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

Obama: McCain 'obsessed' with Ahmadinajad

CNN

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. Lonny, Seattle

    What exactly has Obama flipped on Jana? Was it anything of major importance like foreign policy? Flag pins and such do not count, that is just media created anyways...

    Aside from that, why is flip-flopping sooo bad anyways? Sometimes people make decisions that, had they had more information, might not have made. In that case, they change their mind.

    Since when is changing your mind or re-adjusting your position cause for scorn?

    Isnt this exactly what makes Bush such a bad president? That he wont change his mind on anything no matter what info he gets?

    Personally i would prefer to have a POTUS that has the ability to adapt and change his mind if needed.

    May 20, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  2. tony

    I feel we should let the puppeteers have their way.I for one know I'll survive whatever mess this generation of men raised by women gets us into.

    Has Barrack ever even been in a fight?

    May 20, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  3. LT for Obama

    Once again, you non supporters miss half the message.

    He is saying that he is willing to deal with low level diplomats in an effort to start the preparations that he has said needs to be done. This wording only clarifies what he has said all along. No preconditions but with preparation.

    Stop trying to find fault where there is none. He has shown that he is willing to try and work on agreements with these countries in an effort to curb the growing negative attitude towards America from other countries. Something that the republicans have failed to do.

    May 20, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  4. Adam, Los Angeles

    The Truth,

    Let's be thankful we're not Republicans instead of being envious of them.

    May 20, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  5. Frosty

    It is simple. John McCain of 2000 and John McCain of 2008 are completely different people when it comes to core fundamental issues. Flip flopping is an understatement. Once the primaries are over, McCain is going to be in hot water.

    Los Angeles, CA.

    May 20, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  6. KE

    Some group of America thinks the voters are like a dumb sheep. And another small group of America plays into that idea. And another group of America just work for them to make their living.

    A large group of America trust government to do the right thing.
    A large group of America maybe fed up with politics.
    A large group of America has no time for politics.
    A large group of America is indifference.
    A large group of America is not educated about politics.
    A large group of America believes everything they are told.

    There was widespread public anger over the results of local governmnet elections in the spring of 1989. People of East Germany sent strong message to the ruling party and everntually led the party leader to resign and replaced by a more moderate leader. On November, the Berlin Wall was opened.

    May 20, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  7. Norb

    Go John McCane. McCain/Lieberman/Keating 08!

    May 20, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  8. MIKE

    I AM A BIG TIME OBAMA SUPPORTER, BUT I DISAGREE WITH HIM ON THIS ISSUE.
    CASTRO HAS SURVIVED FOR ALMOST 50 YEARS IN CUBA BECAUSE THE MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE AGREE WITH HIM. IF THEY DIDN'T HE WOULD FALL.
    LOOK OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS – THE SOVIET UNION, EAST GERMANY, ALL OF THE OLD SOVIET BLOC COUNTRIES FELL. THEY DID NOT FALL BECAUSE OF ANYTHING WE DID. THEY FELL BECAUSE THE PEOPLE OF THE COUNTRIES DIDN'T WANT THE RULERS AROUND ANY MORE.
    I AM VERY DISAPPOINTED AT OBAMA FOR PANDERING TO THE CUBANS IN MIAMI. IT WILL NOT GET HIM ANY VOTES – THEY WILL VOTE REPUBLICAN AS THEY ALWAYS HAVE BECAUSE THEY KNOW THE REPUBLICANS WILL KEEP THE CUBAN PEOPLE DOWN AND NOT ALLOW FREE TRADE BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES. THEY STILL DREAM OF "GOING BACK TO A FREE CUBA" AND RUNNING IT. THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN. THE CUBAN PEOPLE WILL NOT ALLOW "FOREIGNERS" – THAT IS EXACTLY WHO THE MIAMI CUBANS ARE – TO RULE THEM.
    AND YET FOR YEARS THE CUBAN PEOPLE HAVE, AND CONTINUE TO SUFFER BECAUSE OF U.S. POLICY.

    May 20, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  9. Life-long DEM

    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?

    I will simply WRITE HILLARY CLINTON'S NAME IN.

    May 20, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  10. Harry

    Who is this McCain person who would be king?...Where did the 2000 McCain go?...It's as if someone else got into his body and took it over.

    May 20, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  11. HOLY CRAP!!!

    "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."

    People, if you can't speak correctly your typing will speak of your intelligence.

    May 20, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  12. AJ

    The arrogance of Obama is boundless.
    He makes me sick.
    I'm voting straight ticket Republican.
    After 30 years of being a loyal democrat, the Democratic party now holds no charms for me.

    May 20, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  13. hrao

    Obama is not flipping or flopping – he is just stuck since he has no new lines to show how his candidacy will cure all ills in the world. Since there are no concrete issues to steal the win that Hillary may have in Kentucky he is trying some distraction.

    May 20, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  14. MIKE

    I AM A BIG TIME OBAMA SUPPORTER, BUT I DISAGREE WITH HIM ON THIS ISSUE.
    CASTRO HAS SURVIVED FOR ALMOST 50 YEARS IN CUBA BECAUSE THE MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE AGREE WITH HIM. IF THEY DIDN'T HE WOULD FALL.
    LOOK OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS – THE SOVIET UNION, EAST GERMANY, ALL OF THE OLD SOVIET BLOC COUNTRIES FELL. THEY DID NOT FALL BECAUSE OF ANYTHING WE DID. THEY FELL BECAUSE THE PEOPLE OF THE COUNTRIES DIDN'T WANT THE RULERS AROUND ANY MORE.
    I AM VERY DISAPPOINTED AT OBAMA FOR PANDERING TO THE CUBANS IN MIAMI. IT WILL NOT GET HIM ANY VOTES – THEY WILL VOTE REPUBLICAN AS THEY ALWAYS HAVE BECAUSE THEY KNOW THE REPUBLICANS WILL KEEP THE CUBAN PEOPLE DOWN AND NOT ALLOW FREE TRADE BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES. THEY STILL DREAM OF "GOING BACK TO A FREE CUBA" AND RUNNING IT. THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN. THE CUBAN PEOPLE WILL NOT ALLOW "FOREIGNERS" – THAT IS EXACTLY WHO THE MIAMI CUBANS ARE – TO RULE THEM.
    AND YET FOR YEARS THE CUBAN PEOPLE HAVE, AND CONTINUE TO SUFFER BECAUSE OF U.S. POLICY.

    May 20, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  15. Rose - Baltimore, MD

    Good job Obama. Keep it up!

    May 20, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  16. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    I'm not sure whether McCain is a flip flopper or just plain old and senile, however neither one is acceptable for a president. I do recognize John McCain as a person that throws a stone then hides his hand which is something I wouldn't expect from a hero. Obama has an impeccable memory and doesn't need to throw stones because he steps up to the plate. That's why people ask "will the real John McCain come forward". Obama is the real deal and will be the next president.

    May 20, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  17. Peggy, PA

    McCain is making stuff up at this point.

    Keep going at him with Truth Obama.

    May 20, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  18. Justin

    John MexiCAIN- hates Cuba but loves Mexicans.

    What a racist.

    May 20, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  19. Arin

    I wouldn't buy a used car from John McCain now. He's WAY off the straight talk express.

    May 20, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  20. Gee

    Hey "The Truth" Get over it.... Hillary lost!!!!

    Please name one example where Obama flipped flopped?

    May 20, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  21. Non Sense

    It makes no sense for HRC supporters, who prefer her positions over Obama's to ever vote for Obama.

    We have the right to WRITE in any Candidate we choose.

    Many will exercise that right and Write in HRC.

    There are millions of us who will do this.

    May 20, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  22. Chyrel Wallace-Jackson, Chicago Illinois

    What's wrong with people on this blog? I don't recall Obama flip flopping on any issue save the Reverend Wright disaster. He had to denounce the man because it's evident Wright has lost his mind and was attempting to harm Obama irreparably. McCain has flip flopped on taxes, the Iraq war, social security, and the environment just to name a few. Would you people get your facts straight before sending out these idiotic posts. It's evident that you have no clue as to what's happening in the world. God help us. It's this kind of thinking that got us in the current pathetic situation we now find ourselves with George Bush as President. God Bless America.

    May 20, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  23. Mariela

    Please Obama you said you were going to meet the Castro without preconditions. You are the one is flip flopping. You are coming to Tampa, Florida to seek votes for you I do not think so you are welcome after not doing a revote here in Florida because you know that you will probably loose by big margin here again.

    Hillary is the only one who can bring the nation together she is the best qualify to lead this country not you Barrack Hussein Obama. You are a socialist looked what you said on Oregon about American changes the way of living.

    My vote is for Hillary if she does not win, I will vote for Maccain 2008.

    May 20, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  24. KE

    The Hillary people pay no attention to the Ogama campaign and their big magic shows this week. The game is not over yet. We stay focus on the campaign and this race.

    We will play the game like men, till the end, till we have a legitimate nominee for general election.

    May 20, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  25. marty

    Obama has flip-flopped. I could have sworn in the debates he stated he would meet without preconditions. Now, he will have low level meetings first. Isn't that what Hillary said she would do, have low level meetings before she would meet with foreign learders, and certain conditions would have to be met? She said this at that same debate?

    May 20, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
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