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Obama Explains How He Made VP Choice

Barack Obama spoke with Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith in Chester, Va. Thursday, after Obama had made it known that he'd decided on his running mate.

Obama: The most important question is is this person prepared to be president? Second most important question from my perspective is can this person help me govern? Are they gonna be an effective partner -- in creating the kind of economic opportunity here at home and guiding us through some dangerous waters internationally. And the third criteria from me, I think, was independence. I want somebody who is gonna be able to challenge my thinking -- and not simply be a -- a yes person -- when it comes to policies.

Smith: And who is it? (LAUGHTER) I had to ask.

Obama: That's a good shot. ... But -- I'm -- I'm pretty disciplined on this.

Smith:: As you went on vacation and as the primary season came to a close your campaign was somewhat quiet. John McCain ramped up his campaign. And a lot of people would suggest he has been able to define you in the last month or so. As a result, the polls have gotten much, much tighter. Has he made you the issue in this campaign?

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Obama:: Well, I think that's been their intention.

Smith: Many of the attacks that have come from John McCain's campaign have been, quite frankly, condescending.

Obama: Right.

Smith: Are you surprised by that? Does it anger you?

Obama: It's a little disappointing. I -- I mean, you know-- John McCain likes to characterize himself as a maverick. But the truth is what he's done, particularly over the last month when he shook up his campaign is he basically hired Karl Rove's old -- old crew and adopted Karl Rove's old tactics. Which really had to do with suggesting that I was unpatriotic. Suggesting that I would rather win -- that I'd rather lose a war so that I could win an election just because we have a fundamental disagreement about Iraq. You know -- those kinds of -- attacks -- are pretty par for the course. So it doesn't anger me. It's what we expected.

Smith: One of the issues that came up is what's rich, what's poor. You made some hay out of what John McCain was talking about being rich. And he was asked by how many houses he had you already have an ad saying it's seven and they're worth $13 million. What point are you trying to make?

Obama: Well, the point I'm tryin' to make is is that when you say that the economy is fundamentally sound, when you say that we've made great progress economically under George Bush -- when one of your top economic advisors suggests that America is a nation of whiners and that it's all in their head that we're in a recession -- that indicates that you're out of touch. You don't get it. And, you know, for John McCain to suggest that I am somehow elitist --

Smith: Which he did say.

Obama: Which he -- which he said --

Smith: He said you made four million dollars.

Obama: Well -- over the last two years. (LAUGHTER) John McCain's been livin' like this for the last 25. And obviously, doesn't have a very clear sense of what ordinary Americans are goin' through.

Smith: Let's move on to other stuff. I wanna talk about the convention. As you see the convention, it will be successful from your perspective if what?

Obama: I want to make the choice clear to the American people -- for the last eight years we've had a particular set of economic policy that have resulted in record foreclosures -- high unemployment, high inflation. ... And so I want the American people to focus on whether or not we can afford to continue those policies for another four or eight years. Because that's essentially what John McCain's offering.

Smith: So many people in the country tend to know you because of your speech four years ago at the Democratic Convention. How do you top that? Or do you try to top that? Is the speech ready?

Obama: Well, you know, I -- I think it's a different time and a different place obviously. Four years ago when I spoke -- I was speaking as somebody who was in a supportive role to the nominee. And because I was new I was presenting my version of the American story. This time I'm the nominee. So, it's -- it's a different -- different role. I'd be lying if I said that I've got it all completely written. But -- I have a pretty good sense of what I'm gonna say. ... I suspect that that element of surprise that came about four years ago; nobody had heard of me and then I come up and I give -- you know, a -- a speech that was well received. I think that -- there -- there's a special moment there that we're not gonna recapture. At this point, people know that I can give a speech. (LAUGHTER) And you know, they'll see me comin'.

Smith: My last question is do you know what Michelle is gonna wear Monday night?

Obama: You know, there -- there are some things that even I don't know. And what Michelle is gonna wear is a tightly held secret. More tightly held than who my vice presidential choice is gonna be.

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