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MSNBC - Transcript

Interview

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MS. NOVOTNY: Joining me now, live from St. Louis, is Barack Obama supporter Senator Claire McCaskill.

So, Senator, how much of this trip is about filling in the foreign policy resume, as some have suggested, about looking presidential? And how much of this is about assessing the current situation on the ground and potentially using that information to inform policy decisions, including Senator Obama were elected?

SEN. MCCASKILL: Well, Senator Obama is traveling first to visit with some of our strongest allies in the world and make sure that he begins this process focusing on building alliances and a strong principle diplomacy that will ultimately keep us much safer than this administration's policies.

And when he goes to Iraq and Afghanistan, he's going to be focusing on the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan as it relates to the Taliban and al Qaeda, which has allowed really to get a foothold again because of the fact that we have been pinned down in Iraq. And I think that he is fully committed to what he has talked about through this entire campaign, and that is quickly, carefully and reasonably getting out of Iraq so we can focus on the bigger picture, and that is the rise of al Qaeda across the world, not just in Iraq.

MS. NOVOTNY: Let me ask you about the withdrawal more specifically.

In this week's New Yorker, George Packer writes about Obama's original withdrawal plan in the context of what we're now seeing as a relative stabilization in parts of Iraq. And he writes about Obama, quote, "He doubtless realizes that his original plan, if implemented now, could revive the badly wounded al Qaeda in Iraq, reenergize the Sunni insurgency, embolden Muqtada al-Sadr to recoup his militia's recent losses to the Iraqi army, and return the central government to a state of collapse. The question is whether Obama will publicly change course before November."

Will he?

SEN. MCCASKILL: Well, first -- no. No, he will not. And Senator Obama fundamentally disagrees with that assessment.

If you can't leave Iraq when it's stable and you can't leave Iraq when it's not stable, that means that we are stuck with George Bush and John McCain; we can never leave Iraq.

We cannot economically afford to keep borrowing 2 (billion dollars) to $3 billion a week from China. That's why gas prices are so high. People are speculating in commodities because nobody wants to go near our dollar. We cannot -- it is unsustainable to continue to prop up in a middle of a civil war an Iraqi government that will not step up and do what they need to do to take over for their country.

MS. NOVOTNY: Senator McCaskill --

SEN. MCCASKILL: Now is the time that we need to carefully and reasonably withdraw.

MS. NOVOTNY: Senator, while I have you here, I know that you've heard all about General Wesley Clark and his comments, and he's not backing down from those comments. He appeared again last night on "Verdict with Dan Abrams" not backing down from them. What is the campaign's response to hearing that he's not stepping away from those comments?

SEN. MCCASKILL: Well, I think that Senator Obama has been very clear. It is inappropriate in any campaign, ever, to devalue anyone's service to our country. That's what they did to John Kerry four years ago.

He will not be a part of it. This campaign will not be a part of it. I -- I think he respects the service of General Wesley Clark. I think Senator Obama understands that Senator -- that General Clark is speaking from his own perspective. But for this campaign, for the Obama campaign, it is never about devaluing someone's service to our country.

Patriotism is about serving your country and your community, and that's what Senator Obama wants this discussion to be about. He values what Senator McCain did for our country. He knows he's a hero. And we need to stay focused on the issues that are going to make a difference for the American people in November.

MS. NOVOTNY: All right, Senator.

Finally, I just have to ask you, from our friends over at "Heard on the Hill" at Roll Call -- I'm sure you saw this -- they talked about you on the floor yesterday with your friend, Jim Webb, senator, of course, from Virginia. Apparently they say that you, along with a clutch of other freshmen, were hanging out together on the chamber floor. Webb stood up from his seat to make his way to the podium to give a speech and you called after him, "Oh, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Vice President." And of course, the speculation is, do you know something that we don't know?

SEN. MCCASKILL: (Laughs.) No, I just know that my good friend Jim Webb deserves to be teased and we were teasing him. In fact, there is a lot of teasing going on in the Senate right now. Just about everybody walking around there you could tease and call Mr. Vice President or Mrs. Vice President, either one.

MS. NOVOTNY: Or Mrs. Vice President, exactly.

SEN. MCCASKILL: There you go.

MS. NOVOTNY: And I've asked you before, and I know what you always say, that you love your job and that that's what you're focused on, so I guess we'll leave it at that.

SEN. MCCASKILL: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MS. NOVOTNY: All right. Senator McCaskill, thanks so much for your time. Good to talk to you.

SEN. MCCASKILL: Thank you.


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