CNN The Situation Room-Transcript
BLITZER: And joining us now, the senator mentioned by John McCain in that little clip, the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.
Is he accurately representing your position, Senator?
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I think John was misquoting me a little bit there. What I said was that Democrats aren't interested in playing chicken with the troops and that we are absolutely committed to making sure that the troops have the equipment they need in order to come home safely.
But what I also said was, is that this president should, in fact, adopt a sound plan that has already been presented by Congress. It's a plan that is reflective of a plan I put forward back in January, that calls for a phased redeployment. Having our troops out by March 31st of next year. If he decides to veto it, I think the president is the one who is putting troop funding at risk.
My advice at that point to Democrats will be to try to ratchet up the pressure, to shape a series of other conditions that can somehow rein in to be what I consider a continuation of a disastrous course on the part of this administration.
BLITZER: Let me try to pinpoint your position. Senators Harry Reid, the majority leader, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, they say cut off the funding if necessary to end this war. Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, on the other hand, doesn't go that far.
Where do you stand in terms of this debate among Democrats?
OBAMA: I am not yet at the point where I am prepared to say that I'm going to cut off funding, partly because I spend a lot of time in Iowa and Illinois, in small communities where every town hall meeting I have, I meet with a mother whose son or daughter is in Iraq, and they are concerned not only about getting them home, but also concerned about getting them home safely, and making sure they have got the night vision goggles and the armor and so forth.
Now, I think Harry Reid is exactly right that if anybody is putting troops at risk, it is this administration, who is now calling up troops that aren't properly trained, sending them over there on rotations that are too frequent and too long, and that the Democrats have acted in a very responsible fashion. I don't think we're yet at the point where we have to immediately cut off funding.
What I do think we have to do is to continue to put the pressure on the president and get more Republicans to listen to their constituents, who are suggesting that, in fact, it's time for us to bring this war to a close.
BLITZER: In the statement you released earlier in the day, reacting to Senator McCain's speech on Iraq, some of the references you make to ideological fantasies. You said: "What we need today is a surge in honesty."
It looks like you are directly going after Senator McCain's credibility on this issue.
OBAMA: Well, look, the -- I have enormous respect for John McCain, but I think he is flat wrong on this issue. And I think he has been wrong for some time. What we have continued to see, over the last four to five years, is the constant presentation by the administration and prominent supporters like John McCain that we are making progress and that things are terrific in Iraq. And that's not the case.
It is belied by every bit of information that comes over CNN and every other newscast, and by people who are on the ground, and by those of us who make visits to Iraq. The fact of the matter is, is that we have a sectarian civil war. We may temporarily put the lid on some of the violence by sending additional American troops there. The price for that is additional American casualties.
But what we haven't done is change the fundamental dynamic on the ground. And that is going to require that Shia, Sunni and Kurds come to a political accommodation and we generate the kind of regional diplomacy that has been absent for the last several years. BLITZER: We're out of time, Senator, but a quick reaction to the Don Imus uproar. Do you believe he should be fired?
OBAMA: I believe that NBC should not be having hosts like Don Imus who are making derogatory statements towards and women and minorities. I've got two young daughters who I hope will be athletes. And, you know, the notion that somehow they would be degraded and insulted, and that that would pass as humor, and that NBC would be running that over the public airwaves I think is atrocious.
BLITZER: Senator Obama, thanks very much for coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM.
OBAMA: Thank you.