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. jr

    Hey, maybe Obama's onto something here. If he's going to do face to face sit down negotiations with these people maybe he also plans to get rid of half of our diplomatic corps, and their salaries, to finance some of his other programs.

    May 20, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  2. Vince Los Angeles, CA

    McCain is using Iran and Cuba as a fear tactic to divide the Dem party because he knows that Republicans are in trouble...and Hillary's core supporters (UNEDUCATED REDNECKS) are falling for the tactic, hook, line and sinker!!

    May 20, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  3. Obama supporter

    Hillary's run will end tonight, she finally made her money back from supporters and will announce it today or tomorrow.

    May 20, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  4. KH

    McCain needs to stop running a campaign based on false personal attacks on his opponent but on his own merits and policies, but then again, the McCain and his Republican party really has no positive policies to run on.

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

    From the posts on this blog it is obvious that most people don't even understand what either Obama or McCain is talking about. Preconditions and preparation are two different things. McCain constantly misrepresents Obama's position. A precondition is a policy change that one imposes on another country before even beginning negotiations. Obama's position has not changed. Do all the people that post on CNN really believe the stuff they write or are they just republican fanboys that already decided they dont like Barack.

    Also, anyone who says that they are a Hillary supporter but will vote for McCain over Obama is either an idiot, a racist bigot, or a liar. Cinton and Obama share the same views on almost every REAL issue and both offer a real substantive difference from McCain's four more year's of Bush.

    May 20, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  6. Susan Cusson, Mohave Valley, Arizona 86440

    He is not obsessed, he is realistic. What a dumb statement. Obama does not get it. I am a Dem gone MAD -Mothers AGAINST DANGER-OBama i a danger to our country. I am not thrilled with McCain, but it is our best bet.

    May 20, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  7. Diane Panama City Fl

    It seems John McBush keeps making these ignorant foreign policy comments. The real leader of Iran is not Ahmadinejad, but the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Perhaps that's why Condi Rice can't get anywhere with her Mideast Peace negotiations with Iran because the stupid Republicans think that's who they are supposed to be talking with. In reality, it's the religious leaders of Iran that hold the real power. No wonder the MCBush policies aren't working – they're trying to negotiate with the wrong people!!!! Or, perhaps it is more of the Repubican efforts to once again mislead Americans about our foreign policy and how it should be conducted. So, McCain is either stupid or a liar.

    May 20, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  8. DJ, LA, CA

    Yes exactly...very good take by Senator Obama. It seems that both McCain and Bush are indeed obsessed and recylcing the same exact verbiage from the justification to invade Iraq to Iran.

    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to calculate they are trying to prime the American people into fear and another fresh round of propaganda in order to set-up war with Iran.

    Iran couldn't even defeat Saddam Hussein after 8 years of all-out war, so how can they possibly be a threat to the U.S. if they can't even defeat own neighbors?

    May 20, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  9. Dark Kent, Not Clark Kent

    My recollection of the 1st year an a bit of the Bush's presidency, he was viewed as a mental and policy lightweight, with the country just sort of drifting along with out any direction. The do-com bubble had burst, the ecomony was showing signs of weakening. Things were really bad yet but the signs were not positive.

    It's probably just me but I always felt in the back of my mind Bush took us to war in Iraq to distract the country from his lack of vision and lack of a plan than anything else. I felt that he exploited the credibility of one of American's heros, Colin Powell, as his Secretary of State to convince the country and the world to accept his desired course of action. I also felt he was obsessed with Saddam. I fbelieve he was willing to put the lives of young American soldiers at risk, not so much for our national security but rather for his on selfish job security.

    He fed into our basic human frailty, we were pissed after 9-11 and we wanted to punch somebody in the nose.

    We need to watch McCain for the same type of obsessive Iranian disorder.

    Can anybody discuss this without calling me a left wing, liberal, communist? Your thoughts?

    May 20, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  10. kayla

    TO: No Unity May 20th, 2008 5:03 pm ET

    No unity because of ignorant people like yourself. You can't look beyond skin color. What if the Lord, struck you down right now and changed your skin color to black, so that you can walk a mile in our shoes. You wouldn't be able to handle it, you're a coward hiding behind a keyboard, sure you can spot your racist ignorance there.

    This has nothing what so ever to do with Clinton as a woman, but everything to do with Obama as a bi-racial man. "No one" will tell me otherwise. This country is racist and Obama is here to change that. If you want to continue spotting your racists digs at Obama, then that proves you're not willing to change. So, you know what I am certain there is space on Mars for all you racisits to build your own Nazi fortress. You will be out of site and out of mind.

    May 20, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  11. Andrew

    Objectively speaking, both candidates have been contradictory on a number of issues. However, on this subject, I would like to hear Obama clarify his definition of "preparation."

    May 20, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  12. Paris

    @ Bayoujoe

    The problem is CNN.
    Based on their own rules they are not suppose to post vulgar language but they do it everyday.

    You know why because CNN = Politics instead of what it should be CNN should = Truth.
    CNN chooses to post vulgar language against GOP and Senator Clinton because they have been supporting an agenda and that is Obama.

    May 20, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  13. Susan Cusson, Mohave Valley, Arizona 86440

    It appears to me that Obama is very touchy when he is critized. Can you imagine how he won't hold up under pressure with foreign leaders. He lacks the experience and temperment right now. Maybe in a few years. Just not now., We need to know more about him!!!!!!! I am not handing my country over to a stranger to run at this time.

    May 20, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  14. William

    McCain it too old for any kind of diplomacy, all he knows how to do is play the fear trumpet and rattle the saber. That's been so successful for the last 8 years I must ad! McBush: less jobs, more wars!

    May 20, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  15. Brian

    He said no preconditions. He still says no preconditions. The issue is McCain overstates no preconditions as becoming best buddies on day one. Of course he has to elaborate.

    May 20, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  16. The Truth

    McBush tries to distort what Obama has said.

    But McBush is the one who has changed his view to appease the right wing. Take him down Obama, you are the best candidate for America.

    OBAMA '08!

    May 20, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  17. Yubba Yore

    If the voters of West Virginia and Kentucky persist on voting along the old Jim Crowe line, perhaps they should be relegated to the days of when these states got only a fractional vote and not a one man-one vote policy.

    May 20, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  18. Matt

    I know Barack lets just stick our heads back in the sand like during the Clinton Administration. I am sure if we just ignore him he will go away right? It's not like the President of Iran has never threatened us? It's not like he wants nukes? It's not like they have ever taken US citizens hostage. Seeks Destruction of Israel and the West. And I am totally sure that if you guys talk all will be forgiven and we will be buddy buddies in no time right?

    Before you continue to show your complete ignorance of Foreign Policy read a History Book please. They have hated us since we decided to support the creation of Israel (Truman Administration), They hated the loans to Israel every year of 5 billion (Carter Administration)

    I would rather have a 3rd Bush term then a Second Carter term any day of the week.

    May 20, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  19. Keith!

    We'll have troops in the middle east for another 100 years

    or maybe we can have them all back by 2013.

    McCain is a piece of work....

    May 20, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  20. Sherri

    The politics of fear are alive and well in America. The politics of ignorance continues to grow.

    There are so many people living within Iran today that would love to have normalized relations with the US. These people are working hard on Women's rights, human rights, and intellectual freedom. They represent the thoughts of their fellow citizens and they put their lives on the line every day. There is room to support these movements and there is room to speak to the Iranian government through diplomatic means, helping to secure the change their citizens are working for. It is in our interest to do so. Why don't we do it?

    We break this all down to sound bites and election rhetoric. I admire Senator Obama's tenacity and great courage. How could it possibly hurt to talk? It is the only way to a lasting and secure peace.

    May 20, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  21. fairness

    Diplomacy is the way to go first, but the diplomacy must be proper, good, suitable, cautious.
    So far Obama did not convince me of being the best of best diplomats.
    He had to many times to explain what he meant to say, he is not skilled yet, not now. The real – grand diplomat cannot afford to have to explain again and again what he meant by saying what he said.

    Real diplomat does not need the fireworks, the screaming crowds, the attacks. Real diplomat is smooth, is wise, is brilliant, smart, intelligent, knows how to read people, how to convince them quietly, not by media, not by big speeches..... – maybe almost like a programmer........
    diplomat feels people, feels and knows what words to use when, what mood to is a dance on ice.

    I am very disappointed with elections as of now. I feel lost, not having the right one to vote for.

    May 20, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  22. Clinton/McCain


    I'm voting for McCain over Obama not because I'm an idiot. In fact I'm finishin up my PhD. Anyway, Obama has run a dirty campaign and IS where he is today because of the pro-Obama media. Obama is also a race-baiter. I can never support someone like him.

    May 20, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  23. Clinton/McCain


    I'm voting for McCain over Obama not because I'm an idiot. In fact I'm finishing up my PhD. Anyway, Obama has run a dirty campaign and IS where he is today because of the pro-Obama media. Obama is also a race-baiter. I can never support someone like him.

    May 20, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  24. Proudly Independent

    The last eight years there has been a real lack of leadership. The U.S. relationship with our allies is weaker than anytime anyone can remember. The U.S. standing as the world only superpower has taken has suffered.. McCain for all of his experience is naive. Talking tough and not engaging our enemies is a dumb policy. Regan talked to the Soviets. Nixon talked to the Chinese.

    Obama did not say he would meet with the leaders of our enemies immediately. He said that lower level diplomacy would occur first. He calls that preparation. He would meet with the leader if he felt that the leaders of our enemies were serious. Waiting until a laundry list of preconditions were met before McCain would meet with the leaders of rogue countries is weak leadership. Reagan showed that engaging the Soviets and being very frank and honest about the U.S. position with respect to the Soviet Union was an amazing accomplishment. Reagan's persistence helped bring down that evil Soviet Union. Reagan was a strong leader. Bush talks tough while sitting in the White House sending other people's sons and daughters to war. He is a weak leader. It is too bad John McCain has chosen to be a lap dog for George W. Bush instead of being the McCain of 2000. Obama is write and McCain is wrong!

    May 20, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  25. Tyme4chaing

    People do not fall for the GOP tricks....McCain is their puppet. Whatever GOP says, they'll get McCain to repeat it. Listen to McCain speeches. McCain speaks as if he rehearse his speech to the public.

    May 20, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
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