Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama unveiled a new comprehensive plan for Iraq on Wednesday that features a call to pull out all U.S. combat troops by the end of 2008.
Obama sought to position himself in the hearts and minds of Iowa Democrats as the leading get-out-of-Iraq-fast candidate for the presidential nomination. End-the-war sentiments are strong among Iowa Democrats.
While national polls show Obama running second -- almost 20 percentage points on average behind Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York -- five Iowa polls over the past month put him within 5 points of her there, on average, and within 3 points of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, according to RealClearPolitics.com.
"I opposed this war from the beginning," he told a crowd of about 600 in Clinton, Iowa -- a reminder that Edwards and Clinton voted in October 2002 to authorize President Bush to go to war.
His plan has four key points:
Remove U.S. combat troops immediately at a pace of one to two brigades per month, to be completed by the end of 2008. A brigade is about 3,500 troops.
Organize a new constitutional convention in Iraq through the United Nations, and don't let it adjourn until Iraqi leaders reach an accord on reconciliation.
Step up diplomacy with all nations in the region to forge a regional security compact.
Take immediate steps to relieve the humanitarian disaster in Iraq, including allowing more Iraqi refugees into the United States.
A CALL FOR CANDOR
Sen. Hillary Clinton also weighed in on the war Wednesday, sending Bush a letter urging him to bring troops home faster and not to use his prime-time speech today to declare new successes in Iraq. "Mr. President, we don't need another mission accomplished moment," she said. "What we need is honesty and candor."
But two other Democratic candidates, Edwards and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, chastised Obama and Clinton for not pursuing a troop withdrawal vigorously enough. Another rival, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, called Obama's plan dangerous and argued that he had dodged the question of how many troops he would leave in the country.
MCCAIN ASKS IOWANS: GIVE WAR A CHANCE
Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, who is traversing Iowa in bus festooned with a "No Surrender" banner, argued Wednesday that the U.S. military is succeeding in Iraq and should continue its mission.
"We have suffered enormous losses and Americans are frustrated and angry ... but we do have a new strategy and a new general and it is succeeding and we ought to give it a chance to succeed," he said.
He plans to take his bus tour to two other early voting states, New Hampshire and South Carolina, later this week.
QUIP OF THE DAY
Obama joked about making his speech in an Iowa city named Clinton. "I hope the headline when we leave is 'Clinton endorses Obama,'" he said.