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Published: Tuesday, 9/9/2008

GOP candidates aren t reformers, Obama insists

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama tells an audience at Mott Community College in Flint, Mich., that seven of his GOP rival s top campaign staffers, including the manager and chairman, are major corporate lobbyists. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama tells an audience at Mott Community College in Flint, Mich., that seven of his GOP rival s top campaign staffers, including the manager and chairman, are major corporate lobbyists.

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. - Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama accused Republican opponents John McCain and Sarah Palin yesterday of "reinventing themselves" as agents of change. The senator from Illinois spoke to enthusiastic crowds in Flint and in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills.

Acting more amused than outraged, Mr. Obama said Arizona Senator McCain and his running mate, Alaska Governor Palin, offer no policy differences from President Bush on the economy, health care, energy, international relations, or education.

"They're trying to repackage themselves. We've been talking about the need to change this country for 19 months. It must be working when John McCain says he's for change too," Mr. Obama said at Mott Community College in Flint.

He told crowds at both stops that seven of Mr. McCain's top advisers, including his campaign manager and chairman, are major Washington corporate lobbyists, the people he presumably would throw out of power if he is elected.

He said Ms. Palin was for the controversial $229 million "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska before she was against it. The project to build a bridge to a sparsely populated island was a symbol of pork-barrel spending before it was canceled.

"These folks are shameless. The record is indisputable," Mr. Obama said. He said Ms. Palin sought millions of dollars in "pork" as a mayor and then supported the bridge while a candidate for governor, but backed away after it became politically heated.

"A deal was cut that Alaska still got the money. They just didn't build a bridge with it. Now she's out there acting like she was fighting this thing the whole time," Mr. Obama said.

The McCain campaign defended Ms. Palin's claim to have rejected the controversial bridge.

"After taking office and examining the project closely, Governor Palin consistently opposed funding the "Bridge to Nowhere" and ultimately canceled the wasteful project," the McCain-Palin campaign said.

The stops in Oakland and Genesee counties were Mr. Obama's fourth and fifth campaign appearances in Michigan in the last nine days. Mr. McCain was in nearby Macomb County on Friday night, drawing a raucous crowd of more than 7,000.

At both stops, Mr. Obama accused the Republican Party of being opposed to loan guarantees for auto manufacturers. Mr. McCain has said the manufacturers have not asked for a government bail-out, and warned against a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Mr. Obama claimed to have developed "a very specific plan" that calls for reinvesting in retooling the auto industry to build batteries and high-efficiency cars.

"The U.S. auto industry needs to change, but it needs a government that is going to be a partner for change," Mr. Obama said. He said he would push to develop plug-in electric cars.

"I want those cars built in the U.S., not in South Korea," he said.

"That's the key to the whole renaissance of the Midwest. You can't have an economy that's just based on the two coasts. You have to have an economy that's built on a sturdy, stable manufacturing base," Mr. Obama said.

He added that he was not suggesting a re-creation of the auto jobs of the 1960s and 1970s.

He said jobs would be created in new fuels, such as solar and wind, and high-speed rail.

Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin rallied a large crowd of supporters in Sterling Heights on Friday with an emphasis on Mr. McCain's early support for the military surge in Iraq that has drastically reduced violence, over Mr. Obama's objections at the time, but with no more than a passing reference to the ailing auto industry.

Mr. Obama did not respond to the criticism that he failed to support a strategy that would lead to victory in Iraq. He instead accused Mr. McCain of being the sole "stubborn holdout" against a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. And he said that the Bush Administration wrongly shifted its focus from Afghanistan to Iraq, allowing al-Qaeda to reconstitute itself "stronger than anytime since 2001."

Recalling the suggestion made at the Republican National Convention that he was more concerned about a terrorist's constitutional rights than capturing him, Mr. Obama said, "You don't even get to read them their rights until you catch them. They should spend more time trying to catch Osama bin Laden. We can worry about the next steps later."

He made fun of his own name as he accused the Bush Administration of trying to undermine the legal principle of habeas corpus, which he said gives arrested persons the right to claim in court that the wrong person has been arrested.

"We don't always have the right person. We may think this is Mohammed the terrorist but it might be Mohammed the cab driver. We may think it's Barack the bomb thrower, but it might Barack the guy running for president," said Mr. Obama, a former instructor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago.

Contact Tom Troy at


or 419-724-6058.

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