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The Best of the Obamas

Aired November 9, 2008 - 21:00   ET


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We are and always will be the United States of America.

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Tonight, President-elect Obama...

OBAMA: This is your victory.

KING: His wife, Michelle.

OBAMA: The nation's next first lady.

KING: Together making history.

OBAMA: At this defining moment, change has come to America.

KING: A look back at their hopes, their dreams and the hard work that brought them to this. A move to the White House.

It's the best of the Obamas, right now on a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.



America made history this week when it elected Barack Obama as its first African-American president. It's been some journey for the young senator from Illinois and it's been my pleasure to sit down with him and his wife, Michelle, over the last few years.

And tonight we're bringing you the best of those interviews. I first spoke with Senator Obama back in October 2006. Back then there was a lot of buzz about him possibly running for president. We began our talk with a look at his rise to national prominence.


KING (on camera): Good evening. Before the summer of 2004, not a lot of people outside of Illinois knew who Barack Obama was and then came his moment to shine, and did he ever.

OBAMA: There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is the United States of America.

KING (voice over): Who was this guy who knocked it out of the park with his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention?

OBAMA: The hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.

KING: Barack Obama had already been an Illinois state senator and lost a bid for the U.S. House of Representatives. A few months after his keynote, he won election to the U.S. Senate in Washington.

Born to an exchange student from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas who split when he was 2, Obama was raised in Hawaii and Indonesia. He managed to attend an elite prep school while his mom was on food stamps.

He became the first African-American president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, before entering politics where his diverse background is reflected in his inclusive vision.

OBAMA: We worship an awesome God in the blue states. And we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

KING: That charisma and that message of unity in a time of deep partisan division have people predicting big things for Obama.

(On camera): Barack Obama is our special guest. The junior senator from the state of Illinois. He's the author of the number one "New York Times" bestseller, "Dreams of My Father," and the new book just out, "The Audacity of Hope" -- what a title -- "Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream."

There you see its cover.

What do you make of all of this, Senator. You're on the cover of "TIME." The book is out. Everyone's talking about you. What's that like?

OBAMA: Well, you know, it's -- it's a lot of fuss. And, you know, fortunately, I've got a wife at home who is more interested in whether I rinsed out the dishes and put them in the dishwasher, which, you know, I think keeps me grounded.

KING: But it has to -- it has to make some impact. It has -- has to give you some feeling of introspection.

OBAMA: Well, it -- certainly makes you think. Look, we live if a celebrity culture and sometimes you get caught in the wave and the buzz. And a lot of it's flattering. But, you know, one of the things that I try to remind people of is that I was in politics as a state senator, operating obscurity for many years.

Before that I was a community organizer working in low-income communities in Chicago. Nobody knew my name then. And so having involved myself in public service for a pretty long time, without getting too much attention, hopefully I can keep some of the attention I'm getting now is perspective.

You know, I quote in the book a wonderful letter that Benjamin Franklin wrote to his mother, because he, obviously, had an aptitude for business. And she kept on wondering why would you go into politics. And he said that, you know, on his tombstone, he wanted it said, not that he had been rich but rather that he had been useful.

And I love that idea of -- deciding, you know, what will be most useful to me.

KING: So we can say, Senator, then, that one of the things you're thinking about might be the top run, among many?

OBAMA: Well, there's a famous saying that -- every United States senator wakes up in the morning, looks in the mirror, and looks at a future president. So I -- the...

KING: And you're one of them?


OBAMA: You know, it's -- one of the congenital defects of serving in the United States Senate.

KING: David Brooks, a conservative op-ed columnist in the "New York Times," wrote a piece today, asking you to ran, in fact, the headline was, "Run, Barack, Run." He says you should run for president for the good of the party, because of your age, because of your world view, and while he disagrees with many of your notions, he might end up agreeing as to be one of your -- he might end up agreeing more than with one of your opponents in a White House race. But he still thinks you should run.

Did -- didn't that flatter you?

OBAMA: I -- it's very flattering. And I think maybe what -- you know, I've tapped into and some of it, as I said, is luck and happenstance and timing. But hopefully what I tapped into, and this is what I tried to write about in "The Audacity of Hope," was the idea that there are a set of common values and common ideals that we all believe in as Americans, whether we're Republicans or Democrats on independents.

And that if we focus on what we have in common, rather than what divides us, that we can make progress in -- common sense, practical terms on some of the challenges that we face in the country. And I think that tone is one that the country seems to be hungry for right now.


KING: More of my October 2006 interview with Barack Obama right after this.



REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Tears came down my face and I tried to control my emotion. But it's -- it's unbelievable.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: On a personal note, as an African-American, I'm especially proud.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I watched, finally, one of the newscasters cut to the chase and said, he's won, it's over. Pretty moving moment.


KING: Senator Obama galvanized the Democratic National Convention in 2004. If people didn't know who he was before his speech to the delegates, they did after it. And there was no going back.


KING (on camera): You became an overnight political superstar with that speech at the Democratic National Convention. Let's listen to a short excerpt.


OBAMA: There is not a liberal America and a conservative America, there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America. There's the United States of America.


KING: How were you picked?

OBAMA: You know, I -- have never exactly figured that out. What happened was that John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry came to Chicago right after the nomination, after they locked up the nomination. And they were doing a fundraiser. I had just won my primary and I spoke at that event.

And, you know, I don't know whether it was John or Teresa but somehow they thought that I could be useful at the convention. And so we started hearing that they might want me to speak there, which we didn't think too much of. And then at some point we got a call that they actually wanted me to be the keynote speaker.

And I talk about it in my book. I turned to the staffer who was driving me, and I said, I guess that's pretty big, huh? And he said, yes, I guess so. So it was -- it was a great honor, obviously a lot of fun.

I was glad that I was so busy during the convention doing interviews and talking to folks that I didn't have time to get nervous.

KING: Frankly, though, Senator, isn't it hard for a black American to say that we're only one America with the history of the way blacks have been treated, to say there's -- there is no black America or Asian America with what you faced?

OBAMA: Well, you know, the -- I have a chapter in the book on race. And, you know, my basic premise is that we, you know, have, obviously, a powerful history of racial injustice in the country. It's only really been a generation since we broke the back of Jim Crowe.

What's remarkable to me is the amount of progress that we've made since I was born. I'm 45 years old now. I was born in 1961. The Civil Rights Act was passed in '64. The Voting Rights Act was passed in '65. And here I sit before you as a United States senator. And you know, you showed a clip of Oprah Winfrey who may be the most influential woman in the country.

And so, obviously, we've made progress. What I always say is, we have to acknowledge progress that we've made but understand that we still have a long way to go, that things are better but still not good enough.

And one of the messages, I think, in that speech is that our aspiration, our goal is to have a country that's not divided by race. And my impression as I travel around the country is that that's the kind of country that most people want as well.

And that we all have prejudice. We all have certain suspicions or stereotypes about people who are different from us whether it's religious or racial or ethnic. But what I think I found in the American people, I think there's a core decency there, where if they take the time, if they get the time to know individuals then they want to judge those individuals by their character.

Now, the question is that, are we having enough interaction? Are we having enough discussion between various groups to ensure that people have that time to get to know each other?

I was fortunate during my Senate campaign in Illinois where nobody thought that a black guy born in Hawaii with a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas named Barack Obama could actually win a race. I was fortunate to have the time to be able to travel all throughout the state in rural communities and small towns where, you know, there weren't a lot of black folks around.

And yet because people had the chance to meet me directly, I think they ended up seeing that, in fact, we shared a lot of values.


KING: More with President-elect Barack Obama and America's next first lady, ahead on this very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.



OBAMA: If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are and always will be the United States of America.

It's been a long time coming. But tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

This is our moment. This is our time to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids. To restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace. To reclaim the American dream and reaffirm the fundamental truth that out of many we are one.

That while we breathe we hope and where we are met with cynicism and doubt and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people. Yes, we can.

Thank you. God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.


KING: Next, the women who shape Barack Obama's life. He'll tell us who those powerful influences are and later we're going to hear from one of them.



OBAMA: If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.


KING: Throughout this campaign, Barack Obama talked about his mother. She didn't live to see him become president but her influence helped him get there.


KING (on camera): Your first book "Dreams of My Father" contained a lot of eloquence and emotion about your dad. But there are some wonderful passages in "The Audacity of Hope" about your mom.

I'm going to read an example.

"Like most of my values, I learned about empathy from my mother. She disdained any kind of cruelty or thoughtlessness or abuse of power, whether it expressed itself in the form of racial prejudice or bullying in the schoolyard or workers being underpaid.

Whenever she saw even a hint of such behavior in me, she would look me square on the eyes and ask, how do you think that would make you feel?"

She died so early. That must be a source of constant missing for you.

OBAMA: You know, it's -- it's difficult. She died about 10 years ago. She was only 53 years old. She got ovarian cancer, which is one of the reasons I am pretty active legislatively on dealing with gynecological cancers.

She was just the sweetest woman that I knew and really a wonderful spirit. She -- basically raised me as a single mom. She put herself through school while working. She was somebody who, although was not formally religious, had extraordinarily powerful sense of what was right and what was wrong and how to treat other people.

And as I write in the book, you know, most of the values that, I think, still got my politics are values that -- I got from her. And her spirit still, I think, motivates me in a lot of what I do.

KING: Senator, you think she'd be surprised at what's happened to you?

OBAMA: Well, you know, mothers always think their kids are the greatest, right? So I mean...

KING: (INAUDIBLE) you're president already.

OBAMA: Yes, exactly. You know she had no doubt -- you know in that picture you just flashed when I was 3, I'm sure she already knew I was slated for big things. But, look, everybody, I think, recognizes the influence that their mother has in their lives.

You know, hopefully, all of us are aware that when they're here, we let them know and give them the time and the devotion that they deserve, because when they're gone, it -- it leaves a hole in you.

KING: You celebrated your 14th wedding anniversary yesterday and you write glowingly of your wife in your new book. Would you read a passage from it?

OBAMA: I'm happy to. The -- this just a -- brief description of her.

"Most people who meet my wife quickly conclude that she is remarkable. They are right about this. She is smart, funny and thoroughly charming. Often after hearing her speak at some function or working with her on a project, people will approach me and say something to the effect of, you know, I think the world of you, Barack but your wife, wow.

I nod, knowing that if I ever had to run against her for public office she would beat me without much difficulty."

KING: How much -- how much influence would she have on a major decision of yours? Like, this is hypothetic. I'm thinking of running for president. I think I'd like to.

If she says yes would that be impacting? If she said no would that be impacting?

OBAMA: She is my life partner and we make decisions together. And, you know, I couldn't do anything without her. Not only is she my best friend and closest adviser, although she's somebody who actually doesn't have a real hankering to be in the public eye or to be involved in politics but she has a wonderful sense of what, you know, good, solid Midwestern, ordinary folks are thinking.

And so I love bouncing ideas off her. And she's the mother of my children and the person who really holds our household together.


KING: Two major issues confronted Barack Obama on his way to the White House. See what they were, next.


OBAMA: It's been a long time coming but tonight, because of what we did on this date, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Don Lemon here at the CNN world headquarters. We'll get back to "LARRY KING LIVE" in just a moment.

But, first, want to tell you what's happening. President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, will soon get a tour of their future home. They're visiting the White House tomorrow, meeting with President Bush and the first lady, and touring the private residence.

"ISSUE #1" for the Obama administration, of course, will be the economy. Now top congressional Democrats suggest expanding that $700 billion bailout plan to help out the major U.S. automakers which have been bleeding jobs and cash. President-elect Obama says his transition team is looking at ways to help out.

I spent this past week in Chicago speaking with members of President- elect Obama's inner circle, Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of his transition team. Here's a bit of my conversation with her.


LEMON: We saw them -- him running down the stairs of the airplane recently to -- so he could hurry up and see his wife and kids just recently.

JARRETT: That's actually a very good story. When we were traveling this last weekend before Election Day. I -- we were -- Senator Obama and I were in Las Vegas and we flew to Iowa -- to Ohio for the day. And we flew into Ohio. We were sitting on the tarmac waiting for Michelle and the girls to arrive.

And he was busy reading the newspaper and then he was on his BlackBerry and he didn't notice that they had arrived. And so I said, Barack, look out the window. And he looked out the window. And there is Malia and Sasha playing out on the tarmac. And the look on his face when he saw those two girls lit up.


LEMON: More personal stories just like that from personal friends, close friends, and members of Barack Obama's inner circle, tonight, 11:00 Eastern. You'll hear much, much more.

I'm Don Lemon. Let's get back to "LARRY KING LIVE" now.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: CNN can now project that Barack Obama, 47 years old, will become the president-elect of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama will be the 44th president.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: A seismic step in American politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are looking...

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Barack Obama is projected to be the next president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As they called the election for Barack Obama, he becomes the first African-American President of the United States.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: During the campaign, President-elect Obama had to deal with controversy over his religion and the Reverend Wright. I sat down with him in July when he was dealing with the perception among some Americans that he was Muslim.


KING: A "Newsweek" poll shows that 12 percent of America believes that you're a Muslim and 26 percent believe you were raised in a Muslim home, a lot of misinformation. How do you fight that?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, by getting on "Larry King" and telling everybody I am a Christian and I wasn't raised in a Muslim home. And I pledge allegiance to the flag and all the things that have been reported in these emails are completely untrue and have been debunked again and again and again.

So all you can do is just tell the truth and trust in the American people that over time, they're going to know what the truth is. One last point I do want to make about these emails, though and I think this has an impact on this "New Yorker" cover.

This is actually an insult against Muslim-Americans, something that we don't spend a lot of time talking about. And sometimes I've been derelict in pointing that out. There are wonderful Muslim-Americans all across the country who are doing wonderful things. And for this to be used as sort of an insult or to raise suspicions about me, I think, is unfortunate. And it's not what America is all about.

I think that's what true is that Reverend Wright made some very reckless and hurtful statements. But he is also somebody who preached for 30 years. And what we've 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 --

B. OBAMA: And so that doesn't in any way excuse it.

KING: Right.

B. OBAMA: It's just to point out, Larry, that I don't think that typifies the service that I was attending on an ongoing 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's a lot of anger that's pent up. 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.

KING: Right.

B. OBAMA: 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.

KING: Right.

B. OBAMA: I mean I'm 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 is great diversity. And so, you know, I think it's 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've taken, and 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.

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

B. 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, for not trying to demonize each other, then, 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, solar and wind and, you know, loosen our dependence on foreign oil. That we can educate our kids; that we can have a foreign policy that is 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 better, then I have confidence that they're going to support me and we have a chance to really change this country.


KING: Next, Barack Obama on Iraq. And later, my interview with his wife, Michelle.



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



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 troop withdrawal plans and the 16 months or so 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 fantasy land?

B. 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 is 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 options I believe is to begin a phased redeployment, and 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 on 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.

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: And if elected would you go to Iraq?

B. 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 with 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 core 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. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: More of my interviews with Barack Obama after this.



KING: When we come back, the woman America's next President calls "My Rock."



B. OBAMA: For those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight but I hear your voices. I need your help and I will be your President, too.


KING: It's been an honor to sit down with Michelle Obama during this campaign. We spoke just last month after one of the presidential debates.


KING: Your husband gave you a shout out near the end of last night's debate in response to what moderator Tom Brokaw described as Zen-like Internet question from a woman in New Hampshire.

Let's watch.


TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: What don't you know and how will you learn it? Senator Obama, you get first crack at that.

B. OBAMA: My wife Michelle is there and she could give you a much longer list than I do. And most of the time I learn it by asking her.


KING: How did you react to that?

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK B. OBAMA: I thought he's so cute; and then I started going down my list.

KING: What doesn't he know?

M. OBAMA: You know, whatever he doesn't know, the beauty is he knows he doesn't know it and he's not afraid to reach out to people who are smarter, more prepared. I think his vice presidential pick is an indication of how Barack thinks.

Barack looked around the room and he got somebody who is smart, and who is an equal, who'd be his partner, who'd be challenging him.

KING: Who had more experience than him?

M. OBAMA: In some areas, absolutely. He surrounds himself with experienced people because he knows what he doesn't know. He can learn it fast but he also wants the best and the brightest, the smartest people around the table. I think he's built a great campaign because of that.

We've got some of the smartest young people and not so young people working on this campaign. And a lot of the advice they give are things that he doesn't know. And he's open to it and his ego isn't so huge that he can't admit that he's wrong or he can't laugh at himself.

I think humor is such an important part of leadership. You've got to be able to sort of look at yourself and go, well, you know, that didn't work. Let's give that a try.

That's something that, you know, some of our greatest presidents have been able to do is sort of look around and go, this isn't working, so we need to try something different. And I need to reach out and talk to people who know more than I do. That's the kind of leader that we will get in Barack Obama.

KING: The thought of being First Lady, does it ever overwhelm you?

M. OBAMA: You know, I think the more that I learn about the position there are a lot of things to do. Fortunately, I'm a great multitasker, so I start sort of getting my list in order and creating order out of my life. But it's not as much overwhelming. I try not to focus on that because things sort of fall into place, you know. I think about the opportunity, you know, I think about, okay, what can I do that is useful with this role.

I spend a lot of time focusing on working the challenges, family balance with women and families. We talked about that when you asked me about Governor Palin. What I'm hearing around the country is that there are women who are struggling to keep their heads above water. These issues transcend party and even socio-economic status.

We need to give those issues a voice because I think women need a different model, a template for insuring that we are creating policies that actually make sense. I want to work on those, but also I've been having more conversations with military spouses.

Not just women but, you know, you imagine, if you could just imagine the challenges that a normal family is facing in these economic times, and then you add on two, three, four tours of duty. And then you look at the fact that our military men and women are coming back. They don't have the resources they need, the health care, the mental health support.

I want to, you know, use my platform to bring voice to some of those challenges because we have to remember in this country when our troops go to war, their families go. And they need to come back ensured that their families will be intact and whole. That they will have homes to come back to, especially our reservists; they need to know that they are going to have jobs and insurance and a GI bill that they can get an education. Those are the kinds of things that I'd love to take on if I have the honor to do it.

KING: When we return, some closing moments with the president-elect.


B. OBAMA: And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House.

And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.




M. OBAMA: Let's get this done. Can we do this? Can we do this? I come here as a wife, who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president.



KING: If president, you are the commander-in-chief, how will you perceive dealing with your generals, your chiefs of staff and the like? Are their impact important? Very important? Deciding, how do you view it?

B. OBAMA: I think they are critically important and developing a strong relationship with our top military officers is critical for any commander-in-chief. And I've been so impressed with the work that they have done consistently, even when they have been handed a very difficult and, in some cases, misguided mission, they still executed with extraordinary skill and precision.

And I think, for example, General Petraeus has done a terrific job with the cards that have been dealt to him. And this I think is the difference between myself and George Bush and it's the difference between myself and John McCain.

My job as commander-in-chief is to set the mission. It is to determine the strategy, and then to ask our military to carry it out. Now, how I set that strategy is going to be informed by what capabilities we have, what information is on the ground. But ultimately the buck stops with me. And so you will not hear me say what President Bush has said, which is General Petraeus has told me this is what we have to do, and I'm just doing what he says. That's not how the American government is supposed to work, and that is not supposed to be the role of commander-in-chief.

The role of commander-in-chief is to take all of our national security interests into account and shape an overarching strategy that deals with the new challenges of the 21st century.

And I talked today, Larry, about not only Iraq, not only going after Al Qaeda and Afghanistan and strengthening our situation there, but also locking down loose nuclear weapons and dealing with a new round of nuclear nonproliferation talks; making sure that we have an energy policy that frees ourselves from dependence on foreign oil. Those are critical issues. That is part of what I have to take into account as commander-in-chief.

KING: How will you utilize the talents of President Clinton?

B. OBAMA: Well, as you know, Bill Clinton is one of the smartest people out here. And certainly one of the most brilliant political minds we have. He's got extraordinary relationships all across the globe, so I want him as an advisor and I would want him to be involved in implementing strategies on a range of issues.

So he's an enormous resource, as all former presidents are. I have said this before, I think on the foreign policy front, George Bush Sr. has a lot of wisdom to impart in his foreign policy team.

People like Jim Bakker and Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell are extraordinary thinkers. I think you want to utilize all the talents out there. And part of what I'm interested is bringing that tradition of bipartisanship to our foreign policy back to Washington.


KING: every election is, of course, historic. Every president is confronted with challenges and tests. President-elect Obama faces two wars, a global economic crisis and the day-to-day problems of this great country. The hopes and dreams of millions around the world are tied to this one man.

We, of course, wish him well on the tasks and the trials ahead.

Good night.