Stumbling out of the gate, Sen. Barack Obama said in his first presidential campaign news conference that the lives of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq were “wasted.” He quickly retracted the statement, and later apologized to anybody he offended.
While the gaffe received relatively little attention in the mainstream media, Obama’s statement is a discussion point at online political forums, where the Democrat is getting mixed reviews. Some say he’s got nothing to be sorry for. Others blast him.
“Not a good thing to say. Certainly a stumble. He’ll have to answer for it,” said a writer who goes by the name “whatda” at HOTSOUP, a politically minded online community. He said Obama’s quote is “indicative of his inexperience and shows a certain disconnect that I'm sure will be pounced on by Democrats and Republicans alike. (It) takes him down a peg or two as far as I'm concerned.”
But a writer named Joshua said Obama was only guilty of speaking “the unpleasant truth” about Iraq. “What else would you call it but wasted lives? What was accomplished in this war besides the total upheaval of an already unstable region? How were (U.S. lives) not wasted?”
“First off, I agree with Obama's wasted lives comment,” wrote “jlentz.” “It is sad that the truth offends some people but we have accomplished nothing in Iraq and in the end (President Bush’s) obsession to control the Middle East will probably waste a lot more lives.”
A participant called “Ezwriter” said the issue is bigger than lives lost in the past. “What can we do not to waste them tomorrow? Does Obama have the ability to do that?” No one knows. He’s untested. Will the comment hurt his chance of winning?”
No one knows that, either. But Obama got his candidacy off to an inauspicious start by saying last weekend that 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.''
Obama says he immediately realized he had made a mistake. Like other war critics, he has been careful to praise U.S. troops and say nothing that would sound unsupportive. ''I was actually upset with myself when I said that, because I never use that term,'' he told the Des Moines Register. ''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."
He was asked Monday whether 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.''
That’s true; none of his previous speeches declared that the lives of slain U.S. soldiers were wasted. He saved that gem for his first day as a presidential candidate.
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