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CBS "Evening News with Katie Couric" - Transcript


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MS. COURIC: In just 48 days, Americans decide whether Barack Obama or John McCain become the 44th President of the United States.

Tonight, we're beginning a new series, Presidential Questions, which goes well beyond the usual sound bites. Some questions will be about policy; others will be more personal. All will give you a better sense of who these men are and what has shaped them.

We begin tonight with a question on the minds of almost every American.

Why do you think there has not been another terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11? And as president, how would you prevent that from happening again?


SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think that the initial invasion into Afghanistan disrupted al Qaeda and that was the right thing to do, I mean, we had to knock out those safe havens and that, I think, weakened them. We did some work in strengthening our homeland security apparatus here, obviously, the average person knows that whenever they go to the airport because they are going through, taking off their shoes and all that.

The problem is when we got distracted by Iraq, we gave al Qaeda time to reconstitute itself and we now know based on all the intelligence available to us that the, in fact, have set up safe havens back in Afghanistan, in the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are now carrying out very aggressive actions against U.S. troops in Afghanistan and they are training to attack the United States once again.

So now my hope, obviously, is that we continue to prevent them from being able to move at all out of those safe havens, but our intelligence indicates that the danger, the likelihood of a potential attack is significantly higher now and that has been an enormous mistake that I intend to correct when I'm President of the United States.

MS. COURIC: What one personal flaw do you think might hinder your ability to be president?

SEN. OBAMA: I don't think there's a flaw that would hinder my ability to function as president. I think that all of us have things we need to improve. I said during the primary that my management of paper can sometimes be a problem.

MS. COURIC: You can come up with something better than that though, can't you?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I just used as an example of something that I'm constantly trying to work on. What is often a strength can be a weakness. So, for me, there are times where I want to think through all our options and at some point you've got to make sure that we're making a decision. So far, at least, I've proven to be pretty good about knowing when that time is and I think as president with all the information that's coming at you constantly, you're never going to have 100 percent information and you've just got to make the call quickly and surely and I think that's a capacity that I've shown myself to have.

MS. COURIC: You know, I'm not an objective observer. I would think that probably, I think that would have to be to make sure that I don't make any decisions that are not fully informed by every source of information that's credible I can possibly get. When I see and read history, I see sometimes that presidents make judgments that they only consulted a small circle of people and sometimes those were only those who agreed with that president.

I've got to make sure that I reach out to Democrats, to Republicans, to people who have opposing views because when we're making decisions about the future of the country, you cannot discount practically any viewpoint.

So what happens to presidents in history is they get in bubbles and they don't get all the information they need to make the best judgments. I've got to guard against that.

MS. COURIC: Now, tomorrow in our special series, Where They Stand, we'll take a closer look at the candidates' positions on national security, specifically where they stand on dealing with the threat of Islamic extremism.

And on Friday, we're going to go on the road for a behind-the- scenes look at vice presidential candidate Joe Biden's campaign.

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