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. Tex

    What do you expect from old, senile man who has major health issues? McBush doesn't understand the 21st Century or it's problems. McSame certainly have no solutions for today's world. He flip flops so much b ecause he forgets what he last supported or opposed....that's one of the problem's with old age and senility. You can tell he will be simply "Bush II: The Sequel" in the fact that Karl Rove and Rush Limpbaugh are his advisers and biggest supporters. Then too he is worried about all the skeletons in Cindy's closet.

    May 20, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  2. Generation X

    Hillary supporters are you to dumb to read. This article is not talking about your dear Hillary. Old and dumb!!!

    May 20, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  3. Obama/Kennedy

    McShame thinks the same as Hillary's does they will do anything to distort the truth and say and do anything to win same crap we have been hearing from hillary we will hear from Mcshame do not be surprised by this.

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

    Another day, another blog with a ton of women vowing to vote for McCain if it's not the former first lady!

    I have two things for you to keep in mind: your ovaries!

    From: a hard working, white, baby boomer woman who will not give either The Clintons or McBush a 3rd term!

    May 20, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  5. Darth Vadik, CA

    Obama flip-flopping?

    Ok geniuses, name ONE thing he has flip-flopped on?

    Don't give me this crap he's done it, give me an example.

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

    The DNC selected and installed Obama as the nominee of the party.

    Unfortunately, about half of the democrats- including MANY life-long democrats do not trust Obama and do not embrace his leftist views.

    That spells trouble in Nov. The DNC is banking on all democrats rejecting any republican, including McCain and ultimately voting the democratic ticket.

    They are wrong. A viable option is WRITING IN HILLARY CLINTON.

    If enough democrats, independents and moderate republicans DO that- Clinton will be the next president.

    Many millions of Americans realize the DNC backed and pushed and advantaged the WRONG candidate.

    He divides, rather than unify.

    May 20, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  7. proud army and navy mom

    Sen obama has always said there had to be the proper preparations before he met with world leaders.

    As for the flag pin, he said he rather be known by his patriotic actions than just using a symbol to show patriotism, but you simpletons(the idiots who make such a huge issue of wearing the $1.99 pin made in china) are so dense that he 'd rather concede the point, than argue.

    my mom used to say "never argue with a fool, because a third party might not be able to decide who is the foolish one.

    May 20, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  8. ron

    why is it that obama can cry foul anytime someone criticizes his screw ups and there as been many and CNN just slides over it but when he takes what other people have said and misrepresents it out of context as fact CNN just keeps running it. you guys have got to be the biggest joke on TV . nothing like unbiased reporting lol and how come CNN is still employing jack cafferty i'm just waiting for him to get a heart attack when he talks about clinton he gets so upset.seeing that all the people that jack is calling idiots or whatever other unflatering expletive he can come up with are governors, senators, millionaires or just people that have attained a position in life that puts them in the public eye what does that make him

    May 20, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  9. jj

    OOps hit the wrong button, Obama's inexperience is showing again, we are in deep doo doo if he gets elected in Nov. Which I really think in doubtful. He's got the delegates he has mostly before some of the stuff about him came out. Now everyone doesn't want to look like they are racist. Which it's been pointed out over and over, if you don't vote for him you're a racist. Well, sorry about that I can not help what you think, but I just want someone with experience, so it will be either Clinton or McCain.

    May 20, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  10. Dj

    Advice to those who are still struggling to articulate the English language:

    Find a dictionary... look up two words... the operative words...

    A) preconditions and B) preparation

    After comtemplating them for a reasonable amount of time, recall what the candidates actually said...

    Then ask yourself, "who is flip-flopping?"

    May 20, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  11. KE

    The Republican Party is equally divided as the Democratic Pary this year. We know how the Democratic Party is divided but we don't know about the Republican Party yet.

    The Republican vote will be the suprise factor in the General Election (for McCain and Obama). With what Hillary has achieved in this primary, any person with their right mind would suggest she should quit except her opponents and other adversaries.

    The Hillary people pay no attention to the Obama campaign and their big magic shows this week. The game is not over yet. We will play the game like men, till the end, till we have a legitimate nominee for the general election.

    May 20, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  12. Obama as Nuanced Statesman

    Obama will navigate International Waters well. Although I am American, I live abroad and follow international press. Obama has already engendered tremendous goodwill and acceptance as a voice of reason, legitimacy and repect. McCain, on the other hand, is feared as a firebrand, likely to inflame intentions and seek military solutions over diplomacy, further perpetuating the irrational bully image Bush has perfected into universal hatreds and distrust. Stylistically, Obama's style will carry much better and influence not only power politics, but economic alliances as well.

    May 20, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  13. ian

    Mariela- your comment makes no sense and your grammer is horrible. it is hard to even try to understand what you are saying! what is that about what Obama said to Oregon? He said we need to be more like Portland, in having better public transportation and more bike lanes. how is this socialist!? Hillary would say the same thing as well. You need to do more research you obviously do not know the candidates well. By the way, his name is McCain not Maccain! Learn to speak English!

    May 20, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  14. Jack

    Come on. People are STILL talking about the flag pin? You know who I'm talking about (The ironic name if you ask me). Get over it. By your logic, all a terrorist would have to do would be to walk into an airport wearing a flag pin and nobody would say a thing, he's obviously patriotic.
    For someone who's basically running on foreign policy, McCain sure has got some things messed up. Contradicting himself on both Cuba and Iran as well as misunderstanding basic facts about Iranian government (for example that it's the Supreme leader, Khameini, not Ahmadinejad who has ultimate authority over the government) that even me, a 17 year-old can grasp. McCain's got himself in quite the pickle here. He has to distance himself from Bush foreign policy while trying not to lose the handful of Conservatives that still like Bush. In the end I think the majority of Americans will vote in favor of a foreign policy based on trying to keep peace rather than start wars. On an interesting side note, a Senior Adviser in Israel said that Bush plans on attacking Iran before his term is over. Just another mess for Obama to have to clean up after...

    May 20, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  15. Brian from Fort Mill, S.C.


    Remember: Castro was a dictator! Dictators don't need a majority of anything. Popularity has nothing to do with it.

    And now we're dealing with his brother, who may be a bit softer than Fidel. Who knows – Maybe Obama has a chance with this one.

    May 20, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  16. kayla

    McCain is nothing but a war monger. He would rather wipe these people off the face of the earth before trying to talk them down. This is an out of control old man, that's trying to get back at any persons that has hostage capabilities. He has war on the brain and that's who the American people should be fearful of. For all those so called conservatives that voting for this man, I guess they consider themselves just a little bit conservative. War is not a part of God's plan and anyone claiming they are religious of look to their faith to get them through should be fully aware of that.

    May 20, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  17. LORRAINE Farrell

    I honestly don't know why whenever anyone speaks about Obama the press, Obama and his camp have the nerve to complain their trying to wreck his name my god talk about ruing people why is it o.k. for Obama and his folloers to wreck and do damage with untrue fact's? talk about hippocrits can CNN. anchors explain that unless you have a senate and congress change it isn't happening and as far as CUBA think back to what Kennedy did! Also the Democrat's need to stop Flip Flopping this is the reason most Dem. will leave the party it's not like years ago you vote for the better candidate see if Cnn. has the nerve to make this statementI do beleive Clinton is going to fight for her beliefs and they know they'll control OBAMA trust me on this!!!!!
    New Jersey

    May 20, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  18. shelly in IL

    You are right, Senator O. He is obsessed and I don't understand his obsession. It's creepy and

    May 20, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  19. Olivia

    What will it take for people to see through the posturings and empty rhetoric of Obama? It scares the heck out of me to think he might be our next president.
    There is no 'good feeling" about him sitting in the white house.I think I'm going to order my ....I didn't vote for Obama......bumper sticker.
    Also, what do you think about his negative campaigning now know.....that thing he has denied for so long.
    Lastly......I'm having a wonderful news day....Jack Cafferty is off today!!

    May 20, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  20. mike in Pa

    Let's not talk to our "enemys"? Heck, if they don't want democracy or if they don't agree with the U.S.'s desires, let's just "pound on" them til they do?

    Note to McCain: Same old, tired way of doing business works for those that have been in power way too long.

    May 20, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  21. Backed Obama

    Early on, the left wingers of the DNC threw their overwhelming support behind Obama.

    They trashed and bashed Hillary Clinton and swiftboated her- to the extent of even calling on her to quit the race.

    But they realized, too late, that about 50% of the electorate is solidly behind Clinton.

    Unfortunately, the DNC can not back peddle now. They do not want to risk the wrath of African Americans, and the return to the apathy of the newly registered youth.

    But Obama CAN NOT win.

    I will write in the best candidate out there- HRC.

    May 20, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  22. Jerome Dukes

    When dealing with Diplomacy, Sun Tzu's The art of war comes to mind. Keep your friends close but your enemy's close (not sure of the actual quote). I as under the impression The are of war was required reading for people in the military, politics, big business etc. I'm supprised McCain (a military man) would not have read this book.

    May 20, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  23. tom

    hands off Mcsaine sue his nurses they forgot to give him his meds remember he is BI-POLAR and he has amnesia so he forgets

    May 20, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  24. Honesty Is The Best Policy

    Hillary wants to blame her situation on sexism and the fact that she is a woman. But gender is not the reason Obama is winning.

    Obama seems to follow the simple principle that "Honesty is the best policy." Hillary seems to ignore this principle at every opportunity, and that is the true reason why she is losing.

    May 20, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  25. Chief lagosboy, NJ

    Grandpa McCain aka “Warmonger” should make, Mahmoud Ahmedinajad his VP since he likes him so much….….Priceless! Obama please take it easy on this Old Man, he has nothing to run on except starting another War! By the way has anybody seen that pathological liar Hillary?
    A vote for Grandpa = Bush 3rd Term, America we can’t afford to make this mistake.
    Congratulation Obama, we are almost home!

    Our President Obama 08' & 12'

    May 20, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
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