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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Barack Obama

Aired October 19, 2006 - 21:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The junior senator from the state of Illinois, Barack Obama!

LARRY KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, a live primetime exclusive, the man with more buzz than anyone in politics right now, more and more people are saying he could be America's first black president. Oprah herself wants him to run. Senator Barack Obama from his remarkable past to his intriguing future...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we recruit you to run for president?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: Well, I don't know about all that.

KING: ...he's here for the your answering your calls and e-mails. He's next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: 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 two, 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. No less than Oprah answered the recent movement to draft her for president by giving her vote to him.

OPRAH WINFREY: You know what I would say to him? I would say, "Take you energy and put it in Barack Obama and I would hope that he would run for president."

KING: Thank you all.


KING: 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" best-seller "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 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 make some impact. It has to give you some feeling of introspection.

OBAMA: Well, it certainly makes you think. Look, we live in 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, is that I was in politics as a state senator operating in obscurity for many years.

Before that I was a community organizer working in low income communities in Chicago and 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 that I'm getting now in perspective.

KING: As we saw a minute or so ago, Oprah, as you know, is a big fan of yours. Here's more of what she said on this program. Watch.


KING: Any comment on this movement to make you president? WINFREY: Is there a movement?

KING: This guy's got a movement.

WINFREY: I don't know if that's a movement or not.

KING: He's got a website.

WINFREY: You know what I would say to him? I would say take your energy and put it in Barack Obama. That's what I would say.

KING; Is that your favorite guy?

WINFREY: That would be my favorite guy. I'm very much an Illinoisan.

KING: So, Senator Obama is your senator?

WINFREY: He is my senator.

KING: And your choice.

WINFREY: And my choice and I would hope that he would run for president.

KING: Thank you all.


KING: She hopes it. Other people hope it. Let's ask it this way. Are you at all thinking about it?

OBAMA: Well, look, right now we've got three weeks to one of the most important elections we've had in a long time and that's the congressional elections that are going to determine the direction of the country, at least for the next two years while President Bush is still in office.

So, I am spending a lot of time traveling all across the country talking to crowds about health care and energy and the situation in Iraq and hopefully we'll have a Democratic Congress come January.

And, after that I think I'm going to sit down and reflect and figure out how can I be most useful. 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 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 rung, 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...

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, the conservative op-ed columnist in "The New York Times" wrote a piece today asking you to run. If 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 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 that you should run. Didn't that flatter you?

OBAMA: 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've 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 Republican or Democrat or Independents.

And that if we focus on what we have in common, rather than what divides us, that we can actually 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: What do you mean by "The Audacity of Hope?"

OBAMA: Well, you know, I got that title from a sermon that my pastor gave probably 18 years ago. I was a young community organizer on the south side. I attended one of the first church services that I had attended at this church and my pastor, Jeremiah Wright, Jr. (ph), at Trinity United Church of Christ, had this sermon called, "The Audacity of Hope."

And, his basic premise was, look, in our community we see poverty and despair and crime and drugs. In the world you see war and famine. And so, sometimes it's hard not to feel cynical and to feel a certain sense of despair and feel that we can't make progress.

And, it's precisely at those times that I think we have to rely on that audacious, risky sense that, in fact, things can be better if we persevere, if we push forward.

And, I think there's a strain in the American character that has always been like that, has always been fundamentally optimistic and believe that there's no problem that we can't overcome in some fashion.

KING: We'll be right back with Senator Barack Obama. We'll be including your phone calls. We've got e-mails for him. He's with us for the full hour. Don't go away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope, in the end that is God's greatest gift to us the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days ahead. I believe that we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity.




OBAMA: Who are we as a people? What do we stand for? How do we affirm what Lincoln called the better angels of our nation? Are we going to operate on the basis of selfishness and fear or are we going to operate on the basis of community and hope?


KING: The book is "The Audacity of Hope." The guest is Senator Barack Obama. In today's "Chicago Tribune," Donna Brazile, who was Al Gore's campaign manager says that you have the presidential bug bite. She's quoted as saying, "Barack is constantly calling, constantly talking to people. He's not calling me to check on the weather. I'm not saying he's in but he's certainly checking the water." Is that a fair statement?

OBAMA: Well, I think Donna may have overstated things a little bit. I actually called Donna a while back to set up some dinner because I hadn't talked to her in a while. And, you know, there's a lot of extrapolation going on right now and a lot of speculation.

But, as I told somebody before, if I ever decide to run for president, I'll hold a press conference and I'll announce I'm running for president. Until then, you know, this is mostly just chatter and most of my focus right now has been on finishing this book, representing the people of Illinois, dealing with the issues that they're concerned about and hopefully getting a Democratic Congress in November.

KING: But, as you said a little while ago, after the election is over you've got to sit down and look at the whole plate.

OBAMA: Well, look, I think that it's important for me to examine how I can best serve both the people of Illinois and hopefully help move the country in a better direction.

KING: We have an e-mail question, Senator, from Lynn in Archibald, Ohio. Question, "A lot of respected folks are calling for you to run for the presidency in 2008. I have heard only positive comments about you. However, you are a member of Congress and Congress has done next to nothing in your tenure. To what accomplishments do you attribute your wide acclaim other than talking a good game?"

And I might add to that, a poll today, the lowest rating I think in history for this Congress. It's over 73 percent negative, so is her question fair?

OBAMA: Oh, look, it's absolutely fair. The fact is, is that this has been a very unproductive Congress since I've arrived there. Hopefully, though, there's no correlation between my arrival and the lack of productivity. I've been in the minority and I haven't been able to move a lot of legislation forward because frankly those who have been in charge of the Senate, Bill Frist and the Republican majority, haven't been interested in the work that I've been doing.

I will say that I've made some progress working on a bipartisan basis with some legislators I do respect. Tom Coburn in Oklahoma and I passed a law that was recently signed by the president that would open up all federal spending to the Internet, so that every single citizen out there could see where their dollars are going and it would be easier to track pork barrel spending.

We've seen a huge increase in pork barrel spending over the last several years and it's part of the reason that there has been such an enormous growth of the national debt.

You know, I've been working with Republican Senator Dick Lugar on nonproliferation issues, making sure that not only nuclear weapons but also strategic weapons like shoulder-to-air missiles don't fall into the hands of terrorists and I expect that that will pass in January.

So, you know, obviously the problem for Democrats I think over the last year and a half, two years since I've been in Congress has been that we haven't controlled that agenda and that's why I'm so -- I'm working so hard to make sure that after November we've got the opportunity for bills that I've introduced to provide health insurance to people who don't have it or to make sure that we have a serious energy policy that that starts moving forward.

KING: Senator, the support for the war in Iraq is now two-thirds against and a third for in pretty much all the polls. Are you among the two-thirds?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I was among the two-thirds when it was two-thirds for, right, you know, when the country was 60 percent supportive of the war. I gave a speech right on the eve of me announcing for the United States Senate saying this was a bad idea. And I essentially said, look, I don't oppose all war. I thought that our move in Afghanistan was appropriate and justified and proportional.

But, we got distracted in Iraq and we ended up I think pursuing a course that was based on faulty intelligence, fudged numbers, a shading of the truth, and we are seeing the results.

So, I have said repeatedly that it makes sense for us to begin a phased withdrawal of our troops. I think it is time for us to tell the Iraqis they are responsible for their country and they've got to make a decision about how they want to live together.

And, I think we also have to start sending a message to the region and some of the powers there, including Iran and Syria that it makes sense for us at this point to pull back, to make sure that they are engaged and have a stake in creating some semblance of order there because right now they're just sitting back I think and watching us flounder but they're not investing in any kind of way to make sure that Iraq has a decent outcome.

KING: More from Senator Barack Obama, the author of "The Audacity of Hope." We'll be including more e-mails and more of your phone calls, some interesting aspects as well. We're going to read from the book.

Don't go away.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A trip to Iowa, home of the kickoff caucuses usually means you're dipping a toe in the presidential waters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope that you'll be running for president one of these times.


OBAMA: I appreciate it.

BASH: Here there are tee shirts and petitions begging him to run in '08. He doesn't say yes but he doesn't say no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we recruit you to run for president?

OBAMA: Well, I don't know about all that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me about it.

OBAMA: I'm not -- I'm here to make sure we -- you can recruit me to make sure that we get more Democrats in office in '06.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) lead America and we hope another one will also come.

OBAMA: I want to make sure that everybody is encouraged to make the time to get tested.


KING: We're back with Senator Obama. That test you referred to was an HIV test that you and your wife took while you were in Kenya. Why was that important?

OBAMA: Well, you know, as people I think who are aware there's a huge crisis in terms of HIV and AIDS in Africa. It has not gotten under control in places like Kenya. And, part of the problem is that men continue to oftentimes abuse women, have multiple partners and so there's a whole situation in terms of how men treat women that has to be dealt with.

And there's also a reluctance for people to find out what their status is and the Center for Disease Control had a terrific program over there that provided mobile testing units but oftentimes people are afraid to get tested.

And, they said to me, you know, "If you and your wife get tested, it's possible that several hundreds of thousands of people will be tested as a consequence." And I thought that was probably the best investment of 15 minutes that I'd ever made and hopefully it resulted in a lot of people knowing their status for potentially protecting their spouses or their partners and in that way saving some lives.

KING: On this program last week, by the way, Bono said that President Bush deserves an enormous amount of credit in this area that he is sincerely devoted on this fight against AIDS in Africa and doing more for it than anybody he's known in a political office.

OBAMA: You know, I think that's exactly right. As you know, Larry, the president and I have a lot of disagreements on policy but I said publicly when I was in Kenya and I continue to say here that this administration has followed through on many of its commitments with respect to AIDS and they have put serious resources in Africa.

We visited a number of clinics that were making a real difference in terms of making sure that infants were getting antiretroviral drugs so that -- very early so that they wouldn't be HIV infected in the long term, providing testing, providing treatment and I think the president really does deserve credit on this one.

KING: You got an amazing welcome when you went to your father's homeland of Kenya as part of the trip to Africa. Let's watch a small sampling.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The village of Yangoma (ph) is wound up tight for the triumphant return of U.S. Senator Barack Obama whose Kenyan roots are evident just about everywhere here.

OBAMA: A wonderful event for me the opportunity to come back to the land where my father was born. And I am so proud to come back home and to see all the people.


KING: What was that like? OBAMA: Well, you know, it was a remarkable experience. I had been to Kenya before but the first time I went was as a young man right before I was about to enter law school and it was a much more personal journey visiting my grandmother and getting a sense of who my father was, who I hadn't really known very well.

And, this time it was a much more public affair and I was going as a United States Senator and to some degree a representative of the American people. But, it was very moving and I think actually part of what it pointed to was the hunger in Africa, a) to have good relations with the United States; but, b) I think also a sense in Africa that they would like to see leadership that spoke to them in a straightforward way about the issues that they're facing, whether it's HIV/AIDS or corruption.

You know, there's cynicism about politics there just as there is about politics here and I think that part of my task was to say, you know, we want to be partners in helping Africa get its footing but ultimately Africans also have to help themselves and they have some obligations in terms of cleaning up some of the issue of corruption and dealing with how women are treated and that I think was hopefully a useful contribution that I was able to make.

KING: Your first book, "Dreams From 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 in 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 difficult, she died about ten 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 nor formally religious had an 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 guide 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, do 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?

KING: Why aren't you president already?

OBAMA: Yes, exactly. You know, she had no doubt. In that picture you just flashed when I was three, I'm sure she already knew I was slated for big things. But, look, you know, 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 leaves a hole in you.

KING: Yes. Senator Barack Obama, the book is "The Audacity of Hope." We'll be back with more. Don't go away.


OBAMA: Each of you are representative of not 100 people but 1,000 people and 10,000 people and 100,000 people because I know that if we care, the world will care. If we bear witness, then the world will know. If we act, then the world will follow.



KING: We're back with Senator Barack Obama. He is in New York, we're in Los Angeles. The book is "The Audacity of Hope".

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 had locked up the nomination. And they were doing a fundraiser. I had just won my primary.

And I spoke at that event, and I don't know whether it was John or Teresa, but somehow they thought that I could be useful at the convention. So we started hearing 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 staff person who was driving me and I said, I guess that's pretty big, huh? And he said, yes, I guess so. So 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 there is only one America, with the history of the way blacks have been treated, to say there is no black America or Asian America with what you've faced?

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

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 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 the progress we 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, 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? And 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 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 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: Do you think your party can take the Senate?

OBAMA: I am absolutely certain that we can take it. It is not guaranteed that we will. I've been traveling around the country now for the last several weeks, campaigning for other candidates. And what I get a sense of is that the American people are in the sort of serious mood, a sober mood that we haven't seen in some time. They look at issues like the fact that 46 million of us still don't have health insurance, and families that do have health insurance are seeing co-payments and deductibles and premiums going up, and senior citizens have a prescription drug plan that has a donut hole it in, right where a lot of seniors start needing coverage the most, suddenly they don't have any coverage at all.

So people say, why can't we do something about that? Or on energy. Even though gas prices have gone down, I am encouraged by the fact Americans are saying, you know, we still need an energy policy that's going to wean ourselves off of Middle Eastern oil.

KING: So you think you can. The question is, do you think you will?

OBAMA: I believe we will.

KING: You will take the Senate?

We will be right back with more of Barack Obama, the junior senator from the state of Illinois. Doesn't look like a junior tonight. Don't go away.


KING: The book, "The Audacity of Hope," of course available everywhere books are sold. The author is Senator Barack Obama.

The e-mail question is from Tracy in Cincinnati. "Is the Democratic Party a party for people of faith? And if it is, how important is it for the party to communicate that?"

OBAMA: I think it's a great question. I devoted an entire chapter to faith. And in fact, the excerpt of the book in "Time" magazine this week is devoted to that very question.

I am somebody who -- whose faith is very important in my life on a daily basis.

I don't think that the Democratic Party should, as a party, pretend to be something it's not. One of our values has been a sense of tolerance and a belief that we can talk about morals and ethics to all people, including people of no faith whatsoever. But I think for me, at least, it's important for the party to feel comfortable, those of us who are based in faith and grounded in faith, to be able to talk about it in a comfortable way.

And to say when I think about how we are going to treat our senior citizens, and the fact that one out of every five seniors are at risk of going hungry at any time during the year, that that violates not only some abstract intellectual principles of mine, but also my understanding of how I should behave as a Christian. And I think that we have to be willing to engage in that conversation and not shy away it from.

Now, there are some principles that I think are important, like separation of church and state. That's good not just for the state; it's most of all good for the church. In fact, the early promoters of that separation, more than anybody, were some of the forbearers of today's evangelical movement, Baptists, who were not part of a conventional church but wanted to make sure that nobody was imposing their views.

So it's important for us to recognize that we live in a pluralistic democracy. There are people of many different faiths. But you know, as I use always as an example, the civil rights movement would not have gone very far if it hadn't been for the black church. Dr. King couldn't move, couldn't have moved and inspired the country to believe in what seemed impossible at the time had it not been for that faith of his. And I think it's important for the Democratic Party to recognize that.

KING: E-mail from Jeff in Los Angeles. "What is your position on gay marriage?"

OBAMA: I am somebody who has not embraced gay marriage. I've said that it's not something that I think the society is necessarily ready for. And it strikes me that in a lot of ways for a lot of people, it may intrude in how they understand marriage.

But I also think that we should create civil unions for gays and lesbians that allow them to have the same basic rights as all people.

And I'm disturbed by the anti-gay rhetoric. And this is an area where, for example, my church tradition, I think, has to deepen its understanding. You know, when we resort to attacks on gays and lesbians unnecessarily, to me, at least, that violates some of the central principles in Christianity that I think are very important, like the Sermon on the Mount.

So hospital visitations, the ability of partners to provide health care coverage to each other, making sure they are not discriminated on the job or in terms of housing, their ability to transfer property -- those are things that I think are entirely compatible with Americans' understanding of basic tolerance and fairness.

KING: Our guest is Senator Barack Obama. And when we come back with the senator, we will talk a little about his wife and how important she is in the realm of things in his life.

Anderson Cooper will host "AC 360" at the top of the hour. Anderson, what's up?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "AC 360": Larry, we're covering a breaking news story out of North Korea. A ship has left the port, the ship could be carrying -- and we say could be carrying, we simply don't know at this point -- materials that violate the newly-passed U.N. sanctions. Our Jamie McIntyre broke that story. We will have his report out of the Pentagon.

We are also continuing following developments in the Foley page scandal on Capitol Hill. New testimony that might directly contradict what House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been saying. We'll have all the latest details on that at the top of the hour, Larry.

KING: That's Anderson Cooper, "AC 360," 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. We will be right back with the senator after this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We tried to get Bono to be here, but we couldn't, so we got the next biggest rock star in America, Barack Obama.

OBAMA: But it is also a battle about what America is going to be.


KING: We are back with Senator Obama. The book is "The Audacity of Hope."

Your wife Michelle joined you yesterday on Oprah's show. Let's take a look.


OBAMA: I was working with my Republican colleague, Dick Lugar, to introduce this bill. I was excited about it. I called Michelle. I was saying, look, this is going to be a terrific piece of legislation. She says, we have ants. And I said, ants? She said, yes, we have ants, and I need ant traps. We have ants in the bathroom and the kitchen. So on your way home, can you pick up some ant traps?


OBAMA: I'm thinking, you know, is John McCain stopping by Walgreen's to grab ant traps on the way home?

MICHELLE OBAMA: Yes, yes. If he's not, he should be.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: If he's not, he should be.


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: Oh, I'm happy to. This is 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 influence would she have on a major decision of yours, like -- this is hypothetic -- I'm thinking of running for president, I think would I 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 I couldn't do anything without her. Not only is she my best friend and closest adviser, although she is somebody who actually doesn't have a real hankering to be in the public eye or be in politics, but she has a wonderful sense of what good solid, Midwestern, ordinary folks are thinking. And so I love bouncing ideas off her. She is the mother of my children, and the person who really holds our household together.

KING: And not bad to look at, by the way.

OBAMA: You know, she is pretty cute.

KING: Yes, you ain't kidding.

OBAMA: She's easy to look at, as they say.

KING: E-mail question from Ron in Silver Spring, Maryland:

"What you do see as the Democratic party's most effective response to being labeled soft on national security?"

OBAMA: Well I think we shouldn't back off at all from the national security debate. You know, one of the mistakes I think we made after 9/11 -- and it's understandable, because all of us wanted to rally behind the president after that traumatic and horrendous attack on not only the Twin Towers in New York, but the Pentagon and the plane that went down in Pennsylvania.

But as a consequence, I think, we stopped asking tough questions, and didn't present what I think should be a national security framework that hearkens back to what we did right after World War II, and Truman and Acheson and George Marshall helped to craft a policy of containment, engagement with other countries, creating NATO, creating strong alliances, creating a set of international rules of the road that all of us could abide by.

And that kind of national security approach, I think, actually George H.W. Bush, the president's father, embodied. It was bipartisan in nature. And that's been broken down and we've been driven, I think, by ideology. And we can see the consequence of what's been happening in Iraq and some of the failures that we've seen also in Iran and North Korea.

KING: We have a call from Phoenix, Arizona, for the Senator.



Thank you for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to ask Senator Obama what his -- why is it the Democratic party takes such a lenient stand on illegal immigration, granting amnesty toward all these illegal immigrants that are in our country? And how does he feel about the illegal immigration problem?

OBAMA: Well, I worked pretty diligently during this session with people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham and the Republican party and Sam Brownback from the Democrats, a diverse group ranging from my other senator from Illinois, my senior senator, Dick Durbin Ted Kennedy and Joe Lieberman to see how can we come up with comprehensive reform.

Here, I think, is the basic principle. We have to have some control over our southern border, and our northern borders. And I think that's because the very idea of a nation involves being able to define who comes in and who comes out and who's a citizen and who's not.

We also, though, have to recognize that we now have 12 million people here who are -- came illegally, but many are rooted in the community, have children who are citizens. We're probably not going to -- in fact, we will not deport them. As a practical matter, we can't, unless we devoted all our law enforcement resources towards that.

I think the American people have a generous instinct. They understand that we're a nation of immigrants. But if those folks are going to live in this country, they have to be put on a pathway to citizenship that involves them paying a fine, making sure that they are at the back of the line and not cutting in front of people who applied legally to come into the country.

And we've got to have employer sanctions that can actually be enforced. And that's probably the most important thing we can do on immigration, and something that we've failed to do in '86 when we had the last immigration reform bill, '96. Each time we have not enforced the basic idea that employers should have to verify whether somebody is able to work or not. And I think that comprehensive reform can come about next year. It's going to involve border security, but it's also involve creating a coherent immigration policy inside our borders.

KING: We got to get one more break, we'll be right back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.



JOHN STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": A lot of people look at you as kind of the new vanguard. Do you feel that pressure, or are you just doing your job, doing your thing? OBAMA: Well, you know, I don't feel a lot of pressure. I think that if I speak honestly, if I try to work hard and do the best possible job that I can, then I think things'll work out pretty well.

It is true I worry about the hype. The only person more over- hyped than me is you.


KING: Now Jon Stewart's the man, huh, Senator?

OBAMA: He is doing terrific work. Some of the best reporting in the country.

KING: By the way, we only have 30 seconds.

Jesse Jackson's our special guest tomorrow night. And people can e-mail questions to with questions for Jesse.

What's he mean in the picture to you?

OBAMA: Look, Jesse has been a freedom fighter and a warrior for justice for a lot of years. And we actually know each other well, personally. He's from Chicago. His daughter was one of the maids of honor in our wedding because they went to school with Michelle. So they are good family friends. I have enormous respect for the Reverend and I appreciate all the work he's done in the past. I can't say enough good things about him.

KING: Still a major figure?

OBAMA: Absolutely. You know, when he speaks, I think, the country takes notice.

KING: Thank you, Senator.

OBAMA: Larry, it was a wonderful time. Thank you so much.

KING: "The Audacity of Hope". That's the book.

The guest, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

Right now, let's head to New York, where the Senator is, but also there is Anderson Cooper. He's going to host "AC 360" with possible breaking news out of North Korea -- Anderson.