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CBS "Early Show" Interview with Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)


Location: Unknown


MR. SMITH: You know, there were a number of senators who were in the House chamber last night watching the president with particular interest, and especially thinking that maybe two years from now they'll be standing where the president's standing; and among them, the junior senator from Illinois, Senator Barack Obama.

Good morning, sir.

SEN. OBAMA: Good morning, Harry.

MR. SMITH: The most important thing the president talked about last night was trying to resell his increase in troop levels in Iraq. As you listened to him last night, what were you thinking?

SEN. OBAMA: I was thinking that he has not made the case. I think we've had hearings over the last two weeks at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Uniformly, whether conservative, liberal, military, civilian, the experts believe, as I believe, that an additional 20,000 troops is not going to change the dynamic there. It'll put more of our young men and women in harm's way without solving the essential political problem that exists in Iraq right now.

MR. SMITH: What about the notion that, even if we stayed at the status quo, or if there was a drawdown, it's an invitation to even more chaos, to even more bloodshed between Sunni and Shi'a?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, I originally opposed this war precisely because I thought that once we were in, it would become a morass. And there's no doubt that there are risks no matter what we do at this point. But what's clear is that we can't impose a military solution on Shi'a, Sunni and Kurds, who are unwilling to come together and accommodate themselves. And if that's the case, then what we have to do is change the dynamic by de-escalating, by bringing some of our troops home and forcing them to the table.

MR. SMITH: If we woke up tomorrow and all of a sudden Prime Minister Maliki had backbone that he hasn't had thus far and said, "Please come in; please help us do this together," might you change your mind?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, keep in mind that what I've called for is a phased withdrawal. We wouldn't pull all our troops out immediately. We would have time to make adjustments, consulting not just with the Iraqi government but our military commanders in the field.

MR. SMITH: Is there anything the president talked about last night that you particularly warmed to?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, he talked about health care and energy. And although the approach he takes is different than the one I would take, I think Democrats have to engage him in that because those are two critical issues facing the country. And I think he deserves a lot of credit for the work he's already done and wants to continue to do on issues of AIDS and malaria, particularly in Africa.

MR. SMITH: Right. He didn't quite say global warming last night --

SEN. OBAMA: But he mentioned -- the idea of climate change finally passed his lips. That's long overdue. Obviously there's great urgency in dealing with a threat to the entire planet.

MR. SMITH: One of the things in particular that has interest of your state is he really wants to boost biofuels --

SEN. OBAMA: Right.

MR. SMITH: -- in particular, ethanol.

SEN. OBAMA: Right.

MR. SMITH: Your fellow senator from Iowa almost came out of his suit last night when he talked about it.


MR. SMITH: What was your thought?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, I actually have worked with Senator Grassley of Iowa and others on this issue, and so this is something that I will be strongly supportive of.

MR. SMITH: You've announced your exploratory committee. You've been out on the stump now. What has that experience been like? What has it taught you thus far?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, the American people are hungry for change. They are very eager for ideas on how we can move forward on issues like health care and retirement security. And they really want to see us regain leadership in the world, something that we've lost over the last six years. So they're looking for some concrete, practical, common-sense solutions to the problems we face.

MR. SMITH: Since you're now actually in this race, it doesn't come without some rough edges. There's a report in an online site that you actually attended a madrassa. That has then been reported by other cable news outlets. Do you want to clear the air of that or explain it?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I mean, CNN did a great job. Sorry to mention your competitor, but they actually went to the school that I attended for two years when I was seven and eight in Indonesia, and it showed that it was an ordinary public school. So, yeah, these kinds of scurrilous attacks are going to be out there. Unfortunately, they get repeated. And fortunately some good journalists showed that they were complete fabrications.

MR. SMITH: All right, Senator Obama, thank you so much for your time this morning; do appreciate it, sir.

SEN. OBAMA: Thank you so much.


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