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. Farren Ballanst


    Even most of the scummiest right-wingers have stopped with the "Hussein" nonsense. The rest of what I could make out from your tortured use of the language doesn't make a whole lot of sense, either.

    May 20, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  2. Brian from Fort Mill, S.C.

    "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. "

    Repeat after me:



    May 20, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  3. Boring......

    This boy (no offense meant, sweetie) is just a boring repetitive windbag.

    How many times can you listen to him deliver the same preaching speech?

    May 20, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  4. Darth Vadik, CA

    oh oh

    Watch out McCain supporters, you knew this was comming, Obama will destroy McCain. It was just a matter of taking care of Hillary first, now its McInsane's turn.

    And for you people that will not vote for Obama because you are upset Hillary lost, I hope you know people have died to give you that vote, hope you're proud of yourselves, morons.

    May 20, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  5. R.I.F.

    Charlotte May 20th, 2008 3:58 pm ET

    When did Obama mention low level meetings? He said he would meet without preconditions, whose flip-flopping?
    Obama is not flip-floping. He has ALWAYS said they he would have preparation but not preconditions. Preconditions mean that for instance, Iran would have to do everything that you woud be meeting with them to try to get them to do before you actually meet with them. That's silly.

    Preparations mean a host of things like low-level meetings first and a host of other thins to PREPARE beforre you meet.

    You don't flip-flop when someone else is putting words into your mouth like McCain is doing. You guys fall for these old republican tactics hook, line, and sinker.

    May 20, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  6. Linda C

    Hey "chuks" are you kidding me? Obama was W E A K during his debates with Senator Cinton, period.

    McCain will put Obama in his place soon - Obama has zero foreign policy experience.

    May 20, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  7. Willy

    Obama is a whinner

    May 20, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. Walter, Long Beach

    Just like Bush, all McCain wants to do is lay down an ultimatum and then attack people who don't give in to him.

    That's not diplomacy, that's fascism. And the sooner hand them both over for war crimes trials, the better.

    May 20, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  9. Fitz

    Charlotte, you have no idea what you are saying. I remember an early debate when this first started and Obama is correct. He made it clear what he meant by preconditions and outlined it. Stop the hate!

    May 20, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  10. Griff

    Obama the Wreck Of an Oragon Treck... The Guy who Bend's in a Breeze..... The Dean of Jehad..... Osama, Obama Amma Dean of Jehad... You're not taking the USA with you..... Obama... The USA will still be around, When Iran is just another Iraq.... But ther will be a difference... Nobody care's about Iran!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 20, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  11. ExPat

    Just another black eye for journalism. And the reason the press only covers these jokers is.....?

    May 20, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  12. tom

    Man this is news this first timer is turning Washington upside down. Obama take it easy on this OLD McSaine we still want him around. DO NOT be rough on him OK

    May 20, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  13. Creative Woody

    I think it's great that Republicans see Cuba as a great Communist Evil that must be severely dealt with, while China is all puppies and sunshine.

    May 20, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  14. former NM resident

    "Obsession" seems like a very poor choice of words.

    May 20, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  15. Clinton Supporter

    HAHAHA – can't respond to McCain until 24-48 hours later...

    ...has to give his speech writers some time to give him some zingers!



    May 20, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |

    It must ve VERY humbling to get beat so badly by a first term senator. He is beating Hillary, and he is beating McCain SIMULTANEOUSLY.

    That HAS to be a tough pill to swallow.

    Maybe even make some people..... bitter... (couldn't resist)....

    hell... who wants to be the first one in history to lose to the black guy...

    (so what if he's actually the better candidate and won despite ALL odds)...

    sigh.... there IS a God in heaven... Thank you for this day

    May 20, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  17. Sweetie

    Obama is the biggest Flip flopper their is!

    There isn't enough room for me to list all the ways he has flip flopped during the Primary!


    What is even worse he doesn't have a clue and will get us all killed!

    Wake up folks this man is America's WORST NIGHTMARE!

    McCain 08

    May 20, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  18. Obama 08

    John Bush III is crazy. It just proves that the Republicans are a bunch of idiots with nothing to bring to the table. Talk about experience, is it possible to claim that the CEO of a company that went bankrupt when he was in charge has the right kind of experience to lead. Electing loosers who supported failed policies in this country is dangerous. McFlipper is one of them, a dishornest crazy idiot that has no new vision coz all the good ideas he has got shaved off his head trying to appease the extreem right. So sad.
    Obama for President.
    Teach them diplomacy and leadership for once.

    May 20, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  19. DPZ

    I have whatched this whole election process and the republicans
    and their grand daddy McShame is lying through their dentures about what Obama has said and you hillary voters like (THE TRUTH) go right along with it because it is bad news for her superior OBAMA!!!!The republicans switch up the words and play soundbytes to trick those who did not witness the statements when they were said they have no weaponry and McCain is struggling to find a topic in which he can capitalize. Obama is shutting him down at every turn and it is GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 20, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  20. kingsley

    This lame man is so not attractive whenb he is making a speech. he is definately flip flopping his messages based on local issues. his foreign policy issue regards to cuba is for the cuban votes in Florida. shame on you.

    bring the 1 on 1 debate on. when he can't read any teleprompt

    May 20, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  21. TunnelVision

    I guess the embargo has been successful in bringing hope and a high standard of living to the Cubans..... Psyche

    That's laughable.

    May 20, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  22. ron

    Kennedy tried negotiating with kruschev. kruschev gave him lip service and kept building missiles in Cuba
    Kennedy gave kruschev an ultimatum get out or else kruschev left end of story.

    May 20, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  23. Brian

    What is this obsession with spreading democracy, when our own country is not a democracy. Even our founders knew democracy sucked, as 'Democracy is the tyranny of the many over the few' and 'Democracy is 51% of the people telling the other 49% what to do'

    May 20, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |

    Flip – Flopping is what the GOP does best. Remember President Bush "This will be a new kind of war..." Oh wait a minute it was. To the tune of 4000 troops losing their lives. Maybe they willbut votes again via rebates

    May 20, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  25. McInsane

    McCain has always flipped flopped on practically every issue.

    Bush Tax Cuts, Comprehensive Immigration plan, talking with Hamas, and all other host of issue.

    This guys needs to consult more with his conscience, he never seems to follow his conscience. He is always changing his mind. He needs more memory pills.

    John "Closet Liberal" McCain. its okay you can come out of the closet now. This guy has managed to trick republicans into believing that he is indeed a conservative.

    written by a true conservative.

    May 20, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
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