Transcript Excerpt: Sen. Barack Obama

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


KROFT: So far the African community has not exactly rushed to support your candidacy, at least according to some of the polls. There's one poll that shows Hillary Clinton is ahead of you among black voters, 25 percent to ten percent. Another poll says she's leading 53 to 27 among African-Americans.

OBAMA: Right.

KROFT: Are you surprised by that? Are you disappointed by that?

OBAMA: Not at all. I think that there is an assumption on the part of some commentators that somehow the black community is so unsophisticated that the minute you put an African-American face up on the screen, that they automatically say, "That's our guy." Well, they're like any other community. They've got to get to know who I am nationally. And so, not only am I not surprised by it, but I'm proud of the fact that there's a maturation in the African-American community where a black candidate has to earn black votes the same way that he's got to earn white votes. And that's exactly how it should be.

KROFT: What'd you think of [Senator] Joe Biden's comments?

OBAMA: Joe himself would acknowledge that he hadn't fully thought those through. I didn't take it personally, but I think it spoke to some larger issues that we as a society are still working on.

KROFT: I want to ask you a question about your past. I mean, you've been very frank in your books, particularly the first book, with your language.

OBAMA: Yeah. Don't quote those on-air, or you'll get fined.

KROFT: I don't think I can. And about your drug use when you were in high school and in college, that you smoked marijuana and inhaled.

OBAMA: Right. I did. I did.

KROFT: And did a little blow, as you put it, when you could afford it, and considered using some heroin.

OBAMA: Only considered it briefly.

KROFT: Explain that. Why did you do it?

OBAMA: Well, it was typical of a teenager who was confused about who he was and what his place in the world was, and thought that experimenting with drugs was a way to rebel. It's not something that I'm proud of, but I thought it was important to write about it because that's part of the journey that I've taken. And I think that one of the things that I'm absolutely clear about is that if I'm trying to project this image of perfection, if I suggest to people that I emerged from the womb wise and worldly and diligent and never made mistakes, then, number one, it's a lie. Number two, I like to think that by letting people know the mistakes I've made, that maybe young people behind me are looking and saying, "You know what, this is a guy who made mistakes, but he was able to right his life and get on track."

KROFT: You made this confession in a book that you wrote before you'd really expressed any interest in politics.

OBAMA: Yeah.

KROFT: Do you regret in any way that you were so candid?

OBAMA: No. You know, I don't. I think one of the things about national politics is this attempt to airbrush your life, it's exhausting, right, you know. I think it's just a lot easier to say, "This is who I am. This is where I've come from." You know, if we have problems in this campaign, I suspect it's not going to be because of mistakes I've made in the past. I think it's going to be mistakes that I make in the future.

KROFT: You wrote an op-ed page piece to The Washington Post last month saying we must stop any and all practices that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a public servant has become indebted to a lobbyist.

OBAMA: Right.

KROFT: Yet, you know, it's been reported that you bought a piece of undeveloped property, a lot next to your house, on very favorable terms, from a political fundraiser named Tony Rezko, who is now currently under indictment for influence peddling.

OBAMA: Right.

KROFT: What's your relationship with him?

OBAMA: First of all, I didn't purchase the land on very favorable terms. I paid the market price, and I think everybody's acknowledged that. This was somebody who I had known since I came back from law school. He was a developer in the area, had been a supporter, had never asked me for anything, and we had never done any government business together of any sort. He purchased a lot next to the house that my wife and I bought. I offered to him to buy a small strip of his land to expand my side yard, and, you know, had it assessed and paid the market price. This was prior to his indictment. But, you know, what is absolutely true is that he was already under a cloud of suspicion on something entirely unrelated to me -- some work that he had done with the state, and it was a bone-headed decision on my part, for the reasons that I say in my op-ed, that appearances matter.

KROFT: It looked like he was trying to help you out.

OBAMA: In retrospect, there's no doubt that he thought that buying a lot next to me would be an expression of friendship. Now, as I said, I have never done any favors for him; he had never asked me for anything. I was never in a position to do anything for him, but I think it is entirely legitimate to say that I should have known better.

KROFT: How do you expect to go out and raise $100 million or $200 million to run for this office without making deals with the special interests?

OBAMA: I've tried to set up a system that will avoid some of the worst improprieties. I'm not accepting money from federal lobbyists. But look, it's still a problem. You know, I think the fact that somebody gives me a $2,000 donation probably doesn't necessarily influence my vote. But it probably influences whether or not I take that person's phone call, and that's a problem, which is why I would love to see public financing of campaigns, and I've said so publicly and repeatedly. Now in the interim until we get there, I'm going to have to do some fundraising, but I'm hopeful that the internet facilitates the kind of small donations that are able to support a campaign like mine.