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. bob

    this is why i love this guy, he actually fights back against the GOP, nothing like edward kerry.

    May 20, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  2. rifting

    The hatred from the Obama supporters- the vulgar insults, the mocking jeers, the ethnic putdowns, the sexist comments, the demeaning and denigrating namecalling- has created a RIFT in the democratic party too deep for repair or unity.

    You can not simply kiss and make up after all the negative and ugly comments.

    May 20, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  3. Mike in Ohio

    Obama is not a good leader, what has he lead?

    Except sheep to the slaughter.

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

    Is John McCain going senile? Why else would he ever open his mouth to use the term "flip-flop". I think he's forgotten his stance on Bush Tax Cuts, Iran, Iraq War, Economy, Cuba, and oh yeah, name just a of McCain's flip-flops. Tell us John, is waterboarding torture?? Or is it torture as long as you don't have to admit it via a senate vote?? You're a joke. "Lil Bush"!

    AND, you HRC folks who support HRC, she hasn't won a single electoral vote during this primary season. They don't exist until the general election. The rest of the educated world knows this as does HRC. So, please, stop being so ignorant? If you won't take my word for it, look it up. Google "electoral votes" and while you're at it, Google "Peter Paul vs Clinton". EDUCATE YOURSELVES SO THAT PEOPLE WON'T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOU!!!

    May 20, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  5. Mike in Ohio

    No truth on the CNN blogs. Only Obama lies.

    May 20, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  6. Chad, Wisco

    Both are flip-floppers and its almost more annoying that they say the other is then them actually being. This country needs a third party, make that a fourth and fifth too. This is like a SEC/Big 10 debate. Everyone thinks theres is better without proof. I could give you reasons why both would be good and why both would be bad. No supporters ever admit the bad and when you start doing that you are not supporting democracy, you are supporting monarchies. Dont crown either canidate when neither are perfect, and people need to realize that no matter how much you like one or the other, they will not share ALL of your views and thats ok.

    May 20, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  7. Jimmy P

    To: Capt. Smash, Salt Lake City, Utah –

    You're a total tool, as big an idiot as your candidate.

    May 20, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  8. Jaybrown

    What amazes me about the republican party is that they think they are tough on foreign policies, they think they have all the experience when it comes to dealing with foreign policies. But look where we are now? Look at what this world of experience has gotten us? We lost 4000+ in a war that shouldn't have been waged, we have more terrorist cells after us than before, We have new terrorist groups popping up all over. They make us think we are safe by taking away some of our rights and privacy all for the sake of Homeland Security. This is crazy. They scare us into thinking they have the most experience. So we are afraid to let someone in who is willing to sit down AFTER PREPARATION, with an agenda, and talk to some of these countries that harbor terrorist. We need to get rid of this American Arrogance. It's not like anyone wants to sit with these countries and cower to them and beg them to stop. But we can show firmness and still show that we can be civil and diplomatic and sit down and have dialog. I don't know why some people are so thick into thinking that the republican strategy is working. Or should I say this new Republican strategy is working. Ronald Reagan did it. Even the Bush camp is doing it now, yet they are condemning Obama for the same thing.

    May 20, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  9. another irony

    As a block, African Americans tend to vote democratic.

    Their vote is crucial to the success of the democratic nominee.

    And yet... over the past 35 years- there have only been TWO democratic presidents elected.

    So how much weight does the black vote really have?

    It apparently does not help secure the white house for the democrats.

    May 20, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  10. MJV Tampa

    I am going to send Billery a calculator with the INSTRUCTIONS on how to use it. I hope Billery and Obama go and fight all the way to the convention floor!!

    All the best to Senator McCain the next President!

    May 20, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  11. Rocky for Houston

    Obama has world voice and he is the right person for this time.
    Mcsame---–Same as 8 years---–killing innocents people for OIL.

    May 20, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  12. re: anonymous

    yes, you left yourself anonymous because you are a coward. The "1/2 black" comment betrays your racism. WE WILL PREVAIL over racists like you! I can guarantee that and it emboldens people like me to work harder to get Obama elected. And in case you are wondering, I am a white male in Raleigh NC. My name is Tom. Look me up and if you want to lock logger horns, let me know.
    Additionally, Hillary is right about the sexism that takes place and it isn't right. But she is wrong when she says racism isn't a factor. To many Americans are full of hate with out reason. She hasn't addressed that and in fact, she has encouraged it. She openly has asked for the female vote and the votes of "hard working whites". It is shameful.

    May 20, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  13. Proud

    Thank you for wearing the flag ......................YOU CAN'T BE TRUSTED MR OBAMA.

    MCCAIN 2008

    May 20, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  14. Blows


    Obama tries to be all things to all people.

    That is why he can't define his position.

    Just keeps re-spinning what he means and what he stands for depending on the moment.

    He will speak to his enemies... no i never said that...blah blah blah.


    May 20, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  15. Republican in Idaho

    All of you who voting for McCain are uneducated. Who does McCain think he is that someone has to change before he is willing to meet with them. Who is he? Who are we as Americans that we can boss everyone else around and they will listen to us? Whatever!! Wake up America, we are quickly losing our place and status in the world. No one wants to help or even believe anything we say anymore. Our allies aren't really that loyal to us if you haven't noticed. Why??? We think we can force everyone to be and do what we want. Hasn't anyone in America looked at our odds? Americans make up such a small part of the entire world. We do not have enough power, people, or money to police the world. We are getting weaker the longer we fight battles like Iraq. If you vote for McCain, you can only expect things to get worse as we use all our resources in Iraq and as our place in the world continues to decline. By the way, why shouldn't we meet with Iran's president or Cuba's president? I do not understand how being mad and hateful towards your enemies ever solved anything. In my experience it has only made that hatred grow. That is what is happening to our enemies we isolate.

    May 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  16. Honesty Is The Best Policy

    Hillary wants to blame her losing 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 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  17. shar

    Come demonstrate with us Clinton supporters may 31 in DC!! We dont want OBAMA!!!!

    Do not watch NBC, I never did anyway.

    May 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  18. aaron from minneapolis

    Obama has not flip flopped. When he said he'd meet with enemy leaders without any preconditions do you really think he meant he's sit down with their direct leader? Of course he's going to meet with low level diplomats. Like Iran is just going to let Obama talk to their top dog because he calls them and says lets talk. He was being vague. McCain fans are morons.

    May 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  19. Democrat in Des Moines

    GO Obama!!!

    (You have to say something positive about him to get posted evidentally!)

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Obama is a flip-flopper himself.

    Wright then No Wright. He threw him under the bus for political gain – it's just that simple. I would have had more respect for him if he backed his friend of 20 years. There are issues with inequality in this country. Take them on head-on instead of ducking the issue. Many African Americans are angry and they have the right to be.

    Back Michelle with her "first time" comments instead of making excuses for her. We all know what she meant by that comment, that he is an African American man that has non-AA support. It's reality – stand up for who you are and what you truly believe in. It's something we all should be proud of.

    Speak out on your own without consulting your aides for every response you make (to Bush, Hillary, or anyone else that challenges you). Debate these folks live, not one or two days afterwards with free coverage on CNN where your opponent isn't there to defend their comments.

    Prove to me you can be trusted and you will hold to your values. I will support you if I believe in what you stand for. Hillary was the best option though you could be a good alternative if you start showing some strength.

    May 20, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  20. ANTHONY02

    Nothing is going to change McCain will win Obama will lose. And the world will still be the same!

    May 20, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  21. No Unity

    There will be no unity after the damage caused by Obama and his race card and all the hatred spewed by his supporters.

    Who would vote for a candidate that inspires such immature, hypocritical, vulgar and hateful people to support him?

    May 20, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  22. Donovan

    Does Jane Fonda own part of CNN, certainly appears that way.
    How about some real Balance...

    May 20, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  23. Listen

    All you stupid people talking about the electoral votes need to know that we are in the primary season. No other candidate in the history of the Democratic primary process has ever complained about the process. Where were all the complaints in 2004 about the process, or when she was a front runner? NO ONE COMPLAINED! So leave it that way. What a bunch of losers! Hillary is pathetic and so are her followers. A bunch of idiots who complain about Obama because his followers trash talk Hillary. How stupid is that? I bet you fewer than 1 person on this blog can actually call Hillary on the phone and talk to her. These supporters never even met her and they are battling like she is their friend. How stupid is that? A bunch of blind sheep. That's why this country is in this terrible state because of you stupid people. These people say they will vote for McCain if Hillary is not on the ballot, regardless that Hillary and Obama have basically the same stance on every issue, and McCain is drastically different. How stupid is that? I hope McCain wins and you dumb people pay $15 a gal for gas, lose your homes, your children get shipped to Iran for the war, more rights are taken from you, you become poorer, and you get sick from no healthcare.

    I will continue to make money off of you stupid people thru my investments in defense and oil, and you will pay me. Thank you dummies.

    By the way I've met all three candidates personally on business – face to face. Not in a crowd like most of you dummies. Star struck stalkers. None of you people even know Hillary personally. If you met her face to face she'd probably belittle you. Obama and McCain are pretty cool, and so is Bill.

    May 20, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  24. Ian

    It's a distraction from the fact that McCain's advisors are leaving due to his ties with lobbyists. Let's not lose sight here.

    May 20, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  25. stop the madness

    I agree he is obsessed with Iran, this reminds me so much of Bush's obsession of Saddam and Iraq. Ireally think it is a means to get the American people's focus on Iran to incite us against this nation and a wiliness to go to war very soon if McCain is elected.

    For all of you that say you would rather vote for McCain than Obama, you need to be the first to offer your sons and daughters for the war that is sure to come if McCain is elected. Our military is already spread so thin to the point they are short in Afghanistan, also to the point that we are not able to defend ourselves and our allies against all these other nations that McCain and Hillary are threatening all thanks to president Clinton, it was he that decreased our military remember!! In the 90s he downsized the military and closed many installations. So a draft is on the way for sure if McCain is elected you need to think past your personal likes and dislikes understanding this is more serious than your hurt feelings about Hillary!

    May 20, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
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