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Public Statements

CBS "Early Show" - Transcript

Interview

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Date:
Location: Unknown

MR. SMITH: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are each spending a million-and-a-half dollars a day in their run-up to Super Tuesday. Yesterday, I went down to Wilmington, Delaware to see the senator appear in front of 20,000 people. The senator is solidifying his stand on Iraq, saying no to permanent bases, no occupation, and more.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

MR. SMITH: There are thousands and thousands of people, and more stacked up in the streets out there.

SEN. OBAMA: Right.

MR. SMITH: When you look at that, what do you think?

SEN. OBAMA: I think the American people are desperate for change.

MR. SMITH: You see that, though. I mean, there's responsibility that goes along with that.

SEN. OBAMA: I am mindful and prayerful that when I speak, that I am speaking truthfully.

MR. SMITH: With the contest now turned into a national primary, Obama is racing to get in front of as many faces as he can.

(To Sen. Obama.) They can't wait to see you. They can't wait to hear you.

SEN. OBAMA: If I'm talking to 20 people or 20,000 people, I figure they're just as important.

MR. SMITH: This is it -- the final pitch to convince his party that he is their man.

(To Sen. Obama.) Let's assume for a second you get the nomination. Who do you like running against better, Mitt or Mac?

SEN. OBAMA: (Laughs.) You know, I know this is a cliche, but it's really true. I am willing to run against either of them, because both of them have essentially embraced George Bush's economic policies and George Bush's foreign policy. So there will be a stark contrast between myself and a Senator McCain or a Mitt Romney.

Now, I think that that is a harder claim for Senator Clinton to make, certainly when it comes to foreign policy.

MR. SMITH: Over the last 48 hours or so, we're reminded of how serious the situation is in Iraq.

SEN. OBAMA: Absolutely.

MR. SMITH: Commanders there saying, "Maybe we ought to freeze this troop drawdown because we're not sure how this is going to work."

SEN. OBAMA: Right.

MR. SMITH: Suicide bombers come, kill dozens and dozens and dozens of people.

SEN. OBAMA: Heartbreaking.

MR. SMITH: If you are to be elected president and your commanders on the ground there and your secretary of Defense said, "Hold back; you can't be pulling these people out; we're going to create a civil war and a bloodbath," what would you do?

SEN. OBAMA: My job as commander in chief is to keep the American people safe. But I firmly believe that we have to send a signal to the Iraqis that it is time to withdraw. We will not have a permanent base there. We will not have a permanent occupation there.

MR. SMITH: Even if --

SEN. OBAMA: Within those constraints --

MR. SMITH: Even if it meant the beginning of civil war?

SEN. OBAMA: No, no, no. Within those constraints, I think there is going to be some flexibility. And obviously I would consult with commanders. We have to be mindful of the situation on the ground and what the commanders say.

Having said that, what we can't do is simply say, "We are going to leave it open-ended," the way John McCain, for example, suggested; we might be there 50 years or 100 years. That is not going to make the American people safe over the long term, not only because of the loss of life, not only because of the anti-American sentiment that it fans and the constraints it places on our diplomacy, but also because we can't afford it. It's costing us $9 billion per month.

MR. SMITH: Have you and Senator Clinton buried the hatchet?

SEN. OBAMA: (Laughs.) Look, as I said in the last debate, Senator Clinton was a friend of mine before we started this campaign. She will be a friend afterwards. We're in the heat of a contest.

MR. SMITH: So many Democrats were sitting there sort of drooling, looking at the two of you together as a dream ticket. Could you say -- is that conceivable to you?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, I think it would be presumptuous for me to expect Senator Clinton to accept the vice presidency. I think she's in the middle of a contest for the presidency, as am I. And, you know, we're --

MR. SMITH: And?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, and --

MR. SMITH: If she offered it to you?

SEN. OBAMA: Harry, I intend to win the presidency. That's what I'm running for.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

MR. SMITH: More now on my exclusive interview with Barack Obama.

Race has always been a big issue in California. And while Obama holds the advantage among black voters, I asked him if he can win the all-important Hispanic vote.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

SEN. OBAMA: Si se puede.

MR. SMITH: It is possible.

SEN. OBAMA: Anything is possible. Look, my belief with respect to the Latino vote was always that if they knew my track record, we could hold our own. And we've done a lot of advertising. I think that Ted Kennedy's support and his campaigning there makes a difference, because he can validate the work that I've done on comprehensive immigration reform and other issues.

But this whole notion that somehow Latinos wouldn't vote for blacks or vice versa, that has been disputed consistently in California itself. The real issue is whether or not people have a sense of your track record and know who you are. The more they know, I think the better we do.

OPRAH WINFREY: (From videotape.) You're fired up because of one man -- Barack Obama. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. SMITH: Today, out in California, your wife and Oprah and Caroline -- that's a pretty formidable force.

SEN. OBAMA: That's an all-star team. That's why I'm staying out of the way. You know, I can't stand up under that kind of glare. And I think that a lot of people in California, as the race has gone on, have taken a look at our candidacy. We were down 30. I don't know where we're at now, but we're certainly not down 30.

MR. SMITH: Some people are just waking up to this.

SEN. OBAMA: Yeah.

MR. SMITH: There are not many hours left to this election.

SEN. OBAMA: Right.

MR. SMITH: And they're saying, "I don't know this guy." If you met me on a rope line and had 30 seconds to make the sale, what would you tell me?

SEN. OBAMA: I would tell you that I've spent my entire life devoted to working for change from the bottom up, as a community organizer, as a civil rights attorney, as a professor of constitutional law, as a state legislator and a U.S. senator.

MR. SMITH: But I might be sitting there kind of clicking my tongue saying, "He's so young. He seems so young."

SEN. OBAMA: Well, they should know I'm older than I look. It's these big ears. I'll be -- I'm 46. I'll be 47 in August, by the time I'm sworn in; so older than Bill Clinton was when he was first elected.

MR. SMITH: So what's going to happen Tuesday?

SEN. OBAMA: Nobody knows. But it should be exciting. I think that we're now pretty evenly matched across the country. So it will be a tough contest. And it's not clear that February 5th is going to be as decisive as people expected. We may have a little bit more work to do after that.


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