Transcript Excerpt: Sen. Barack Obama

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


KROFT: What do you think you bring to the race that Senator [Hillary] Clinton doesn't or former Senator [John] Edwards?

OBAMA: I don't want to get into the comparisons at this stage with the candidates. I think as the campaign unfolds, people will get a sense of our differences.

KROFT: Do you think that your inexperience in any way is an advantage?

OBAMA: I do think that I'm able to look at what's going on in Washington with a little more objectivity, because I haven't been there that long. I think that the work that I've done in the past gives me a pretty good sense of the various dimensions of some of the problems we face. I'll be very specific. When we're having education debates here in Washington, my positions are informed by having tried to figure out how to fundamentally change the way that we finance public education at the state level. It's informed by work that I've done as a community organizer in inner city classrooms. And so I end up recognizing that we need more money to fix our schools, but we also need a transformation in attitudes. And in Washington, that's typically framed as a "either/or" proposition. You know, the conservative position is we don't need more money; we just need to blow up the bureaucracy. You know, on the left, sometimes the sense is we just need more money, and we and our problems will be solved. When you have actually been in these schools and worked with these parents and talked to the teachers and sat down in a meeting with principals who are trying to figure out how to hold this thing together, then you realize that it's not an "either/or" proposition. It's both ends. You know, parents need to do a better job of parenting. Teachers need to do a better job teaching. Some of the anti-intellectualism that exists in the African-American community and Latino communities and low-income communities has to change. And the federal government's got to put more money, because the fact is that they don't have enough resources.

KROFT: I want to read you a quote from The St. Petersburg Times. "Obama needs more than one Senate term to qualify for the Presidency of the United States. The world is too complex and dangerous for this likeable, charismatic, African-American neophyte to practice on-the-job training." Your reaction?

OBAMA: I expect to have to earn this job, and I trust the American people that they will be able to watch over the course of this campaign to see whether I've got the knowledge, the skills, and the grace under pressure to perform. And if I don't, then I think they'll let me know. And I'll be able to go back to doing the good work that I've been able to accomplish here in the Senate.

KROFT: If you were President today and given the present situation in Iraq, what would you do?

OBAMA: I've been very specific. I've introduced legislation.

KROFT: You've introduced a bill to get the U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of March 2008.

OBAMA: Right.

KROFT: But how would you do it? And what do you think the consequences would be?

OBAMA: Well, number one, we should have thought this through before we went in. I'm proud of the fact that, although I was at the start of a U.S. Senate campaign and there were some risks involved, I indicated that we hadn't thought this thing through. Now we don't have a lot of good options. We've got bad options and worse options. What I've proposed is that we should initiate a phase redeployment. Start taking our combat troops, deploying them in the region, deploying them in Afghanistan, focus them on the broader war on terror. What happens is dictated by conditions on the ground and what the commanders say. We set a target goal of getting our combat troops out, leaving logistics and training and counter-terrorism forces on the ground, and we set up some benchmarks, benchmarks that were laid out by the Iraq Study Group, benchmarks that were laid out by the President himself for the Iraqi government to meet.

KROFT: So essentially you're acknowledging defeat?

OBAMA: Not at all, because what the bill says is that if conditions allow for success and the military can assist in creating a stable Iraqi government, then we should do so. It is acknowledging that the President's policies in Iraq have failed, that we have spent over $400 billion, over 3,000 lives, and made us less safe, and that unless we fundamentally change course in Iraq, that we're going be having this same debate two years from now, four years from now, six years from now with who knows how many more incredibly brave American soldiers dying on the battlefield.