Obama: "Beware of the Dog" (named Super Delegates)

Transcript des aktuellen ABC Interviews

Leon Harris: Hello and good evening everyone – I’m ABC 7’s Leon Harris, along with my colleague John Harris. Editor in chief of The Politico. We are here on the eve of the Chesapeake primary here in the region, and on this night, we want to go ahead and spend some time with the leading Democratic contenders. Joining us for the next half-hour, uninterrupted, is Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Barack Obama: Good to see you. Thank you so much for having me.

LH: Well let’s get right to it. As you know, there is tremendous interest in this race between you and Sen. Clinton. As a matter of fact, since that debate you all had with CNN/Politico/L.A. Times – that debate had a record audience. Since then, she’s been calling for regular debates with you, but you’ve been holding off on that – you’ve been stalling. Now usually when a candidate does not agree to debates, it’s because they either 1) think they have the race fully in hand or 2) they think that the other candidate is better in that format. What’s your reason on hold off with debates on Sen. Clinton?

BO: I don’t think that’s actually the two reasons that you might not want to debate. The other reason might be that you want to talk to voters when you’ve got seven primaries in seven days. Understand what’s happened in this race – where we campaign actively in a state, and voters have the chance to see me directly, they check under the hood, and they kick the tires, when we don’t have as much time – on Super Tuesday for example, a big state like California – where we can’t cover the waterfront, Sen. Clinton ends up winning because people are much more familiar with her. So our goal is always to make sure as much as possible that we can talk to voters directly. And when you’ve got seven races in seven days, then we’ve got to make sure that we’re not using all that time preparing for a debate. We’ve already agreed to two debates, in addition to the 18 that we’ve already had. So I think it would be hard to argue that we’ve somehow had a shortage of debates, and the American people want to find out directly from us what we’re going to do on critical issues like health care, like critical issues like making sure that college is affordable, and that’s what we do in formats like the one we had today.

LH: Well, there has been no shortage of debates, but that’s the first time we’ve seen a debate between the two of you, debating one-on-one. And that seems to be the kind of thing people want to see more of.

BO: You know, I don’t hear people just clamoring for debates. Look – we’re going to have two more scheduled. What I think people really want to see is the kind of town halls we had today where people have a chance to answer and ask questions of me directly.

John Harris: Senator, as you know, there’s a large and growing population of Hispanic voters right here in the Washington area. And Politico reader James Park (sp?) of Washington notes the

huge disparity between the vote you’ve been winning between black voters and white voters compared to Latino voters.

And he wants to know, what is your plan to address this disparity. And if I could add, what explains that disparity in the first place?

BO: Well, again, I think it’s just lack of information. I think Sen. Clinton – partly because of her husband Bill Clinton’s presidency, are just more familiar with the Clinton brand name. And my vote among Latinos in my home state of Illinois, when I ran for example, was 75 percent, despite having a very strong Hispanic candidate in the race. We actually won the Latino vote in Iowa, where I had a chance to work consistently with the Latino community, to tell them about my track record on critical issues that they’re concerned about, whether it’s drop-out rates or comprehensive immigration reform.

JH: You don’t expect then that there’s a disparity between Hispanics and African-Americans

BO: That’s been a very damaging, I think, myth, that’s been perpetrated during the course of this campaign. Again, in my own race, the Latino vote was a critical part of my coalition. On major races across the country – mayor’s races, legislative races, you’ve seen Latinos support African-American candidates. But they need to know who those candidates are. And so what we saw on Super Tuesday was that I did better with Latinos that I had in Nevada because we had more time to campaign. In Arizona, for example, we got over 40 percent of the Latino vote and we expect that will grow as we put more energy and effort into meeting with those groups.

JH: Let’s go to a question, for a moment, about nomination politics.

As you know, this very close contest might be decided by party insiders – the so-called superdelegates.

We’ve got a rather mischievous question here from Politico reader Rachel McCauffey. (sp?) of College Park, Md. Sen. Clinton just won the primary in the state of Massachusetts. Would you urge your super delegates, such as Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, to follow the will of the people, and back Sen. Clinton at the convention?

BO: Well, here’s what I think is important. We’ve got to make sure that whoever wins the most votes, the most states, the most delegates, that they are the nominee.

I think it would be problematic if either Sen. Clinton or myself came in with having won the most support from voters, and that was somehow overturned by party insiders.

( Schon jetzt hängt dieses Damoklesschwert über Obama, und er weiß es allzu gut:

Er könnte die Mehrheit der Stimmen gewinnen und am Ende doch abhängig werden von den Superdelegates, die in ihrer Entscheidung nicht gebunden sind.

Das wäre dann wie bei Al Gore in 2000 eine weiterer Fall, in dem ein Kandidat die “popular vote” gewinnt und die Wahl verliert.

Sollte es dazu kommen, würde voraussichtlich das exakte Gegenteil von Aufbruchstimmung erzeugt. Das wissen allerdings auch die Superdelegates. Daher tendiere ich zur Annahme, dass sie diesen Teufel nicht aus der Flasche lassen. Daher winkt Obama jetzt mit dem Zaunpfahl: )

I think the super delegates would feel as if the voters’ voices had been discounted.

Now, as you know, these are all allocated on a congressional district-by-district basis, and so how super delegates want to vote their conscience, that’s up to them. But I do know that the bottom line is that our goal is to win the most super delegates from the voters, and if we accomplish that I think we’re going to be able to lay fair claim to the nomination.

LH: What do you think should happen, then, to the delegates in Michigan and Florida? You talk about voters thinking their votes are not going to be counted in this process? What about that?

BO: You know, all we’ve done in this process is to just follow the rules as they’ve been laid out. I love the voters of Michigan and I love the voters in Florida, and I want them to participate. We abided by the rules that had been set up by the DNC, and all the candidates had agreed to those rules, so we didn’t campaign there.

JH: Just to be blunt, is Sen. Clinton trying to change the rules in the middle of the game?

BO: What I would argue would be that it certainly wouldn’t be fair to allocate delegates based on a non-campaign. We did not campaign in those states. So there may be ways that we can manage this – having a caucus for example, in either of those states, that gives both of us an opportunity compete for delegates. But I just want to make a broad point. The untold story in this campaign has been the enormous upsurge in involvement in Democratic primaries across the board. I mean, we had more Democrats in South Carolina than Republicans in the primary, which is unheard of. In Iowa, we had young people under 30 voting at the same rates as people over 60. Part of what our campaign has done, I think, is tapped into enormous interest on the part of the American people to have a government that is responsive to them, that is dealing with kitchen table, bread-and-butter issues that they’re trying to deal with, like paying for college education for their kids, making sure they’ve got health care, making sure that there are jobs here in the United States that aren’t being shipped away – the home foreclosure crisis that people are concerned about. And so part of the reason we’re doing well is not only are we addressing those specific problems, but also we’re saying, ‘You’ve got to be involved in this process if we’re going to make a difference if we’re going to change how business is done in Washington.’”

JH: Still, at the end of the days there’s a choice between you and Sen. Clinton among Democrats, you recently insisted that Sen. Clinton should release her tax record. Now there have been some stories in the media lately about some of Bill Clintons’ business dealings. It sounds like you’ve got some very specific concerns about the Clintons’ finances. What are they?

BO: You know, I did not insist that they release their finances. Reporters asked me,

“What about the fact that Sen. Clinton has put $5 million into her campaign?”

I said, “Well look, I don’t have $5 million to put in.” I think she has every right to spend her own money.

They asked then, do you think they should disclose their finances? What I said was, all I’ve said is I’ve released my income tax returns. Because I think it is appropriate, for people running for the highest office in the land, for people to have a sense of how you make your money. Now, I think it’s up to Sen. Clinton and President Clinton to determine whether they want to follow my lead on it.
( Sehr geschickt. Und dazu moralisch einwandfrei. )

JH: Are there some things you would like to know about how they’ve made their money?

BO: It’s not a question of what I want to know. It’s a question of what the American people deserve to know, which is how people’s finances are handled . This has been a longstanding tradition in presidential politics – like releasing your medical records – it’s part of the basis on which people make a determination about how you’re going to perform as president.

LH: Let’s bring it back to the region. We have talked a lot about your time in the streets of Chicago as an organizer. Let’s bring it to the streets of D.C. If you are elected, what’s the symbolism of that achievement? People are wondering, what kind of difference are people going to make in their streets? Can you say, in practical terms, how their lives are going to be affected or changed by you being in the White House?

BO: Absolutely, but it’s not just African-Americans. It’s people who are struggling generally. Let’s talk about what we need to do with our schools. We’ve talked about putting $18 billion in our schools – early childhood education, so that children are prepared and can close the achievement gap. Paying our teachers higher salaries – giving them more support and training. Making sure that are colleges of education are accredited, so that we’re ramping up standards. Making sure that young people who have graduated from high school can afford to go to college, by putting forward a $4,000 tax credit. Making sure that we’ve got a Justice Department that is working with local law enforcement so that the criminal justice system is administered fairly. That’s something that I worked on as a state legislator, implementing the first always in Illinois to prevent racial profiling. Making sure that wrongful convictions were reduced. Making sure that we’ve got after school programs, and summer school programs, to keep young people off the streets, and making sure that the drug trade is not the only option for them – that they’re on a pathway to success. Making sure that everybody has health care, including our children, so that we don’t have young people going to the emergency room for illnesses like asthma. So there are a host of issues that are going to be specifically targeting urban communities that we have to work on. But as I said before, you go into rural communities – areas like Maine – and people are going through some of those same struggles. But it’s important, I think, for us to bring rural and urban America together, and focus on an American dream and how do we create a pathway to success for everyone.

JH: But senator, what I think Leon was getting at, was that in the nation’s capital, where I think a lot of residents feel that the nation’s leaders are not paying much attention to they’re home city, would you specifically for Washington, D.C. Many of the problems you describe are very much in abundance right in the shadow of the capital.

BO: The first thing I would do would be to move forward with an agenda to make sure that we give D.C. the opportunity to elect its own representatives and have some political power on Capitol Hill. I think that pursuing an agenda that was put forward by a Republican like Congressman Davis as well as Eleanor Holmes Norton, to make sure there is representation that would make a big difference. I want to deal with the homeless situation here in Washington, D.C. I think it is a travesty that we’ve got men – and increasingly women – families, across the street and the in shadow of this great capital, that shows a lack of concern, not just for the capital, but for American, when we are allowing something like that to happen. And as president of the United States I would be offended to drive by it. It’s something that we are going to focus on directly. And I think Mayor Fenty has shown an interest in wanting to move forward on this. He and I are going to have to work on collaborating

LH: One other issue here is the HIV infection rate. I think you’ve got to be aware that D.C. has the highest infection rate. That is in itself shameful. Do you have a chance to address that?

BO: I do. I think it is important that we are targeting HIV/AIDS resources into the communities where we’re seeing the highest growth rates. That means education and prevention, particularly with young people. It means that we have to look at drastic measure, potentially like needle exchange in order to insure that drug users are not transmitting the disease to each other. And we’ve got to expand on treatment programs. And all of that is going to cost some money and some time. But again, if we think about the enormous costs of homelessness, or the enormous cost of HIV/AIDS, over the long term, as people visit emergency rooms, etc. The more we are investing in that ounce of prevention the better off we’re going to be.

LH: One other issue that is of great importance to the people of the district here, is gun control. You said in Idaho here, recently, that “I have no intention of taking away folks’ guns.” But you support the D.C. handgun ban, and you’ve said that it’s constitutional. How do you reconcile those two positions?

BO: Because I think we have two conflicting traditions in this country. I think it’s important for us to recognize that we’ve got a tradition of handgun ownership and gun ownership generally. And a lot of people – law-abiding citizens use if for hunting, for sportsmanship, and for protecting their families. We also have a violence on the streets that is the result of illegal handgun usage. And so I think there is nothing wrong with a community saying we are going to take those illegal handguns off the streets, we are going to trace more effectively, how these guns are ending up on the streets, to unscrupulous gun dealers, who often times are selling to straw purchasers. And cracking down on the various loopholes that exist in terms of background checks for children, the mentally ill. Those are all approaches that I think the average gun owner would actually support. The problem is, that we’ve got a position, often times by the NRA that says any regulation whatsoever is the camel’s nose under the tent. And that, I think, is not where the American people are at. We can have reasonable, thoughtful gun control measure that I think respect the Second Amendment and people’s traditions.

( Gut gemacht. Keiner kann sich erlauben, in den USA den Waffenbesitz in Zweifel zu ziehen. Die “legalen” Waffenbesitzer allerdings psychologisch von den Kriminellen zu trennen ist ein probates Mittel, um gezielte Beschränkungen umsetzen zu können. )

JH: Senator, the presidency is not just an inspirational job. It’s also an executive job, in which presidents have to make really tough decisions virtually every day. Neither one of you has executive experience.

BO – Nor Sen. McCain.

JH – Nor Sen. McCain – that’s very true. What I wonder is, since you came to Washington, what’s the toughest decision you’ve had to make? What made is so hard? And what does that tell us about you as president?

BO: Well, you know, obviously, legislative decisions come up all the time. I mean, so one very difficult decision was deciding to vote against the appropriations bill for the war. I had consistently said that I wanted to make sure our troops got the adequate and training in the war effort, despite the fact that I opposed the war at the point that the president decided to double down and send more troops. It became clear that he was not going to sit down and negotiate some sort of exit strategy. I had to vote against funding as a way of bringing it back to the table. That was a difficult decision for me, because it was contrary to my view, particularly after you visit Iraq and you visit the troops over there, you want to give them a strong signal that you support them. But on the broader issue of executive experience, it is true that most of my experience has been in the legislative role. That is true of all the candidates remaining in the field, except for Gov. Huckabee, who remains. But keep in mind – if you look for example – at how I’ve conducted this campaign – I started from scratch, and was up against an operation [ the Clintons ] that had been built over the course of 20 years by a former president, with the bulk of the Democratic establishment on their side. And after setting up a hundred-million-plus dollar operation, with hundreds of employees across the country, it looks like we’ve played them to a draw so far. I think that gives you some sense of how we run a campaign, There hasn’t been a lot of drama in my campaign. You haven’t seen a lot of turnover in my campaign. And the culture of my campaign is one in which I think everybody feels a great sense of ownership.

JH: I think you were also making a reference to something you said on 60 Minutes. You said you’ve already proven you can stand up to the Republicans because you’ve already stood up to the “Clinton machine”. And you also said that the Clinton can “play rough.” What were you talking about?

BO: I don’t think that it’s necessarily anything that is out of bounds, but I think that the notion that Republicans have some how coddled me, and that the Republicans are these big bad folks who have a different research operation than the Clintons do, that’s just not the case. I mean, they are competing actively for this nomination, as I’m sure the Republicans will be. I think it’s fair to say that any Democrat running against another Democrat may be somewhat more constrained on some of the negative stuff that we run, just by our own constituencies. But I also think that what we have shown is that we can take a punch, that we can take a loss. I think that nobody expected us to be here. And if we didn’t have confidence in the quality of our operation, and more importantly, if I didn’t have confidence that the American people desperately want a president who is listening to them and the hardships that they’re going through and want somebody that they can trust, and is not taking PAC money, and is not taking federal lobbyist money, and is willing to fight on their behalf against insurance and drug companies, to get health care passed, or the oil companies and the gas companies to get energy legislation that makes sense for America, that’s what they want. And the reason we’re here is because we’re seeing this enormous outpouring of support for this new kind of politics.

LH: I want to follow up no your statement that you can take a punch. I want to go back to South Carolina, Is that what you mean by taking a punch? We’re you surprised by what happened in South Carolina with Bill Clinton?

BO: Well, I would actually start with New Hampshire, where we thought going into it that every poll had us up ten. And we ended up losing that night. And I think a lot of people thought, “Huh that broke his momentum.” This thing is not for real. And I remember making a speech to some of my supporters that night, and saying, “You know what – this is not a bad thing, because we have to remind ourselves that changing the status quo is never easy.” We shouldn’t think that because we won in Iowa, and gave an inspirational speech, and then change comes my way – you’ve got to fight for it. You’ve got to earn it. I think we’ve been earning it throughout this contest. Consistently, people had assumed that there was going to be this point where the Clintons knock us out. But it’s not going to happen – we’re still here.

JH: I want to move on, but have there been low blows against you by either Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton?

BO: I’ll leave that up to the pundits to make the decisions.

JH: Senator, you were ranked recently by National Journal as having the most liberal voting record as having the most liberal voting record in 2007. That prompts a question from Politico reader Don Mousch (sp.?) or Norwell (sp.), Mass. He wants to know what they liberal record should give us confidence that you can reach across the aisle and get things done in Washington.

BO: Well, first of all, not to grouse against the National Journal, but let me give you an example of why I was rated the most liberal was because I wanted an office of public integrity that stood outside of the Senate, and outside of Congress, to make sure that you’ve got an impartial eye on ethics problems inside of Congress. Now, I didn’t know that it was a liberal or Democratic issue. I thought that was a good government issue that a lot of Republicans would like to see. So that’s the problem with some of these ratings – how they score things. It uses categories that I think don’t make sense to a lot of Americans.

LH: Well, are you proud of that designation? To be known as the most liberal voting senator?

BO: I don’t think you heard what I just said, which is that the designations don’t make sense

JH: Michael Dukakis said, “Yes, I’m proud to be a liberal.” Bill Clinton said, “No we can’t cast ourselves as liberals.” Are you comfortable with the liberal label?

BO: This is what I would call old politics. This is the stuff we’re trying to get rid of.

( Obama weiß, dass der Begriff “Liberaler” für viele nach wie vor negativ besetzt ist. Daher lenkt er die Frage in eine andere Bahn und reklamiert, diese Trennung wäre unfruchtbar, veraltet. Gut gelöst.).

Because the problem is, when we start breaking down into conservative and liberal, and we’ve got a bunch of set predispositions, whether it’s on gun control, or its’ on health care, any attempt to do health care is socialized medicine. Any discuss about taxes ends up being, are you raising them or lowering them, as the opposed to the question I ask – are we raising them for high income individuals that can afford it, and lowering them for lower income people who really need help. Those old categories don’t work, and they’re preventing us from solving them problems.

JH: Senator, we’ve got a question that goes right to that. The likely Republican nominee, Sen. McCain, has regularly stood up against his own party and has some real scars that he’s wearing because of it, when he thought it was in the national interest to do so. Name some issues where you’ve been willing to stand up against your party, and also take those scars?

BO: Well, look, we’ve talked about education. We actually had a roundtable here about what we need to do with the schools. I’ve consistently said, we need to support charter schools. I think it is important to experiment, by looking at how we can reward excellence in the classroom. ( Schwache Antwort, gotta work on this…)

JH: Have teacher’s unions been an impediment to that kind of reform?

BO: What I will say is that they haven’t been thrilled with me talking about these kinds of issues. And my sister is a teacher, so I am a strong support of teachers, but I’m not going to be bound by just a certain way of talking about these things, in order for us to move forward on behalf of our kids. And I think a lot of teachers want to talk about how to continually improve performance. The broader point is that we’ve got to get beyond a lot of the traditional categories. In terms of reaching out across the aisles, one of the things you’ve seen, since I’ve been in the Senate, is that my work with people like Tom Coburn on opening up transparency in government, making sure that every dollar the federal government spends that’s out there – that that’s all posted on a searchable database on the Internet. That’s not a conservative issue or liberal issue. If you’re a progressive, you’ve got to be worried about how the federal government is spending its revenue, because we don’t have enough money to spend on things like early childhood education that are so important.

LH: Is there any one issue where the Democratic Party is out of step with the mainstream of America? Is there a position that you want your party to change?

BO: I think that the Democratic Party is a big tent, which means that there are positions I may not agree with. I mentioned one, charter schools, and experimenting with our school system, to make it work. I think that’s something we really have to pay attention to. I think that when it comes to issues of trade, I think it is important for us to be in favor of trade, but I also think it is important to make sure that we are putting in place the labor standards, the environmental standards, that are going to provide some of a fighting chance for American workers. Some good people in the Democratic Party believe that, some don’t. What I want to try to do is unify the two wings of the Democratic Party. What’s considered the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party – the more centrist wing of the party. I think we can craft an approach that is more American, pro-worker, pro-business, pro-growth, and is not caught up in some of the ideological battles that have consumed us for the past 20 years.

JH: We shouldn’t have this conversation without talking about the biggest issue abroad, which is Iraq. Will you use every tool in our country’s arsenal to prevent civil war in Iraq after troops are pulled out, including, if necessary, putting troops back in?

BO: What I said is, if we are doing this right, if we have a phased redeployment where we’re as careful getting out as we were careless getting in, then there’s not reason why we shouldn’t be able to prevent the wholesale slaughter I think some people have suggested might occur. And part of that means we are engaging in the diplomatic efforts that are required within Iraq among the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurd, among friends, like Egypt, and Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but also enemies like Iran and Syria. They have to have buy-in into that process. We have to have humanitarian aid now. We also have two-and-a-half million displaced people inside of Iraq and several million more outside of Iraq. We should be ramping up assistance to them right now. But I’ve said consistently that I always reserve the right, in conjunction with a broader international effort, to prevent genocide or any wholesale slaughter than might happen inside of Iraq or anyplace else.

LH: We just have time for one more question, and it may be the hardest-hitting question I’m going to ask you – Have you really gone cold turkey quitting smoking?

BO: You know, it has been tough, but that Nicorette has worked out. I’m not sure that really qualifies me, because –

LH: Is that cold turkey if you’re still getting nicotine?

BO: You know, you’re supposed to have phased out on that stuff – I haven’t completely, I’m still chewing.

LH: Sen. Barack Obama, it’s been a pleasure.

BO: I enjoyed it.

Obama kann nicht nur ein glänzender Rhetoriker sein, sondern auch ein brillianter Taktiker, wie er hier bewiesen hat. Er hat die meisten Fragen klug taktierend beantwortet, ohne als Opportunist zu erscheinen. Darin besteht eine der größten Künste, will man als Politiker groß erscheinen: Rhetorik und Taktik dürfen die eigene Substanz nie überragen, sondern sollten ihr dienen. Insofern: Well done, mr. Obama.

— Schlesinger

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