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ABC "Good Morning America Interview with Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)


Location: Unknown


MS. SAWYER: Let's start with Iraq, because a number of your Democratic colleagues have said now that they think six to eight months is the time to begin troop withdrawal, phased troop withdrawal. You once said it should begin by the end of this year.

SEN. OBAMA: Right.

MS. SAWYER: Who's right?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, I said it should begin at the end of this year at a time when we weren't certain what was going to happen with the president and how he was going to respond with respect to the secretary of Defense. I think now it's too late to try to start something before the end of the year. What I would do is sit down with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the military that's actually on the ground and figure out how do we fit together a military strategy that can start that phased re-deployment but ensure not total collapse in Iraq, and also make sure that we engage the Iraqi government.

MS. SAWYER: Well, let me ask you about something the Bush administration said during the campaign. They said, the minute this is announced --

SEN. OBAMA: Right.

MS. SAWYER: -- that the insurgents and the terrorists in Iraq have just been emboldened. They know they only have to hold out now for another six to eight months.

SEN. OBAMA: You know, if our only problem was the insurgency, that theory might have some credence. The problem at this point really is sectarian violence and the fact that the current Iraqi government doesn't seem to have the capacity or the will to disarm militias, to get serious about bringing together the sectarian parties and try to deal with this situation, and to engage the regional powers, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, to force them to the table.

And so, the only way I think we can trigger that at this point is to make sure that they know we're serious about not being permanently.

MS. SAWYER: As we know, now that the congressional elections it is on to presidential elections.

SEN. OBAMA: Right.

MS. SAWYER: And never has anybody said I'm thinking about something and created as much as a stir as you do when you say I'm thinking about running for president. I want to ask you -- well, first of all, I have to ask you, any new thoughts this morning in case I missed the lead here?

SEN. OBAMA: (Laughs.) It's only been three or four days. I need a little more time.

MS. SAWYER: Still thinking. All right. There was an article in The Washington Post over the weekend which raised a provocative question --

SEN. OBAMA: Right.

MS. SAWYER: -- and which said that people say -- 90 percent of Americans say that race does not matter when they go to the polls.

SEN. OBAMA: Right.

MS. SAWYER: However, a lot of pollsters think that not everybody is telling the truth. What do you think?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, my sense is, whether it's the African- American candidate running, a woman candidate running, if it's a nontraditional candidate, there's an additional threshold you have to meet. I think you have to show people competence in a way that if you're a white male you may not have to show initially. But once you do, I think people are willing to judge you on the merits. They're willing to judge you as an individual. The key is getting known and getting people comfortable. And at that point, then I think they're willing to look at the individual as opposed to look at their sex or their race.

MS. SAWYER: We have seen new polls this morning about you and Senator Hillary Clinton. Here's my question: Do you think that residual resistance is greater for race or for gender? Is the nation secretly, I guess, more racist or more sexist?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, I really think it comes down to the individual. And the people end up having the sense, will this person look at for the interests of all people? And if they're able to show that and demonstrate that, then I think ultimately it won't make a difference.

MS. SAWYER: All right. I want to turn now to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial if I can.


MS. SAWYER: I know that you'll be participating this morning as well. Of all the things Dr. King said, which is the one that you think -- which is the one that stays on your mind the most? The one to live by?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, he said something two weeks after Bloody Sunday, after the march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge had been turned back. People were, I think, discouraged and despairing that segregation's back might never be broken. And he gathered people together and he said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." And I love that idea, that sometimes we don't see the progress that we're making, but it's there in the horizon. And what I always tell people is that progress doesn't happen on its own. You know, God expects us to put our hand on that arc and bend it in the direction of justice. And that's hopefully what we all try to do in our individual lives. And that is, I hope, one of the messages that comes away from this wonderful memorial.

MS. SAWYER: Well, as we said, it's true history in the making.

SEN. OBAMA: Absolutely. It's wonderful.

MS. SAWYER: Thanks for being here.

MS. SAWYER: Thank you.


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