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. marcelo

    Cheryl Wallace – I agree with you. There are some hardcore Clinton fanatics on this blog that tend to distort the truth to benefit their candidate... I hope they are truly ignorant of the facts and not knowingly peddling misinformation about Barrack.

    May 20, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  2. Lisa

    John McCain is worse than a professional chef with a pa cake.. he really needs to get his act together... he is not acting on his own ..THE NOW IN PANIC GOP got John seemingly going crazy... stop with the lies McCain/.. we will never support another war... America is tired of the "educated experienced GOP"... look where it has gotten us... no one will ever forget your 100 year war statement..... change it now till 2013 and change it back to 100 years "if' you get to the white house...


    May 20, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. Chris

    Yes McCain, because not talking with our "enemies" will really help their people, the world and their leaders like us. Do they all have WMD's to???

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


    May 20, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  5. A real American

    Face the facts; Hillary most likely is not going to be the nominee. But you can still save America, vote McCain. He has always had an appreciation for America. Not just when it's convenient for him to.

    May 20, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  6. Mary

    If Obama is Not the Democratic Nom, I will vote for McCain.

    Hillary scares me to death. My God, How can you tell if she's telling the truth or not? How can you trust her?

    May 20, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  7. Pro-america

    In one hand Bush made a war that makes no sense. In the other hand this " naive" Obama is going to talk to iran, hamas, and cuba without pre-conditions putting the us at risk.

    none of them

    May 20, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  8. SCC

    Mariela wrote:
    "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."

    Ok, so you would rather keep paying rediculous prices for gas, have thousands more soldiers die in Iraq, continue to watch the economy decline and have thousands more americans loose their jobs and houses. I just don't get it.........what a waste.

    Why don't you Hillary supporters stop being sore losers and start thinking about what's best for this country.

    May 20, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  9. Mimi De La Cruz for OBAMA






    May 20, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  10. Darth Vadik, CA

    McCain is losing it, that's why he needs that creep Lieberman next to him, to correct him when he starts making stuff up.

    May 20, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 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.

    see AJ, Mariella, Non Sense, life long dem, and the others – I can cut and paste too.

    May 20, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  12. Ray

    Can we PLEASE use "spell-check" or have someone look over our posts first? Sheesh!!!

    And to KE: You need to play the game like a "person"...not "like men"...or Ferraro and Clinton will call you sexist.

    OBAMA! '08! OH YEAH!!!!!!

    May 20, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  13. Capt. Smash, Salt Lake City, Utah

    We need some new Bumper Stickers if that will say;

    McCain $6.00 a Gallon Gas!

    McCain wants to draft your son!

    McCain Foreclosure Master!

    McCain & Bush Forever!

    McCain 100 year WAR!

    McCain Lobbyist Firm!

    McCain left his wife!

    May 20, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  14. Irony

    Isn't it ironic that about 99% of the blogs are drooling pro-Obama rantings- and yet... all that idolotry only translates into about 50% of the votes.

    So ... all the newly registered voters that flock to the Obama rock-concert rallys are NOT turning out to vote for Obama.

    The numbers don't add up.

    The silent majority is HUGE and for Clinton.

    We will stand up and be counted in NOV.

    May 20, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  15. Capt. Smash, Salt Lake City, Utah

    I have four important questions for Bush, McCain and the GOP!

    1. Is Iran stronger or weaker since Bush’s invasions of Iraq?

    2. Has Osama bin Laden been killed or captured since Bush’s invasion of Iraq?

    3. Are we paying less for gas now or before Bush’s invasion of Iraq?

    4. Is our economy better of now or before Bush’s invasion of Iraq?

    If you answer these questions truthfully, is there any way you want to continue down the same foreign policy blunders of the last seven years?

    This is a not a difficult question, most 3rd graders could answer this one.

    May 20, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  16. Cindy

    I think it's time to mend fences with Cuba. Obama's the right person to do it.

    I think it's time to mend fences with many things around the world. Obama is the right person to do it.

    May 20, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  17. steven

    "These steps would send the worst possible signal to Cuba's dictators.

    I believe most mature adults and great leaders know people will think what they think, Even if you walk on water.

    Stop being so affraid and being rule by fear Sen. McCain

    It's a new day.

    Obama 08

    May 20, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  18. Rob

    look up preparations and preconditions in the dictionary. just because McCain said it doesn't mean it's true. Or have you actually believed everything the repubs have said in the last 8 years?

    May 20, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  19. Obama math

    If an Obama supporter posts multiple times on every blog and gets all worked up with Obama fever- it still is only ONE vote.

    All the silent supporters of HRC- each get one vote as well.

    So the more you post- doesn't give you any more voting power.

    May 20, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  20. Berat, Park Ridge, IL

    This is outstanding rhetoric from Obama. Saying McCain is obsessed with Ahmedinejad is like saying Dubya was obsessed with Saddam Hussein. It's a good way to tie Bush to McCain yet again. Eventually, Obama will have to come up with a few new ideas on this circuit, but why deviate from what's working while it's working?

    May 20, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  21. Nobama

    Forget about the the governor from Kansas, she's another political insider – it's always about being related to someone in office to have that name recognition. Give me a break.

    May 20, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  22. marcelo

    Hey All you Obama Haters – Rather than parroting what your candidates accuse Obama of, why don't you use your God given brains and do some actual research... read the policies he's had online for the past year with regards to Cuba.

    It's these same hard headed people that bought into the Bush promises and that are now falling for the other campaign's propaganda.


    May 20, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  23. Proud1of 26% in WV

    If this is the only campaign he has til November don't worry just let him waste his time.

    May 20, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  24. Texas 08

    Are the republicans really screaming terrorists and trying to use fear again? Seems this stuff comes up every four years – every election. If people aren't any smarter this time around, perhaps they will get what they deserve – a grumpy old man who gets into the White House and then completely ignores the needs of every American.

    May 20, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  25. Rus in St. Paul, MN

    I'm with Obama on this, because we have to lead by example.

    How can the US tell Palestine and Isreal to come to the table and work together while rockets are being loaded towards eachother, yet we won't talk to a country 90 miles off our coast that we haven't had any conflict with in 40 years?

    We became the Leaders of the Free World by leading by example, not just from talking tough. That's what leaders do. This is also how the great ones fall, they take their status as a title, and ignore the ideas that got them there in the first place.

    May 20, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
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