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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Sen. Barack Obama Speaks Out on the Iraq War, Race, Hillary Clinton and Pastor Jeremiah Wright

Aired March 20, 2008 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: Tonight, Barack Obama on the definitive this week, explaining his views on race and his former pastor. Are those controversial issues behind him?
How does he address Iraq? America's role in the world? Barack Obama for the hour, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

Our special guest tonight is Senator Barack Obama, the Democrat of Illinois. He is in Beckley, West Virginia.

It's always good to see you. And it was great having your wife with us, by the way. She was terrific.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She had a wonderful time, Larry. Thanks.

KING: All right, let's get first to the news of the day. Michigan apparently is not going to recount its already-held primary. Florida apparently is not going to do it. What's your solution to this?

OBAMA: Well, you know, we're going to abide by whatever rules the Democratic National Committee puts forward, as we've done from the start. You know, we were told it wasn't going to count and so we didn't campaign there. In fact, my name wasn't on the ballot in Michigan.

But I think it's important to make sure that the people of Michigan, the people of Florida, that their delegates are seated. And so, you know, we're committed to making sure that that happens in a fair and equitable way. And I'm confident that they will be participating fully in the Democratic convention. And I'm looking forward to hopefully campaigning there as the nominee.

KING: But if the decision is to seat the delegates voted on -- who went for Hillary Clinton -- wouldn't you protest that?

OBAMA: Well, I think it obviously wouldn't make sense to seat them proportionally to the results of a Michigan ballot, for example, where my name didn't appear. But I think that there should be some way for us to make sure that they're seated, figure out how their votes should count. And, you know, I'm confident that some solution can be resolved that makes sure that they're represented. But, you know, ultimately, the people of Michigan and the people of Florida, they're concerned about the same things that folks all across the country are concerned about. They're really concerned about what we're going to do about this economy, what we're going to do on the fifth anniversary of this war in Iraq. And so, you know, I will leave it to the Democratic National Committee to -- and their various Rules Committees and Credentials Committees -- to figure out something that's fair.

We'll be, you know, making sure that the Michigan and Florida delegation are seated. But what we want to do is, you know, make clear that the real focus of this election can't just be on the Rules Committee of the Democratic National Committee. It's got to be on the American people and how we're going to deal with the enormous problems that we're hearing about all across the country.

KING: Senator, do you fear any possible -- for want of a better word -- havoc at the convention over this?

OBAMA: I think it will get resolved well before the convention. You know, Larry, the truth is that we've had a vigorous contest. You know, Senator Clinton has been a tenacious competitor in this race. We, obviously, have built a terrific campaign that we're very proud of. And you know, we've won twice as many states as Senator Clinton and a larger share of the popular vote, more pledged delegates.

We feel good going into the convention. I'm sure that Senator Clinton, you know, feels good about the campaign she's run. I'm confident that Democrats will come together, because we recognize there's so much at stake. When you've got John McCain, the Republican nominee, who basically wants to continue Bush economic policies and wants to continue Bush's foreign policy, it is really looking at a third term for George Bush carrying on that legacy.

Democrats -- and I think a lot of Independents, and even some disaffected Republicans -- recognize we need to move in a different direction. And so whoever the nominee ends up being, I'm confident about the Democrats being unified and really focusing on winning in November.

KING: So no fear of that. Is there fear that you could go to Denver without a nominee?

OBAMA: My hope is, is that it gets resolved before that. I mean the last contest right now is scheduled for the third of June. That is almost three months before the convention. At that point, it should be pretty apparent who has the most delegates, who's won the largest popular vote, who's won the most states.

The superdelegates, I hope, at that stage, are going to weigh in heavily. And I think it should be apparent at that point who the nominee is going to be.

KING: There's a new national poll that shows Clinton now leading in the Gallup poll -- a tracking poll -- has Clinton ahead for the first time since February, 49-42. That's a national poll. How do you respond to that?

OBAMA: Well, you know, it's not surprising. Obviously, we took some hits over the last week-and-a-half as a consequence of this flap around Reverend Wright. And so that's the news that people have been absorbing.

But, you know, this campaign now has lasted 15 months. I mean there have been babies that have been born and are now walking and talking during the course of this campaign. And so we've had all kinds of ups and downs.

We were down 20 points at one stage. We were up. We were down again. We were up. You know, I haven't spent a lot of time paying attention to the day-to-day national polls. What I've tried to focus on is a message that the American people, you know, can hear, that speaks to the day-to-day issues they're talking about around the kitchen table.

You know, people are in fear of losing their homes because of the home foreclosure crisis. They're concerned about what are we going to do to spur the economy and create jobs that pay a living wage. They're worried about the lack of health care. And they're worried about loved ones who have been deployed three or four times to Iraq.

Those are the issues that we talked about, insisting that we've got to change how Washington does business if we're going to have an impact on those issues. That's why I think we've done well. We're going to keep on delivering that same message and I think that will carry us to the nomination and to victory in the general election.

KING: We'll discuss Iraq in the next segment. What about all of this has surprised you?

OBAMA: Well, you know what surprised me is how hungry Americans are for change. I mean I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you at this stage if the American people didn't recognize that we had to shift our politics in a fundamental way.

They know that special interests have dominated the agenda in Washington, that the insurance and the drug companies have, you know, helped to write our health care laws. So that on prescription drugs, for example, you know, senior citizens are still paying more than their counterparts in Canada or even counterparts who get their drugs through the V.A. because the pharmaceutical lobby was able to prevent Medicare from negotiating for the cheapest available price on drugs.

People recognize that we've got high gas bills. The oil companies are making record profits. And none of that's being reinvested in building new refinery capacity or making sure that we're developing alternative energies that can give relief at the pump.

And so they know we've got to change those things. And what's been surprising to me is how responsive they've been to our message of change.

KING: We're going to take a break. When we come back, we'll talk about Iraq with Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Yes, we can. We will change this country and we'll change the world. We are ready to stand up and turn the page. This is our time. We cannot wait. We are ready to write the next great chapter in America's story. They're looking backward. We're looking forwards. Our time for change has come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Senator Obama.

A "Washington Post" editorial today took issue with President Bush, with Senator Clinton and with you on all your respective positions on Iraq, calling them fantasies, saying that all your speeches promise the impossible.

On the suggestion of your troops withdrawal plans: "In the 16 months or so it would take to remove those forces, they envision" -- you and Senator Clinton -- "the near miraculous accomplishment of every political goal the Bush administration aimed at for five years -- from the establishment of a stable government to an agreement by Iraq's neighbors to support it."

Are you in fantasyland?

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Well, no, Larry. And I think that "The Washington Post" mischaracterized my position. What I've said is that we need to begin a phased withdrawal out of Iraq. I've been saying this for a long time now. And I warned from the outset, from the beginning of this war -- which I opposed -- that this was going to distract us from the fight we needed to fight in Afghanistan, that this was going to fan the flames of anti-American sentiment.

And once we were in, I said there weren't going to be any good options. And I still believe that. There are no good options in Iraq. There are bad options and worse options. The least bad option, I believe, is to begin a phased redeployment, send a clear signal to the Iraqi government it is time for them to stand up and negotiate the kinds of agreements that can stick and stabilize the country, to get the neighbors in Iraq involved -- and that includes not just our allies like Saudi Arabia and Jordan, but also Iran and Syria.

And to get the international community involved in creating a humanitarian assistance program, to have an international war crimes commission that can monitor any efforts at ethnic cleansing inside the country and that we would still have a strike force that would go after any attempts to create al Qaeda bases in Iraq. Now is that going to be an ideal situation in which all the parties in Iraq have suddenly magically agreed? Of course not. And I don't know what "The Washington Post" thinks is going to happen if we just stay and continue in the same process we are now.

There are no magic bullets here. But what we can do is at least put some pressure on the Iraqi government to make sure that we start seeing some changes.

KING: Yes. The --

OBAMA: What we can do is start engaging all folks in the region around a plan to stabilize. And what we can do is start reducing the enormous toll on both military families and on our treasury, so that we can refocus attention on what should have been our focus in the first place -- going after bin Laden, going after al Qaeda, focusing on Afghanistan, which has become more violent than at any time since 2001. That's my plan. That, I think, is what ultimately is going to make us safer.

KING: The president warned yesterday that withdrawal would end in chaos.

Let's watch a little of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we were to allow our enemies to prevail in Iraq, the violence that is now declining would accelerate and Iraq would descend into chaos. Al Qaeda would regain its lost sanctuaries and establish new ones, fomenting violence and terror that could spread beyond Iraq's borders, with serious consequences for the world's economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right. He's saying that al Qaeda will run rampant under your plan and plans to withdraw.

How do you respond?

OBAMA: Look, the -- you heard, I think, the other day, Senator McCain confuse al Qaeda with Shia radical militias inside of Iraq. The president makes the same error. He keeps on conflating al Qaeda with all that's going on inside of Iraq. In fact, Iraq is a majority Shia country that is violently opposed to al Qaeda. The Sunnis inside of Iraq are now opposed to al Qaeda.

There's no doubt that al Qaeda would try to get another foothold in there. But to the extent that we've brought Sunnis in and got them to buy into the central government, we can start making some progress.

In fact, that's part of the reason that violence is down. Not only have our troops performed magnificently and done everything we've asked them to do, but you've also got Sunni tribal leaders who have rejected al Qaeda and, in fact, are trying to cooperate. So the notion that al Qaeda would run roughshod over Iraq is just not correct. In contrast, you do have safe havens for al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That we know. We know for certain. The Taliban has strengthened itself. They're using the funds from the heroin trade in that region to help finance much of what they're doing. And we're seeing more suicide bombs, more violent attacks. It's starting to creep into the rest of Pakistan.

We know that's where the people who killed 3,000 Americans are located. And we have not been focused on that because of our obsession with Iraq.

So my argument about withdrawing out of Iraq is not because I don't think that we can sustain this current burden indefinitely -- although, the fact is that will break the bank eventually. We can't keep on spending $200 billion a year or $150 billion a year in Iraq.

It's not just because it is straining our military and military families in extraordinary ways. It's also because it's not the best strategy to deal with terrorism, which should have been our focus from the start and has unfortunately been diverted into an effort in Iraq that has been counterproductive to that effort.

KING: If elected, would you go to Iraq?

OBAMA: Absolutely. Not only do I intend to go to Iraq, but I intend to travel throughout the region. And I think that we should call a summit with Muslim leaders from around the world to talk to them about their need to partner with us to defeat radical terrorism and for our commitment to work with them as equal partners in creating opportunity for their people.

That attempt at broadening the conversation so that the Muslim world recognizes that we understand their aspirations and that we want them to be successful, stable societies, and to enlist them in the battle against the small corps of terrorists that are operating not just in the Middle East, but in many regions around the world, that effort, that message has not been delivered effectively by this president. It's something that I intend to do because, again, that's part of what's required to make us safer.

KING: By the way, would you go before taking office? Would you go between November and January?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that I would like to go between November and January to talk to our troops and to thank them for their extraordinary efforts and to get a direct reading from commanders on the ground. Because I think that it's going to be important for us to make a clear-eyed assessment, not based on fact, not on the desire to save face from bad decisions that were made in the past, but to look very squarely at what is possible to achieve in Iraq at this point and how we can start executing a drawdown that is careful and prudent.

Keep in mind that, you know, the response oftentimes from people like President Bush or John McCain is that Obama is proposing a precipitous drawdown. There's nothing precipitous about what I'm talking about.

KING: Yes.

OBAMA: You know, if after five years, were where we are now and we're talking about another two years before we've gotten combat troops out of Iraq, if we can't have completed this mission in an intelligent way after seven years, when originally this was supposed to be a $50 billion to $60 billion enterprise that was going to take about six months, then I think the American people, understandably, are going to be pretty frustrated, because this is not at all what was promised them by Senator McCain or by George Bush.

KING: We will touch other bases and return with Senator Barack Obama of Illinois right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I will bring this war to an end when I'm president of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold. And I believe that I have done that. Certainly Senator McCain has done that. And you will have to ask Senator Obama with respect to his candidacy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is there a danger in that kind of thing, only in the fact that it would presume that if you get the nomination, the McCain people would run that throughout the campaign in an advertisement against you?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think Senator Clinton has been running a campaign out of the Republican playbook over the last several weeks. And this whole notion that there is a commander-in-chief test that she feels she's passed, you know, is based on pure assertion. I mean, there's nothing behind it that would demonstrate that.

You know, I have served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She's served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. She has made, I believe, poor judgments when it comes to issues like the war in Iraq. I've made the right judgments.

And, so, really, the question for the commander-in-chief -- the next commander-in-chief -- is who is best-positioned to rally the world around a series of global threats that many countries have to deal with -- terrorism, you know, how are we going to deal with issues like climate change, how are we going to deal with issues like genocide and disease and refugees. And that requires the kind of judgment that I think I've shown not just on the issue on Iraq, but on questions like Pakistan, where I warned very early that we shouldn't put all our eggs in the President Musharraf basket, that we were alienating the people of Pakistan, even as we were neglecting going after terrorists' safe havens in Pakistan.

On issues like diplomacy, where I've talked about the need for direct diplomacy with countries like Iran to get them to stand down on nuclear weapons and stop the kinds of rhetoric against Israel and the funding of Hezbollah and Hamas.

You know, those are all issues that we need from the next commander-in-chief. You know, when I answer that phone call at 3:00 in the morning, you know, what is going to be at issue is the kind of judgment that I can apply. And I've shown, I think, over the last several months, during the course of this campaign and the last several years in major foreign policy issues, that the judgment I'm going to show is the judgment that's needed to make this country safer.

KING: All right. You've served with her in the Senate. Has her -- I don't want to put words in your mouth -- has her campaign disappointed you, surprised you?

OBAMA: Well, no. I mean, look, as I've said, she's a tenacious campaigner. I don't think either her or husband like to lose. And, you know, she herself and her campaign talked about a "kitchen sink" strategy, where we're just going to throw a bunch of stuff a Senator Obama and see what sticks.

I understand that that's the textbook way of operating in Washington. I mean that's what you do. When you're down, if you're down in the polls, if you've been losing a lot of races, then you throw a lot of negative stuff at your opponent.

That's the kind of politics, in part, that I'm looking to change. Now, you know, we don't mind drawing tough comparisons on issues. But part of what I think the country needs right now is a little less rhetoric, a little less P.R. and spin, a little more straight talk, a little more honesty about the difficult issues that we're going to solve.

And, you know, I have respect for Senator Clinton, her intelligence and her diligence. I think she's got some good ideas. I think John McCain is an American hero and, you know, quick to honor his service on behalf of our country.

But we've got some big problems that we're facing right now. You know, I meet families all of the time who literally are having to make decisions about do they drive to work this morning or do they pay the electricity bill. I meet families who don't have health care for their kids or themselves, despite the fact that they have one, two, three jobs, in some cases.

So those are the kinds of issues that aren't going to lend themselves to sound bites, they're not going to lend themselves to clever ads. What's needed is for us to sit down in a pragmatic, practical way and try to figure out how we're going to solve these problems.

And one last point I want to make, Larry. You know, both Senator Clinton and John McCain, when they talk about their experience or preparedness for president, what they're really referring to is how long they've been in Washington. And, you know, I think most of your viewers recognize Washington doesn't work and it hasn't worked. And part of the reason is, is because the special interests and the lobbyists are contributing enormous sums of money.

Lobbyists are active in writing legislation. And Senator Clinton has said that they're not really a problem, that they represent real people, that they represent ordinary Americans.

Well, I disagree with that. I think they're part of a problem in Washington. And both Senator McCain and Senator Clinton have been willing to take enormous sums of money from those lobbyists and those special interests. And that, I think, inhibits their ability to bring about the kinds of real change that Americans need to see -- the economy get better and for their lives to improve.

KING: We'll take a break and come back. The race issue has come to the forefront. We'll ask the senator about it right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: America is ready to embrace the policies of the future.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: That's why we're here today. That's why I'm running for president of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The race issue has come to the forefront. Our guest is Senator Barack Obama.

I guess most people would be saying, why not just leave the church of Reverend Wright? I know you have been in that church a long time, been close to him. He has a major involvement in your family, but based on what he said, why not just say goodbye?

OBAMA: Well, he has retired, Larry. So you know, he preached his last sermon already.

KING: But that was the church.

OBAMA: But -- let me...

KING: All right. Never mind, go ahead.

OBAMA: Yes, well, you know, let's just broaden this for a second. You know, I gave obviously a major speech about this issue and race in general on Tuesday. And you know, what I have said consistently is that what Reverend Wright said that has become the issue of controversy was completely inexcusable and unacceptable.

And I completely disavow any of those statement that were made. They were statements that I wasn't aware of, were not brought to my attention until fairly recently. I wasn't in the church when he said those things.

And there are no excuses for it. I think they were divisive. I think that they demeaned our country in powerful ways. What I have also said is that that wasn't typical of what I heard from Reverend Wright, that the church that I have attended for 15 years is a very conventional Christian church, a African-American church, squarely grounded in the tradition of the African-American church, that we talk mostly about Christ and salvation and sin and mercy and justice and hope, that it is a bedrock of the South Side of Chicago.

It has enormous attendance with people from all walks of life. And so given that Reverend Wright was retiring, I have no reason to leave the church. And what I also have tried to point out is that had I known that many of these comments were being made, I would have confronted Reverend Wright directly. And if he had continued to argue these points or if I had heard them in the church, I might have left. But that is not what happened.

KING: You are saying it wasn't the church, it was him. And since he is not there, you are still in the church.

OBAMA: You know, I mean, I -- I mean, I think that what is true is, is that Reverend Wright made some very reckless and hurtful statements. And -- but you know, he is also somebody who preached for 30 years. And what we have been seeing are sound bites compressed into 30 seconds or a minute or two minutes from somebody who performed three services at least a week for 20, 30 years.

KING: How do you --

OBAMA: And so that doesn't in any way excuse it, it just -- it is just to point out, Larry, that I don't think that typifies the service that I was attending on an on-going basis. And more broadly, the point that I tried to make on Tuesday was that, you know, there are a lot of objectionable things that are said within the African- American community when it comes to racial issues. There is a lot of anger that is pent-up.

You know, I hear it in a variety of settings. And what I want to be held accountable for are the things that I say, the things that I believe, the things I promote. And I think that anybody who has followed my career knows that my entire career has been built around the idea of bringing people together, listening to each other, engaging in understanding.

And that partly is necessitated from my own upbringing. I mean, I am somebody who comes from a mixed family. My mother was white. I was raised by her and my white grandparents in Hawaii, a place where there was great diversity.

And so, you know, I think it is important just to recognize that I am rooted in the African-American community. There are flaws within the African-American community, just as there are in any other community. But the basic approach that I have taken, not just to race issues, but to all issues, has been the need for us to come together as Americans and to perfect our union over time. And that is really what the speech was about on Tuesday.

KING: A couple of other things in that area. Have you have had any communication with the reverend since all of this?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I haven't. He was actually -- because, as I said, he preached his last sermon. He is on sabbatical. He went to take a cruise. He was not available by phone. You know, I had spoken to him earlier when some of these sermons first came to light.

I had spoken to him earlier and told him that, you know, I was uncomfortable and objected strongly to some of these statements. But that, you know, obviously he had played an important part in bringing me to my faith, and that I hoped our relationship would continue.

I haven't talked to him since that time. And I'm sure that, you know, he has a lot to think about, given the firestorm that has erupted over time. And you know, I suspect that I will talk to him at some point, to get his feelings on the issue.

KING: We'll take a look at the other side of the coin when we come back. Our guest is Senator Barack Obama of Illinois on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If we could just get past the divisions of race and religion and region, then there is nothing we could not do, no destiny we could not fulfill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Senator Obama. What might be the other side of the coin, Martin Marty, who is white, and one of America's foremost theologians, has known Reverend Wright for 35 years, attended many of his services, and is quoted in today's "New York Times" defending the reverend.

He says, "You hear hope, hope, hope. It's not anti-white. I don't know anyone who walks out of there not feeling affirmed."

How would you comment on that?

OBAMA: Well, Martin Marty I think is one of the greatest theologians that we have. And I think his characterization is accurate. As I said, there's been a caricature of Reverend Wright and the church that's been out there. Now, given the reckless and offensive statements that have been played, it's understandable that people have a negative reaction. And I understand that. And as I said, Reverend Wright's comments were inexcusable.

But I do think it's important just to recognize that this has been a church that's been the pillar of the community, that is part of a 99 percent white denomination, the United Church of Christ. People come to visit from within the denomination. They come from all across the country, mostly white visitors, always feel welcome. There are white members of the church.

And so there has been some distortion, in terms of what this church is about. It's engaged in tremendous ministries, in reaching out to people with HIV/AIDS. It has been very progressive on issues, for example, related to gays and other social issues that are difficult, but the church has dealt with in a generous, and hopeful, and welcoming way.

So some of this, I think, has been a distortion. But really what this did was open up, I think, a larger set of issues, which is there are still suspicions and misunderstandings, anger and resentments that bubble up between the races.

I don't think it should eclipse, though, what we have in common. And this is part of what I've talked about and written about in my two books, "Dreams for my Father" and "Audacity of Hope." I've talked about the fact that this is a difficult issue; it's one that we haven't overcome. But we've made enormous progress during my lifetime.

And what I find, when I travel all around the country, is that blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, we have so much more in common as Americans than we do what divides us.

And I regret the fact that Reverend Wright obsessed on the divisions instead of what brings us together. And I hope that, during the course of the remainder of the campaign, that this is something that we talk about, that it's out in the open, but that it doesn't override the common interests the people have in making sure that all our kids are getting a decent education and going to college, the common interest all of us have in making sure that the economy provides good jobs with good wages, the common interest all of us have in making sure that every single American has decent health care, the common interest we have in making sure that every senior citizen can retire with dignity and respect.

Those are the issues that I think sometimes we fail to deal with because we get distracted by issues related to race or some of these other hot-button issues that cause up a big stir. I mean, I wish that we had seen over the last week as much time devoted to my healthcare plan or Senator Clinton's healthcare plan or John McCain's healthcare plan or our plans to invest in science and technology, to keep our economy at the cutting edge. Those are not as sexy, but in some ways those are the things that all Americans have a great investment in. KING: The senator spoke eloquently the other night about his relationship with his white grandmother. And when we come back, we'll show you a clip of that and ask him about it. Watch.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can disown my white grandmother, a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her by on the street and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You called her today a "typical white person," meaning what, Senator?

OBAMA: Well, what I meant really was that some of the fears of street crime and some of the stereotypes that go along with that, you know, were responses that I think many people feel. She's not extraordinary in that regard. She's somebody who I love as much as anybody. I mean, she has literally helped to raise me.

But those are fears that are embedded in our culture and embedded in our society. And, you know, even within our own families, even within a family like mine that is diverse, you know, there are those gaps in understanding or the stereotypes that are fed by the news media and fed by what we see around us and, you know, in our popular culture.

And so the point I made is, is that good people, people who are not in any way racist, are still subject to some of these images and stereotypes and that it's very hard to escape from them.

KING: Do you think all this might hurt your campaign?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that my campaign has always been built on a confidence in the American people, that we can talk honestly about issues, that we can acknowledge that they're complicated, that we can disagree without being disagreeable, that we can understand each other's point of view, and that if we take the time to listen to each other, if we're honest with each other, if we're not trying to demonize each other, then we can solve problems, that we can, in very practical ways, start investing in infrastructure to put people back to work in this country, that we can invest in clean energy, that solar and wind and, you know, loosen our dependence on foreign oil, that we can educate all our kids, that we can have a foreign policy that's sensible.

So I think that this is a good example of the kinds of tough, sometimes uncomfortable issues that are going to come up in our politics. But I have confidence in the American people's fairness, that they're going to judge me based on who I am, what I've talked about, the kind of campaign we've run, and the track record of 20 years of service.

And if they believe that I can help them in their lives and make their lives and their children's lives and grandkids' lives a little bit better, then I have confidence that they're going to support me and we have a chance to really change this country.

KING: We have a few brief minutes left with Senator Barack Obama, and we'll spend them right after this message.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A couple of quick things, Senator. Would you, in your administration, make use of Bill Clinton?

OBAMA: Absolutely. I think that, you know, Bill Clinton is a brilliant statesman and politician, and I think that any president would want to use his skills and his relationships around the world.

By the way, I would reach out to the first George Bush. You know, one of the things that I think George H.W. Bush doesn't get enough credit for was his foreign policy team and the way that he helped negotiate the end of the Cold War and prosecuted the Gulf War. That cost us 20 billion dollars. That's all it cost. It was extremely successful. I think there were a lot of very wise people. So I want a bipartisan team that can help to provide me good advice and counsel when I'm president of the United States.

KING: Would you consider Senator Hillary Clinton for a vice presidential nod?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think it's premature, but also presumptuous of me to start talking about her as a V.P. candidate when she's still contesting this nomination. And I think that --

KING: That's fair.

OBAMA: But I'll tell you she's a smart lady.

KING: The McCain campaign has suspended a staff member -- did it this afternoon -- for distributing a YouTube video that questioned your patriotism. It included footage from Reverend Wright's controversial sermons. Any comment on Senator McCain doing that?

OBAMA: Well, you know, Senator McCain actually has generally operated in an honorable way. We've got obviously strong disagreements, but when, for example, there was a supporter that kept on just repeating my middle name over and over again, obviously trying to implicate, you know, suggest somehow that I was not the kind of candidate that America would want, Senator McCain spoke out forcefully against it.

So I respect that he, I think, so far, has run an honorable campaign, and I intend to show him the same courtesy when we meet in the general election. KING: Senator McCain has been a guest here a couple of weeks ago, been a frequent guest. Senator Clinton, of course, is always invited. And Senator Obama will always be invited back.

One other quick thing, how are you going to do in Pennsylvania?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think Pennsylvania is going to be a real struggle and battle for us. We're going to be working hard. Senator Clinton, I think, has a significant lead and she's got a very popular governor in her corner, who's out there gathering up a lot of institutional support.

But we've always been best when we're the underdog. We're scrappy. And so we're going to work hard and reach out to as many people as possible. And I think we can do very well, as well as in the other states, North Carolina, I'm in West Virginia today, Oregon, Kentucky, Indiana, Montana, South Dakota, and Puerto Rico.

We've got a lot of contests still remaining. And in each of those, our attitude has been we work hard in all of them. We try to deliver our message of bringing people together and overcoming the special interests in Washington, speaking the truth. And that's been successful so far. Hopefully, it will be successful everywhere that remains.

KING: Thank you, Senator. Good luck down the trail. Always good seeing you.

Katie Couric tomorrow night.

Time now for Anderson Cooper and "AC 360."

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