WASHINGTON---White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) faced something rare--a tough interviewer. He taped an interview with Andrea Seabrook of NPR's "All Things Considered" taped Friday in Iowa and played on Saturday. At one point Seabrook, pressing Obama about his Iran policy, said, "It sounds a little bit, sir, like you are all carrot and no stick, if I might just use a cliché."
The news headline is this. In the session, Obama make a sharp, clear, simple distinction between himself and chief rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), distilling the rationale of his candidacy down to one sentence.
Obama: " Well, I think it is important to understand that I opposed this war from the start and Senator Clinton did not."
Seabrook: "Wat difference does that make now, sir, though?"
SEN. BARACK OBAMA RESPONDS TO REP. JOHN LEWIS’
ENDORSEMENT OF SEN. HILLARY CLINTON
FOR DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION
ON NPR NEWS ALL THINGS CONSIDERED
TODAY, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13
SEN. OBAMA ON ENDORSEMENT: “I CAN’T EXPECT TO BE GETTING EVERY
SINGLE ENDORSEMENT, GIVEN THE EIGHT YEARS OF A CLINTON PRESIDENCY
AND THE LONG-TIME RELATIONSHIPS THAT HE HAS ESTABLISHED”
TRANSCRIPT BELOW; AUDIO TO BE AVAILABLE AT WWW.NPR.ORG
October 13, 2007; Washington, D.C. – Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D., IL), in an interview with NPR host Andrea Seabrook airing today on NPR News All Things Considered, responds to Representative John Lewis’ (D., GA) endorsement of Senator Hillary Clinton (D., NY) for the Democratic presidential nomination.
In the interview with NPR, Sen. Obama says: “Well, we have probably the majority of Georgia elected officials including two congressmen who have endorsed us. I can’t expect to be getting every single endorsement, given the eight years of a Clinton presidency and the long-time relationships that he has established with leaders all across the country and the favors that he’s done for political players all across the country. I promise you this: that as much respect as I have for John Lewis, it’s not going to have much of an impact on the Iowa caucuses, or the New Hampshire primary. And ultimately, that is what is going to determine who the next nominee is.”
All excerpts must be credited to NPR News All Things Considered. Television usage must include on-screen NPR News credit with NPR logo. The audio of the interview will be available at approximately 7 PM (ET) at www.NPR.org
All Things Considered, NPR's signature afternoon news magazine, reaches 11.5 million listeners weekly. Andrea Seabrook is weekend host. Weekday hosts are Melissa Block, Michele Norris, and Robert Siegel. To find local stations and broadcast times, visit www.NPR.org
ANDREA SEABROOK: Illinois Senator Barack Obama is in Iowa this weekend, traveling from town to town, campaigning on his proposals for health care, energy, and the Iraq war. It's important to remember that at this stage, Obama is not actually running for PRESIDENT, but for the Democratic nomination... And that means his biggest opponent right now is the candidate that's some 20-points ahead of him in national polls -- New York Senator Hillary Clinton. We caught up with Obama yesterday, in his car between Iowa campaign evens, and we asked him what he thinks are Clinton's weaknesses.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Well, I think that I am stronger for the kinds of challenges that we’re going to face in the next several years.
MS. SEABROOK: Which ones?
SEN. OBAMA: Otherwise I wouldn’t be running for president.
MS. SEABROOK: Which ones?
SEN. OBAMA: I think that the two key challenges that we face is to bring this country together and make sure that we can actually overcome the special interest-driven politics and the partisanship in Washington to get things done on healthcare and on energy. And I think that I’m in a better position to bring the country together than Senator Clinton is. I also think the second big challenge is to repair the damage that’s been done by George Bush when it comes to foreign policy.
MS. SEABROOK: Then let’s turn to foreign policy. You and Senator Clinton, neither of you have agreed to directly pulling out troops as some in your party would like. What’s the difference between you two on Iraq on what you would actually do now?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think it is important to understand that I opposed this war from the start and Senator Clinton did not.
MS. SEABROOK: What difference does that make now, sir, though?
SEN. OBAMA: Because what it shows is judgment, because we’re going to have – we can’t anticipate what challenges we’re going to face in the future. Nobody knew that in 2001, our foreign policy would fundamentally be transformed. And the question is, how are you going to react to the new challenges and the new opportunities that present themselves in the years to come? And on the most important foreign policy issue of a generation, I got it right and others did not. And that has bearing in terms of how I will approach and assess the critical choices that lie ahead.
MS. SEABROOK: Well, there is a challenge now. So what would you do now that is different than what Senator Clinton would do?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, I won’t speak for Senator Clinton in terms of how she would approach it. But I think that the way you characterize it is quite right. I have said that we have to get our troops out and that we have to do so as quickly as possible. I would have all of our combat troops out at a pace of one to two brigades a month so that in 16 months, we’d have all our combat troops out of Iraq.
The only thing that I’ve called for is a very limited force to provide security for our embassy and for our diplomats on the ground, as well as to carry out targeted strikes against al Qaeda operatives that may try to set up base camp in Iraq. That, I think, is the smart and the right thing to do.
But the most important thing that we have to do with respect to Iraq is initiate the kind of diplomacy that is going to stabilize the situation. And there, Senator Clinton and I do appear to have a difference, although it’s hard to tell. I suggested that we should talk to our enemies and not just our friends, including Iran, including Syria. I got in an argument with Senator Clinton back in the summer about this, because she suggested that that approach of negotiating without preconditions could be used for propaganda purposes and would be naïve.
MS. SEABROOK: But at the same time that you talk about the threat from Iran and the importance of dealing with Iran, you don’t support the amendment that Senator Clinton does that would designate the Iranian al Quds force as a terrorist organization. Why don’t you support that?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, I would have supported a stand-alone piece of legislation identifying the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. The problem was that it was embedded in language that suggested the president should maintain the force structure in Iraq that is needed to blunt the influence of Iran inside Iraq. And that provides an aggressive Bush-Cheney administration potentially the opening to initiate military action against Iran.
This is a lesson that I think Senator Clinton and others should have learned that you can’t give this president a blank check and then act surprised when he cashes it.
MS. SEABROOK: Meanwhile, General David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq says that the Iranian ambassador to Iraq is part of that al Quds force and that it is known – it is documented – that Iran is all mixed up in the Shi’a militias in the south of Iraq. How do you – how would you, as President Obama, solve the problems in Iraq without dealing with the role of Iran down there?
SEN. OBAMA: Oh, we have to deal with the role of IraN. The question is whether we deal with Iran through saber-rattling or whether we deal with Iran by direct diplomatic engagement…[T]he key for us is to engage in the sort of direct talks that we engaged in, by the way, when Iran cooperated with us in dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan. And it’s that sort of direct engagement that this president has been unwilling to do, but under an Obama administration would be, I think a top priority.
MS. SEABROOK: It sounds a little bit, sir, like you are all carrot and no stick, if I might just use a cliché.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, maybe that’s because we haven’t been talking about what kinds of military actions are available. The truth is that I’ve said repeatedly that military options should remain on the table. The question is, do you lead with those or do you present carrots and sticks at the same time? I think Iran understands what military threats we pose. You know, they’re not surprised that we could strike them and strike them hard.
What we haven’t suggested in any way is what advantages they would have in acting more responsibly in the region. That’s been the missing ingredient and, you know, I have no doubt that, as president, I will use whatever military force is necessary to protect U.S. citizens and interests around the globe. But what I also understand is that the military option is not the only option in the tool box. You know, we’ve had an administration that thinks the only tool is a hammer and as a consequence everything looks like a nail. And as a consequence, we’ve done incredible damage to our security and standing around the world.
MS. SEABROOK: If I could just try one last political question, sir, Georgia Congressman John Lewis endorsed Hillary Clinton today – John Lewis, of course, a civil rights icon in the United States. This has got to be something of a blow to your campaign.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, we have probably the majority of Georgia elected officials including two congressmen who have endorsed us. I can’t expect to be getting every single endorsement, given the eight years of a Clinton presidency and the long-time relationships that he has established with leaders all across the country and the favors that he’s done for political players all across the country. I promise you this that as much respect as I have for John Lewis, it’s not going to have much of an impact on the Iowa caucuses, or the New Hampshire primary. And ultimately, that is what is going to determine who the next nominee is.
MS. SEABROOK: Democratic presidential candidate and Illinois senator, Barack Obama, traveling across Iowa, campaigning for the Democratic nomination. Thank you, sir, very much.
SEN. OBAMA: Thank you, Andrea.