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National Public Radio "All Things Considered" - Transcript

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National Public Radio "All Things Considered"

MS. BLOCK: First this hour: A conversation with Senator Barack Obama. He and his rival, Senator Hillary Clinton, campaigned across Pennsylvania today on the eve of tomorrow's primary there. Pennsylvania is a key contest. Obama is spending heavily and hopes to drive Senator Clinton out of the Democratic race. Nationally, he leads in both the popular vote and in pledged delegates. Clinton is playing up doubts about Obama's readiness to be president.

I spoke with Barack Obama earlier today. We reached him on his cell phone.

Senator Obama, welcome back to the program.

SEN. OBAMA: Thank you so much for having me.

MS. BLOCK: Senator Obama, the most recent Hillary Clinton ad running in Pennsylvania talks about the president needing to be ready for anything. And it shows images of the stock market crash and Pearl Harbor. There's an image of Osama bin Laden. And it quotes Harry Truman:

(Video Excerpt.)

MS. BLOCK: "Who do you think has what it takes" is the tag line. What's your response to that ad?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, I think the answer is "Barack Obama." That may not be the answer she was looking for.

MS. BLOCK: Has what it takes?

SEN. OBAMA: I think that on critical issues of both domestic and foreign policy, Senator Clinton has generally embraced the conventional view. She has often times gone along with the politics of the moment. And as a consequence, I don't think she's equipped to actually bring about the changes that are needed to bring different results when it comes to both domestic and foreign policy.

MS. BLOCK: Again, the message there seems to be "untested, not ready, dangerous times."

SEN. OBAMA: And you know, this is a message she's been peddling for the last 15 months. It hasn't been particularly effective, because I think the American people understand they don't need somebody who's going to do the same old things the same old ways. And they suspect that it'll result in the same old lack of results.

MS. BLOCK: Your campaign has been reaching out to a key constituency in Pennsylvania -- that's gun owners. It's a state with a lot of pro-gun voters. At the same time, if you look at what's happened over the weekend in your city of Chicago -- nine people shot and killed; five gun deaths in Philadelphia, where you are right now, over the weekend. How do you square those two things?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, one of the problems is, is that we've had gun owners and people who are worried about gun deaths talk past each other instead of talk to each other. And I think if they start talking to each other, we can reconcile a tradition of lawful gun ownership in this country with a belief in some commonsense measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, people who are mentally ill, children.

You know, when you talk to the average law abiding gun owner about the need for, example, to trace weapons that have been used in crimes to where they were sold, so that we can crack down on unscrupulous gun dealers, I think the average law-abiding gun owner agrees with that. The problem is that the debate's gotten so polarized that we don't make much progress.

And I think it's important for those of us in urban communities to recognize that people's attitudes about guns may be different in different regions of the country, but there's no reason why we can't come together to make sure that we preserve our traditions, but also our children aren't gunned down on the streets.

MS. BLOCK: Do you have a position on the D.C. handgun ban -- the case that's gone before the Supreme Court?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, my general view -- and this is colored by having taught constitutional law for 10 years -- is that as a constitutional matter, the 2nd Amendment probably should recognize an individual right to own firearms. But just because you have an individual right doesn't mean that the public at large doesn't also have a countervailing right to protect the public safety. I mean, we all have rights to own private property, but that doesn't mean that zoning laws are unconstitutional.

And I think that we'll -- you know, I don't know all the details and specifics of the D.C. gun law, but I do know that local communities -- as well as states and the federal government -- can institute some commonsense gun laws and that will survive constitutional scrutiny.

MS. BLOCK: Let's talk a little about tomorrow's vote in Pennsylvania. In big states up until now -- New York, Ohio, Texas -- you haven't been able to overtake Hillary Clinton. And people have said, he's done really well in some smaller states, but the big states have been a problem. One big state tomorrow: Pennsylvania.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, we're looking forward to, you know, some good results in Pennsylvania. But keep in mind -- I just want to question the premise of your question. Illinois is a pretty big state. And you know, it may be discounted because it's my home state, but last time I checked, New York is Hillary Clinton's home state.

California, I don't think that there's any doubt that I would win California in a general election. Virginia, which I won handily; Minnesota, which I won handily; Georgia, which I won handily -- all big states.

So you know, there's been a tendency to cherry pick which states are important and which aren't. You know, this is sort of the bias of our political pundits over the last several years is just to focus on a few states and think that they're the important ones. We think we can win states like Virginia and Colorado that haven't been in play for a very long time. And frankly, Senator Clinton couldn't put in play, but I can.

MS. BLOCK: And can you win Pennsylvania tomorrow?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, I wouldn't be campaigning here if I didn't think that we could win. But there's no doubt that she had a big advantage here to start with. She comes from a border state that shares a media market with Philadelphia. She has the support of a very popular Democratic governor. But that's why it's hard to extrapolate from what happens during a primary.

I don't think there's any doubt that Governor Ed Rendell, the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, will be pushing hard on my behalf come the General Election. And the same is true in Ohio with Governor Ted Strickland. So we feel very confident about our ability to win in November. And I feel confident that we'll do just fine tomorrow.

MS. BLOCK: Senator Obama, thank you for your time.

SEN. OBAMA: Thank you so much. Bye, bye.

MS. BLOCK: Barack Obama spoke with me as he was on route from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.


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