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Obama tells CNN's Wolf Blitzer McCain is "losing his bearings"

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CHICAGO--Today is Israel's 60th anniversary and CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked near presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) about a suggestion from Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) that Obama is "favored by Hamas."

"That is offensive," said Obama, "and I think it's disappointing because John McCain always says, well, I'm not going to run that kind of politics.....As so for him to toss out comments like that I think is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination."

Click below for transcript of Blitzer interview with Obama on CNN's "The Situation Room."


Sen. Barack Obama: Sen. McCain's criticism demonstrates he's "losing his bearings as he pursues this nominatio

“I think actually Justice Breyer, Justice Ginsburg are very sensible judges…Justice Souter, who was a Republican appointee is a sensible judge.”—Sen. Obama on his model for a possible Supreme Court Justice nominee

Sen. Barack Obama sat down with Wolf Blitzer today for his first interview since the Indiana and North Carolina primaries. Pieces of the interview are currently running on CNN, and the full Q&A will air on “The Situation Room.” Highlighted excerpts are below, and a full transcript follows. For additional coverage and video, see http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/05/08/obama/index.html and http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/05/08/obama-mccain-is-losing-his-bearings and the CNN Political Ticker.

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

Highlighted Excerpts

On the TIME magazine cover declaring him the “winner”
OBAMA: I don’t want to be jinxed. We’ve still got some work to do… I don’t want to get ahead of myself, here. Senator Clinton is a very formidable candidate. She is very heavily favored to win West Virginia. She’ll win that by a big margin. She’s favored in Kentucky. We’ll probably split the remaining contests so she’s going to be actively campaigning.

On his reaction to Mitt Romney’s recent strong criticism (about the presidency not being an “internship”)
OBAMA: Yeah. Well, the contest didn’t work out so well against John McCain suggesting that John McCain as a senator hadn’t done what Mitt Romney had done. And yet here we are and there Mitt Romney is. Look, when it comes to national security I think what people are looking for is good judgment.

On taxes
OBAMA: I will raise CEO taxes, there is no doubt about it. If you are …

BLITZER: What about the average American?

OBAMA: If you are a CEO in this country, you will probably pay more taxes. They won’t be prohibitively high. You’re going to be paying roughly what you paid in the ‘90s when CEOs were doing just fine…If you’re making $100,000 a year or less, then you’re pretty solidly middle class and you deserve relief right now as opposed to paying higher taxes. On the other hand, if you’re making more than $100,000 and certainly if you’re making more than $200 to $250,000, then you’re doing pretty well…

BLITZER: Because they’re arguing already that you want to increase capital gains taxes for example, investments, stocks, things like that. A lot of middle class people have those kinds of accounts.

OBAMA: If they have, Wolf, if they have a 401(k) then they are going to see those taxes convert and they’re going to pay ordinary income when they finally cash out. That’s a phony argument…

On criteria for picking a Supreme Court Justice
OBAMA: Well, I think that my first criteria is to make sure that these are people who are capable and competent and that they are interpreting the law and 95 percent of the time, the law is so clear that it’s just a matter of applying the law. I’m not somebody who believes in a bunch of judicial lawmaking.

BLITZER: Are there members, are justices right now upon who you would model, you would look at? Who do you like?

OBAMA: Well, I think actually Justice Breyer, Justice Ginsburg are very sensible judges. I think that Justice Souter, who was a Republican appointee is a sensible judge. What you’re looking for is somebody who is going to buy the law where it’s clear. Now there’s going to be those 5 percent of cases or 1 percent of the cases where the law isn’t clear and the judge then has to bring in his or her own perspectives, his ethics, his or her moral bearings and in those circumstances, what I do want is a judge who’s sympathetic enough to those who are on the outside, those who are vulnerable, those who are powerless, those who can’t have access to political power and as a consequence, can’t protect themselves from being dealt with sometimes unfairly. Then the courts become a refuge for judges. That’s been the historic role. That’s what this role in Brown versus Board of Education. I think a judge who is unsympathetic to the fact that in some cases, we’ve got to make sure that civil rights are protected, that we’ve got to make sure that civil liberties are protected because oftentimes the pressures that are placed on politicians to want to set civil liberties aside, especially in times when we’ve had terrorist attacks, making sure that we maintain our separation of powers so that we don’t have a president who is taking over more and more power. I think those are all criteria by which I can judge whether or not this is a good appointee.

On Sen. McCain’s comments that Hamas favors Sen. Obama for U.S. president
OBAMA: This is offensive and I think it’s disappointing, because John McCain always says, well, I’m not going to run that kind of politics and that engages in that kind of smear I think is unfortunate, particularly since my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his…And so for him to toss out comments like that I think is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination. We don’t need name calling in this debate.

On whether he would select Sen. Clinton as his vice presidential nominee were he to be nominated (question from viewer through iReport)
OBAMA: Well, as I said before, "Time Magazine" notwithstanding, we haven’t wrapped this thing up yet. At the point where I’m the nominee I’ll start going through the process of figuring out what my running mate, who my running mate might be. Senator Clinton has shown herself to be an extraordinary candidate. She is tireless, she is smart. She is capable. And so obviously she’d on anybody’s short list to be a potential vice presidential candidate.

But it would be presumptuous of me at this point when she is still actively running, when she is highly favored to win two of the next three contests, for me to somehow suggest that she should be running mate. At this point I think we have to resolve this process and then we can figure it out.



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: Barack Obama hasn’t clinched the Democratic
presidential nomination yet, but look at this, the cover of "Time
Magazine" declaring him the winner after the latest round of primaries.
How is he marking this important moment in this campaign? Well, Senator
Barack Obama is here in the SITUATION ROOM, the very first interview
he’s given since Tuesday’s contest in North Carolina and Indiana.
Senator, welcome.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to see you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Here is the cover. "And the Winner Is." That’s a picture of
you. What do you think?

OBAMA: Well, I think – I don’t want to be jinxed. We’ve still got some
work to do.

BLITZER: It’s almost like you got the cover of "Sports Illustrated." Is
that what you’re nervous about, that?

OBAMA: We’ve got six more contests left and then we’ve got a lot of work
to do to bring the party together but obviously we felt very good about
our win in North Carolina on Tuesday. I think we ran a terrific campaign
in Indiana and it was a virtual tie and if you look at where the race is
at this point, I think we’ve seen voters across the country say they are
ready for change, they are feeling real anxiety about the economy.

And they’ve come to recognize that unless we change how Washington is
done. It’s going to be very hard to deliver on a smarter energy policy.
It’s going to be hard to provide health care for people who need it or
make college more affordable. And I think our campaign has benefited
from it and so I’m looking forward to bringing this party together and
going after John McCain in the fall and hopefully getting this country
on the right track.

BLITZER: It’s been intense in the primaries but you realize it’s going
to be much more intense in the next chapter, in the next stage given the
differences between you and John McCain. Are you ready for this next phase?

OBAMA: I’m actually looking forward to it. If we’re successful. I don’t
want to get ahead of myself, here. Senator Clinton is a very formidable
candidate. She is very heavily favored to win West Virginia. She’ll win
that by a big margin. She’s favored in Kentucky. We’ll probably split
the remaining contests so she’s going to be actively campaigning.

If I’m fortunate enough to be the nominee, then I am looking forward to
the general election precisely because there is such a big, stark contrast …

BLITZER: There are major differences between you and John McCain on a
whole host of domestic issues and foreign policy issues and I want to go
through those right now.

OBAMA: Sure.

BLITZER: Already some of his surrogates, some of his supporters, are
suggesting you’re not ready to be commander in chief of the United
States. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, says this,
listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) FORMER MA GOVERNOR: He has not accomplished anything
during his life in terms of legislation or leading an enterprise or
making a business work or a city work or a state work. He really has
very little experience and the presidency of the United States is not an
internship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Wow. That’s a strong statement.

OBAMA: Yeah. Well, the contest didn’t work out so well against John
McCain suggesting that John McCain as a senator hadn’t done what Mitt
Romney had done. And yet here we are and there Mitt Romney is.

Look, when it comes to national security I think what people are looking
for is good judgment. They’re looking for somebody who is going to be
able to assess the very real risks that are out there and deploy our
forces not just military but diplomatic, political, economic, cultural,
in a way that makes the American people safe and whether it’s my
judgment on Iraq and recognizing that that was going to be a strategic
blunder to my insistence that we need to talk not just to countries we
like but countries we don’t to my assessment in terms of how we had
over-invested in the Musharraf government in Pakistan and that was going
to be setting us up for failure later on.

I think I’ve consistently displayed the kind of judgment that the
American people are looking for in the next president.

BLITZER: I want to get to all of those national security, foreign policy
issues in a moment but let’s talk about some domestic issues.

You know they’re going to paint you, the McCain camp, Republicans, as a
classic tax and spend liberal Democrat. That you’re going to raise the
taxes for the American people and just spend money like there is no
tomorrow when it comes to federal government programs. Are you ready to
handle that kind of assault?

OBAMA: Absolutely.

Because think about what I am going to be running against. The failed
policies of the Bush administration which John McCain wants to continue.
I don’t think there is anybody in the country who thinks that right now
we’ve got a government that’s managed our domestic policies well and so
we can talk about the slogans of tax and spend or fiscal conservatism
but the fact of the matter is we’ve had an administration that’s been
profligate, that has raised our national debt to a record level. We have
seen a lack of shared prosperity, so you’ve got CEOs making more in a
day than ordinary workers are making in the years and it’s the CEO
that’s getting tax breaks instead of the workers.

BLITZER: They’re going to say you’re going to raise their taxes. What are
you going to say?

OBAMA: I will raise CEO taxes, there is no doubt about it. If you are …

BLITZER: What about the average American?

OBAMA: If you are a CEO in this country, you will probably pay more
taxes. They won’t be prohibitively high. You’re going to be paying
roughly what you paid in the ‘90s when CEOs were doing just fine.

BLITZER: So you want to just eliminate the Bush tax cuts?

OBAMA: Eliminate the Bush tax cuts and what I’ve said is, I will
institute a middle class tax cut so if you’re making $75,000, if you’re
making $50,000 a year, you will see an extra $1,000 a year offsetting on
your (INAUDIBLE) I think that the definitions are always a little bit
rough, but let’s just take it this way. If you’re making $100,000 a year
or less, then you’re pretty solidly middle class and you deserve relief
right now as opposed to paying higher taxes. On the other hand, if
you’re making more than $100,000 and certainly if you’re making more
than $200 to $250,000, then you’re doing pretty well and it’s the people
who are making over $200, $250,000, who have benefited the most and have
actually seen, have actually seen more and more of economic growth in
this country go in your direction. And all we’re looking for here is a
sense of balance, because it’s my belief that this country has always
grown when it grows from the bottom up, when the average worker who’s
putting in his time and trying to live out the American dream, when a
nurse or a teacher, she’s able to support her family, then they spend
money, businesses do well and we generate tax revenues that can pay for
the common investments that we need and that’s what’s been lacking, a
sense of shared sacrifice as well as shared benefits from the economy (ph).

BLITZER: Because they’re arguing already that you want to increase
capital gains taxes for example, investments, stocks, things like that.
A lot of middle class people have those kinds of accounts.

OBAMA: If they have, Wolf, if they have a 401(k) then they are going to
see those taxes convert and they’re going to pay ordinary income when
they finally cash out. That’s a phony argument and this is something
that (INAUDIBLE) Republicans consistently is they try to make this
broad-based argument about he’s going to raise your taxes and they cover
(ph) for them eliminating taxes for people like myself, like you, who
can afford to pay a little bit more in order to assure that we’ve got
roads and bridges that are rebuilt, in order to assure that Social
Security is solvent, in order to make sure that kids who are struggling
for their American dream can actually go to college, in order to make
sure that people aren’t going bankrupt just because somebody in their
family gets sick.

As I travel around the country, what I’m actually convinced of is that
people recognize that it’s only 1 percent of the population is doing
well. We’ve got wages and incomes for the average worker actually going
down during periods of economic expansion, much less economic recession.
Something’s being mismanaged and they want a different approach and
that’s what we’re going to be offering and John McCain is essentially
offering four more years of the same policies that got us into this rut
that we’re in right now.

BLITZER: You used to teach constitutional law. You know a lot about the
Supreme Court. The next president of the United States will have an
opportunity to nominate justices for the Supreme Court. He gave a
speech, McCain this week, saying he wants justices like Samuel Alito and
John Roberts and he defined the kind of criteria he wants. So what would
be your criteria?

OBAMA: Well, I think that my first criteria is to make sure that these
are people who are capable and competent and that they are interpreting
the law and 95 percent of the time, the law is so clear that it’s just a
matter of applying the law. I’m not somebody who believes in a bunch of
judicial lawmaking.

BLITZER: Are there members, are justices right now upon who you would
model, you would look at? Who do you like?

OBAMA: Well, I think actually Justice Breyer, Justice Ginsburg are very
sensible judges. I think that Justice Souter, who was a Republican
appointee is a sensible judge. What you’re looking for is somebody who
is going to buy the law where it’s clear. Now there’s going to be those
5 percent of cases or 1 percent of the cases where the law isn’t clear
and the judge then has to bring in his or her own perspectives, his
ethics, his or her moral bearings and in those circumstances, what I do
want is a judge who’s sympathetic enough to those who are on the
outside, those who are vulnerable, those who are powerless, those who
can’t have access to political power and as a consequence, can’t protect
themselves from being dealt with sometimes unfairly. Then the courts
become a refuge for judges. That’s been the historic role. That’s what
this role in Brown versus Board of Education. I think a judge who is
unsympathetic to the fact that in some cases, we’ve got to make sure
that civil rights are protected, that we’ve got to make sure that civil
liberties are protected because oftentimes the pressures that are placed
on politicians to want to set civil liberties aside, especially in times
when we’ve had terrorist attacks, making sure that we maintain our
separation of powers so that we don’t have a president who is taking
over more and more power. I think those are all criteria by which I can
judge whether or not this is a good appointee.

BLITZER: Let’s go through a couple foreign policy issues. McCain says if
you had your way, the U.S. would surrender in Iraq. He wants victory.

OBAMA: If I had my way, we would not have gone into Iraq in the first place.

BLITZER: But what about now?

OBAMA: I think it was a huge strategic blunder and I think the American
people are smart enough to understand that a phased withdrawal, where
we’re careful getting out as we were careless getting in, that puts
pressure on Iraqis to stand up and take seriously their obligation to
arrive at a political accommodation at the same time as we are doubling
down on diplomacy in the surrounding region, not just Saudi Arabia,
Turkey and Jordan, but also Syria and Iraq. Then we are also investing
in humanitarian aid for people who have been displaced in Iraq. That’s
not surrendering. That’s a sensible policy that will allow us then to
deal with our biggest strategic problem which is al Qaeda in Afghanistan
and the border region of Pakistan reconstituting themselves. And that’s
something that we have been distracted from and something that I intend
to focus on when I’m president of the United States.

BLITZER: This is going to be a huge difference, the war in Iraq, the
fallout between you and McCain. He also is going after you now. Today’s
the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence. He says you’re not
necessarily endorsing policies that would be good for Israel. He says
this for example. I think it’s very clear who Hamas wants to be the next
president of the United States. I think that people should understand
that I will be Hamas’ worst nightmare. Senator Obama is favored by
Hamas. I think people can make judgments accordingly.

OBAMA: This is offensive and I think it’s disappointing, because John
McCain always says, well, I’m not going to run that kind of politics and
that engages in that kind of smear I think is unfortunate, particularly
since my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his. I’ve said
that they are a terrorist organization and we should not negotiate with
them unless they recognize Israel, renounce violence and unless they’re
willing to abide by previous accords between the Palestinians and the
Israelis. And so for him to toss out comments like that I think is an
example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination. We
don’t need name calling in this debate. What we’re going to need is to
have a serious conversation about how do keep nuclear weapons out of the
hands of the Iranian regime, how do we broker a peace deal between the
Israelis and Palestinians that allows both sides to benefit, Israel
assuring its security and its status as a Jewish state, the Palestinians
able to have a contiguous, functioning state where their people can prosper.

And if we end up continuing to be locked up in these ideological
arguments, playing politics of the sort that we’ve seen John McCain
doing recently, then I think frankly we’re going to miss an opportunity
to really move this country in a better direction and to reset our
foreign policy in a way that I think the world is anxious for. The world
wants to see the United States lead. They’ve been disappointed and
disillusioned over the last seven, eight years. But I think there is
still a sense everywhere I go that if the United States regains its
sense of who it is and our values and our ideals that we will continue
to set the tone for creating a more peaceful and more prosperous world.

BLITZER: I want to move on but on this 60th anniversary of Israel, what
does Israel mean to you?

OBAMA: Israel is not only our strongest ally in the region and one of
our strongest allies in the world but there is a special connection
between America and Israel, one that when I traveled to Israel was evident.

Not only do we share so much in terms of common culture, not only is it
the site of so much of our – my religious your faith and the site of so
much of our understanding of the world around us but what I love about
Israel is it is such a robust democracy and that they are committed to
principles like rule of law and civil rights and civil liberties and so
it is critical that we send a message around the world, we will stand
with Israel, we want them around not just for 60 years but for 600 years
and when I am president of the United States they will have an
unwavering ally in me.

BLITZER: We asked our viewers to send us in some questions and we got
thousands of responses as you can only imagine. I’ve got a couple. I
want you to watch one of those and get your reaction. A lot of people
asked this basic question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appears you do not have enough support among blue
collar workers as Senator Clinton did. Would you consider just on that
basis alone considering her on a joint ticket as vice president?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Well, as I said before, "Time Magazine" notwithstanding, we
haven’t wrapped this thing up yet. At the point where I’m the nominee
I’ll start going through the process of figuring out what my running
mate, who my running mate might be. Senator Clinton has shown herself to
be an extraordinary candidate. She is tireless, she is smart. She is
capable. And so obviously she’d on anybody’s short list to be a
potential vice presidential candidate.

But it would be presumptuous of me at this point when she is still
actively running, when she is highly favored to win two of the next
three contests, for me to somehow suggest that she should be running
mate. At this point I think we have to resolve this process and then we
can figure it out.

BLITZER: There will be plenty of time down the road.

OBAMA: There will be that.

BLITZER: All right. Here is a question. Listen to this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I strongly believe that us human beings are defined
by what we’ve done in our lifetimes. What is the one thing that a
President Barack Obama, what will he be remembered for achieving during
his presidency or during his lifetime?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Well, we’ve got a lot of jobs before us but the most important
thing I think I could achieve if I am looking back eight years from now
and I am fortunate enough to be the president, is that we were able to
navigate our way through this situation in Iraq and the threat of al
Qaeda in Afghanistan in a way that makes us more secure, stronger but
also enhances our influence around the world which I think has been
diminishing.

I think the way we have run this war in Iraq has lessened our ability to
move our allies. It has led us to ignore the critical needs for us to
focus on a sound energy policy in this country. It has left us unable to
lead on critical global issues like global warming and it has led us to
neglect what ultimately is the most important thing to keeping America
safe and that is having an economy that is the envy of the world and
gives us the resources and the power to project ourselves around the world.

If China ends up becoming the economic powerhouse of this century then
their military will ultimately match up with that economic power. So
part of resetting our foreign policy has to include understanding that
there are Americans out there that are struggling.

They want to succeed, they want to get a college education. They want to
be scientists. They want to be on the cutting edge of clean energy. They
want to be on the cutting edge of biotech. But we’re going to have to
make some investments and ensure that the dynamism and the innovation of
the American people is released.

It’s very hard for us to do that when we’re spending close to $200
billion a year in other countries, rebuilding those countries instead of
focusing on making ourselves strong.

BLITZER: We’re out of time but a quick question on this Mother’s Day
weekend. Your mother raised you. She was on food stamps at one point.
Single mother.

If she were alive today and she saw where you have reached, the point
that you have reached right now, what would she say to you?

OBAMA: She’d say don’t let it get to your head, just keep on working
hard. But I think she’d be pretty proud (inaudible). Everything that I
am I owe to her. She was the kindest, most generous person I ever met
and her values and her integrity still guide me. She is somebody who
when I am confronted with difficult choices, I have to ask myself what
would she expect of me? And I think that’s usually a good guidepost.

Now, I’ve got to say that the mother that counts most in my life at the
moment is Michelle who through a very difficult process continues to
raise two of the best daughters that anybody would ever want and she’s
out on the campaign trail at the same time and keeping me straight so
happy Mother’s Day to her as well.

BLITZER: And happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

BLITZER: OK. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

OBAMA: Thank you, Wolf. I enjoyed it.

END


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5 Comments

Terrorists love Democrats because they are not tough commander-in-chiefs. They are great politicians, but lack the leadership skills to defend and protect the citizens of this country. McCain is correct in saying that Hamas would love to have Barrack Hussein Obama be the U.S. President because he is a Muslim w/ sympathy for Muslims. Not good for the U.S. The U.S. must continue to fight terrorism and not allow them to rebuild as during the Clinton Administration.

EXCELLENT INTERVIEW BY OUR NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!

Chicken hawks Bush and Cheney (yes bush served --lotsa blow to friends via his friend Manuel noriega) refused to put into place the plan to take out Bin Laden (Bush Family Friend) in Afghanistan.
Know what you're talking about.

I noticed how Blitzer failed to push him on the capital gains tax increase. Obama wants to nearly double the capital gains tax and yet 75% of people who incur capital gains on investments are making less than $100K When Blitzer asked him about it he gave a lame non-answer about how people who put there money in 401Ks can defer the tax payment. Is Obama really that obtuse? Obviously, the people who are paying capital gains taxes are investing in something other than 401Ks and THEY ARE GENERATING INCOME FROM IT, otherwise they wouldn’t be paying capital gains tax. That means they are making money, which tends to help people. Why doesn’t Obama get this? With a recession looming, Obama is sitting there telling us that he wants to raise taxes and remove the cap on payroll taxes. There is no way around it. These things will hurt the middle class. Obama is clueless when it comes to economics. He thinks that only the “rich” make any money from investments and the poor bitter dolts in the sticks should just be content with putting there money in safe 401Ks or maybe burying it in mason jars out back of the wood pile. Obviously, the class warfare screeds he sat and listened to and applauded at Trinity UCC sunk in deep. For him, it's all about fairness and sticking it to rich "typical white people," even though the rich already generate about 95% of all tax revenues. I can’t believe the
Dems picked this clown to run this year. It’s almost as if they want to lose so they can keep crying about how bad life is under a Republican administration.

Whose losing whose bearings?

Obama recently said, "I plan to campaign in all 57 (yes, fifty-seven) states come this fall."

Is it too late for Hillary?

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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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