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. Losing our support

    The media has a pro-Obama bias: Always spinning things in his favor. Covering up all his faults, praising his every word, coming to his defense, alleging racism whenever someone criticizes the black messiah...etc.

    So now they try to say public opinion by claiming Obama is making inroads into HRC's demographics.

    I doubt it.

    Obama lost our vote long ago.

    Pick your reason: overplayed the race card, strutted and swaggered just like Bush, mocked HRC with his Annie Oakley comments, brushed HRC and her supporters off his shoulders, cheated at caucus, lawyered up to block a revote in Fl and Mi, Flip-flops on his very tenuous and fuzzy positions.

    May 20, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  2. Ross in MD

    Get him Barack!

    May 20, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  3. Debby

    Ah Ah Ah I believe I believe spit it out Obama whats the matter didn't your read what they gave you. Hey Obama Iran is Isreal's deadly enemy did you forget that. Boy Wolf this is the worse foreign policy interview I have ever heard.

    May 20, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  4. fred

    I am ashamed at the 92% of blacks voting for Obama!!
    I am ashamed of the media 92% promoting Obama!!
    I am ashamed of the DNC for promoting Obama!!
    I am ashamed of Howard Dean for promoting Obama!!

    GO Hillary!!


    May 20, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  5. john marlton, nj

    A US President should have the brains and "metal" to meet with the leader of any country, with or without preparation. That eliminates McCain, Bush and about 90% of all candidates and polititians

    May 20, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  6. Dave

    As a Republican, I do take heart in the fact that Senator Obama is now moving away from his remarks during the primaries and moving towards a more general election position. We face a HUGE uphill battle to keep the Presidency in Republican hands, and if Senator Obama does win the White House, PLEASE do not govern like your rehtoric in the primaries as our country can not afford that type of leadership.

    And to many of his supporters, most who blog here, PLEASE try and keep your hatred out of the conversation

    May 20, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  7. steven

    John McCain is so worried and afriad about what people and other nation may think!

    We have nothing to fear but fear itself Sen. McCain.
    Get your head out of the sand, the world has changed..

    Obama 08

    May 20, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  8. Clinton Supporter

    What has he flopped on?

    How about public campaign financing?

    How about "change"? He's playing the same ol' political games that every other candidate in history has played. Yet he claims to be different?

    Give us a break. We will not vote for him.

    May 20, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  9. kr

    Go do your internship somewhere else Obama. You will never get my vote.

    May 20, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  10. KE

    I saw some news show host (both male and female) using different tactics to intimidate Hillary's supporters (especially women). That's why we don't want to talk to our adversaries without precondition. Obama should know that unless....

    May 20, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  11. Swannboy

    Why on earth would you write in that crazy old bat's name?

    Do you really think a write in campaign will put your canidate in the white house?

    Do you really want to split the party?

    Do you really want John McCain in the White House?

    Do you really want to extend the war? Do our really want to extend the war to Iran?

    Do you really want healthcare costs to continue spiraliing out of control?

    This is madness, your canidate has lost, no matter how much you fudge the math. I truly hope that you'll lick your wounds, and leave your pencil behind come November.

    May 20, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  12. Derek

    The Truth,

    Give it a break with the republican talking points (or are you actually an interloping Republican?). Obama is wearing a flag pin in this video now and wasn't another time. Who the hell cares? Are you telling me that you actually would vote for for someone based upon the appearance of patriotism?

    Second, the democratic nomination process is NOT the same as the National election. It is about the Democrates deciding who they want to run for President. Under the current rules, the Democrates had previouisly decided that propotional representation (or some approximation thereof) would decide who would be their nominee. I think the idea is to give all democrates a chance at an approximately equal say rather than to IGNORE Democrates in states that traditionally vote Republican such as say Texas or Virgina. Maybe the Democratic party will decide to change the rules next time (how about getting rid of Super deligates?), but for now the Democratic party does not use the electoral college for voting.

    May 20, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  13. Catherine S

    McCain might have been a POW but he does NOT know historical and geopolitical facts. Mark my words, during the debates (and beofre) he will stumble repeatedly over this, making him seem ignorant and senile as compared to Obama, who knows these details down cold.
    You can say that Obama has less experience, but you have to see that McCain is not educated on cultural issues.
    Go Obama!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 20, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  14. Media

    Media is giving too much time to Obama, why ?

    May 20, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  15. Sidney McOld

    No matter how you guys stir the pot, it don't change what s in it. Obama said many times they would prepare. Look up the definitions. Oh wait, McRepubs don't need to consult facts and science and truth. It's dogma that matters. McGeezer needs to take a nap. Way to run a campaign too, McLiar on reforms.

    May 20, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  16. tedious898

    The poor GOP better find something works or it will be lights out. Playing to the 27% that approve of Bush's Presidential Legacy, are people that would approve hemorroids on a hot summer day. so....for all the GOP die hards (bush fans) and Hillary supporters, the days ahead look extremely bleak

    May 20, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  17. LaShanda

    LOL There is no way in hell these Hillary supporters are true Democrats. I find it hilarious that Barack is called "arrogant" when he wants to do nothing but restore the United States back to the way it was pre-Bush. If we don't let our enemies know where we stand, how can we get anything done?

    Once again, let's get the facts straight. Barack Obama does not have the power to do a revote, nor did say he did not want to do a revote. Complain to the Governor of Florida!

    Jeremiah Wright-Barack, unlike some whites that are hidden racists, understands the oppression that Rev. Wright like many other blacks that grew up in the 50's and 60's went through. How many of you had water hoses turned on you? How many of you were told where to sit on the bus? What made Barack denounce him is that he is denial of how much progress black Americans have made.

    It's sad that some of you have so much hatred in your hearts that you will vote for John McCain, although he is against everything Hillary stands for. Is that what your candidate would want?

    May 20, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  18. LORRAINE Farrell

    I totally agree that if this election was not racist and they were't not afraid to go with Clinton our country would be better off the Dem's are flipping to Obama because their scared of losing the WHITE HOUSE what Hilary should do is run with Mccain Most of the DEM"S will not listen to the democrat's this time their too confident that we'll just vote DEMOCRATIC despite what the people want if this wasn't the primary alot of people and because I can say this and won't be condemned by the Obama camp and he can't hurt my career he got out all the black vote it helped him but the election isn't over they don't know if the rest of the whites and also Hilary's will go with them I hope they learn a good lesson and really Mccain is not too old look at REAGAN era.

    May 20, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  19. Proud American(republican)

    Arin; You couldn't buy a used car if you wanted to. You have to have a driver's license from America!

    May 20, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  20. CrAiG

    McCain all the way....
    Obama should have never made it this far, now people who vote democrat have to choose between two bad candidates. So McCain has my vote, he may not be the best, but he is the better of the three.....

    May 20, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  21. Avinash Tyagi

    Preparations and preconditions are different

    a condition is if you do this and this and this then I'll do this. Obama however is talking about preparation, basically what each side will address, so everyone is informed when they go to the discussion table.

    May 20, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  22. She is the best

    Obama supporters realize that he lacks a mandate within his own party needed to win in Nov.

    So after months of trashing and bashing Hillary Clinton and her supporters- after all the vitriolic name-calling, vulgarity and insults- they are calling for unity.

    But calling for unity just out of party loyalty is mindless and irresponsible.
    The right to vote should not be wasted voting for the party nominee if you do not support his platform.

    Vote your conscience. For many that means writing in the name of the candidate who was screwed out of the nomination by her own party. Protest the corruption of the DNC and the bias of the media.

    Write in Hillary Clinton in Nov and get the very best.

    May 20, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  23. Sarah, Kansas City, MO

    McCain has been lopping and flipping that he does not know which end is up anymore. You know I think everyone has changed his/her mind on important things over the years, especially when you become more educated about those things. That is okay. But McCain has been openly pandering in order to gain leverage. Then when someone calls him on it he says he does not remember saying this or that.

    We must change our policies about talking to some of these leaders. It has been nearly 50 years since Castro took over Cuba; our policy of not engaging him has not changed Cuba. But during that nearly 48 years we engaged with Cuba's main backer, Russia. Nixon opened the door to China. Hamas is the democratically elected government of Palistine (something Bush encouraged against all advice) but Bush won't engage with that government. There is no other government to engage with. in Iran, the current policy is a total failure. McCain thinks we should continue to engage in that failed policy. He can't even get the real leader of Iran correctly , he confuses the figure head president with the religious clerics who really run things. And McCain calls himself a foreign policy expert. I just do not know how McCain is going to defend his flip-flopping and support for failed policies in the up-coming debates. It will be fascinating to watch; I think Obama is going to mop the floor with him. McCain will be standing there and
    tee-heeing and saying 'my friends ...' (we are going to get sick of hearing that). Obama '08

    May 20, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  24. Uncle Sam

    I am afraid that Sen. Obama underestimates the threat of radical Islam as embodied in the person of Ahmadinejad. There are times when it is wise to be afraid so that one can take the appropriate measures to prevent unnecessary conflict. But to be blind to the real dangers ahead is to court disaster.

    Americans for McCain '08

    May 20, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  25. Divided nation

    Obama supporters.

    sorry... but after all the name-calling, the insults, the denigrating comments, the put-downs, the mocking and demeaning comments and the vile vulgarities- it is too late to call for unity.


    USE your vote responsibly and vote for the best available candidate. The country depends on us.

    May 20, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
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