obama echoed Powell, who in his endorsement criticized the Republican Party’s connection between Obama and “terrorist feelings” and the falseand irrelevantimplication that he is a Muslim: “We’ve got to have a line we don’t cross.”
In directly addressing the Republicans’ recent attacks, Obama made a rare, though momentary, reference to Sarah Palin, whose selection as the Republican vice-presidential candidate, Powell said, “raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Sen. McCain made.”
“Lately, (McCain) and Gov. Palin actually accused me of socialism,” Obama said, referring to Palin’s insistence that Obama’s tax plan is an “experiment with socialism.”
“If John McCain wants to talk about redistributing wealth to those who don’t need it, and don’t deserve it, let’s talk about the $700,000 tax cut he wants to give to the average Fortune 500 CEO who’ve been making out like bandits,” Obama said.
He added, of the “socialism” label: “He can call me any name he wants, but I know what’s right, and that’s not right. That’s why we’re going to beat him in November.”
Obama also addressed Palin’s remark that she was glad to be in a “pro-American” state during a recent trip to North Carolina, and incorporated it into a line from his Democratic convention speech two months ago in Denver.
“We’re not separated by the pro-America, or anti-America, parts of this country,” he said.
“Men and women from Fayetteville, and all across America, who served in our battlefields, they may be Democrats, or Republicans, or independents, but they fought together, and they bled together, and some have died together, under the same flag. They have not served a Red America, or a Blue America. They have served the United States of America.”
Despite a focus on righting the economic crisis, and defending attacks from McCain, Obama chose to end with a theme of hope from his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston, which first catapulted him into the national limelight:
“Somewhere, you may have parents who said, ‘I may not have a lot of money, but maybe someday my child will be able to run for Congress. I may not be able to vote, but maybe some day, my son can run for President of the United States of America.’”