May 20th, 2008
03:10 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama: McCain 'obsessed' with Ahmadinajad


Watch Sen. Obama's entire interview with Wolf Blitzer Tuesday.

(CNN) - In a CNN interview Tuesday, Barack Obama accused John McCain of flip-flopping on Cuba policy, of deliberately distorting his own views - and of an "obsession" with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad.

“I have never said that I was prepared to immediately normalize relations with Cuba,” Obama told Wolf Blitzer in an interview set to air at 4 p.m. on The Situation Room. “The only person who has flip-flopped on this issue is John McCain, who in 2000 said that he would be prepared to start normalizing relations even if a whole host of steps have not been taken. That is a reversal from the position he is taking now.”

At a Tuesday campaign event in Miami, McCain attacked Obama’s position in favor of a possible relaxation of the Cuban embargo policy and discussions with the leadership of the island nation.

"These steps would send the worst possible signal to Cuba's dictators - there is no need to undertake fundamental reforms, they can simply wait for a unilateral change in US policy. I believe we should give hope to the Cuban people, not to the Castro regime,” said the presumptive Republican nominee, saying the embargo needed to remain in place until the Cuban government democratized.

Watch Obama take aim at McCain today at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on The Situation Room.

Obama told CNN Tuesday that his policy, which would loosen restrictions on remittances from Cubans living in the United States to relatives on the island, and on their travel between the United States and Cuba, would be “a show of good faith” that would help move the U.S.-Cuba relationship “in the direction of normalization.”

“And what I have also said is that I will be willing to engage in direct talks with Cuba,” said Obama. “Now, I know that John McCain likes to characterize this as me immediately having Raul Castro over for tea. What I’ve said is that we would set a series of meetings with low level diplomats, set up some preparation but that over time I would be willing to meet and talk very directly about what we expect from the Cuban regime. And so John McCain keeps on making these statements that simply aren’t based on anything I’ve said.”

Obama added that his views on dialogue with Cuba and with Iran followed the same guidelines. “And what I’ve said is I would be willing to meet without preconditions, but with a lot of preparation - and this is the same argument that we’ve been having with respect to Iran,” he said.

“John McCain essentially wants to continue George Bush’s policies of not talking to leaders we don’t like and not talking to countries we don’t like. It has been a failed policy,” said the Illinois senator, adding that Iran had gotten stronger because President Bush “engaged in a war in Iraq that John McCain facilitated that has strengthened Iran.”

McCain suggested at a Chicago campaign event Monday that Obama doesn’t understand the "basic realities of international relations" and that engaging Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad diplomatically would only embolden him.

"Senator Obama has declared, and repeatedly reaffirmed his intention to meet the President of Iran without any preconditions, likening it to meetings between former American Presidents and the leaders of the Soviet Union," said McCain, who frequently criticizes Ahmedinajad on the campaign trail. "Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment."

Obama said Tuesday that “this obsession with Ahmadinejad is an example of us losing track of what’s important.

“I would be willing to meet with Iranian leaders if we had done sufficient preparations for that meeting,” but that it was not clear Ahmedinajad might not be as powerful in a year’s time, and “is not the most powerful person in Iran” and might not be able to deliver the actions the United States was looking for.

Obama also said he was “shattered” by the news of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s brain tumor.

“I think you can argue that I would not be sitting here as a presidential candidate had it not been for some of the battles that Ted Kennedy has fought …I stand on his shoulders,” said Obama, adding that Kennedy was “a great model of what a senator can and should be.”

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (348 Responses)
  1. tedious898

    Can anyone remember the last time the republicans ran a campaign about strong GOP policies? Oh that's right they haven't had a good policy since Reagan

    May 20, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  2. Michael - Sacramento, CA

    There might be one or two people I've seen who honestly meant it when they said they were Democrats who would vote for McCain or write in HRC rather than vote for Obama. In fact, statistically it seems likely. But the vast majority of the posts I've seen claiming to be such people were clearly hopeful Operation Chaos agents. Sadly for them, most Republicans trollers don't have sufficient empathy with alien (to them) viewpoints to be able to fake it very well.

    May 20, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  3. John from Chicago

    Mcain's argument that talking to rogue regimes diminishes the "prestige" of the US Presidency is exactly the kind of Bush-like arrogant attitude that has gotten us hated all over the world and allienated both allies and enemies. If talking to Iran has even a slight chance of saving 1,000s of lives and billions of dollars, then why not give it a try? If that fails then we are right back where we are now. Talking to North Korea has gotten us places, why not talk to Iran?

    May 20, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  4. Kevin

    Mark, why do you have this maternalistic sense about Israel? What have they done for the U.S. recently?

    May 20, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  5. Herman in LA

    Interesting fact, 53% of Hillary supporters in Kentucky say that they believe that Barack will be the demarcate nominee.

    So if Hillary supporters know this in Kentucky and it's even higher 71% Oregon then why in hell are they throwing their support behind someone who they know will lose in the end?

    Just why?

    Please someone help me to understand.

    May 20, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  6. Obamaishope

    Its suprising that with all Mccain years on this planet earth he still lacks wisdom. Wisdom is however a virtue not something that is aqcuired necessarilly by age. A fool at 40 is a foll forever.

    I have always known that wars can be won just by showing respect.

    May 20, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  7. Michele, Oregon

    Obama's vision, including his willingness to engage Iran, Cuba etc., is exactly why people are voting for him in droves. Out of all of the shared platforms of the dems, this could be the singular reason his campaign is doing so well. Why are we afraid of possible win-win situations?
    We have the possibility of a NEW day people. To simply speak to someone does not give credence to oppositional views or elevate the adversary, no matter how repugnant. Obama talking to McCain is a good example.

    May 20, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  8. Ty

    give your head a shake
    what policies does mccain offer that appeal to you?

    May 20, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  9. joaquin

    of course he is.

    If McCain is president there will be war with Iran for absolutely no reason.

    Bush was as obsessed with Iraq and McCain is with Iran and look at what happen.

    if you wanna see the disaster in Iraq also in Iran, then vote McCain

    May 20, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  10. Jack

    Dear Clinton supporters: Listen to you leader – she said she would support whoever the nominee is, you should do the same.

    May 20, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  11. tedious898

    You know democrats.....A couple of strange things come to mind. 1). Why are GOPers hangin' out on a liberal website like CNN? makes ya wonder doesn't it? I tend to think there is nothing much to discuss on Fauxnews. ...I mean they're so fair and balanced LOL 2). The republicans probably are feeling extremely sensitive about the topic of Iran. Does anyone remember the last time we negotiated with the Iranians? We ended up running a "rump government" out the backdoor of the white house. Anyone catch Ollie North giving his hypocracy views? I missed it. I wonder how it feels to openly discuss something you should have gone to jail for doing? Most reasonable americans would be absolutely nauseous hearing the republicans express their displeasure with open discussions with a known enemy. Heck...they discuss stuff privately and make lots of money to pay other rogue terrorist groups. Now that's government you can bank on

    May 20, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  12. David D Kollie

    Fear tactics. This is a guy who is expected to meet G.W. Bush in Arozna. Tell me, it will be a time for planning lots and lots of fear tactics. McCain should talk about his refusal to grand a GI Bill that he said will be too generous. Especially when he wants to continue the Bush's war in Iraq for 5 more years raising the death tolls of soldiers from 4000 to about 4000 x 2.
    What is wrong with McCain face any way. I think the doctor should check that.

    May 20, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  13. Rave

    If you ask McCain, who is Ahmadinajad... He will say he is Bin Laden's nephew or Chinese President.
    McCain's brain cells are damaged long time ago. All this fake talk until Nov 2008, then he will be resting in Arizona making some stupid statements that nobody will every hear.

    May 20, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |

    McCain is far better than liar and traitor obama. As a matter of fact a dead snake would be better than obama.

    May 20, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  15. Walt, Belton,TX

    For those of you who like to use Mc/Bush and the like, how does Osama Obama sound to you? Pretty stupid? Look in the mirror!

    May 20, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  16. HTA, Chicago, IL

    "When did Obama mention low level meetings? He said he would meet without preconditions, whose flip-flopping?"

    Obama has mentioned that preparation would be required before. He knows he can't just pick up the phone and meet with hostile leaders. The phrase, "without preconditions", is used to illustrate that Obama would not ask for a policy change before the meeting.

    Bush, and others, have alway said something to the extent of, "we'll meet with you if you promise to dismantle the nuclear facility", or, "we'll meet with you if you free prisoners of conscience."

    Obama's stance is, "I will meet with you to discuss the end of your nuclear weapons program" or, "I will meet with you to discuss the freeing of prisoners of conscience."

    One side says a meeting with the President will embolden hostile leaders. The other side says dialogue will not do harm.

    It's not a flip-flop at all, he's still on message.

    May 20, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  17. Mike in Ohio

    Joseph, Los Angeles California May 20th, 2008 5:52 pm ET

    Well said Greg, Personally I think there are a lot of Limbaugh republicans on these blogs just trying to fan the flames of hatred. In other words, trying to be certain that we Democrats do not unite; I believe in my heart that we will. I truly believe that a true Democrat in their right mind would never write in a candidate who is not on the ballot. Common sense says one thing; that vote doesn't count.

    Well I hate to tell ya're wrong. I have been a lifelong Independent. Come November if that racist and anti-American Obama wins the Nomination , I will gladly vote for McCain.

    May 20, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  18. Mike in Ohio

    Hillary or McCain take your pick.

    May 20, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  19. A Proud American

    Joey from LA; your vote ought not to count! We Ruplicans don't have to fan the flames becuase democraps like yuourself do it for us!

    May 20, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  20. Steve

    And this is why McCain and the GOP will be absolutely stomped come November. Everybody was fretting and going all Chicken Little over the vaunted "Republican Attack Machine" but in just a short week, Obama's shown that unlike Democrats of the past, he won't be crushed by it. Rather, he'll take it on head on.

    The GOP is used to having Democratic opponents who wilt under pressure. Let's see how they do against somebody who won't.

    May 20, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  21. DJ, LA, CA

    Dark Kent – no it was about rewarding constitutents with lucrative contracts in Iraq reconstruction. Cheney was the CEO of Haliburton and negotiated a 20 mil. severance deal. Sub-contractors also stood to reap huge contracts, not to mention new streams of oil imports for the administrations cozy relationship with that consortium.

    Saddam was a convienient target and although not fully cooperative with U.N. inspectors – was no threat to U.S. interests whatsover. Plus we already maintained no fly zones.

    May 20, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  22. Venus

    Mc Sane can't wait to drop bombs on Iran that's why he's talking about Iran 24/7 – keeps his mind off of Iraq!

    Go Obama!

    May 20, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  23. Joyce in Florida

    Well, Senator Obama, John McCain might be obsessed with Iran, but you are obsessed with YOURSELF. You have the gall to think that you are already the nominee. YOU ARE NOT!!!!!!!! I hope Senator Clinton wins big tonight because she so deserves it. You, Senator Obama, need more on-the-job experience and should go back to Chicago and work on it for another 4 years. HILLARY CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT!!!!!

    May 20, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
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