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. Reality Check

    Hey Mariela,

    Learn to speak English before you write. It sounds dumb. Are you a legal citizen?

    May 20, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  2. AJ, IL

    Go get 'em Obama! Let McCain (aka McBush) know where you will stand as President.

    Brilliant move tactically to have a rally tonight in Des Moines to claim a majority of the pledged delegates won once Hillary wins Kentucky. Then he will claim victory later tonight once Oregon results come in.

    Obama in 08!

    May 20, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  3. Danel

    Why is McCain is REALLY obsessed with Ahmedinejad? He was singing bomb,bomb Iran during his campaign in NH. Iraq and Afghanistan not enough for him?

    May 20, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Flip flop, you people are a scream. All of the candidates' speaches have been picked apart by the media and you to where anything said is considered flip flopin'. Grow up people, get with the issues. I, for one, do not want a president that always cocks his head to one side when speaking to a crowd, person, etc. Anyone noticed that? Speaking down on us, is he? Well, not me. I will never recognize that man as being anything other than a pompous 1/2 black elitist, flip flopping idiot. If CNN wasn't so biased against McCain and soooo obviously for NObama, they would let the McCain support show through. Maybe, as a second thought, they are correct. Then you can all be shocked at the polls come November!

    May 20, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  5. AJ

    For all those who have followed this process you would know that in one of the debates Wolf asked Obama what he meant and Obama did say that he would meet with our enemies as well, Wolf ask does that mean with no precondition ?Obama stated that there will be preparation and also stated that he wouldn't set the agenda that if you don't stop the nuclear weapons we wont meet with you. So basically he is saying that all the precondition that the president wants to set are not in our best interest we need to start the dialogs first instead of threating them with War.

    May 20, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  6. Chris from NY

    Unlike his father David king Solomon was considered one of the wisest kings in his time. He didn't go to war with any of his enemies as his father did. He chose a different path to his father's rule.

    McCain, we are choosing a different path to handling the crises in the middle east. There's a time for war and a time for peace. We are fighting wars on several fronts. Afghanistan, Iraq, here at home and around the world against rising food prices and gas prices. How much war do you want and need before you get the message that this world will end the day God wants it to end. You and the Lieberman will not bring the Apocalypse until it is time for it. I guess you both want to prove something to the Jewish voters. But they are smart enough to the game you are playing.

    May 20, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  7. R Garcia, San Rafael CA

    Why is it the women who are claiming to write in Hillaryous name on the ballots? Would you simply deny your countrymen the right to a better USA, a Democratic USA, just because your 1st choice didn't win? That's insane. If you want this war to end, and want the economy back, and gas prices down, and better healthcare, and better treatment of milltary once they return, than why would you vote for a Republican? Even that, MCCAIN, who will do the opposite. Say goodbye to women's rights to abortion also. I can't believe how many women are willing to try and divide the party, because Obama is in the lead? That's sad, have a soul. Hillary has set the women's movement for President back a few years, and I would love to have a woman president, just not Hillary. I'd much prefer a woman who got into politics from the start, and moved her way up, without having to use her husband as political propaganda and experience. Until we see one of those, it ain't happening. To all the angry women who want to write in Hillary, Do what you do "sweetie" we're still gonna make this country better, and when it is, you'll be ashamed about how you almost risked it.

    May 20, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  8. Mike1243

    Obama will be true leader and we all should support him.
    Old mcsame................drity politices..............should be over very soon.

    May 20, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  9. Eugene

    Go John, go

    May 20, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  10. Hostile

    Many of us, having watched the events of this primary season, reached the conclusion that an Obama win is just a hostile takeover of the democratic party.

    The majority are moderate liberals- not rabid left wing radicals.

    Support true democracy: Write in HRC.

    The best candidate got screwed by the media coverage and was betrayed by the DNC.

    All to install Obama as the nominee. They thought this year they could finally actualize their left wing agenda. I mean... who would vote for a republican after the last 8 years.

    Well, apparently quite a few lifelong democrats intend to. I urge that we all write in Hillary Clinton instead and get the best president we can.

    May 20, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  11. Photon Torpedo Dallas, TX

    Is this all that McCain has? This is going to be a boring contest to November.

    Yes We Can & Yes We Should
    Obama 08'

    May 20, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  12. tedious898

    GOPers....are we returning to the old "flip flopper" thingy from the Kerry election? Tell me that's not the best you've got! To be honest, If our current president flip flopped on any of his failed policies, the country might be in a better position today. Obviously the "current war on terror" is not working. Intelligent people change course when something doesn't work. Idiots stay the course. How do we know the current plan isn't working? the NIE says "US creating more terrorists..." Now, if that was the objective; we're right on course. But if what we're supposed to be doing is keeping a America safe....well you know the logical conclusion.

    May 20, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  13. kayla

    All this nit picking is not getting us anywhere but further into debt with a senseless war that should not have been authorized. If Bush has spoken to those people we would not be where we are today, living in fear waiting for the next nuclear bomb to drop on us. You rich people living in your mansions aren't susceptible to nuclear backlash. No amount of money will stop another nuclear holacaust from happening. That should be you major concern to prevent it from happening. Do you think it's going to clear itself up if we just sit on the side lines while the President keep goading these countries into a battle, DO YOU? WAKE UP AND SMELL YOU MOCHACHINO!

    May 20, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  14. Reality Check

    Everyone on here who is lying like HRC saying Obama flip flops, just wait. I will laugh at you CLintonian idiots when Obama gives his Inaguration Address. Later losers

    May 20, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  15. Samuel

    Hey fellow commentators, dont you folks have any other word than the word "FLIP FLOP". Come on, talk about issues that will ad value to readers and stop wasting our time on this forum. Everybody is saying flip flop, flip flop. What a heck is that. You can not waste our brains here. STOP IT NOW, WILL YOU?

    I prefer OBAMA'S approach to that of MCCAIN. Why? Because, your enemies take drastic measures to hurt you when they don't know what you are thinking about them as a result of your silence. You talk to them and let them know what you are thinking and then provide them with some options which will be a WIN WIN solution.

    There is a proverb which goes like this " Spouse talk to each other in the afternoon after the bitter exchange of words in the morning that destroy each other's appetite". The worse enemies you can think of are spouses, yet they make peace very often. Therefore, make peace with Cuba and Iran and not war. It is in the best interest of Americans. A word to a wise is enough.

    May 20, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  16. The Dumb choice

    Voting for Obama is the dumb choice.

    After all, HRC is best on foreign policy
    Best on Health Care
    Has a proven track record of bipartisanship
    AND... has worked on behalf of ALL Americans.

    Obama has done absolutely nothing for his country- but deliver speeches.

    May 20, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  17. Jack from Texas

    How come Obama always has to say things like "That's not what I said" or "That's not what I meant"? Everything changes with him, he constantly has to "clarify". It would be better he he would just defend what he's said and stick to it.

    – Vote Nader (dot) Org

    May 20, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  18. SALLY

    Whoaaaaaa man looks like this is a Pro-Obama blog. Am I wrong?

    Why is all the CNN blogs so for Obama?

    People, please don't buy into this BS. Obama will lose in November. Us Hillary Democrats/Independents will make sure of that. He's going down if he gets nominated, you can bet money on it.

    May 20, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  19. Chill-Out, Phoenix, AZ

    Mariela....clearly you and others posting here dont understand the difference between preparation and pre-conditions. Maybe you haven't noticed but 40+ years of a Cuba embargo haven't changed one thing. Do you think maybe its time to try another approach or should we wait another 40 years and see what happens?

    As for Iran do any of you remember the "AXIS OF EVIL" speech and "BRING IT ON" comment by cowboy Bush? We all should have learned that you better be careful what you wish for. When you're the BULLY ON THE BLOCK and you put all the other kids on notice that you're gonna kick butt then you better be prepared for them to get something to level the playing field.

    FLORIDIANS STOP WHINING! You wouldn't be in this mess if you didn't break the rules. Didn't you guys learn this kindergarten? You wanted to cut in line, you were warned, you cut in line anyway! Now, take you punishment like big boys and girls and learn from your mistake. Take responsibility, stop blaming others........JEEZ!

    May 20, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  20. Sue

    I've never seen anyone flip flop like Hillary.

    You can never tell where she stands on anything.

    She lies more than a carpet !

    May 20, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  21. MD Houston

    Obama is a fool

    May 20, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  22. LB

    Obama never flip flopped. Maybe the Hillary supporters should do more research before they type or quit being so negative towards Obama just because Hillary isn't ahead. Try having an open mind for a change . As a women you have the right to change your mind. Hillary is not the fighter for women rights you think she is. What she keeps telling you to get your vote is just another spin. Only one person matters to her and that is herself. Example: If Bosnia was really a war zone, would you risk taking your child there? I don't know any parent who would deliberately put their child in harms way except someone who is more concerned about themselves than their childs welfare. Hillary is a disgrace to the female race.

    May 20, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  23. SALLY

    Obama NO IN 08!

    Hillary or McCain take your pick.

    May 20, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  24. karen

    Don't get scared again America!!! Thats what the republicans want you to do!!!! Obama never flip-floped!!! Listen to what the man is saying. Bush/McCain talk out of both sides of their mouths and they are trying scare tackticks again. It won't work this time!!! We have a man running who is educated and intelligent and knows how to communicate with people. I have heard a few republicans say they sure wish Obama was on their side. We can not aford another war!!! We must talk, talk and more talk. Bush/McCain will blow up this world if we let them. Take a good history course and in each case communications was the key to victory–NOT bombs!!! Go Obama!!!!

    May 20, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  25. ron

    if you look at George bush's qualifications when he ran for president you will find them quite similar. neither have military experience neither ever coverned or ran a major enterprise both were good speakers both made the same type of promises to change the politics of the day.the only difference i can see is that bush didn't have all the anti American baggage and had money where did obama get the start up money for his run at the presidency. it's not a cheap undertaking?

    May 20, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14