- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2008

DETROIT | Former Vice President Al Gore threw his weight Monday behind Sen. Barack Obama, as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee tapped a longtime confidante of Hillary Rodham Clinton for his camp and vowed to visit Iraq before the election.

Mr. Gore, who resisted calls to make another bid for the presidency last year and who avoided taking sides during the primary battle, told supporters that he will do “whatever I can” to ensure Democrats win the White House in November.

“The outcome of this election will affect the future of our planet,” Mr. Gore told a cheering crowd of about 13,000 gathered at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena Monday night. “We’ve got to have new leadership, not only a new president but new policies, not only a new head of state but a new vision for America’s future.

“This election matters more than ever because America needs change more than ever,” he said in introducing Mr. Obama. “After eight years of incompetence, neglect and failure, we need change.”

Mr. Gore loaned his e-mail list to Mr. Obama, giving the Democrat access to more names that can help build his donor and volunteer database.

“I´m grateful Al Gore came to Detroit tonight, but I’m even more grateful for everything he´s done over the last 40 years in this country,” Mr. Obama said, touting Mr. Gore’s military service and long career in Washington as well as his work on climate change that led him to win the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

“Eight years ago, there was a lesson to be learned here. After the debacle in Florida, Al Gore could have just gone off and retired and nobody would have blamed him. But his conscience would not have allowed it,” Mr. Obama said, referring to Mr. Gore’s winning the popular vote in 2000 but losing the Electoral College vote to George W. Bush after a court battle over Florida. “The arc of his public service had prepared him to write a new chapter in his story and America’s story.”

The endorsement from Mr. Gore, who served under President Clinton, capped a day in which Mr. Obama sought help from his vanquished rival’s past, including hiring Patti Solis Doyle, who was fired as Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager in February during a staff shake-up. Mr. Obama tapped Ms. Doyle to be the chief of staff to his yet-to-be-selected running mate.

The Clinton campaign touted Ms. Doyle’s Hispanic heritage while Mr. Obama struggled with the Hispanic vote. The appointment led to speculation that the former first lady may not get the vice-presidential slot since Ms. Doyle was blamed for Mrs. Clinton´s loss in Iowa.

The Gore endorsement also helps cement Mr. Obama as a pro-environment candidate.

Mr. Obama has said he spoke regularly with Mr. Gore throughout the primary campaign, and some pundits have floated Mr. Gore’s name as a good choice for No. 2 once more. Mr. Obama also has said Mr. Gore would be welcome in his Cabinet.

Earlier on Monday in Flint, Mich., Mr. Obama, who had trouble among blue-collar workers in the primary, wooed voters discouraged by the slumping economy, vowing to help revitalize the dignity of the American worker and keep jobs at home.

Flanked by Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a staunch Clinton supporter, Mr. Obama immediately took aim at the presumed Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, whose own outreach to blue-collar workers, coupled with Mr. Obama’s troubles with them, is putting Michigan in play.

“John McCain wants to double down on George Bush’s disastrous policies - not only by making permanent the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but by $300 billion in new tax cuts that give a quarter of their revenue to households making over $2.8 million,” Mr. Obama told a crowd of about 1,500 gathered at Flint´s Kettering University, which once housed a General Motors Corp. training facility for management.

“Worse yet, he hasn’t detailed how he would pay for this new giveaway. There is nothing fiscally conservative about this approach. It will continue to drive up deficits, force us to borrow massively from foreign countries, and shift the burden on to working people today and our children tomorrow.”

He said he remained hopeful and committed to helping communities like Flint, proposing an advanced manufacturing fund that would invest in states and cities hit hard by job losses. He called on trade agreements that were fair to American industry and said competitiveness in the global marketplace is built on the “dynamism and determination of the American people” - not government.

“American people are not the problem; they are the answer,” Mr. Obama said before making a surprise stop to speak with GM Powertrain workers during a shift change.

Mr. Obama told reporters he will visit Afghanistan and Iraq before the election, answering the challenge of Republicans who are keeping a running count of days since the Democrat’s last visit to the war-torn region.

“The whole debate in this campaign should be about whether we are going to allow the surge to succeed,” Mr. McCain said at a press conference in Arlington on Monday.

Mr. McCain said there is no doubt the troop surge is working, and that a visit to Iraq could persuade Mr. Obama to change his call for withdrawal. Both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama have spoken in the past few days with Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari.

Mr. McCain challenged Mr. Obama to change the tone of the campaign by agreeing to meet in face-to-face town-hall meetings. Mr. McCain had proposed a series of 10 meetings, but said they should at least try to hold one next month in San Diego, where both men will speak to the National Council of La Raza, an advocacy organization for Hispanics.

Mr. Obama has proposed a single town-hall meeting and a long foreign policy debate, in addition to the usual three head-to-head debates.

Mr. Obama kicked off a two-day visit to Michigan with stops in Detroit including a fundraiser Monday afternoon. In the Motor City, he faces a community reeling from a scandal clouding the administration of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a once vibrant black politician who some say frittered away his Obama-like promise. He now faces an eight-count felony indictment over his role in a police whistleblower settlement agreement.

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