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. A real American

    you know how you tell if a democrap is liing or not? Their lips are moving. Vote Republican!

    May 20, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  2. Clinton/McCain

    Obama is trying to squirm his way out of his gaffe in the CNN youtube debate when he said he would personally meet with our enemies in the first year without preconditions. Nice try Obama. We're too smart for you.

    May 20, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  3. Take it all the way

    Hillary Clinton should take this all the way to the convention.

    This race is the closest in history.

    Ted Kennedy was 800 delegates behind- and HE took it all the way to the convention.

    Why should Hillary be discouraged from doing the same?

    May 20, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  4. Inevitable

    Obama .. plz .. stop focusing on foreign policy and start focusing on the domestic issues, like health care, education & economy ...

    this is another of the GOP distractions .. so deter us from what's really important .......

    Democrats 08!!! .. UNITED WE STAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 20, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  5. BS

    To Charlotte, the Truth, and the other Billary die hards, you are so full of hate, you sit glued to your TV sets and scrutinize every word and everything the guy does and try to attack it.
    You may be white skinned (and probaly uneducated) but surely your hearts and souls are dark and filthy.
    The way you are going about the whole thing, I'm sure if you are given the chance, you'll kill the man.
    If you don't have anything constructive to say, why don't you just stay away and stop spreading hatred.
    Your candidate has lost, if you can't bare it, feel free to vote for McShame; Democrats don't need ppl like you, you must be evil.
    I'm sure that there are Republicans who would vote for Obama so please go away.
    You've made your point and we've had enough of you, don't you have any other thing doing?!

    May 20, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  6. Bias

    Everyone is calling on Hillary to make an exit.


    This is the closest primary in history.

    Obama is FAR from anything resembling a mandate.

    Ted Kennedy took it to the convention and he was WAY further behind.

    Why the double standard? Why shouldn't Hillary Clinton exercise the options the Democratic party provides?

    May 20, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  7. truthurts

    Cuba? who cares about little ole Cuba... it's like not talking to your neighbor.. after a while you forget why. Move forward already and focus on some real issues.

    May 20, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  8. Randy - Denver


    Mr. Obama said he would meet WITHOUT PRECONDITIONS. That is different than without PREPARATIONS (which is what low level meetings are for). Preconditions mean that in order to have these talks Cuba (in this case) must do the some specific items (free political prisoners, renounce Communism etc). This would be iunacceptable to the leader of ANY country (lets say the leader of Norway said that in order to meet with him the US would have to sign the Kyoto Concords do you not think the present US government would balk at that?). Meeting with Preparations means that low-level talks have been held to determine topics and extents of talks.

    I know this is something people do want want to see (and this is NOT directed at you Marty but has now become a general statement) but the world is NOT a black and white, with us or against us place it is full of shades of grey and inconsistancies, because of this it is EXTREMELY important that we have someone in the office as President who can work within the shadings not someone who sees everything as good (my way) or evil (someone else's way). The old Mr. McCain struck me as a man who saw the grey, the new one does not he seems to have bought into the black and white theory. mr. Obama strikes me as one who sees the shades of grey and who knows that all or nothing usually ends in nothing.

    May 20, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  9. Marie in California

    I'm with McCain on this one......100%

    Grow up, Obama! Get real!

    May 20, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  10. enomisa

    No one knows what Obama's positions are.

    Not even Obama.

    That way, he can't be pinned down.

    He is free to pivot and spin depending on the situation.

    Hypocritical sleaze.

    May 20, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  11. Farrell, Houston, Tx


    May 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  12. Enough

    McSame is really turning into a joke. Can he not remember what he's said in the past – or is he just blatantly just flip-floppin'? He's acting like an 8 year old, pouncing on every word that comes out of Obama's mouth. I have since begun ignoring mcsame. He's had too many gaffes for them to be gaffes – it's come too frequent to simply be misspoken. He's just wrong on the issues in my book. I would no more consider voting for John McSame than I would consider voting for Bush. McCain is a really weak candidate, and stunts like this make him appear weaker because Obama is calling him on it and defending himself.

    May 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  13. Illinois

    I would hardly say that McCain is "obsessed" with Iran's leader. All he's trying to do is bring to light the very real threats Iran is capable of, which is the very thing that Obama wants to ignore.

    Obama wants to convince us that he's the only one who can "save" us, which is ridiculous but that sort of thinking is very common among megalomaniacs. No matter. He won't be president anyway.

    May 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  14. ron

    if you initiate any negotiation you are starting out at a disadvantage. how can you negotiate with someone who uses their own people as bombs. even children these people have no regard for human life even their own you have to find their weak spot and exploit it so they come to you to negotiate other wise your just furthering their cause. obama talks a good game but in reality he could not even convince his peers to past most of his bills he put forward so how does he expect to convince terrorists

    May 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  15. Vague is good

    Obama is vague on his positions. That way he can talk his way out of it if he says something unpopular.

    He really doesn't know where he stands. He is faking it as he goes.

    He just keeps modifying and redefining what he believes.

    Who wants to vote for such a hedging politician?

    May 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  16. Whatever

    Obama is wearing a pin because he said supporters have been giving him pins, especially veterans. He is wearing the pins for them. So you guys don't know what you're talking about.

    Where's Hillary's pin?

    May 20, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  17. kayla

    TO: The Truth May 20th, 2008 3:58 pm ET
    The truth is: Clinton fought a good race, negative as it was; but it is time she call it a wrap. What she is doing is tearing the party apart and her snide remarks to her supporters are what feeding this turmoil. I as a woman have no respect for her at all at this point, she has given this party a bad name, she and her husband brought race into this campaign. Look at what she did with USA Today, she clearly inciting those W. Virginia voters now Kentucky. She's the one that announced to the media that Obama could not bring in the hard working "White vote" and she kept reiterating it. Now she whining that the media is against her, that the media is sexist, that the media is unfair to her. This is a woman playing that female card. She's seeing that the race card isn't really working as much as she hoped, now she's thowing out the gender card. This woman is out of control and I seriously think menopause is setting in, if it hasn't already. She is bringing this on herself with this throwing things out to see what sticks. Like I said, "no respect as a woman." Pitiful, excuse for a human being.

    May 20, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  18. Ralph

    Why meet with these leaders when not meeting them has been so productive?

    May 20, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  19. Republican in Idaho

    Pride, pride, pride, it has been the fall of every great country and man. Wake up America, we are no better than anyone else, and its time we realized it. Every great country has fallen from within.

    May 20, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  20. Marlin Benedict, Florida

    Give it up, Barack!. You don't have any idea of foreign politics; all you can do is criticize with half-truths. Americans with open minds who have been around for a while can see through you. Give it up!

    May 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  21. Molly

    My – the comments from the obama group – you are a disgrace to your candidate! Who are you to look down at states like WV or KY or FL & MI – all states that obama did or will not win! We are ALL US citizens and have a vote and choice – too bad it's not your choice – if we vote for Hillary or McCain – we are all racist.
    Seems to me like Hillary is pulling in MILLIONS of votes – for someone that is done, over, get out – Just exactly HOW do you explain this??????

    May 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  22. for realsies

    Life-long DEM May 20th, 2008 4:15 pm ET

    I prefer Clinton's position on foreign policy.
    I prefer Clinton's health Care paln.
    I like Clinton's track record of working for minorities, women, children and the poor.

    Why would I ever vote for Obama?


    .....maybe because his views are way closer to clintons than mccains are?

    May 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  23. Bayou Joe

    The educated Obama people need to learn how to address a member of Congress. It is not mcshane, mcshame, or billary it is:
    Senator John Sydney McCain. or Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton,
    and to be fair: Senator Barak Hussein Obama. When you idiots
    post and use vulgarity or deliberately distort their names you show your ignorance and lack of education.

    So from now on if you can't be civil don't post. All the ranting in the world and the posting of ugly comments will not elect your candidate.
    The voters will decide.

    May 20, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  24. Haas

    This is for Charlotte: Every time I see your posts I get the feeling that you're one of those Limbaugh Republican's. Why don't you just come out and say it?

    May 20, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  25. obama 2016

    Obama has learned a lot from Hillary. He amazingly changes his postions based on what she says. Saturday night live got that riight!
    He took her O'Reilly interview and parroted it word for word on an interview he had with blitzer.
    Lately I haven't heard him talk about giving drivers licenses to all illegals but he said that at a televiised rally. Someone find that tape.

    May 20, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
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