Barrack Obama was interviewed today on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. Transcript higlights follow…
On the war in Iraq
BLITZER: If you’re president of the United States in January of 2009, and the situation is basically the same in Iraq as it is right now…
BLITZER: … what would be your immediate first step?
OBAMA: Well, the bill that I put in I think…
BLITZER: Assuming that bill doesn’t go.
OBAMA: No, no, but I think that assuming that things are the same, I think the same dynamic will be at work, which is to say we’re going to pull out our combat troops out of Iraq in a phased, systematic way, that we continue to provide the Iraqi government the logistical and training support, that we have those forces over the horizon to respond to crises that spill over into the remainder of the region. And most importantly, we have an aggressive diplomatic initiative with those countries in the region to
make sure that we are part of a broader conversation about, how can we stabilize Iraq and stabilize the region?
On the captured British military personnel
BLITZER: You’re president of the United States…
BLITZER: … 15 American sailors and Marines are captured by Iranians, the Revolutionary Guard in the northern Persian Gulf, and they’re held. What do you do?
OBAMA: Well, I think that the British obviously are taking the prudent steps that are required, sending a strong, unequivocal message to the Iranians that they have to release these British soldiers. I think that they are handling it in the appropriate way.
You know, my sense is that the Iranians are going to stand down fairly soon, but, look, one of the obligations of the commander in chief is to make sure that our troops are protected, wherever they’re projected around the world.
BLITZER: So if they were to hold them, let’s say, for 444 days — Iranians have held Americans hostage for a long period of time — what, do you just let them be held there?
OBAMA: No, you don’t. I think you take firm action to make sure that those troops are returned.
BLITZER: Do you want to be specific?
OBAMA: You know, I think that it’s important to say that all options, including military, would be on the table in such a circumstance.
On gay marriage
BLITZER: Should there be gay marriage? If you were president, would you push to allow gay marriage in the United States?
OBAMA: Well, I think that “marriage” has a religious connotation in this society, in our culture, that makes it very difficult to disentangle from the civil aspects of marriage. And as a consequence it’s almost — it would be extraordinarily difficult and distracting to try to build a consensus around marriage for gays and lesbians.
What we can do is form civil unions that provide all the civil rights that marriage entails to same sex couples. And that is something that I have consistently been in favor of. And I think that the vast majority of Americans don’t want to see gay and lesbian couples discriminated against, when it comes to hospital visitations and so on.
On his dust-up with Al Sharpton
BLITZER: Al Sharpton caused a bit of a stir when he said this: he said, “Why shouldn’t the black community ask questions? Are we now being told, `You all just shut up?’ Senator Obama and I agree that the war is wrong, but then I want to know why he went to Connecticut and helped Lieberman, the biggest supporter of the war.”
Have you and Al Sharpton made up since then? Have you gotten over that little dispute?
OBAMA: You know, I don’t think there was much going on there. The Reverend Sharpton has been a terrific advocate on behalf of the dispossessed. I’ve always expressed my respect for him. I think this was a misunderstanding as a consequence of his reading of a report in New York, and I called him and said we had nothing to with the article.
I think he makes a larger point, which I think is right on target, which is that I don’t expect African Americans to vote for me simply because I’m African American. If they do end up moving in my direction, it’s going to be because they see my advocacy on behalf of racial profiling legislation, on behalf of reforms to the death penalty, on behalf of getting health care for kids — on behalf of issues that are of importance to the African American community and to the people outside the African American community.
I think I’ve got to earn that support, like any other candidate.