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. islandtal

    DannyCali/Jana DelRay.......Did you watch the last 2 debates? Both Obama and Clinton said they would meet with Cuba under certain conditions.

    May 20, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  2. Bayou Joe

    Liar Liar pants on fire. You shift positions more often than a wide reciever for the New England patriots. Where is Barak this play, Oh he is on the left, no he he is in the midddle. wait he just went to the right. Anything but staying firm so we can't tell where you stand.

    That is why Barak will not be our next President.

    We don't know where he stands, Kind of shifty don't you think.

    May 20, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  3. Bob

    Make no mistake, Mccain is no maverick. Who on earth would think that after 8 years of George Bush, Americans would fall deaf in the ears and elect to continue with the same policies.

    In every election, the incumbent tries to win votes by boasting on their previous achievements. The Republicans are attacking OBAMA on security because they don't have any accomplishments to rely on.

    By the way TV analyts have concluded that OBAMA is winning this security flaps against Mccain hands-on.

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

    I don't think Obama is flip flopping. He is clarifying and refining his position of meeting with other countries and other leaders.

    McCain is trying to use Iran and Ahmedinejad as a wedge issue and a fear tactic.

    May 20, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  5. Showme

    In 2000 I voted for McCain in the primary and would have voted for him if he had ran as an independent. Normalization of relations with Cuba was one of many issues I agreed with him on. I lost a lot of respect for him when he began to toe the Bush line. He seems more like a Bush toadie than the man he once was. Its just too bad that he has fallen so low.

    May 20, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  6. Beltway Insider

    Operation Chaos is still in effect.

    Do not get played for a fool by the republicans.

    Most of the democratic 'infighting' consists of republican plants posing as democrats.

    A vote for McCain is a vote for 4 more years of Bush, or worse.

    Don't let yourself get used and deceived.

    Vote Democrat '08

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

    What is the problem with talking? I don't get it.

    May 20, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  8. Jeff M.

    Preconditions =/= preparations

    Preconditions mean "We'll only talk with you if you do this, this, and this."

    Preparations mean "We'll talk with you after we do this, this, and this first."

    May 20, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  9. birds of a feather

    I will never vote for Obama.

    He has a blind, closed minded and myopic cult following.

    His followers are hateful, insulting, name-calling and demeaning of others who don't agree with them.

    I do not want to belong to such a team.

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

    If experience in international affairs means alienating us from Europe, ostracizing Cuba for no reason, and making enemies in every corner of the world, give me the inexperience Obama brings.

    May 20, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  11. Mike Birmingham, AL

    The people posting Hillary or McCain posts are not Democrats. They are Operation Chaos idiots that come here to flood the Ticker daily.

    Pay no attention to them, nobody else is.

    May 20, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  12. Tell the truth

    The truth:

    Please change your screen name because you speak out of angry not with facts. All you comments are based on anger not facts. McCain has flip flop on issue like bush taxes cuts or torture and the war. These are facts.

    Clintion did not tell the truth about NAFTA and Bosina. To name a few. These are facts. Please speak with facts not with angry.

    You and other are too arrogant to review all candidates and make an objective opinion about them. If you did, you would see that Obama is clearly the candidate that embodies change and has the mindset this country needs to deal with our problems.

    Now this is speaking the truth.

    May 20, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  13. Mike Birmingham, AL

    The people posting Hillary or McCain posts are not Democrats. They are Operation Chaos idiots that come here to flood the Ticker daily.

    Pay no attention to them, nobody else is.:)

    May 20, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  14. Darth Vadik, CA

    He is, Obama is so right.

    May 20, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  15. Tyrone

    And what's wrong with sitting down and talking with our enemies. the should be a responsibility of a president. Basically it is common sense. THE PRESIDNET SHOULD COMMUNICATE WITH OUR ENEMIES BEFORE HE DECIDES TO GO TO WAR AND SPILL EVEN MORE AMERICAN BLOOD.

    what are you people afraid of.? You are not afraid to send young people off to war but you are afraid to sit down and talk to try to prevent war. All of you are freakin cowards.

    May 20, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  16. Mike Birmingham, AL

    The people posting Hillary or McCain posts are not Democrats. They are Operation Chaos idiots that come here to flood the Ticker daily.

    Pay no attention to them, nobody else is.;)

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

    The diplomatic issues that surround Cuba are TINY compared to Iran... LoL Curious, why does the U.S. have sanctions against that country. I don't belive Cuba poses a threat to National Security.

    May 20, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  18. Brian from Fort Mill, S.C.

    "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."
    Please, feel free to write in Hillary.

    But for your own sakes, don't get your hopes up.

    She's going to have to kiss a lot of behinds just to get the VP position.

    That's politics for you! 🙂

    May 20, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  19. Frosty

    People are very selective in their hearing even reading haha. without precondition...without precondition...without precondition. What happend to the part where he said WITH A LOT OF PREPARATION?

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

    Why doesn't Wolf play the debate with Clinton when they talked about Cuba instead of now listening to this guy flip/flop.

    May 20, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  21. 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 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  22. Pam

    Why not talk to them? What has not talking to them accomplished? Talking to them does not equate giving them what they want. Why is that so hard for republicans to grasp?

    May 20, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  23. Frank, San Diego

    Obama needs to detail someone to respond to McCain's lies. If he spend all of his time doing it, he will never have time to do anything else.

    In an ideal world, every time McCain lied the press would call him on it. But they have decided that that's not their job. They are just going to parrot whatever depraved nonsense comes out of his mouth.

    Edward R. Murrow must be spinning in his grave.

    May 20, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  24. Cammi317

    It is really hard to take any of this "anti-Obama" rhetoric seriously, with all of the grammatical and spelling errors.

    May 20, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  25. Democrat in Des Moines

    Obama is a flip-flopper himself.

    Wright then No Wright. He threw him under the bus for political gain – it's just that simple. I would have had more respect for him if he backed his friend of 20 years. There are issues with inequality in this country. Take them on head-on instead of ducking the issue. Many African Americans are angry and they have the right to be.

    Back Michelle with her "first time" comments instead of making excuses for her. We all know what she meant by that comment, that he is an African American man that has non-AA support. It's reality – stand up for who you are and what you truly believe in. It's something we all should be proud of.

    Speak out on your own without consulting your aides for every response you make (to Bush, Hillary, or anyone else that challenges you). Debate these folks live, not one or two days afterwards with free coverage on CNN where your opponent isn't there to defend their comments.

    Prove to me you can be trusted and you will hold to your values. I will support you if I believe in what you stand for. Hillary was the best option though you could be a good alternative if you start showing some strength.

    May 20, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
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