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. Juan

    I can't see how a comment like this would do anything other than draw criticism and be a liability for Obama.

    September 7, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  2. dave

    The thought of Pfc. Barack Obama makes me laugh. How many times did he think about joining. I once thought about going to the moon.

    September 7, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  3. deborah

    Mr. Obama may never have joined the armed services, but he sure fights for our soldiers now!

    AND he was the only one running in this election that voted NO to Bush's trillion $ a day war! Please remember that when Bush and his cronnies were beating that war drum, it was considered political sucide to make such a stand!

    Mr. Obama has earned my respect and my vote.

    Palin makes me glad that I am an ex-republician!!!

    September 7, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  4. Bulldog

    Miltary service, as I have done, is not the only way to serve this country. Helping out your local community, helping Americans in need and hardships, volunteering for natural disasters such as hurricanes, flooding, and tornadoes, or volunteering and helping with disasters such as 9/11 attacks or the Oklahoma bombing are all great examples of other way to serve this country. We all serve our country, just in different way. If you watched the Republican convention though, they would have you believe the ONLY service to this country is through the military. THEY ARE PLAIN WRONG.

    September 7, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  5. Wendy

    Now that he is not in the military he can say anything he wants. He can even say he once wanted to go to Iraq or combat battles, Cheap talker!!

    September 7, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  6. von bob

    So Obama is yet again "almost" there. He "almost" "kinda" "woulda" supported the Surge as well, but can't admit to a leadership problem in his own head. Sometimes you have to stand on your own principles, whatever they are, not your pollsters'.

    To any moron who somehow thinks that his statement now makes Obama more patriotic, and there must be some people out there who believe so, I suggest that he try flying without the aid of his star-crossed airplane (great carbon signature, that). Just jump off a tall building, like Superman. "Yes, he can." So could der Führer.

    Bottom line: this is lame and denigrating to voters. When will CNN and its flaks like Alma Brown (a.k.a. "Campbell" to be androgynously pretentious, I guess) start investigating Bill Ayers, Rev. Moore and the other loonies that surround this guy?

    Regarding Ms. Alma Mae Campbell Brown — youth need to know how many children she has birthed, if she has bred at all, and is she qualified to report only on "certain days of the month" as is alleged by opponents of Alaska's governor like the notorious Washington courtesan, Sally Quinn? I see you rewarded Quinn's bad behavior by pretending that she was a "journalist" on one of your morning shows today, Sunday 9/7/08.

    Is it any wonder CNN has dropped so far behind Fox that it is losing commercial sponsors? What has happened to your journalistic standards?

    Are you reporting income from the DNC and the Section 527 groups like Soros? – including in-kind partisan communications you are making without observing the "equal time" doctrine? Call the lawyers!

    September 7, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  7. Monica

    He thought about fighting for us! Brilliant. But there was only the threat of the Soviet Union so he decided to go to two Ivy League schools and get his law degree instead. What a giver.

    September 7, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  8. ginchinchili

    CNN's paraphrasing of Obama's statement on serving in the military is conveniently inaccurate and misleading, convenient for Obama–naturally. He never says that he considered joining the military. It was an option he didn't pursue. I can't imagine Obama ever giving any serious thought to joining the military and risking his life, or even his career, for any cause greater than himself. The only track record Obama has is one of self-service and self-promotion, and he's been quite good at it.

    September 7, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  9. bk

    I guess CNN must think Obama has military experience because he considered going. This should not even be a headline. Lets talk about Obama's connection to William Ayres.

    September 7, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  10. Jackie, MI

    Being in the military is not a requirement for president. Obama has never critized those who have served, always has praised those who have. Palin has not served, and having a family member serve is not the same. Why is this relevant? I would like to hear more about military action, strategy, and opinions on foreign policies from Palin than just generic party line statements. Obama has discussed Iraq, middle east, Iran, Isreal, etc. and taken a stand on the Iraq war. What does Palin stand on and think?

    September 7, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  11. Karen

    Really. He seems so self centered. Even in the saddleback forum he indicated that growing up and into his young twenties he was definitely self-centered. (showing overall personality traits – people do not change unless there is a whole a lot of pain.) Then it seems, when he decided to MAKE SOMETHING OF HIMSELF he got into Chicago politics, etc. and really began promoting HIMSELF. I do not believe he would have ever made the self sacrifice to actually serve in the military.

    September 7, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  12. David

    Obama has written two books. Perhaps I missed it, but nowhere does he mention his mulling the military.

    September 7, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  13. John, US Army Veteran

    I am the same age as Senator Obama and I did choose to go into the Army in 1979. It was not at all easy. The deal the Military had for education benefits was the worst deal since before WW II. The moral in the Army was terrible because of the post Vietnam era condition of the entire structure. Shortages in personnel, equipment and mission were apparent to every soldier. Was it the right choice for me? Probably but the best and worst moments of my life were during my two years overseas. I grew up fast. I think some who choose to not join is their decision and we have this option in America. For Barack to go a different direction and not join was the path that 99% of the men my age took during that era. I took a great deal of heat from my friends for my choice. Back then you joined the military because you were either in trouble with the law and they thought it was a good reform profession or you joined because you wanted the sense of adventure and seeing the world. He put his public service and community service to work for three years and made a great deal less in terms of pay and benefits so I applaud his decision when most men and women of my generation just wanted to go to school to make a big payoff and find a good job.

    The job of the Commander in Chief is a Civilian job. We have had good CinC's that did not serve in uniform and we have had terrible CinC's that did serve in uniform. Judgment is key. I believe Senator Obama has a big reserve of this trait.

    September 7, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  14. Pro OB

    Obama is a liar.

    Obama/Biden 08

    September 7, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  15. Bill

    Yeah right. He probably found out that he wouldn't get anywhere unless he really performed well. You can't skate in the military.

    September 7, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  16. Former Dem voting McCain

    WOW! He CONSIDERED joining the military!

    Well that's something! He is a hero!


    September 7, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  17. 8toolong

    I certainly respect McCain'sservice to your country and the fact that he suffered as a POW. But what really bothers me is Palin's statement at the RNC referring to Obama....."Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America ... he's worried that someone won't read them their rights?" How does this fit in with McCain's POW story that's been told REPEATEDLY during his campaign? Is she saying that basic human rights only apply to McCain? Or is she saying it's up to her to decide who should have those rights. McCain, of all people, should know how wrong that statement was! Her comment made me truly sick, and I've lost respect for McCain. What hypocrits, both of them. Now, I willI think of that comment everytime they bring up that POW story

    September 7, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. Change that wimp would have ever considered joining something respectable like the armed forces...instead he decided to focus his efforts on becoming a career politician...

    September 7, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. Tracey

    Wow, this is impressive! He actually THOUGHT about joining the military. What a sacrifice of time and effort he made! Do all the candidates get to try for credit for what they once thought about? Maybe he thought about taking a stance all those times he voted "present." Maybe he's been thinking about legislation to make the country better, but was too busy writing his books. Maybe he thought his pastor was racist but was too busy to take a stand there. I can't believe CNN is reporting this with a straight face. Obama has some serious messianic delusions ... let's not give the man who claimed he "pushed the wrong button" when voting the power to push so many other buttons.

    September 7, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  20. Dave

    i'd pay $100 on internet PPV to see that match

    September 7, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  21. Eric

    Even though you would have served the military well, I am sure people from Chicago are thankful for the work you have done. There are many ways to serve one's country.Unfortunately, you can count on the GOP to dismiss and make fun of community organisers. Hey, they are not rich, they don't make 5 millions a year. But they think being a lawyer of a small village, having to hire a city manager because you don't know what you're doing, looking for earmarks only to deny it afterward and running a deficit is menaningful experience. Go figure.

    September 7, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  22. Junior

    I am sure he thought about the military for about half a second. Further, I see Obama has had to face some tough questions tough

    September 7, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  23. Michael

    yes John has 'really fought' for us, he was captured,they 'broke him', and he returned alive with a message to tell the American people

    he really should run as an independant!

    September 7, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  24. Steve-O

    Yeah, and I thought about being a politician. One more thing for the economist Mr Obama... There are TWO Army base on Hawaii (Not counting PTA) which is only a training area: Schofield Barrcks and Fort Shafter... WOW that's A LOT???? How many more ideas (subscript whatever you want but it is synonymous with LIES)?

    September 7, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  25. KCBob

    I joined the military because I really had no other options where I lived. Can I be president now?

    September 7, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
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