From NBC's Lauren Appelbaum, Diamaris Welch, and Carly Zakin
After a more than weeklong diplomacy spat with Hillary Clinton, Obama laid out a five-step plan on counter terrorism and took the opportunity to make blatant attacks at President Bush's policy and more veiled attacks at Clinton. His five steps include: (1) get out of Iraq and refocus the battle in Afghanistan and Pakistan; (2) build partnerships with other countries to help capture and kill terrorists; (3) curb support for extremism; (4) stop compromising America's values; and (5) secure a more resilient homeland.
In addition to moving some troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan, he called for two additional brigades to be deployed to Afghanistan and to provide the country with non-military aid. In Pakistan, he promised conditional aid, if the leadership were to close down al Qaeda training camps, evict foreign fighters, and keep Pakistan from becoming a "staging area for attacks in Afghanistan" -- challenging President Pervez Musharraf to help capture Al Qaeda leaders.
"There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans," Obama said. "They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will."
Clinton called Obama "naïve" on foreign policy, but he may have alleviated some doubts today. Former Iraq Study Group co-chairman Lee Hamilton introduced Obama and was asked after the speech if he heard anything that he would consider naïve. With a wry smile, Hamilton simply said, "I don't think so."
Obama remained on the offensive. Obama took a slight dig at Clinton -- without saying her name -- and again used the opportunity to align Clinton's position on foreign policy with President Bush's. He attacked a statement Clinton made in June that America "is safer" today than it was before 9/11 in saying, "Because of a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, we are now less safe than we were before 9/11."
Obama also said that after 9/11, America "had the might and moral-suasion that was the legacy of generations of Americans." He talked about the swinging pendulum known as "the tide of history" turning back toward hope, but he said America failed to use this unity for good and failed in Afghanistan, the true front of the war on terror. He also took the opportunity to once again remind us he opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, calling it "a dumb war, a rash war" and blamed the President and Congress for American involvement in the country.
"What could have been a call to a generation has become an excuse for unchecked presidential power," Obama said. "A tragedy that united us was turned into a political wedge issue used to divide us. By refusing to end the war in Iraq, President Bush is giving the terrorists what they really want, and what the Congress voted to give them in 2002: a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences."