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It’s time for us to change America

world Updated: Aug 29, 2008 22:40 IST
V Krishna
V Krishna
Hindustan Times
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It’s time for us to change America

Barack Obama, bidding to become the first African American president of the United States, on Thursday called on Americans to cast off the politics of the past and renew the “promise that has set this country apart.”

“America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this,” he said in a speech accepting the Democratic nomination before 84,000 people in a football stadium and millions on national television.

“Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes.... These challenges are not all of government’s making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.” The speech drew repeated applause.

Obama, who is locked in a tight race with Republican John McCain, sought to link McCain with Bush’s policies. “The record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 per cent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time?”

McCain is out of touch, Obama said. “Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than 100 million Americans?”

The Democratic nominee said that if elected he would cut taxes for 95 per cent of working families. On the energy front, he would set a goal of ending U.S. dependence on oil from the Middle East in 10 years. Auto companies would receive help to re-tool to build fuel-efficient cars. And he would invest $150 billion in affordable, renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power and the next generation of biofuels. All Americans would have access to affordable health care.

Obama said he would pay for these programmes by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens and vetoing unnecessary expenditure.

While praising McCain’s military service, Obama signalled a readiness to challenge McCain on security. “If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have,” Obama said.

“For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just “muddle through” in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops.... John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell — but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.”

Obama again reached out to conservatives and independents whose support he needs. He said, “Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programmes alone can’t replace parents; that government can’t turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for provide love and guidance to their children.”

The promise that has set the US apart, Obama said, is that “through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.”

Thursday was the 45th anniversary of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.