Obama says Bush falls short as leader

CHICAGO – Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record) said Monday that President Bush has fallen short in his role as leader of the free world, and the 2008 election is a chance to change that.

“This president may occupy the White House, but for the last six years the position of leader of the free world has remained open. And it is time to fill that role once more,” Obama said in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The Illinois senator was in his hometown to deliver a foreign policy address that was rescheduled last week after the shootings at Virginia Tech.

In his remarks, Obama said the world is disappointed in the United States, but it would be a mistake to “cede our claim of leadership in world affairs” because Americans might be tempted to turn inward in the face of negative world opinion.

“America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission – we must lead the world by deed and by example,” he said.

Monday’s speech is the third time in recent months that Obama has come home to deliver a foreign policy address.

In a March speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a bipartisan pro-Israel lobby, Obama blamed Bush administration failings in Iraq for strengthening the strategic position of Iran.

He called for a reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq, during a November address before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

On Monday, Obama reiterated his call for a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and said bringing a responsible end to the war was one of the ways the country could begin to lead again if he is elected president.

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