Transcript Excerpt: Sen. Barack Obama

Read A Transcript Excerpt Of Steve Kroft's Interview With Sen. Obama

On February 6, 2007 - just days before announcing his candidacy for president - Illinois Senator Barack Obama sat down for an interview with 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft. The interview took place in Obama's office in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.

STEVE KROFT: What qualifies you to be President of the United States?

BARACK OBAMA: Something that I think I bring to bear to this process is the capacity to bring diverse people together around a common goal. And I think more than anything, that's what America needs right now: the ability for us to unite around a common-sense, practical, non-ideological effort to solve some very big problems that we face.

KROFT: I'm a voter looking at your resume, and you served seven years in the Illinois legislature, two years in the U.S. Senate. No executive experience in government and no real credentials in international affairs. It's a tough job. What qualifies you?

OBAMA: If you look at my track record, not only in Washington, but prior to Washington, I think what you'll see is a diverse set of experience that prepares me well for the particular challenges that we face right now. Let's take the issue of foreign policy. You know, I've served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I've worked with colleagues like Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana, a Republican, on the issue of nuclear proliferation and actually passed last year a piece of legislation dealing with proliferation on conventional arms. On issues dealing with Africa, a major area where we've got to deal with a potential terrorist threat, we passed legislation to make sure that we are stabilizing countries like the Congo that are currently ungoverned and are vulnerable to terrorist infiltration. So on the international front, I've got a body of work that I think is relevant to the job. But more importantly than that, I've got a set of experiences prior to joining the Senate, including having lived overseas and having family overseas and understanding, I think, in a very intimate way, both the challenges that we face in America's image abroad, but also the opportunities to win back the hearts and minds of people who I think over the last six years have felt entirely alienated from how our administration's operated and, I think, that has actually made us less safe than we should be.

KROFT: Anything else in your background that you think serves as a qualification for this job?

OBAMA: You know, here in Washington, people don't take experience outside of Washington seriously. Seven years in the Illinois Senate actually prepares pretty well, because Illinois is a wonderful microcosm for the country. You know, it's north/south. It's east/west. It's black/white/Hispanic. There are a whole host of issues that have a direct impact on people's everyday lives. So when I pass legislation that expands healthcare for kids; or struggle with welfare reform on the ground where it matters; or bringing together opponents of the death penalty with law enforcement to come up with the first in the nation videotaping of interrogations and confessions in capital cases -- those are all issues that matter deeply to people. They are similar to the issues that we deal with at a national level.

KROFT: You touch people's imagination with your campaign.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

KROFT: People are worried about your experience.

OBAMA: Right.

KROFT: Why are you in such a hurry?

OBAMA: You know the truth is I'm not. If I was on my own internal timetable, then I would be happy to wait ten years before I was running for higher office. This is not something that I've engineered. It's something that presents itself as an opportunity to make a difference right here and right now. We have a narrow window to solve some of the problems that we face. Ten years from now, we may not be in a position to recover the sense of respect around the world that we've lost over the last six years. Ten years from now, we may have dug ourselves such a deep hole when it comes to our fiscal health that some of those problems are irreversible. Certainly when you look at our energy policy and environment and the prospects of climate change, we've got to make some decisions right now. And so I feel a sense of urgency for the country. It's possible that, you know, after we go through this whole process, the voters conclude: You know? He's not ready. And I respect that. I don't expect that simply because I can move people in speeches that automatically qualifies me for this job. I think that I have to be tested and run through the paces, and I have to earn this job