CHICAGO--At a press conference in Bend, Oregon on Saturday, likely Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) says he is open to doing joint town hall meetings with Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), the GOP presidential candidate.
*said he will not attend Mothers Day services at Trinity United Church of Christ, even though he will be in Chicago on Sunday. He said coming to church with the hullabaloo of a presidential candidate would be a distraction. This also lets him avoid--in case he is there--the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
*said he will be campaigning soon in Michigan. I think Obama's first campaign stop there could be as early as the night of May 20--when he is expected to gain the majority of pledged delegates.
click below for transcript
Barack Obama Press Avail
*The answers are verbatim. The questions are paraphrased.*
Q: Senator Obama, what is your greatest challenge in a general
election? Is it race, is it the perception that you're more liberal
than most voters, or is it the question of whether you're experience
enough to be president?
BO: Well, I think that we haven't finished this primary yet, so it's,
I think it's premature to start projecting how the general election is
going to play out. You know, every candidate has strengths and
weaknesses. You know, I've no doubt have some weaknesses, but I think
I've enormous strengths as well. And in a contest between myself and
John McCain, there is going to be a very clear choice on policy that I
don't think is going to have to do with ideology and who theoretically
is more liberal or who's more conservative. I think it's going to have
to do with who has a plan to provide relief to people when it comes to
their gas prices, who has a real plan to make sure that everybody has
health insurance, who's got a real plan to deal with college
affordability, who can help American families live out their dreams?
And so rather than an abstract set of questions about, is he too
liberal, is he too conservative, is he ... how do voters handle an
African American, et cetera, I think this is going to be a very
concrete contest around very specific plans for how we improve the
lives of Americans, our vision for the future, and that's a debate I'm
going to welcome.
Q: Here in Oregon we have an initiative petition process here where we
are allowed to create our own laws in the state of Oregon. We have
made some laws over the years that were not in favor of the Bush
Administration; medical marihuana; death with dignity. What can we
expect from an Obama justice department/Administration?
BO: I will be respectful of the state initiative and referendum
process, I think that the justice department has better things to do
than to raid folks that are trying to provide medical marijuana. I do
think that it is something that should be carefully regulated and
controlled. If we are going to make medical prescriptions for
patients, it should be done by a doctor and not something that people
would casually say, "hey this might help". But I have no interest
seeing our justice department to spend its limited time and resources
challenging state laws that the people of Oregon have fought to
ratify, instead of cracking down on people that are putting harm on
our fellow US citizens.
Q: Senator, do you have any thoughts or plans about Michigan and
Florida? Not necessarily the delegates but the regular voters?
BO: Well, we are going to be actively campaigning in Michigan. We are
going to try to campaign there soon and I think that we are going to
make sure that the Florida and Michigan delegation by the time we get
to November I don't think that’s what's going to get on voters minds.
What's going to be on the voters’ minds is who has the better plan to
help make sure that my retirement is secure or rebuilding capacity.
Q: Some of the advisors to Senator John McCain have suggested that the
two of you should do some joint campaigning this summer doing town
hall meetings [inaudible]. Do you agree to that?
BO: I think that’s a great idea. Obviously we’d have to think through
the logistics on this but to the extent that – should I be the nominee
if I have the opportunity to debate substantive issues before the
voters with John McCain, that’s something I’m going to welcome.
Q: Last night you mentioned flag pin etc...Question about how he will
address the challenges by the Republicans to his patriotism?
BO: We’ll have a chance I’m sure over the coming months to engage in a
vigorous debate on what patriotism means and how all of us as a
country can display our patriotism. I’ve said before and I’d
undoubtedly say again the test of patriotism is whether we are true to
the ideals and values upon which this country was founded. And whether
we’re willing to fight and struggle on behalf of those values even
when it’s hard, even when it’s politically inconvenient. I believe
that’s what I’ve done in the past, I believe that’s what I’ve done in
this campaign, that’s what I intend to do as a candidate for or as the
democratic nominee should I get the nomination. But I don’t have some
particular trick or strategy to confront these issues; as they come up
we will face them directly.
Q: Do you have an uphill battle to be able to explain to voters who
BO: I don't think that's unique to me. I think that anybody who is
running for the presidency has to continually offer up to the American
people not only a set of policies and a vision for where he or she
wants to take the country but also has to give the American people
some insight into who he is or who she is and where those values and
ideals come from. And one of the things that I have discovered in this
campaign and I think I have spoken about this before and in avails is
that you could get into this race assuming that people know you and
the American people are busy, they have a lot of stuff going on. They
are not reading every blog or every article that is issued about you
that the vast majority haven't taken the time to read my books or
watch interviews of mine and so I think they have a sense of who I am,
but you know I am applying for the most challenging job on the face of
the planet. And I expect that I am going to have to continually
describe for the American people who I am, where I come from, what
shapes my character and how I intend to lead this country.
Q: [inaudible] Question about strategy of talking more about John McCain than
Hillary Clinton? Can you tell me more about your strategy as you look toward a
BO: I will let you guys speak to strategy. You know I think
consistently I have said that I want to go into the general election
whether I am the nominee or not with the party unified and ready to
take on what I think is a wrongheaded vision of where the country
should go. We only have six contests left in the democratic primary.
We are getting to the point where somebody is going to be the nominee.
We are not going to have a lot of time to pivot and John McCain has
been given a free pass.
For the last few months he has been able to go on various tours and make assertions
that I think are questionable and it is important that we as democrats, both myself
and Senator Clinton remind our constituencies that that is the ultimate prize, winning in
November, and that is what I am going to continue to focus on.
Q: [inaudible] Question about John McCain and his straight-talker image?
BO: He has a straight talker image but it is not clear that lately he
has been following through on that image. This gas tax holiday was a
pander. He didn't even have a way of paying for it and wasn't
particularly vigorous in the defense of it. He simply threw it out
there thinking it might help get some votes. His tax proposals that
he just put forward, 400 billion dollars worth of tax cuts
disproportionally tilted towards the wealthy to corporations -- a
doubling down of George Bush's economic strategies. When those George
Bush tax cuts first came up, he said they offended his conscience. Now
he is the one proposing them. So I think we're going to have to have a
debate not based on John McCain's image or my image but on facts and
where we've stood on various issues.
Q: [inaudible] Are you going to attend church tomorrow?
BO: I am not going to burden the church at the moment with my presence
and as a consequence your presence. I think it's important for the
church to be able to worship in fellowship especially on Mother's day
which has some of the biggest attendance of the year without the
distractions of a presidential campaign.
Q: Price of fuel spiking and food prices and new projections that the
harvest of corn will be about 7% lower than last year. Do you believe
there is a point where we should suspend the use of ethanol?
BO: I have been a champion of ethanol over the past. I come from a
corn growing state and I've said before and I continue to believe that
we've got to develop alternatives to fossil fuels. What I've also said
is that corn based ethanol, I see as a transitional technology and
that we have to shift to cellulosic ethanol using non-food sources to
develop energy. That's why I've proposed in my energy plan to
significantly increase the investment in other strategies for
alternative fuels, switch grass, wood chips, and so forth. It is not
clear to me and I don't think its been definitively shown that
the use of ethanol is the biggest contributor to rising fuel prices.
The one thing I will say is if at some point we have to choose between
making sure that millions of people get adequate nutrition and energy
policy then I always want to make sure that people have enough to eat
and I think that's got to be both a moral and a strategic imperative
for the United States.
Q: The other night John McCain suggested Hamas was a big supporter,
and he would be their biggest nightmare?
BO: Well I actually responded to it fairly explicitly the other day.
What I said was that this was ridiculous, that my position with
respect to Hamas was identical to John McCain's. That I've said we
should not meet with them until they recognize Israel, until they
cease terrorist activities, until they support previous agreements
that have been made between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And I
went on to say that this was an example of I think a distorting of my
record that John McCain has been engaging in over the last couple of
weeks, that again is not consistent of the image or what he said he
wants this campaign to be about. I suggested he maybe lost his
bearings. His team somehow took this as an ageist comment. How that
was interpreted in that fashion is still not clear to me. Last I
checked people lose their bearings at every age, but as I've said
before: I think that Hamas is a terrorist organization that should be
isolated until such time as they recognize that terrorism is not a strategy
is not a strategy for them to obtain their political goals.
Q: Yesterday Congressman DeFazio while introducing you in Albany brought up the
Keating 5. Later on that night he did not bring it up. Do you think
that is fair game?
BO: Congressman DeFazio obviously delivered a speech that wasn't my
speech. I don't think there's any doubt that John McCain’s
about issues that he has apologized for and written about is not germane
to the presidency. I was just asked previously about a whole host of issues
and associations that were a lot more flimsy than John McCain's relationship
to Keating 5 and what I have said is that I cannot quarrel with the American
people wanting to know more about that, and of me having to answer questions
about it. I'll take this last one.
Q: How do you feel about tying with Clinton in the superdelegate race?
BO: I think it's an encouraging sign that our campaign is making
progress that superdelegates are moving in our direction. That they
think I can be a strong candidate in the general election that they
are looking forward to resolving this contest as soon as we can so we
can pivot and start talking about John McCain and the general
election. And our positive unified vision of where we want to take
the country. Ultimately though, what I'm going to be spending most of
my time doing is looking for the support not of superdelegates, but of
voters. That's what I am so glad to be here east of the mountains
here in central Oregon. It’s beautiful and the people are wonderful.
And the scenery is great and I wish I could take a bike ride and take
a hike, but apparently I have to do some more work.