PORTSMOUTH, N.H.—White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) never served in the military. But at a town hall meeting, Obama said he would “take up arms myself” to prevent another 9-11 from happening.
The comment came during a wide-ranging question and answer session in Dover, N.H. where Obama also said he would have no trouble “going down low and throwing elbows” if opponents went after him.
Obama’s taking up arms remark came after woman, who said she was a Republican, told Obama that it is easy to criticize President Bush “but you’re not in office. How would you have handled that? What would you have done that was so different?”
Obama said Bush handled the first months after the attacks well and he has tried to imagine what he would have done if president in the same situation.
“Listen, I’m not just a backseat driver, Monday morning quarterback. I mean thought to myself at the time, imagine the enormous pressures that a president is under when something like that happens. I mean it’s just a huge shock to the system and you feel responsible and you’re thinking that maybe you’re thinking that maybe other attacks are going to be happening at any moment.
“So In the initial months, his response, I thought, was perfectly reasonable. I supported the invasion of Afghanistan because the Taliban had been supportive and the base camp for Al Queda. So I had no problem with that. I would take up arms myself to prevent another 9/11 from happening,” Obama said.
Obama had a strong comeback after a another woman asked how Obama would avoid being “swiftboated”—a reference to negative attacks against the military record of 2004 Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)-- and being “turned by the Republicans into a ministrel show.” If elected, Obama would be the first African-American president.
“Everybody’s still traumatized by 2004 because it was an ugly scene,” Obama said. “Look, I have a couple of things I want to tell you about me. First of all, I played basketball and I’m really skinny but the people I play with will tell you I don’t mind going down low and throwing elbows.”
Obama said the “swiftboating” started after he announced for president and Fox News “started saying, ‘“well this guy went to schools in madrassas.’” He revealed that his campaign urged CNN to pursue the story.
“And we had to send CNN to this school in Indonesia where everybody’s in short pants with their Ipods and playing video games. You know and I was like, come on. But so we’ve already seen this. And I think when Romney starts saying this stuff - sometimes it may be honest mistakes, sometimes not. You don’t know. But I have no doubt that there will be some of that - trying to make me into this foreign, you know, odd clearly black person.”
The free-wheeling questions touched more than once on GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney calling Obama “Osama” recently as Obama was asked to describe the differences between himself and Osama bin Laden.
“Well you know Mitt Romneys’ been very confused about this. I have, a lot of trouble growing a beard, I don’t have a lot of facial hair. So I guess that’s a good place to start. He lives in a cave.”