ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports: Barack Obama mentioned nearly every other candidate by name at a town hall on Tuesday night in Cedar Rapids, including the current president and the republican contenders, not shying away from naming a name or two – or three or four.
Rarely evoking the name John Edwards on the trail, Obama attempted to differentiate himself with Edwards over limiting the influences of Washington lobbyists, “John Edwards, it’s great he’s been talking about it but you have to look at who did something while they were in office. And I've done something and we’ve taken some clearest steps in terms of reducing the influence of lobbyists, but we have to go further….I want to be clear that there are no strings around me when I go to the White House.”
Obama also explained why people in Iowa should caucus for him as opposed to “Clinton or Edwards, or Dodd or Biden or Richardson.”
But it was his top opponent who got a specific mention during his explanation, “I believe I can bring this country together in a way that Senator Clinton cannot do….reason is that I don’t carry the baggage of the 90’s, I’m not interested in the fighting from the past.”
The Republican contenders were not immune to being called about by Obama either, “When I hear Mitt, and Rudy and all these folks rattling sabers, and trying to talk tough and saying we’re going to blockade this and bomb that and I hear George Bush talk about WW III, that’s not making us more safe, that’s making us less safe, that compounding the problem that Iraq has become.”
Obama also turned his criticisms of the Republican candidates back to criticism of the Democratic candidates, “I’m so sick and tired of the Democratic party being scared with that the Republicans are going to do. And so we end up trying to act and couch what we say to make sure that we’re seen as tough, not vulnerable to all the swift boating,” Obama said and finished, “I’m not afraid of these folks.”
A question from a mother of two in the audience spurred the most unique answer of the night.
When asked to respond to the recent controversy of not putting his hand over his heart at the Harkin Steak Fry, Obama said that he’s “Been pledging allegiance to the flag, what, since I’ve was three?”
And insisted that the time in question, where he was shown in a picture to not have his hand over his heart while Richardson and Clinton did, was a time when the “Star Spangled Banner” was being played, not the pledge of allegiance, “Anytime that you pledge allegiance you put your hand over your heart and I always have and I always will. It’s simply not true.”