Obama on Fox News Sunday

Chris Wallace and Barack Obama sat down today for an interview.

The transcript is here. Mixed reviews from the leftosphere. Some liked it, some weren’t at all impressed. Most recognized that Obama was taking the opportunity of an interview on a network considered to be right leaning to distance himself from the far left. He even went after the Daily Kos.

This was all about trying to sell himself to the demographic which watches Fox with the assumption they’re not his normal constituency.


WALLACE: And we are back now with Senator Barack Obama. Senator, one of the central themes of your campaign is that you are a uniter, who will reach across the aisle and create a new kind of politics. Some of your detractors say that you are a paint by the numbers liberal and I’d like to explore this with you.

Over the years, John McCain has broken with his party and risked his career on a number of issues, campaign finance, immigration reform, banning torture. As a president, can you name a hot button issue where you would be willing to cross (ph) Democratic party line and say you know what, Republicans have a better idea here.

OBAMA: Well, I think there are a whole host of areas where Republicans in some cases may have a better idea.

WALLACE: Such as.

OBAMA: Well, on issues of regulation, I think that back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, a lot of the way we regulated industry was top down command and control. We’re going to tell businesses exactly how to do things.

And I think that the Republican party and people who thought about the margins (ph) came with the notion that you know what, if you simply set some guidelines, some rules and incentives for businesses, let them figure out how they’re going to for example reduce pollution. And a cap and trade system, for example, is a smarter way of doing it, controlling pollution, than dictating every single rule that a company has to abide by, which creates a lot of bureaucracy and red tape and oftentimes is less efficient.

I think that on issues of education, I have been very clear about the fact, and sometimes I have gotten in trouble with the teachers union on this, that we should be experimenting with charter schools. We should be experimenting with different ways of compensating teachers. That —

WALLACE: You mean merit pay?

OBAMA: Well, merit pay, the way it has been designed I think that is based on just single standardized I think is a big mistake, because the way we measure performance may be skewed by whether or not the kids are coming in the school already three years or four years behind.

But I think that having assessment tools and then saying, you know what, teachers who are on career paths to become better teachers, developing themselves professionally, that we should pay excellence more. I think that’s a good idea.

How well will that go over with “progressives”? Heh … you can imagine. The next thing you know, he’ll be talking about school vouchers for heaven sake. But this is all a ploy to sound reasonable and to laud the other party for some good ideas in the interest of being considered a uniter and someone not immune to considering ideas from “the other side”. Of course his voting record isn’t very indicative of such a propensity, and Wallace brings that up. Obama waves it off by declaring that he voted with a very liberal record because the bills were written to be polarizing. Uh, yeah, that works.

And this one. This one is so obvious as to be a bit cheesy. Speaking of taxes:

OBAMA …. In terms of capital gains, I’ve suggested we might go back up to 20 because —

WALLACE: You have suggested 28.

OBAMA: Well, but what I’ve said is, I certainly would not raise it higher than it was under Ronald Reagan. But the fact is, is that I’m mindful that we’ve got to keep our capital gains tax to a point where we can actually get more revenue.

Waffled on the tax rate and had to invoke Ronald Reagan, didn’t he?

Wright and Ayers? A couple of points to be made here.

First, in answer to those who continue to claim that Wright’s relationship with Obama isn’t a legitimate political issue, Obama disagrees:

Question: Do you think that Reverend Wright is just the victim here?

OBAMA: No. I think that people were legitimately offended by some of the comments that he had made in the past.

The fact that he is my former pastor I think makes it a legitimate political issue. So I understand that.

But then, after setting the ground work, he again essentially tries to wave it all off. Wallace tries to pin him down, but Obama isn’t willing to be pinned down and again, doesn’t handle the question of “what did you hear him say” very well:

WALLACE: But did he ever say anything about America or about white racism that troubled you?

OBAMA: Well, you know – well, I think that, you know, he has certainly preached in the past when I was there about the history of race in this country in very blunt terms, talking about slavery, talking about Jim Crow. The problem – and I pointed this out in my speech in Philadelphia – was where oftentimes he would err, I think, is in only cataloguing the bad of America and not doing enough to lift up the good. And that’s probably where he and I have the biggest difference, but —

WALLACE: Did you ever go to him after a sermon and say, you know —

OBAMA: Well, but keep in mind, it’s not as if his sermons were constantly political. I mean, I think most of the time he was talking about church and family and faith and scripture, and that’s what I got out of – out of church.

So I don’t want to exaggerate this notion that somehow he was on the soapbox each and every day. But the important point, though, that I tried to make in Philadelphia is that some of this is generational. I mean some of it is – he went through experiences that I never went through. I’m the beneficiary of the civil rights movement.

People I think noted that, if you run back some of Dr. King’s speeches, we always play “I have a dream,” but if you look at his sermon in Riverside church for example, when he spoke out fiercely against the Vietnam war, there’s some pretty jarring comments there as well. And part of it has to do with a very specific experience, a generation that was raised under Jim Crow, saw a lot of violence, saw a lot of racial discrimination.

I have a different experience and in part have a much more hopeful vision of where America has been and where it can go in the future.

This time we have MLK dragged into the equivocation. And Wallace missed the opportunity to explore the theology which underlies the church Wright pastored, that espoused by James Cone known as black liberation theology. So again, Obama leaves the questions hanging while admitting they’re legitimate questions about his values.

He even admits as much when Wallace follows up on his last statement:

WALLACE: Senator, you say a lot of good stuff. Reverend Wright (INAUDIBLE) are distractions from the real issues. But especially for someone like you, who’s a newcomer to the national scene, people don’t know a lot about, don’t voters have a legitimate interest in who you are and what your values are?

OBAMA: Absolutely and so the question becomes, how do voters draw conclusions about my values? Do they talk about, do they look at the 20 years in which I’ve devoted my life to community service? Do they about the work I did as a community organizer working with Catholic parishes and churches to bring people together to set up job training programs for the unemployed and the poor. That’s a reflection of my values.

Do they look at how I’ve raised my children and how I speak about my family? That’s a reflection of my values. I don’t think that the issue of Reverend Wright is illegitimate. I just think that the way it was reported was not I think a reflection of both that church that I attend and who I am.

The answer, of course, to all of his questions, is “yes”. But with the questions about the church – not those he’s raised, but that have been raised by others – still unanswered, the evaluation of his values and any conclusion about them remains incomplete. And the same applies to the questions raised about his relationship with William Ayers. Obama again soft-pedals it and, frankly his answer is again completely unsatisfying to those who understand who Ayers is and what he did and also know that Obama’s political career was launched in their livingroom back in the ’90s.

About Iraq and Gen. Petraeus – this was an interesting exchange:

WALLACE: And we are back for one final segment with Senator Barack Obama. Senator, this week President Bush named David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, to be the head of Central Command, which controls overseas military operations across the Middle East and Central Asia. Will you vote to confirm his nomination?

OBAMA: Yes. I think Petraeus has done a good tactical job in Iraq. I think as a practical matter, obviously that’s where most of the attention has been devoted from this administration over the last several years.

I was also a big respecter of Admiral Fallon, who Petraeus is now replacing and I think it was unfortunate that the administration wasn’t listening more to the observations of Fallon that we have to think about more than just Iraq. That we’ve got issues with Iran and Pakistan and Afghanistan and our singular focus on Iraq I think has distracted us.

My hope is that Petraeus would reflect that wider view of our strategic interests.

WALLACE: I want to ask you about presidents and listening to generals. Petraeus, I don’t have to tell you, is the architect of the troop surge, a strong advocate of our continued engagement in Iraq. If you become commander-in-chief and he says your plan to get out of Iraq is a mistake, will you replace him?

OBAMA: I will listen to General Petraeus, given the experience that he has accumulated over the last several years. It would be stupid of me to ignore what he has to say.

But it is my job as president, it would be my job as commander in chief to set the mission. To make the strategic decisions in light of the problems that we’re having in Afghanistan, in light of the problems that we are having in Pakistan, the fact that al Qaeda is strengthening as our National Intelligence Estimates have indicated since 2001.

And so we’ve got a whole host of tasks and I’ve also got to worry about the fact that the military has no strategic reserve right now. If we had an emergency in the Korean Peninsula, if we had an emergency elsewhere in the world, we don’t have the troops right now to deal with it. And that’s not my opinion, that’s —

WALLACE: So would you replace him or would you just say, I’m the commander-in-chief, here’s my order.

OBAMA: What I would do is say – what I will do is say we have a new mission. It is my strategic assessment that we have to provide a timetable to the Iraqi government. I want you to tell me how best to execute this new assignment and I am happy to listen to the tactical considerations and any ideas you have.

But what I will not do is continue to let the Iraqi government off the hook and allow them to put our foreign policy on ice while they dither about making decisions about how they are going to cooperate with each other.

If you got a ‘warm and fuzzy’ out of that, you’re a better person than I am. For all his “I’m willing to listen” you’ve just heard a man who is not and would not be willing to listen to a damn thing when it comes to Iraq. And while he’s right about the job of the CiC, he’s using it as a rationalization that is difficult to argue with instead of laying out reasons why a change of mission is both necessary and critical at this time, given the increasing probability of success in Iraq if we stay the course.

Debates with Clinton:

WALLACE: Let’s clear out this campaign business. Why are you ducking another debate with Hillary Clinton?

OBAMA: I’m not ducking one. We’ve had 21 and so what we’ve said is with two weeks, two big states, we want to make sure we’re talking to as many folks as possible on the ground, taking questions from voters.

WALLACE: No debates between now and Indiana?

OBAMA: We’re not going to have debates between now and Indiana.

Politically I understand the strategy. However, as I’ve mentioned before, such a strategy carries an inherent risk, and with polls narrowing (in fact some have Obama and Clinton tied), it may not be worth the risk to hand as determined an opponent as Hillary Clinton a gift like this.

Finally, what I consider to be the quote of the interview. It pertains to race looming as a major part of the campaign. Wallace points out that the Clintons are claiming the race card was used on them. Others are saying Clinton used it when he invoked Jesse Jackson’s run in SC in the ’80s. Whites backed Clinton 63 percent to 37 while blacks voted for Obama 90 to 10. 12% of whites who admitted race was a factor went for Clinton by more than 3-1. Asks Wallace, “for all your efforts to run a post-racial campaign, isn’t there still a racial divide in this country that is going to make it very hard for you to get elected president?

Obama essentially rejects the notion that race will be the deciding factor in this run for the Presidency:

If I lose, it won’t be because of race. It will be because, you know, I made mistakes on the campaign trail, I wasn’t communicating effectively my plans in terms of helping them in their everyday lives. But I don’t think that race is going to be a barrier in the general election.

Ummm … “mistakes” and “communication”. Of course it couldn’t be the message itself, could it?

Where in the world (*cough* Kerry *cough*) have I heard all of that before?

First published at QandO

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