The Exchange; Interview with Barack Obama
From New Hampshire Public Radio I'm Laura Hanoi and this is the exchange.
For months Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has played a constant second fiddle to New York Senator Hillary Clinton in the polls. But on Tuesday a Washington Post ABC poll of Iowa voters found Obama ahead of Clinton by four percentage points. And although that lead is within what pollsters call the margin of error the surveys psychological effect on the campaigns on the voters on the media cannot be denied. All year Senator Obama has been trying to convince Americans that his commitment to change and to bringing people together is more important than his relative lack of political experience. This latest poll indicates more Iowans may now be agreeing with that message. But here in New Hampshire it's a different race. Senator Clinton still has a commanding lead yet here as in Iowa with our primary possibly just six weeks away. The race will now tighten shift and shakeup today in exchange Illinois Senator Barack Obama is with us. Let's hear from you to the exchange number 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Our e-mail exchange at HPR Oregon Senator Obama good to have you in our studios. Thanks for coming in.
Great to be here Laura. Thank you so much. Well yesterday the Internet was just buzzing with that poll that I mentioned behind those new numbers putting you decently ahead of Senator Clinton in Iowa.
Well you know the truth is that we've always felt that in the early states in Iowa in New Hampshire Nevada South Carolina that we have the ability to connect directly to voters. And what we found is that if voters hear from me directly if they know not only my 20 years of public service as a community organizer as a state senator or as a constitutional law professor and a U.S. senator but also if they hear the message that what we're trying to do is to change not just political parties in the White House but how politics is done in Washington and overcome the special interest driven agenda there that people respond. And so were we throughout the summer when people were talking about national polls we're not focused on that. We were focused on how are we doing on the ground. And so we're not entirely surprised that some of that hard work is start to pay off.
Why do you think the differences are in Iowa and New Hampshire it's so tight in Iowa and in New Hampshire. Mrs. Clinton still has a pretty commanding lead in for you.
Well we've actually seen the trend lead has already narrowed. Here in New Hampshire we've just campaigned more in Iowa and we just started running television ads in New Hampshire a couple of weeks ago. So people are still getting a sense of who I am and here in New Hampshire what I stand for when they get familiar with my track record and they start saying here's how you would approach health care to provide health care to everybody. Here's how he would deal with education we had an education speech yesterday in Manchester that would focus on how we're going to train teachers better and invest in early childhood education to close the achievement gap when they start getting specific about how I intend to lead the country. Then we find people respond.
You mentioned your 20 years experience in public office and yet Senator Obama the big criticism of your candidacy is two years at the national level as a U.S. senator. Senator Clinton in Iowa said yesterday hey every day spent learning the ropes is another day of rising costs growing anxiety for our families. The message being and you hear from her and others that these are critical times and we don't have time for you Senator Obama to learn on the job. How do you respond to that.
Well you know these criticisms generally come from people who've been in Washington for a very long time and haven't done anything on the issues that are precisely of concern to the American people. We've been talking about health care reform for two decades now through Democratic and Republican administrations. And yet the only thing that's changed over those decades is more people don't have health insurance and the costs for families over the last seven years has gone up about 78 percent when it comes to health care. Same is true on energy. We've been talking about energy independence since Jimmy Carter. And the only thing that's changed is we actually import more oil. Gas prices have gone up and Exxon Mobil's profits have done very well. So you know I'm always a little amused when people suggest that the reason they should be elected is because of their vast Washington experience when it's precisely the conventional thinking in Washington that people are frustrated by because it's not attentive to the needs of the American people.
You hear some Democrats say you know look George Bush didn't have a wide political resume either. And look at the mess that he's made. The Democratic view. Again how do you alleviate the concerns of Democrats who may like you but say look he's untested and I just don't want to be on the stage.
Well look at the. If what you're interested in is a long Washington resume then you know there are people there who have been in Washington longer than I have. In fact by that criteria Joe Biden Chris Dodd in that order would be your selections. It wouldn't be any of the three frontrunners. But I think that what people are looking for is somebody who can bring people together to get things done and break out of the gridlock that we've seen in Washington somebody who can push back against the special interests. And that's something I have a track record of doing know just last year working with Russ Feingold. We passed the toughest ethics reform legislation since Watergate eliminating corporate meals and gifts and corporate jets from lobbyists to congressmen. And I think people want somebody who can stand up for what they believe in and exercise good judgment. And you know whether it's my opposition to the war in Iraq which preceded the war and is unique among the top candidates in the Democratic field or my approach to changing diplomacy I think people recognize we have to break out of the conventional thinking that has led us to the mess that we're in.
We exchange phone number is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 and today in the exchange. Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama joins us again the number for you to join us. Senator Obama is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 and Senator Obama will hit on some of those issues you mentioned health care and energy. Those are big in this campaign. But you mentioned of course Iraq. And you often point to your early opposition to the Iraq war as Exhibit one in showing that even though you may not have experience you have superior judgment. But looking at your Iraq position right now Senator Obama doesn't seem that different from Hillary Clinton or John Edwards. How is it different.
Oh I think it's significantly different. First of all the reason I talk about my early opposition is not because I'm interested in looking backwards and saying I told you so it's because it shows how I make decisions. And so when I delivered a speech against the Iraq war in 2002 it outlined very clearly what I anticipated would happen and everything that I talked about in 2002 has unfortunately come to pass the increase sectarianism the increased anti-Americanism the lack of credibility on the threats to WMD. That judgment is what's needed for the next president going forward. I have said that I will end this war. We will bring our troops home within 16 months. I have provided a clear timetable for when we would start and we would complete getting our combat troops out of Iraq. That is a difference between myself and Senator Clinton. She has not provided that clarity. I've also said that the only remaining mission for troops in Iraq would be to protect our embassy and our diplomatic and civilian corps because I don't want Blackwater to be doing all that protective work and that I would have a narrow strike force exclusively devoted to going after counter-terrorism. Senator Clinton has talked about a much broader mission including using U.S. troops to blunt the influence of Iran in Iraq. That is a significantly broader and different mission than the one that I've put forward. So look there's no doubt that at this point Senator Clinton and John Edwards and all the candidates have said they want to bring the war to an end in that sense you could say well all the Democrats are the same but there are very real differences in terms of how we would approach it. And I think those differences are going to matter in terms of who can do it most effectively.
Some Democrats here in New Hampshire Senator Obama were taken aback by what you and Senator Clinton and former Senator Edwards said in the last New Hampshire debate that you could conceivably have U.S. troops still in Iraq all the way up to 2000 13 which sounds like a million years from now the end of a first presidential term starting in 0 9. What can you say Senator Obama to that group of Democrats who watched three of you say that and said Hey I thought we put Democrats in Congress in 0 6 to end the war and now are leading presidential candidates are saying we might be there past 2014.
Those are two different questions. The question wasn't Would I end the war by 2013. I will have the war over by 2013. We will not have a permanent occupation in Iraq. We won't have troops in the midst of combat zones trying to referee between Shia and Sunni. We won't have any permanent bases in Iraq. So let me be very clear. The day I take office I will begin executing the end of the war. The question was would there still be troops in Iraq. And that question very specifically I could not honestly say that we will not have any troops protecting our embassy in Iraq. We have troops in France. We have troops all over the world. The question is What are their functions what are they doing. We will not be engaged in the Iraq war as we know it by the end of my first term.
So withdraw the combat troops yes continue counterterrorism missions against al Qaeda.
Very narrow mission having strike forces available if they are if their bases that are being set up inside Iraq we would go after them.
How do you distinguish between you know going after al Qaeda but staying out of the Shiite Sunni mess you know gets a little sticky right there on the ground.
Look obviously the situation in Iraq is fluid it's hard to anticipate and hard to understand hard to anticipate what it's what is going to be like when I take office in 2009 what I can say very clearly is that there are counter insurgency efforts currently going on that really have to do with us working with local militias or local tribal leaders and we're trying to sort out the conflict between Shia and Sunni that we won't be doing the same we're to invite them in to deal with the. Well not only are we in too deep but those are essentially political problems that have to be worked through between the Shia and the Sunni so part of what I've said is that I will initiate redouble the kind of diplomacy that we engage in not just inside Iraq but also in the region. And this is a difference between myself and Senator Clinton. I've said that I would talk directly to Iran. We will not just be talking to our friends we'll talk to our enemies because they have to be engaged just as the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have to engage to stabilize Iraq and find out what kinds of political accommodations are all the parties involved willing to arrive at. So that this is not simply an ongoing military conflict but rather people have made a determination as to how they want to live together.
Senator Obama coming up to break when we come back. I want to ask you one final question about this before we go to our callers and that is the concern that when U.S. troops leave Iraqis could be in serious danger as various factions fight among themselves as the Iraqi army and police may not be prepared to protect people. Some people have raised the genocide question when the U.S. leaves. We'll talk about that and start taking your calls 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. You're listening to the exchange on an HP.
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The latest on the race for the White House this is NHP.
This is the exchange I'm Laura Conaway today on the exchange We're talking with Barack Obama Senator from Illinois Democratic presidential candidate. We're taking your calls too 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. And Senator Obama before the break I was asking you about the real concern that you hear from many corners that if the U.S. pulls out too dramatically too quickly there really could be a genocide in Iraq. What do you think.
Well look there is a real concern about spikes in violence as U.S. troops draw down. That's why I've said that we've got to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. We can get our troops out at a pace of about one to two brigades per month at that pace. We're talking about 16 months to get all our combat troops out as well as the equipment much of which we may have to destroy. What we're also going to have to do is to redouble our diplomacy and redouble our humanitarian aid the humanitarian crisis is already taking place in Iraq. You've got millions of people who are displaced from their homes. Many of them internally in Iraq many of them in Syria and Jordan. We have not stepped up and provided the kind of humanitarian assistance that's needed so that's important understand there is already a humanitarian crisis there. And the third thing is I have reserved the right when I am commander in chief to monitor the situation. You know we will set up a international observer operation to send a clear signal Piers a red line that the various parties cannot cross without violating you know international law and crimes against humanity we will be taking names. I reserve the right in the context of an international effort to constrain any you know outrageous violence that may occur there.
So it doesn't mean specifically I don't really understand it. What would that be.
And if there's a genocide look approaching I think that you know the United States in concert with other countries would have a moral obligation if we started to see in a genocidal situation taking place. But that's true everywhere. I mean I think that that's something that we always have to monitor. My point is this that if you calculate what's going to happen in terms of violence in Iraq I believe very firmly that US ending the occupation in Iraq will result over the long term and less violence than if we stay there for 10 or 15 or 20 years. There may be some spikes in violence in the front end but if we manage it properly I don't foresee the kind of horrific violence that many people have been talking about as an excuse to say stay there permanently.
Well I'd love to ask you more about this Senator Obama but the callers are waiting so we'll go to them. Let's go again the number 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 2 to Concord John is on the air. Welcome John. You're on the air.
Good morning. Thank you Larry. Good morning. Good morning. I'd like to touch on another humanitarian crisis which gets precious little attention although the next president will be dealing with it considerably. I'd like to ask you Senator to address the massive Palestinian land on the West Bank as has been confirmed by organizations such as the International Red Cross and human rights groups around the globe.
Well look the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is something that the next president does need to deal with one of the problems with this administration I think is with their obsession with Iraq. There has been neglect of what is going to be a critical issue and has been a critical issue in terms of stabilizing the Middle East and reducing anti-American sentiment there. I think we know what the outlines of an agreement should look like. There is going to have to be a compromise with respect to the Palestinian right of return. We're going to have to look at how compensation takes place. But Israel remains a Jewish state. We start with the premise that Israel has to be secure and the United States has to stand firm in terms of that security but we also have to provide the possibility of a continued contiguous effective Palestinian state. That's what I'm committed to. I will be working diligently on that issue and I think that if we are engaged in this process there is no reason why we can't move forward because the interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis.
The status quo is unsustainable over the long term we got an e-mail on this says Senator Obama this morning from Eric. He says Do you think that with the strong political financial and military ties between the United States and Israel that the U.S. can be an honest productive broker of peace on its own.
Well Israel is our strongest ally in the region. And I think maintaining the special relationship with Israel is one that I intend to do as president of the United States. But I do think that we have been inattentive to the problems there and the Palestinians have legitimate claims. I think we all recognize that if we want lasting peace we're going to have to have a two state solution. The Palestinian state has to be one that functions. It has to have enough coherence and sovereignty that the Palestinian people are able to meet their aspirations. So what we need to do is to work with responsible Palestinian partners who are ready and willing to renounce violence and recognize Hamas. Well Hamas we cannot deal with until they recognize that Israel is there and that engaging in suicide bombs is not the way to resolve this conflict. And if we can get Palestinians who both have the will and the capacity to contain violence and recognize Israel. My belief is that Israel is going to be willing to compromise on some of the issues of settlements that have been have been there for a very long I've seen some progress towards that end just starting in recent weeks and I encourage Secretary Rice obviously have huge differences with the Bush administration on this.
But I'm I encouraged them to try to pursue whatever avenues we can to get the two parties to talk.
John thanks for the call. Again the number here in the exchange is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 and to Portsmouth where Sam is waiting Hi Sam go ahead.
Hey Laura thanks for taking my call. Sure.
Senator Obama I had a chance about a month ago to see your latest environmental speech in Portsmouth and he talked a lot about the the funding of your $150 billion energy fund. Right. And in the speech he talked about how that would be funded by revenue generated by cap and trade system. Right. And my question is whether any of that would be funded by removing the existing subsidies that now go to coal and oil and shifting those into your phone.
So how do you fund that. Thanks for the call Sam.
Well that's a great question Sam. I do intend to scrutinize some of the subsidies that are going to big oil big gas. I've already introduced amendments to try to strip out some of these subsidies. They're not necessary. Obviously oil is making money hand over fist. The last thing they need is tax breaks for them from the United States government. Part of what we would do with some of that money is to reinvest it into tax breaks for clean energy like wind and solar but we're going to need more money than that. And that's why it's so important I think for us to capture the revenue that's set up by this cap and trade system. But just for listeners who didn't read the whole speech a cap and trade system basically says we say to all polluters power plants industry etc. we will charge you for the greenhouse gases the carbon the pollution that you send into the atmosphere and that creates a market where businesses and entrepreneurs now have an incentive to invest in green technology is an alternative to a carbon tax.
Absolutely. A more market based way to drive more appealing for a lot of the candidates and it will also generate billions of dollars.
Those billions of dollars can be reinvested in development of clean energy. We will also have to use some of that revenue to offset what will probably be spikes in electricity prices in the short term because power plants are going to have to change how they do business they'll try to pass it on to the consumer.
We've got to make sure that people who are low income people on fixed incomes are protected from some of those price hikes over time technology will catch up and then electricity prices would go back down. But at least on the front end we've got to make sure that they're not being hurt. Having said that it is absolutely critical that we take on this issue of climate change it's not something that is going to go away and it's not something that we can put off much longer.
Well we have an e-mail to that effect from Kate in Tamworth she says experts are telling us we must reduce our global carbon footprint. Why isn't a creative all out approach to global climate change. Your central theme.
Well it is one of my central themes. I mean this is I would rank this up way of getting out of Iraq and providing health care to all Americans is one of the top three issues that we face.
So global warming health care and Iraq you have all three.
This is something that we have to work on urgently but understand it's not just a challenge it's also an opportunity. And if we do this right then we can create jobs and new businesses and we can be a leader around the world. It can be part of the process of regaining American leadership and that's one of the reasons that I want to be the president United States so that we can lead not just militarily but lead by example and by deed on critical the 21st century threats like climate change.
Sam thanks for the call. And another question on your environmental policy Senator Obama it also includes what you call safe and secure nuclear energy. How much emphasis would nuclear power get in an Obama administration.
You know I am not a big fan of the nuclear industry. What I've said is is that we don't have one silver bullet to solve our energy crisis. Now you know the nice thing about nuclear energy is it doesn't produce greenhouse gases. The not so nice thing about it is it generates radioactive waste that we have not figured out how to store properly. So what I've said is we will invest in making sure that the cleanest of energies are the ones we emphasize solar wind hydro energy. But that we can't suddenly say to morrow we're going to shut down every nuclear power plant. We're going to shut down the coal power plant. Look I think all of us would love energy that is cheap. That is completely clean. That does not harm the environment. We are not going to get there within the next five years. What we need to do is invest when it comes to coal for example in clean coal technology and the sequestration of carbon with nuclear we should research. How can we store the waste products effectively and it may be that the technology never gets there in which case hopefully we have found other means of generating energy that are safer for the planet. So I'm not a big booster of the nuclear industry. I think that it will be one of many energy approaches that people are looking at and we have to see where the technology leads us. Understanding that the bottom line is we can't afford to keep on sending greenhouse gases in the environment that are creating a warmer planet.
And one more question on this. Senator Obama will go back to our callers. You in the past at least have supported clean coal technology or what you've called low carbon coal. Do you still support that type of energy. And if so what role do you see it playing in our nation's energy.
Well you know we're the Saudi Arabia of coal. We've got that a lot. We've got a lot of coal in Illinois a big coal Illinois state coal state. You've got a lot of Midwestern states upper Midwestern states that have a lot of coal.
If we can use it in a clean way that would be great because not only would we be able to use a cheap energy resource but it would also free us from some of our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. And that would be good for our national security. Coal is dirty and if we can't figure out how to burn it cleanly then we can't use it. Because again climate change is and stopping climate change is one of my top priorities.
If on the other hand we can figure out how to sequester the carbon that's released by coal. In other words if we can pull it out store it underground. There are a number of approaches that are being explored. If we can do that in a technologically sound way and economic way environmentalists say that's a big IF WHILE huge if.
But but all these things are a big if. Right. I mean as I said we don't have the perfect energy source. We wish we did and maybe tomorrow some really smart kid is going to figure out how to you know turn water into into energy that that doesn't create any emissions that are a problem. And there's already experiments with all sorts of different kinds of cars and power sources but every every energy source we have has some problems. I mean we we. Wind is great but we don't quite yet know how to store wind on a regular basis. Solar. Terrific but it seems as if we can't get the unit costs down to where we want it to be to make it actually affordable. And every region may have differences in terms of energy. So what I want to do is just make sure that the bottom line is we're reducing our carbon footprint that we are setting a very clear goal that will meet the what the scientists say have to be significant reductions over the next several decades and then figure out what is the best way to do it.
Let's move on from this. Senator Obama go back to our callers to Sandra. She's also calling from Concord Good morning Sandra you're on the air with Senator Obama.
Thank you. I'm a health care vote a senator and I had the privilege of talking to you with a house party in Manchester a while ago about catastrophic medications. How are you. You went pretty good. But since I spoke to you the gap has gone from thirty six hundred to four thousand fifty. Part B has gone up part D has gone up and it's getting totally out of control this is Medicare drug coverage.
Sandra you're talking about.
Exactly. And I want to know if you're going to do something about the gap and do something about the Medicare and revamp it a little bit because we can't even get our eyes exam and get physicals or anything and we need help.
OK Sandra thanks for the call Senator Obama.
I will close the doughnut hole that shouldn't have been there in the first place. Look this is a classic example of why we have to change how politics is done in Washington. The reason that there is this gap in prescription drug coverage under Medicaid is because the pharmaceutical industry lobbied to make sure that Medicare could not negotiate for the cheapest available price for drugs. And this is well-documented that numerous members of the Bush administration who helped design the program went on to work for pharma the pharmaceutical The pharmaceutical manufacturing lobbying industry the the chairman of the committee who was responsible for getting this passed is now the top lobbyist for pharma. And if we don't change how business is done and the influence of lobbyists in Washington is exerted then we are not going to see a shift.
And so one of my priorities is closing this this doughnut hole that is affecting so many people who need prescription drug coverage. But the way we're going to do that is also by shining a light on the disproportionate influence that special interests have in Washington.
There's another question this is an email from Kelly who says by full disclosure She's a volunteer for your campaign but she says for the last two days on blue Hampshire in New Hampshire a progressive blog has been a debate going on about whether or not Senator Clinton's assertion that 15 million Americans will remain uninsured under Senator Obama's plan is true. How do you answer the claim that your health plan will leave 15 million Americans uncovered.
Well I appreciate the clarity the be up to him to clarify this because this was raised in the last debate. Senator Clinton's plan for health care. My plan John Edwards plan are all similar in the sense we set up a government plan alongside the private plans that people have and people can buy. And we all subsidize participation in that plan.
So it's not universal single payer health it's not Dennis Kucinich Exactly.
It's not single payer it's a transitional system building on the existing systems that we have transitional to what well transitional hopefully because the system currently is so such a patchwork of inefficiency that over time I would want to see Medicaid Medicare the Children's Health Insurance Program S-CHIP all those integrated more effectively more emphasis on prevention a system that puts more emphasis on the management of the chronically ill we can save $150 billion a year if we start making sure that children are getting regular checkups and saving of going to the emergency room for treatable illnesses like asthma. But going to the point about coverage the only significant difference in terms of how we approach this is that John Edwards and Hillary Clinton mandate all individuals get coverage at least they say they do.
What I've said is the problem is not that people are trying to avoid getting health care coverage the problem is that they can't afford it. So my emphasis is on making it affordable. And if we make it affordable which I intend to do then the vast majority of people are going to have health care coverage. Now the argument I'll make is there are going to be maybe a handful of people who even if it's affordable still won't buy it. And my attitude is you know what I'm happy to consider a mandate once we get to affordability. But if we mandated right now without affordability people are going to buy it anyway. They don't buy car insurance if they can't afford it even if it's mandate.
We'll talk more after a short break.
Stay with us.
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This is the exchange I'm Laura Conaway. Thursday and Friday on the exchange for the holidays. Some of the best public radio documentaries of 2007. Then on Monday our presidential coverage continues with Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. Today we're talking with Senator Barack Obama of Illinois about his views on a variety of issues as he makes his bid for the White House. We're taking your calls to the exchange number 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Senator Obama one more question on health care related to that last caller. Some Democrats want universal health care. Whenever we do programs on health care we hear from a lot of people who say look the system right now is a pain in the neck. He got private. You got Medicare you got S-CHIP. It's a mess. It's inefficient. It would actually be cheaper and more efficient to have a single payer system. What do you think of that.
If I were designing a system from scratch I would design a single payer system because I think it can eliminate and lower administrative costs and you take the insurance profits out of the system. There's no doubt about that. And that's why we part of the reason we spend twice as much as other advanced nations like France or England or or Canada on our health care. But we're building on a legacy system half of our that half of our fellow citizens get their health care from employers then they like it and they like it and they like the options that they have. And so part of what we need to do is to figure out how do we get the 47 million who don't have coverage covered. How do we make the system more efficient.
And that's why what we emphasize is a system that brings everybody and that starts emphasizing prevention management of the chronically ill using technology to help reduce costs as we make it significantly more affordable. Everybody is going to be able to afford it. There may be few people at the end healthy kids who just think they're invulnerable who don't want to buy it. And at that point we can start considering amending. But as I said before when Senator Clinton or Senator Edwards say they're going to mandate health care but they haven't talked about either how to enforce it or how to make it affordable for people then it's not really a mandate any more than if we mandate that people get car insurance but they can't afford it they just don't get it.
Well Senator Angelas will be here on Monday so we'll ask him about that. Let's go back to our callers. This is just in in Keene. Hi Justin go ahead you're on the Exchange.
Hi. My question for the senator is about the recent study in stem cell research. Would the new findings. What are your standings on support and how would you propose we run any new research to further stem cell research.
It has been big news. Justin thanks for the call Senator Obama.
Well look stem cell research I think oftens offers enormous promise for us to be able to deal with the bill Teevan diseases everything from Alzheimer's to diabetes. And it appears that there may be a breakthrough where the use of cells other than embryonic cells are able to generate the kinds of stem cells that can be used to engage in research and potentially cure diseases over the long term. I think that's terrific. I have always said that it made sense for us to use embryonic stem cells when they are about to be discarded that there's nothing morally or ethically wrong with that. But I recognize that there are strong feelings on others by people on other sides of this issue.
And so if we can resolve the needs of science with some of these ethical concerns that other people have I think that's great and we should pursue it. One of the broader issues that I want to point out though is is that we have not been keeping pace in terms of general investment in basic science research.
We as a country we as a country and one of the things I want to do as president is make sure that we are ramping up significantly our investment in research in basic sciences that is going to be how we maintain our economic primacy at a time when knowledge is really the currency.
Well stem cell research is one of those hot button issues as is the issue of gay marriage. And I want to ask you about that Senator Obama for the first time in my memory. Anyway most of the Democratic candidates attended a candidate forum earlier this year put on by Human Rights Campaign a group representing gays and lesbians. And we asked you your position on gay marriage what did you say Senator Obama.
Well what I said was that I am not in favor of gay marriage but I am in favor of a very strong civil union a civil union that provides the same federal rights as are enjoyed by married same sex married heterosexual couple. And this is something that I've been fighting for for a long time. The rights of gays and lesbians in Illinois. I was the champion a chief co-sponsor of the human rights ordinance there that made sure that gays and lesbians weren't being discriminated against on the basis of it. When it came to housing or when it came to jobs. It's something that I think is long overdue. It's something that I intend to promote as president the United States at the same time as I'm ending practices like don't ask don't tell that discriminate against gays and don't ultimately serve the country well.
You were also asked at that same forum by one of the panelists. Aren't civil unions separate but equal institutions just as once was justified is perfectly OK for whites and blacks. What did you say to that.
Well what I said is that I recognize that for a lot of gays and lesbians it's not just the legal rights involved it's also the sense of stigma that they feel because their unions are not called marriage. What I said was that look at what I want to do is get the legal rights secured that there are many people in this country who still associate marriage with a religious institution that what we really need to do is make sure that those civil unions are equivalent in terms of in the eyes of the state when it comes to benefits rights et cetera as a marriage. And if the nominations then want to recognize same sex marriage and the religious denomination that religious denomination they are free to do so. The my denomination United Church of Christ recognizes gay marriages.
Others may not like it but the civil unions law nationally absolutely not just what you want States.
Well no no. I mean let me be clear. I wouldn't push for a national marriage law or a civil union law because traditionally that's always left been left to the States. What I would do is make sure that the federal government recognizes the state civil unions in the same way that they recognize a state marriage license.
Let's move on to the calls and go to Norwich Vermont now where Sandra is on the air. Sandra thanks for waiting. Go ahead you're on with Senator Obama.
Hi. Thank you. Senator I saw you at Dartmouth your very impressive in person is no question about that. Thanks and I have a couple of questions. One is a quick one. How do your constituents in Illinois feel about you're only representing them for such a short time before running for president and the other is the last president who really wanted to change the way things were done in Washington then who was also a great guy personally. Was Jimmy Carter in his presidency was pretty disastrous. So I'm wondering how you would not fall into his trap. Ok Sander Thanks for the question.
Other interesting questions that you know the folks in Illinois seem really happy about the message that I'm carrying forward. They were excited about electing the United States senator as a change agent not somebody who does business as usual in Washington. I think they are as frustrated as the rest of the country is about the lack of progress on critical issues like health care energy in Washington they want to break the gridlock. They want to overcome the special interests. They've been very supportive now in terms of Jimmy Carter. I think number one I've spent time in Washington. I mean I've been I've spent the last three years in Washington. If you look at the advisers that I have on everything from foreign policy to domestic policy you know it's not as if we don't have people who have been national security advisers people who've been members of Joint Chiefs of Staff who are advising us. I think Jimmy Carter came in with much far fewer relationships and had a less of a sense of how things worked in Washington.
You sound like you thought about this. Absolutely. Because what is important is to recognize that the problem in Washington is not that there aren't good people there who are not trying to do the right thing. The problem is is that it's become so insular it doesn't listen to the American people and special interest so dominate that people aren't able to get good work done. And what I want to do is to make sure that we blend the voices of the American people with the expertise of people who have been working on many of these issues for a long time to free up the energies of the American people to actually get things done.
And I think that that's the kind of approach that I'm confident I can be successful in.
Well Sandra thanks for the call and Senator Obama. This gets into your whole campaign theme a new kind of politics. Calling for an end to the mudslinging and the partisanship. And yet I've got a handful of e-mails here Senator that that all relate to this one theme that some Democratic voters after being locked out of the White House for eight years want red meat they want partisanship. They cheer the loudest when the Bush administration is critiques. I'll read you one e-mail here. This is from John. He says to my ears calling for transcending partisanship seems Pollyanna ish. Can the senator reassure me that the central theme of his campaign is not unilateral disarmament. In other words are you going to be tough enough to run against the Republicans.
Look the you know I come out of Chicago politics. So you you're not known for being genteel genteel.
You know the the the question I think we have to ask ourselves is not whether we can just gratuitously go after the other side. Can we stand up for what we believe in. Can we firmly assert our values and our ideals. Can we persuade the American people that the Democratic agenda is the right one for everybody and take on the Republicans when they are distorting the facts or are coming after us in ways that are distorting. That's something that I've always done. I'm somebody who went to work as a community organizer instead of going to Wall Street to fight against special interests. That's something that I did as a state senator it's something that I've done as the United States senator. Nobody has ever suggested that I can't stand up for the values that I care about. That's precisely why I am running for the presidency. What I don't want to do is get into the partisan food fights that have been a huge distraction from the real problems that the American people face. And I do think that if we're going to solve big problems like health care or energy that we have to reach out to Republicans and independents of goodwill who may not buy into every every one of our ideas but are amenable to making progress on these issues if they feel like we're listening to.
Here's another question on that same vein this is an email from Jack in Nashua. He says How would you beat the Republican marketing machine. How will you avoid being swift boated if you get the Democratic nomination. Senator Clinton seems very ready to fight and knows how do you.
Well listen if you look at how we've handled this campaign it's not as if we haven't been subject to attacks already. And whenever we're attacked we respond forcefully swiftly with the truth. And this is this is the key distinction I guess I would make. I am always prepared to go after somebody fiercely if they are challenging us. But what I don't want to do is to engage in the same distortions of their records that they may try to engage in when they are coming after me. What I want to do is come at them with the truth which I think is very powerful and the problem in the past in some previous elections when Republicans have been successful in going after Democrats voting for Taylor as the mayor says is they didn't respond quickly enough. They thought that somehow if you just kind of ignore it that will go away in this Internet age. It doesn't go away. And so what you have to do is you have to make sure that you are on it and relentless and forceful.
But again what I don't want to do is to mimic those strategies and engage in the same kind of politics that ultimately leads us nowhere and turns the American people off so that they say a plague on both your houses and then leaves special interests in Washington to be able to dominate the agenda.
That's take one more call. This is Barbara in East Kingston. Hi Barbara. Make it short you're on the air.
OK. Good morning. Morning Bob. Well we know that our world image is really fragile at this time. I'd like to know a little bit more about your background and your experience and how it will help to repair our negative image in the world. OK Barbara thank you.
Well I truly believe that the day I'm inaugurated not only does the country look at itself differently but the world looks at America differently that I represent a clean break from the Bush-Cheney approach to foreign policy. If I'm talking to a poor country they know that you know not only have I worked to try to deal with issues of poverty and health care in poor countries but they also know I've got a grandmother who lives in a small village in Africa without running water and electricity. And that gives me credibility to talk about these issues in a way that no other previous president would ever have. If I'm reaching out to the Muslim world they understand that I've lived in a Muslim country and I may be a Christian but I also can understand their point of view.
Although you were a little kid when you lived in. Well no no no. Right. Is that what you're talking.
Well it's not just that my my sister is half Indonesian. I traveled there all the way through my college years. And so I'm intimately concerned with what happens in these countries and the cultures in the perspectives that these folks have. And those are powerful tools for us to be able to reach out to the world. And when you combine that with my work on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on everything from nuclear proliferation to issues of genocide then I think that the world will have confidence that I am listening to them and that is that our future and our security is tied up with our ability to work with other countries in the world that will ultimately make us safer. And that's something that this administration has failed to understand.
Barbara thanks for the call and Senator Obama. One last question for you what's been most surprising to you as you've started this campaign. Again a big leap. Someone who's been in Washington just two years. What's been surprising to you is you have launched this presidential campaign. What didn't you expect when you started on this quest.
You know the truth is is that as exhilarating and as intense as the campaign has been and it is intense. It's actually what I expected. What what I've been pleased about is how decent and generous the American people are. You know I've really enjoyed meeting them and listening to them and there a lot more.
They're a lot better informed. They are. A lot smarter than I think Washington gives them credit for and if we can just get Washington to listen to the American people a little bit more I think our future is bright.
Well Iowa and New Hampshire certainly pay attention to the issues and you've been spending a lot of time in those states. So Senator Obama thank you very much for joining us. We really appreciate we hope to see you again. Laura had a great time. Thank you. That's Barack Obama.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- The Exchange
- Interview with Barack Obama
- Producing Organization
- New Hampshire Public Radio
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- New Hampshire Public Radio (Concord, New Hampshire)
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- Illinois U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, takes host and caller questions about his campaign and policy positions. Obama addresses criticisms about his lack of experience to be president, his plan to end the Iraq War while ensuring the region remains safe and stable; resolving the Israel/Palestine conflict, healthcare reform vs. universal healthcare, funding his clean energy plan, investing in scientific research, federal recognition for civil unions, and his readiness to combat Republican attacks should he be the Democratic nominee.
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- 2012 New Hampshire Public Radio
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Host: Knoy, Laura
Interviewee: Obama, Barack
Producing Organization: New Hampshire Public Radio
Release Agent: NHPR
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New Hampshire Public Radio
Identifier: NHPR71760 (NHPR Code)
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- Chicago: “The Exchange; Interview with Barack Obama,” 2007-11-21, New Hampshire Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 22, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_503-q23qv3cs75.
- MLA: “The Exchange; Interview with Barack Obama.” 2007-11-21. New Hampshire Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 22, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_503-q23qv3cs75>.
- APA: The Exchange; Interview with Barack Obama. Boston, MA: New Hampshire Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_503-q23qv3cs75