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. Brian - Trinidad

    Obama is lying and the media will not point this out as they would have done if Clinton was making these statements.I heard Obama, as was broadcasted on CNN,in one of his charismatic rants about doing things differently etc etc,said that he would directly reach out to people like Castro, Chavez,and the Iranian Leader.And that to me means that he would offer reconciliation to them under their terms.To now that he implied that reconciliation would be under USA terms is maintaining the status quo of Bush,because if they all were willing to meet our terms of co-existence,we would have peace. What a liar!

    May 20, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  2. adub

    Whats wrong with diplomacy...In order to solve a problem you need to talk to the other side. Obama realizes this, very intelligent. U don't get anywhere by just standing around and threatening people. The US has became too powerful and cocky to understand that, two wrongs don't make it right.

    The reason Why Obama is winning is because he's been consistent. Unlike McCain who changes his ideas every 2 seconds. Or Hillary who changes every time she loses...from sleeping, to more experience, to solutions,to kitchen sink, to poll pleaser, then race card, and now the gender card, whats next? Don't Give up but make up your mind and stop being dirty!!!

    May 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  3. James playing some weird politics, is it me or does it seems like mccain waiting for obama to slip so he can attack obama,.......i need a president that me what he is all about without damaging the other candidate.......and mccain appear to be more of an opportunist than a find candidate

    May 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  4. Susan

    That is what McCain does. he like to terrorize peopl with fear nad war mongering. Kiss all you right goodby if you put this clown and his lobbyist buddies in the White House!

    May 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  5. The Clear Thinking Independent

    It's pretty clear that the 1st page out of Senator McCain's playbook is to try to convince Americans that Senator Obama is a youngster ... at age 46 I might add ... that is RECKLESS and NAIEVE and what to PLAY at being President.

    The problem is he trying to hard. It comes across as so contrived and rehearsed when he says it.

    Our Constitution(?) states that someone must be 35 years or older to run for president. The GOP & it’s nominee will have a hard time convincing Clear Thinking Americans that at 46 years old, Obama is an adolescent. Mr. Obama will continue to conduct himself as a genteel statesman, while dismantling Team McCain with competence.

    May 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  6. R.I.F.

    Republicans are so predictable. Watch what McCain will say next "Obama said that he's not worried about Ahmadinajad and that I'm obsesd" You're right I'm obsesed because I want to project Israel and the US" Mark my words. Of course Obama is not saying that he is not worried and also not even the leader of Iran so McCain is obsesed with the wrong person. Read Joe Klein of TIME school McCain yesterday on who the leader is.

    Obama '08

    May 20, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  7. tedious898

    My goodness ....I had no idea there are so many out of touch, out to lunch, americans that want J.McSame to continue the Bush legacy. To what end?....I ask my fellow americans? I'm old enough to remember the draft. Do you GOP intellects believe that a volunteer army is all that will be necessary when we strike Iran? Do you GOP intellects understand that Iran supplies the 4th highest amount of crude oil in world? Do you GOP brainiacs realize oil speculators will drive up a barrell of oil to about $200 each? Have any of you McSame supporters ever heard of economic terrorism? (e.g. imports so expensive it literally cripples the US) And finally ...GOP experts, is it possible that if we would have completed the mission to find the true criminals of 911 would we be paying terrorists in Iraq not to shot our soldiers? To think I at one time thought the Republican party consisted of conservative, careful thought based intellectuals. Oh how wrong I was

    May 20, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  8. Obama flopper

    The greatest flip-flopper of them all.

    Obama got this far by avoiding taking any position so as not to offend anyone.

    He says whatever he needs to say to get out of the jam of the present.

    Wright is no different than his white granny- until it was politically expedient to denounce Wright.

    Michelle got shelved after her stupid comments on pride- an now they get spun into something different than what she meant.

    May 20, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  9. Paris

    Obama your policy on Iran is as damaging as Carter’s was 29 years ago. Your lack of understanding of the culture amazes me.
    Obama stop lying and tell us what are you willing to offer Iran.
    You can’t be tougher than Bush so what are willing to give Appeasement!!!!

    Obama actually has the following in common with Ahmadinejad:

    •Obama has problem with wearing an American flag/ Ahmadinejad likes to walk on it
    •Obama’s mentor hates America / Ahmadinejad hates America
    •Obama will not retaliate if Iran attacks Israel / Ahmadinejad is obtaining nuke to attack Israel
    •Obama was endorsed by Hamas / Ahmadinejad government is financing Hamas
    •Obama doesn’t like to ware a tie/ Ahmadinejad government condemn wearing a tie in Iran
    I am not sure why we are surprised. This man wasn’t outraged when his mentor of 20 years said GD America, why do we expect him to be outraged with the Iranian government?
    Obama doesn’t mind when American flag is burned, and our solders are killed by the Iranian government.

    Accept the facts people.

    May 20, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  10. Nicole in NE

    People who keep bringing up the flag pin are ridiculous!

    Read Roland's blog about it – most politicians don't.

    GET OVER THIS already, Obama already stated patriotism doesn't some from wearing a flag pin.

    I am a Christian also, but because I do not wear a cross does not make me any less of one, because I know what's in my heart.

    And to quote what another lady said: "The flag pin is probably made in China" hmmmm....think about it!

    May 20, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  11. Joe, Northern Virginia

    The truth is out people!!! We all know that McCain flip-flops and he isn't as "HOLY" as most people especially republicans think he is. More of him and his shady dealings are going to be revealed and all of us will make our own informed decisions. We (the Dems) are going to be on the offense this elections season... They better think twice when they think of throwing any punch at us. They aren't the only people who can. With McSame, we will see who will get hurt the most. No wonder he (Mccain) claims that he is going to run a clean general campaign.

    May 20, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  12. Swiss in Canada

    Reality Check: Mariela is probably a person who speaks more then one language. Do YOU? I make a lot of mistakes too, but English is the 4th language I had to learn. Be a little more open minded!

    May 20, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  13. NELSON Colorado Springs, Co

    It time for change on Cuban people if i\we can do it for China why not Cuba

    May 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  14. steveda - poconos

    Once again people, the Hillary or McCain thing is getting old now. Unless you want to commit yourself and the rest of the country to 4 years of McCain – which is 4 more years of Bush – why would you vote for anyone other than the Democratic nominee??? Spite the Dem party by withholding contributions, drop your party membership and go independent, but don't vote for anyone other than the dem for president. This country can't afford four more years of the republican rule.

    OH and by the way, do you really want the republicans to appoint 2 – 3 more Supreme Court justices? Hasn't Bush taken enough of your civil liberties?

    There is simply too much riding on this election folks... stop it and get real.

    May 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  15. Lana


    Would you rather live in a Communist country??

    Where you have no rights what so over?

    By all means. If you don't like it here then leave.

    May 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  16. j gannon

    hmmmmm Hillary has experience because she was first lady...... McCain has experience by being a POW..... had no idea these were the qualifications to run our country!

    May 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  17. Molly


    Hillary Clinton is the best candidate to lead our country – obama is NOT Qualified – he has many good qualities – BUT – he is no match for McCAin on foreign policy. The party leaders had to defend their WEAK candidate while his speech was being written on foreign policy. He is only a JR Senator – and not qualified to be President of the USA.
    Hillary Clinton is! That is why if Hillary is not the nominee – we will all be voting for McCain – this is not about race, gender, or spite – just the BEST QUALIFIED!

    May 20, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  18. fred

    Swannboy May 20th, 2008 4:37 pm ET

    Why on earth would you write in that crazy old bat's name?

    Do you really think a write in campaign will put your canidate in the white house?

    Do you really want to split the party?

    Do you really want John McCain in the White House?

    Do you really want to extend the war? Do our really want to extend the war to Iran?

    Do you really want healthcare costs to continue spiraliing out of control?

    This is madness, your canidate has lost, no matter how much you fudge the math. I truly hope that you'll lick your wounds, and leave your pencil behind come November.

    Your candidate will lose when we WRITE IN HILLARY or VOTE FOR McCAIN!!


    May 20, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  19. Lyle

    If Mr. Obama is this reckless with his words at this point, just imagine how reckless his actions would be as President. He seems very naïve and confused about the world we live in.

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

    You Hillary supporters are just ridiculous. This blog is not about her, it is about McCain. do you think by typing in capsand behaving like children is helping your cause? By the way Mariela, Obama NEVER mentioned Cuba until McCain did today. Do your homework before you blather.

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

    The outdated and out of touch socialism (dictator kind) and the country that is refusing to open up to the free world is like living in the extreme closed religious culture. The change must come within, and it takes time and the leadership.

    If you are living in the extreme closed religious culture, people don't know what "abuse" is. People live happily under any circumstances (call survival).

    What's so sad about it is that those extreme ideologies and extreme religious views of handful leaders have separated the world, families and countries.

    May 20, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  22. Walt, Belton,TX

    McCain's "obsession" with an obviously enemy of free peoples everywhere doesn't bother me at all. I find it encouraging that he is looking out for our future and that of our grandchildren. Obama's nonchalance and almost cordial, even friendly attitude towards these fanatics is not only troublesome but makes one wonder where his concerns and loyalties lie. You don't kiss the cheek of an enemy unless you're a Judas.

    May 20, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  23. Jeremy

    If anyone thinks that Iran will not be key in future events in the Middle East they are naieve. We cannot allow a Sympathetic president favorable of Iran to lead our Nation. It will lead to the destruction of Israel.

    May 20, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  24. Liam

    The McBushCain Hybrid.

    It runs on Ignorance and Fear.

    May 20, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  25. sandi

    I really hope McCain does not become President. I would like to see my husband not have to do a fourth tour in Iraq. People please stay with the issues that matter.

    May 20, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
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