Obama's patriotism speech impresses Mo. town residents

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama defended his interpretation of patriotism Monday, impressing many northwestern Missouri supporters who say they never doubted his dedication to America.

Many who heard the speech at the Truman Memorial Building said they gained even more respect for Obama as he argued that patriotism should allow Americans to stand up and dissent against a government they don't agree with.

Dennis Moriarty, a 66-year-old from Kansas City, said he thought Obama brought all the issues of patriotism he wanted to hear to the forefront, especially after years of hearing people called unpatriotic for not agreeing with the war in Iraq.

"False patriotism is one of the more dangerous things out there," Moriarty said.

Obama's campaign stop in Independence was his second in Missouri in three weeks and third since May, highlighting how the state already is being targeted by the presidential hopefuls.

After Obama raised money and campaigned June 9 and 10 in St. Louis, Republican presidential candidate John McCain held a town-hall-style forum June 18 in Springfield.

The Obama campaign released a second TV advertisement Monday in 18 states including Missouri called "Dignity," showing Obama working to help the working class and children.

Political bases

Both candidates are trying to shore up their political base heading into the November general election. For Obama, that's St. Louis and Kansas City, which propelled him to a narrow popular-vote victory over Hillary Clinton in Missouri's Feb. 5 primaries.

Although Clinton carried almost every county in the state, Obama won Kansas City by a 2-to-1 margin and St. Louis city by an almost 3-to-1 margin. Obama also fared far better than Clinton in St. Louis County, the state's most heavily populated area.

To win in November, however, Obama most likely will have to peel off some votes from Missouri's traditionally Republican outer suburban and rural areas.

By campaigning in Independence, Obama did more than symbolically link himself to President Harry Truman, he also set foot in eastern Jackson County, which he had lost to Clinton. Acknowledging the need to make inroads in rural areas, Obama also campaigned in May in Cape Girardeau, a Republican area perhaps best known outside Missouri as the hometown of political commentator Rush Limbaugh.

As Missouri goes, so typically goes the nation in presidential elections. Missouri has voted for the winning presidential candidate every time but once in the past 100 years.

The event in Truman's hometown attracted hundreds of strong Obama supporters from the Kansas City area who got tickets before the event.

Not just supporters

But a few undecided voters also attended including Glenn Frizell, 28, from nearby Grandview, who said he's a Democrat but is not yet sold on Obama. Frizell, who is taking college classes, said he had hoped to hear more about jobs, the economy and how Obama would address the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"I'm not going to vote based on his patriotic intelligence," he said.

The event also attracted a small group of McCain supporters including state Rep. Jason Brown of Platte City, who said it was ironic to compare the differences between Truman and Obama.

"Truman was definitely a conservative Democrat," Brown said. "This really shows how that party has changed from the everyday-American party to one being run by the fringe of its members."

But Gordon Kauffman, 69, of Overland Park, Kan., said Obama doesn't need to wear a flag lapel pin or be in favor of the war in Iraq to be a true American.

"He is one of the most patriotic leaders we have ever had," Kauffman said.

Obama received loud applause when quoting Truman and Mark Twain, another popular Missourian.

"As Mark Twain, that greatest of American satirists and proud son of Missouri, once wrote, 'Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it,"' Obama said.

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