September 7th, 2008
01:43 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama: I once considered joining military

Sen. Obama campaigned in Indiana Saturday.

Sen. Obama campaigned in Indiana Saturday.

(CNN) - Sen. Barack Obama - locked in a tight presidential race against Sen. John McCain, widely considered a war hero - said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he once considered joining the military himself.

Speaking to ABC's "This Week," Obama said, "You know, I had to sign up for Selective Service when I graduated from high school. And I was growing up in Hawaii, and I have friends whose parents were in the military. There are a lot of Army, military bases there. And I actually always thought of the military as an enobling and, you know, honorable option.

"But keep in mind - I graduated in 1979. The Vietnam War had come to an end. We weren't engaged in an active military conflict at that point. And so, it's not an option that I ever decided to pursue."

On the stump, Obama has praised McCain for his service in the Vietnam war.

The two candidates' stark differences over the Iraq war mark one of the central issues of the campaign.

The McCain camp argues that McCain's experience has prepared him to serve as commander in chief and lead the United States through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

His running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, said in her speech at last week's Republican National Convention that while Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, "have been going on lately about how they're always, quote, 'fighting for you,' let us face the matter squarely: There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you... in places where winning means survival and defeat means death."

In the "This Week" interview, Obama also expressed regret for how he handled a question about the Saddleback Civil Forum on Presidency last month.

At the time he said answering a question about when a baby gets human rights is "above my pay grade."

Asked by ABC whether that answer was "too flip," Obama answered, "Probably, yes." He added that as a Christian, "I have a lot of humility about understanding" when the soul enters into the body. "And so, all I meant to communicate was that I don't presume to be able to answer these kinds of theological questions."

"What I do know is that abortion is a moral issue, that it's one that families struggle with all the time, and that in wrestling with those issues, I don't think that the government criminalizing the choices that families make is the best answer for reducing abortions."

On a lighter note, "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos jokingly asked Obama whether he'd ever be willing to take on Palin in a game of one-on-one.

Both were avid basketball players in their school days, with Obama earning the name "Barry O'Bomber," and Palin nicknamed "Sarah Barracuda."

"You know, I would play her a game of horse. She looks like she's got some game," he said, adding, "I know she's a sharpshooter... I probably wouldn't do target practice with her. I think she'd be a better shot than me.

But on the basketball court, I think I'd stand up pretty well."

He agreed with host Stephanopoulos' suggestion that the game "would break all Nielsen records."

soundoff (129 Responses)
  1. joe

    He once considered joining the military? I am awestruck by the audacity of this guy. He goes on to say becuase the Vietmam war was over so their was no point? This guy must feel real inadequate when comparing himself against John McCain. It will be real fun to watch the comments on this blog. I am looking forwarding to reading all the comments of the libs trying to defend his latest comments. Oh by the way the military looks down on drug use Obama.

    September 7, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  2. EGObama

    Everyone should be grateful that The One expressed that military service is "enobling" and "honorable." I wasn't aware of that until he prophesied it. Also, his comments insinuate that he turned away from military service because there was no active conflict. Gimme a break.

    September 7, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  3. Sherry

    So, why didn't he? Every 18 year male still has to sign up for selective service even today.

    Does he think he is going to make inroads with todays servicemen and women for votes in November? Seems pretty clear to me, this is a political gesture for military votes.

    September 7, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  4. Sarah

    I am an independent but I have got to say, this is funny. One might as well say " I was planning to donate 1 million but charities in our country did not need money then". Does make the person charitable,!
    I think it is funny that CNN has even covered this.......

    September 7, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  5. Jim

    Um, selective service wasn't reinstated until 1980, so he did not need to consider signing up. And he never mentioned this in his two–TWO–autobiographies?

    Nice try, Obama, but us yokels are indeed smarter than you.

    September 7, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  6. Are You For Real??

    I had to say to "wow," who commented first on the previous article: "Wow!" Your ignorance amazes even me. Check your facts before you post a long (and irrelevant) post. What did your manifesto have to do with McCain appointing Democrats? As for the story above, I watched that interview in its entirety and was extremely impressed with the manner in which Senator Obama carried himself. I actually heard discussions about ISSUES! He took the high road and did not take the path of snide, sarcastic swipes. Regardless, the right will find fault with the fact that Obama ultimately did not serve in the military. Somewhere along the line they (the right) have tried to corner the market on patriotism by stating things like "if you don't support the war in Iraq, you don't support the troops." In other words, that's unpatriotic. How about Bush the Younger who apparently went AWOL? That's conveniently forgotten. Why is it hardly mentioned that when McCain came home an instant celebrity as a P.O.W. that he almost immediately began running around on his wife? She had been in a horrible car accident that left her appearance markedly different. What did McCain ultimately do? He met Cindy at a party in Hawaii where he supposedly fell in love immediately. He then began the push to divorce his wife. and married Cindy in a grandiose wedding ONE MONTH after his divorce became final. I'm still waiting to see the fallout from the alleged affair Sarah Palin had with her husband's former business partner. Yes, I realize that this particular story is being published by the National Enquirer. However, the team covering this story is the same team that uncovered the John Edwards affair. If memory serves Sean Hannity had the editor of the National Enquirer on his show after the story broke and the affair was admitted. Do you think he will do the same if the story proves to be true about Palin? Yeah, right, sure. The hypocrisy of many Republicans continues to "Shock and Awe" even me.

    September 7, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  7. Jeremy

    How more phony does this man get everyday?

    September 7, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  8. Jim

    Oh..thats rich.

    September 7, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  9. The Truth Always Hurts and Offends Liberals

    Ya, right! He was too busy doing drugs at that time. How much goofier can this Obama get!?

    September 7, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  10. floridian

    "But keep in mind — I graduated in 1979. The Vietnam War had come to an end. We weren't engaged in an active military conflict at that point. And so, it's not an option that I ever decided to pursue."

    Now, tell me, HONESTLY, how many recent high school graduates in the 1970's/early 1980's were lining up to join the military so they could go fight in an armed conflict? What a crock from the "wanted to be a soldier but only if I could fight a war" politician.

    He discredits those who are willing to serve their country in both peace and war. I served 23+ years during both environments as a pilot and every day was an honor, whether shooting /being shot at or pulling a quiet day of air defense alert.

    September 7, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  11. Mike, NYC

    One problem with Obama’s story.

    Registration for selective service was not reinstated until 1980.

    On March 25, 1975, Pres. Gerald Ford signed Proclamation 4360, Terminating Registration Procedures Under Military Selective Service Act, eliminating the registration requirement for all 18-25 year old male citizens. Then on July 2, 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed Proclamation 4771, Registration Under the Military Selective Service Act, retroactively re-establishing the Selective Service registration requirement for all 18-26 year old male citizens born on or after January 1, 1960. Only men born between March 29, 1957, and December 31, 1959, were completely exempt from Selective Service registration. The first registrations after Proclamation 4771 took place on Monday, July 21, 1980, for those men born in January, February and March 1960 at U.S. Post Offices.

    September 7, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  12. Bob

    Typical Obama - all talk and no action. Don't tell me what you were going to do or what you will do. Show me what you have done that has made a difference.

    September 7, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  13. Jennifer

    Just because someone was in the military does not automatically qualify them to become president. McCain has said so himself many times.

    September 7, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  14. Melinda Charlotte, NC

    Sure you did, Senator Obama. Sure you did. Somehow, I find it difficult to believe.

    September 7, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  15. wow


    September 7, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  16. jlc

    first he said," I actually always thought of the military as an enobling and, you know, honorable option."
    then, he said," it's not an option that I ever decided to pursue."
    Obama always say what I you want to hear. someone needs go to Hawaii to investage to talk to his friends to see in deed Obama always thought of the military as an enobling when he was young.

    September 7, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  17. Alaska and Arizona POW for Obama/Biden

    Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman VP and was a democrat. you people get inform before who say such thing that this is the greatest history for women since suffrage. No it isn't; I wonder if geraldine ferraro nomination as first woman VP in the history of US was not matter. people are very inform and saying such things makes people want to laugh at your one sided republican guts. Geraldine ferraro first woman nominate VP, Hillary Clinton first woman to ran for the presidency as a front runner for quite a long time and these folks are Democrats. No way, no how, No mcCain son of George Bush.

    September 7, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  18. Tony in Michigan

    Survival & Death?I'm very curious,what does she know about either in a War Setting?Talking about something she knows Nothing about.If Mcain gets elected with her as VP,We Americans need our Heads Examined!!!Just sit back and THINK about It,This VP pick comes out of nowhere,We Americans have ONLY 60DAYS too be acquainted with Her ,Then we are expected too give her the second most powerful Job in the WORLD???Like I said,if Mcains elected WE need our heads examined !!!

    September 7, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  19. MK

    I will be so happy when people who run for elected office don't feel they have to qualify themselves by what war they served in.

    September 7, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  20. wow


    September 7, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  21. Texas Army Ranger

    For about two seconds he considered it, thats an insult. And I considered becoming the King of Scotland too? (Sarcasim) He is fully of lies, it makes me sick

    September 7, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  22. Rochelle

    Joining the Military is not as important as being true to yourself and the American Public. If you stand firm, tell Americans the truth and not pet the Republican and their candidates, you'll go far (The White House). You will have to hit them hard. REAL HARD!

    I would like to ask CNN and other Media stations, when are they going to find out WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL OF THE VOTES FROM NEW YORK (HARLEM) WHERE THEY SAID THAT THERE WERE NO VOTES FOR SENATOR OBAMA? What happened to them? Noone is talking about that!

    Former Harlemite


    September 7, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  23. Now

    Obama....don't get in to the gutter of fighting for your biography...put ....your "Country First NOW"? .......not
    your "biography first ".........

    When American asks you about the economy and Iraq.....don't start out with your Biography.......that's a distraction......"Put your country first".....not your biography....that's lame.....

    If you don't have a good answer to the questions of the present....then it makes sense....Put your BIOGRAPHY FIRST.

    For us.....

    Country first NOW!

    September 7, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  24. Cila

    Wow, CNN even praises him for what he "thought about doing."! I've heard it all now. I am watching you Sun. morning and every time you have each side represented, you give the Dem side twice the time and allow them full interruption. Not so with the Rep side. You slant your questons to try and bring out the problem areas of the Rep side and to bring out the positives of the Dems. You sent a cadre to Alaska to dig dirt on Palin. Your bias will help lose this election for Obama, along with his own ego. He chose Biden over Clinton for VP because he's dull and Obama will never be outshown if he can help it. McCain on the other hand is basking in Palin's popularity. I am a lifelog Dem and I will vote for McCain. Integrity over self-aggrandizement in spite of the issues. The way Obama treats women sure doesn't guarantee he'll guard their issues, anyway.

    September 7, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  25. Ellie in Aurora, CO

    Here's what I don't get from the religious right:

    When McCain was slightly younger than Obama, he was very promiscuous and finally divorced his wife for a much younger woman – McCain a "good" man.
    Obama has been a faithful husband and great father – Obama a "bad" man.

    Palin's family sounds like a soap opera – messy divorces, pregnant teenagers – Palin is "good" woman.
    Biden has been a faithful husband, and wonderful father- Biden a "bad" man.

    Can you say "hypocrisy"?

    September 7, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
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