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Sweet blog special: Obama tells CNN's Blitzer it's time for him to make a "clear contrast" between himself and Clinton. Blitzer presses on missed Senate vote. Transcript.

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WASHINGTON---CNN's Wolf Blitzer interview with White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) yielded this headline: Obama is going to be more aggressive when it comes to his chief rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). This interview comes on the 5th anniversary of the2002 Senate Iraq war vote.

Obama excerpt.....
"And I think that now is the time where we’re going to be laying a very clear contrast between myself and Senator Clinton. Not just on the past, not just on Iraq but on moving forward. How would we approach Iran, for example
? "

click below for transcript.

In an interview airing on today's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois and presidential candidate, spoke about Sen. Clinton’s judgment in the run up to the war in Iraq, Iran’s role in the war in Iraq and whether he would consider Sen. Clinton as a running mate. Highlighted excerpts are below, and a full transcript follows. For more on the Senator Obama interview, visit www.cnnpolitics.com.

Please credit all usage to CNN’s “The Situation Room”


Highlighted Excerpts

On Sen. Clinton’s vote to authorize war in Iraq five years ago


BLITZER: So what I’m hearing you saying is it speaks of her judgment and you’re saying her judgment was simply bad.

OBAMA: I think her judgment was flawed on this issue and I know that she was not the only one who voted for this authorization. John Edwards, for example, has acknowledged that it was a mistake.

I do think that Senator Clinton has tried to massage the past a little bit, suggesting that it was a vote for inspectors. I think everybody at the time, including you and the media and the American people understood this was a vote for war.

You can’t give this president a blank check and then be surprised when he cashes it.

On the judgment to know when to use military force


OBAMA: The critical issue, I think, as Democrats make a decision about who can lead them in this next difficult phase of foreign policy and repairing the damage that George Bush has done is who has the judgment to know when to use military force, when not to use military force, who has the discernment to know how to use diplomacy effectively in order to achieve some of our national security goals.

And that’s something that I am confident I can do and I think I have a track record of anticipating some of the problems that are out there that the next president is going to have to deal with.


On Iran’s role in Iraq


BLITZER: But on the substance, though, do you agree that the Bush administration, General Petraeus, among others, that Iranian forces, Quds Forces and others are involved in killing Americans in Iraq?

OBAMA: What I agree with is that Iran has been the major beneficiary of the war in Iraq. It has been a huge strategic error. Iran is an adversary. Their pursuit of nuclear weapons poses a grave threat to us.

The fact that we have strengthened them as a consequence of the war in Iraq I think is a huge problem that I as the next president am going to have to deal with. There is no doubt that they are providing support and funding to the Mahdi Army and other militias in Iraq but what we have to do is to have the kinds of coherent policy inside Iraq that begins bringing our troops out of Iraq, that initiates the kind of hard-headed diplomacy with Iran, Syria, as well as our friends, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the regional powers.

And that’s not what’s taking place right now and the sense of the Senate that was passed did not help in that effort.


On employing a more aggressive strategy against his democratic opposition

OBAMA: There is no doubt that we’re moving into a different phase of the campaign. The first part of the campaign is to offer some biography. And give people a sense of where I’ve been and what I’m about.

In this next phase, we want to make sure that voters understand that on big issues like the decision to go into the war in Iraq I have real differences with the other candidates and that reflects on my judgment.


On whether Sen. Obama would consider Sen. Clinton as a running mate if he secured the democratic nomination

BLITZER: If you do get the Democratic presidential nomination, would you consider Hillary Clinton as your running mate?

OBAMA: Oh you know, I think I’m not going to touch that one, Wolf. Right now I’m worried abut getting the nomination. We’ll have plenty of time to take a look at who would be a good vice presidential candidate.

BLITZER: But would she be on the short list?

OBAMA: I think that Senator Clinton is a very capable person. Right now my goal is to make sure that I am the nominee and that she is still the senator from New York.


Full Transcript


THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And joining us now, the Democratic presidential

candidate, Senator Barack Obama. He’s joining us from his hometown in

Chicago. Senator, thanks for coming in.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great to be with you.

BLITZER: Let’s talk a little bit about what happened five years ago

exactly today, October 11, 2002. The Senate voted 77 to 23 to authorize

war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein. You, a few days earlier, had opposed

going to war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Hillary Clinton was among the 77 who voted in favor of that authorizing

resolution. Looking back, does that disqualify her to be president of

the United States?

OBAMA: Well, I don’t think it disqualified her but I think it speaks to

her judgment and it speaks to my judgment. This was the most important

foreign policy decision since the end of the Cold War and when I stood

up and opposed this war, I think I laid out a very specific case for why

we shouldn’t go in. That Saddam Hussein didn’t pose an imminent threat.

That we would be bogged down without an exit strategy, that it would

cost us billions of dollars and thousands of lives and would distract us

from the battle that had to be waged against al Qaeda.

So I think that it does bear on the judgment of myself and Senator

Clinton and it speaks to how we will make decisions moving forward

because the next president is going to have a number of difficult

foreign policy decisions as well.

BLITZER: So what I’m hearing you saying is it speaks of her judgment and

you’re saying her judgment was simply bad.

OBAMA: I think her judgment was flawed on this issue and I know that she

was not the only one who voted for this authorization. John Edwards, for

example, has acknowledged that it was a mistake.

I do think that Senator Clinton has tried to massage the past a little

bit, suggesting that it was a vote for inspectors. I think everybody at

the time, including you and the media and the American people understood

this was a vote for war.

You can’t give this president a blank check and then be surprised when

he cashes it.

BLITZER: Explain to me this. And I’m going to put some numbers up on the

screen. Among registered Democrats nationwide, she still is the

frontrunner. Forty seven percent in this latest Gallup poll. Twenty six

percent for you, Senator Obama. Eleven percent for John Edwards.

And specifically a "Washington Post"/ABC News poll. Who did Democratic

voters trust to handle Iraq despite that vote, despite the opposition to

the war, going into the war, among registered Democrats in this

"Washington Post" poll, Clinton gets 52 percent, Obama gets 22 percent,

Edwards 17 percent.

Why are Democrats still, despite her vote, and a lot of them obviously

oppose the war, siding with her when they are asked these sensitive

questions?

OBAMA: Well, I think those polls just reflect that Senator Clinton

remains the default candidate nationally. She is still better known than

I am. And I think those national polls aren’t going to change much until

the early state votes take place.

But if I was worried about polls than I would be here supporting the

fifth anniversary of me supporting the war because at the time there was

overriding support for that war.

The critical issue, I think, as Democrats make a decision about who can

lead them in this next difficult phase of foreign policy and repairing

the damage that George Bush has done is who has the judgment to know

when to use military force, when not to use military force, who has the

discernment to know how to use diplomacy effectively in order to achieve

some of our national security goals.

And that’s something that I am confident I can do and I think I have a

track record of anticipating some of the problems that are out there

that the next president is going to have to deal with.

BLITZER: Some of your supporters have been saying increasingly publicly

that they want you to become more aggressive. More forceful in going

after your Democratic presidential opposition. Jesse Jackson said this

in the "New York Observer" the other day.

"It’s like boxing. You keep waiting for the big knockout punch. But

while you’ve waited for the big knockout punch, you’ve lost so many

points. And that one big one might not be coming. My support has not

wavered for him but my approach for getting the nation’s attention would

be different."

What do you say to the Reverend Jesse Jackson and others who really want

you to come and start swinging away?

OBAMA: Well, look, we are three months away from the Iowa caucus, the

first caucus. This has been a presidential season that’s been greatly

accelerated. The American people, though, they’ve been going about their

business, getting their kids to school, working on the job, doing what

they do every day. They are now focusing in on making these difficult

decisions.

And I think that now is the time where we’re going to be laying a very

clear contrast between myself and Senator Clinton. Not just on the past,

not just on Iraq but on moving forward. How would we approach Iran, for

example? Senator Clinton …

BLITZER: Let’s talk about that specifically right now. The other day the

Senate voted 76 to 22 in favor of what’s called the Lieberman-Kyl

Amendment that said it is the sense of the Senate that the United States

should designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign

terrorist organization.

Senator Clinton voted in favor of that resolution. You were absent. You

didn’t show up for that vote. But you say you would have voted against it.

First of all, why didn’t you come to the Senate and make your – and make

your vote?

OBAMA: Well, I was in New Hampshire at the time. This is one of the

problems with running for president. You can’t always anticipate which

votes are which but I put out a statement at the time stating that this

was a bad idea and that I would have voted against it, and here’s why.

We know in the past that the president has used some of the flimsiest

excuses to try to move his agenda regardless of what Congress says. We

know that there was embodied in this legislation, or this resolution

sent to the Senate, language that would say our Iraqi troop structures

should in part be determined by our desire to deal with Iran.

Now if you know that in the past the president has taken a blank check

and cashed it, we don’t want to repeat that mistake.

BLITZER: But wouldn’t that vote, Mr. Senator, this is what your critics

are hammering away at you – Wouldn’t that vote be more important than

campaigning in New Hampshire, given the significance of what you’re

describing right now?

OBAMA: Well, we don’t always know what votes are scheduled and when and

if you’re in New Hampshire, then it’s hard to get back. But this wasn’t

a close vote. What it should have been, though, was a vote that sends a

message to the American people that we’re not going to keep on giving

George Bush a blank check and that’s just what we did.

BLITZER: But on the substance, though, do you agree that the Bush

administration, General Petraeus, among others, that Iranian forces,

Quds Forces and others are involved in killing Americans in Iraq?

OBAMA: What I agree with is that Iran has been the major beneficiary of

the war in Iraq. It has been a huge strategic error. Iran is an

adversary. Their pursuit of nuclear weapons poses a grave threat to us.

The fact that we have strengthened them as a consequence of the war in

Iraq I think is a huge problem that I as the next president am going to

have to deal with. There is no doubt that they are providing support and

funding to the Mahdi Army and other militias in Iraq but what we have to

do is to have the kinds of coherent policy inside Iraq that begins

bringing our troops out of Iraq, that initiates the kind of hard-headed

diplomacy with Iran, Syria, as well as our friends, Jordan, Saudi

Arabia, Turkey and the regional powers.

And that’s not what’s taking place right now and the sense of the Senate

that was passed did not help in that effort.

BLITZER: Do I come away from this interview, senator, correctly, in

saying that in these last 100 days before the voting actually starts,

we’re going to see a more aggressive, assertive Barack Obama trying to

pinpoint the differences, sharpen the focus between you and your

Democratic opposition, including Senator Clinton?

OBAMA: There is no doubt that we’re moving into a different phase of the

campaign. The first part of the campaign is to offer some biography. And

give people a sense of where I’ve been and what I’m about.

In this next phase, we want to make sure that voters understand that on

big issues like the decision to go into the war in Iraq I have real

differences with the other candidates and that reflects on my judgment.

On issues like health care I’ve got a track record of bringing people

together that indicates I would be more successful in actually

delivering on universal health care than the other candidates in this race.

And I would not be running if I was not absolutely confident that I have

a better chance of unifying the country, overcoming the special

interests, speaking the truth to the American people in a way that

actually brings about something new as opposed to looking backwards and

simply duplicating some of the politics that we’ve become so accustomed

to and that frankly the American people, I think, are sick of.

BLITZER: I’ll take that as a "yes."

Let me end the interview with one final question, senator. If you do get

the Democratic presidential nomination, would you consider Hillary

Clinton as your running mate?

OBAMA: Oh you know, I think I’m not going to touch that one, Wolf. Right

now I’m worried abut getting the nomination. We’ll have plenty of time

to take a look at who would be a good vice presidential candidate.

BLITZER: But would she be on the short list?

OBAMA: I think that Senator Clinton is a very capable person. Right now

my goal is to make sure that I am the nominee and that she is still the

senator from New York.

BLITZER: Senator Obama, thanks very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

OBAMA: Great to talk to you, Wolf, thank you.

- END -

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on October 11, 2007 3:41 PM.

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