May 20th, 2008
03:10 PM ET
14 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. Charlotte

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

    May 20, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  2. The Truth

    Talk about flipping and a flopping. Obama wearing the US Flag is now cmmon place after he denied it for 8 years. Give me a break.

    The states Hillary has won total 300 electoral votes. If we, Democrats, had the same rules as the Republicans, she would be nominee right now.

    However Democrats have different rules, so what we've got to figure out is who can win 270 electoral votes. Obombus has won states totaling 217 electoral. Do the MATH.

    Go HILLARY - 2008

    May 20, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  3. Susan

    This is not news. Everyone already know waht a fish out of water looks like as it flops around the dock – John McCain!

    May 20, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  4. Kenneth M


    May 20, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  5. Jana Delray Bch, Fl



    May 20, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  6. mmartin arkansaw

    keep telling the truth barack!

    May 20, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  7. The Real Sharon Minnesota

    Whatever John McSame brings up, he's found himself flip flopping. Obama clearly pwn'd him with this response. I guess old age does have it's benefits, at least he can use his age as an excuse this time and claim long term memory loss on this flip flop.

    May 20, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  8. Randy - Denver

    As always, poised and correct I really like Mr. Obama.

    Mr. McCain I IMPLORE you reach deep down inside yourself find the you who once was and let that man back up, shake off this mantle of the radical right and be the man you were. Please for your sake become who you were before!

    May 20, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  9. DannyCali

    I don't know McCain flip-flop or not but I can see Obama flip-flop now look
    he said when he get elect he going to sit down and talk to the evil leader
    in Cuba and Iran so, now he said he not going to do that that's flip-flop.
    Other think thing is he said he not going to take any lobbying but he took
    lobby delegate vote with Rep. in the Capital Hill that's flip-flop too.

    May 20, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  10. chuks

    The truth Obama is that YOU are too INTELLIGENT for John McCain. I can't wait for the first debate to come up. My advice is that you stay away from John during the debates, stay as far away as possible, keep him at arms length so when grumpy MAC swings at you in anger he misses. Don't say you were not warned Obama!

    May 20, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  11. James

    Obama please put McCain at his place.

    May 20, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  12. Kathy, from NJ

    Flip-Flop Flip-Flop Mc Cain hire Hillary for your campaign manager. She would do great job, she's started already, didn't you know?....

    May 20, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  13. Lee-- Dallas, TX

    McCan't is making this too easy for Barack. He needs to have someone there everytime he open's his mouth to clarify what he 'meant' to say. Lieberman better be there to clean up his messes as he's done so many times during the last several months.

    May 20, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  14. KK

    Meeting without preconditions and completely normalizing conditions are TWO DISTINCT and SEPARATE ideas. Obama's position is the former, not the latter. Clearly–he has been consistent in his views...

    May 20, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  15. Jim

    This guy is plainly dense. Let's face it, Clinton and McCain want the job of President. This know nothing want the title.

    May 20, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    John McCain voted to raise taxes to pay for the Iraq War. In 2002, McCain astutely pointed out that Bush was the first President in US history to start a war and not raise taxes to pay for it. That it would irresponsible and reckless to the US economy, to not raise taxes.

    ....I thought law required a balanced budget. Hmm. That's right! You do not have to balance the budget if the country is at war!!! Oh yeah!!

    May 20, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  17. Independent for Obama

    Thats what McCain does he flip-flops.

    I am against the Bush tax cuts, wait I am for them.

    I am for fiscal responsibility, oh maybe I can get the budget balanced by the end of my first term.

    He is a flip-flopper and doomed.

    Independent for Obama

    May 20, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  18. Jeff Radun

    He keeps changing his mind.
    He says one thin and then when he is called on it he elaborates and his stance changes.

    May 20, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  19. Gorbashov, Long Beach, Ca.

    Add this to the list of...............................................flipping on the Bush tax cuts...........................................or flopping on his own immigration reform etc.

    May 20, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  20. Brian from Fort Mill, S.C.

    I suppose the underlying question about John McCain is:
    Is he a warmonger?

    The answer is Yes.

    And No.

    Now, the same question to Barack Obama: Is he a warmonger?


    And No.

    So who's flip flopping???

    May 20, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  21. joseph

    A clip of former Secretary of State James Baker has been making the rounds recently, as a result of the current 'appeasement' debate between John McCain and Barack Obama. Unfortunately for McCain, Baker agrees with Obama. And even though the interview is from this past October, Baker addresses head-on the issue of appeasement, saying:

    "Diplomacy involves talking to your enemies. You don't reward your enemies necessarily by talking to them if you are tough and you know what you are doing. You don't appease them. Talking to an enemy is not in my view appeasement."

    May 20, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  22. Chris, Middletown, CT

    Its funny...Obama is seemingly honest – everything that Clinton and McCain toss at him (after you research it) – is a distortion or an outright lie....I'm concerned that people will just accept what a McCain or Clinton might say without researching...look at Hillary supporters "I will not vote for Obama...he doesn't have the experience of Clinton" – research that one.....she has less elected experience....and served this country as the first lady...heck...the cook is more qualified than she is...they were most likely in the cabinet meetings serving the president....

    btw....we don't support Clinton because she's a liar....not because of her gender...I want Obama to select the governor of Kansas...a woman with integrity and experience....her own experience

    May 20, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  23. ok

    Charlotte, The Truth, Jana Delray Bch, Fl – you all got it wrong. Get your facts right. Do not just argue blindly. Yes indeed Barack is telling the truth about McCain stands on Cuba, Iran, Immigration, economy and whole lot of other things. McCain is always flip-flopping or flop-flipping.

    May 20, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  24. enomisa

    Obama is the biggest flip-flopper of them all:

    First defends Wright then, only after Wright endorses Obama for president, Obama comes out and denounces Wright.

    Will meet with our enemies without preconditions, then criticizes Carter and then ultimately argues that he never said that- although it was one of the debate questions and he clearly stated his position.

    May 20, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  25. Oh no she din-nt'

    All the GOP'ers are comming out trying to place blame on Obama. They try but merely look like idiots who need someone to guide them in life. They, unfortunately, are too stubborn to recognize how McCain does more to ruin his reputation when he speaks than when Obama points out how bad his memory is.

    May 20, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
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