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CNN The Situation Room - Transcript

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BLITZER: What about this Republican effort right now to paint not only you, but almost all Democrats as weak on terror? In the words of one House Republican leader, "more interested in protecting terrorists than the American public"?

How are you going to fight back on that?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Well, first of all, I hope they didn't say it about me personally. This is the usual routine that the Republicans have trotted out before every election. And the question is, is it going to work a third time despite the irrefutable evidence that the policy in Iraq that they pursued has failed, that Afghanistan is getting worse, that every intelligence officer that you talk to and every objective observer that you talk to would indicate that we actually have more active terrorists around the world than we did at the time of 9/11. BLITZER: But the president says that may be true but right now Iraq has become the centerpiece in the war on terrorism and it's better for the U.S. to be fighting terrorists there than to let them come to the United States.

OBAMA: Wolf, there was just a report in the last week indicating how badly the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating. The place where the people who actually carried out the 9/11 attacks have been making a haven. We know that in fact the number of U.S. troops and the number of NATO troops that have been killed in Afghanistan actually exceeds the number that have been killed in Iraq.

So I think it's a little difficult for the administration to credibly claim that somehow their strategy has been successful when the situation is rapidly deteriorating in the area there was bipartisan unanimous support to act and strike to dismantle al Qaeda. Finally we have a situation in which Osama bin Laden is still at large and is still engineering these activities.

BLITZER: How do you explain, senator, how do you explain the point that the president and others keep hammering that it's been five years since 9/11 and there's been no terror attack here in the United States and that this administration deserves some credit for that.

OBAMA: Listen, first of all, I think that's a wonderful thing. That transcends politics. The notion that somehow any of us want terrorist attacks, that I want my eight-year-old daughter or five- year-old daughter subject to terrorist attacks I think is ridiculous. So when you hear House members make some of the statements that they've made, I think they are frankly offensive and I think they were intended as such to pick a political fight.

There is no doubt that we have taken some good steps. I think that the administration has done a good job when it comes to dealing with the financial networks that terrorists utilize. I think that we have made some improvements in terms of how we monitor people who come into this country. But our overarching foreign policy I think has made us less safe rather than more safe.

BLITZER: Let's talk about what is being described as your first major legislative achievement since becoming a United States senator. Lifting the veil, if you will, on some of the federal spending. Almost all of the federal spending. The pork barrel spending, as it's called.

You and Republican Senator Tom Coburn managed to get legislation through. It has still got to work its way through the process with the House. But there were two U.S. senators who tried to block this in secret. Eventually they failed. Ted Stevens and Robert Byrd. When you see them, what do you say to the guys who wanted to put a hold, as it's called, on this legislation?

OBAMA: Look, I admire Robert Byrd tremendously and I admire Ted Stevens. Some of this is I think generational. Get some of the old lions here in the legislature. They are accustomed to doing things certain ways. And I think what Tom Coburn and myself have simply been trying to do that most federal spending is well spent.

There is some waste, abuse and fraud. The more transparency we have in the system the more accountability we have in the system. The more accountability we have to the American people, to the taxpayers, the more likely that our money is going to be well spent.

And this bill, which actually passed the House yesterday, so we expect a bill signing sometime next week, does something very simple. It says we're going to create a searchable database that anybody can access to track where the federal money is going.

Let me read to you, Senator, what you were quoted as saying in your hometown newspaper, the "Chicago Sun-Times" in November of 2004: "I am not running for president in 2008. The only reason I'm being definitive is because until I'm definitive you" -- referring to reporters -- "will keep asking me this question, but it's a silly question." Is it a silly question? Because I'll ask you flat out, are you thinking right now of throwing your hat in the ring and running for the Democratic presidential nomination?

OBAMA: Well, let's put this in context, Wolf. That question was asked of me the day after I had been elected to the United States Senate. I hadn't been sworn in yet, I hadn't gotten an office here in the Senate, and, you know, I thought the question was silly.

You know, I have not changed my mind in the intervening two years, in terms of my attitude toward 2008. I'm focused on 2006 and trying to make sure that we can recapture the Senate and recapture the House. That's my focus. That's what I'm going to concentrate on.

BLITZER: Because I asked the question in the context of where you're going to be this weekend, namely in a neighboring state called Iowa. You're going out to Iowa. When any politician at this time of the year, this time of the political cycle goes to Iowa, you know what us political reporters, what we think.

OBAMA: Well, look, Wolf, if you look at my calendar over the next two months, I'm going to be traveling to every single state where there are contested races, where there's an opportunity for us either to win the House or the Senate.

Now, it turns out that there are a couple of important House races in Iowa, there an important governor's race in Iowa. For me to avoid Iowa simply because I'm worried about what reporters think when it's right next door to my home state of Illinois wouldn't make much sense.

BLITZER: Can we hear that Shermanesque statement about 2008? Are you ready to make that statement right now?

OBAMA: Wolf, I have given you more than enough to work with, at least for the next week.

BLITZER: Well I got a little opening there. I'm hearing a little opening. You're smiling. We'll see what happens. Senator Barack Obama, thanks very much for coming in. OBAMA: It was great to talk to you, Wolf.


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