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CNN Larry King Live
Encore Presentation: Interview With Barack Obama
Aired March 24, 2007 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Barack Obama in the race for the White House. He's taking the campaign trail by storm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: And Washington needs to change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But does he have what it takes to catch Hillary Clinton and make it all the way from first-term U.S. senator to the first African-American president in United States history?
Now, four years after shock and awe launched a war that's cost more than 3,000 U.S. lives, tens of thousands of Iraqi lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, on this historic day, Barack Obama answers some tough questions about this historic race.
It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening and welcome to another edition of LARRY KING LIVE, a very special guest.
But first, let me thank all my friends, colleagues and others who have written me and sent flowers and the like over the fact that we had very successful corticoid artery surgery on Friday and the hospital was out on Saturday and back today.
So that little thing you see here, that's the whole scar from that surgery.
And I want to, again, thank you so much for your contact to me and for your so kind and generous feelings.
And now let's go to the business at hand.
Senator Barack Obama joins us.
He's in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. senator from Illinois and "New York Times" best- selling author.
In fairness, we did invite Senator Clinton and Senator McCain to join us, on this, the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War.
What does that anniversary say to you, Senator?
OBAMA: Well, it says that we have expended an enormous amount of blood and treasure on what I think has been a misguided enterprise and that it's time to bring our involvement there to a close. You know, I -- as you know, Larry, I opposed this war from the start.
In 2002, in the run-up to the war, I gave a speech saying that this is going to be an open-ended commitment without any clear strategy for success and that ultimately it would distract us from the war on terrorism and the need to pin down al Qaeda and finish the job in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, that's been the case. And now, whether you were for it or against it then, I think we all have to recognize that we're not going to achieve a military solution in Iraq, that stability in Iraq is going to depend on political accommodations between the various parties -- the Shiite, the Sunni, the Kurds.
We have got to redouble our diplomatic efforts internally, as well as externally. And that's why I've put forward a bill in the Senate that would start bringing our combat troops home, beginning on May 1st of this year, with a target date of getting all combat troops out of Iraq by March 31st of next year.
KING: How do you react, though, when the president says if you give people a target date, then the other side knows when you're leaving?
OBAMA: You know, the problem is that the president keeps on doing the same thing, expecting different results. And the fact of the matter is that we have shown extraordinarily -- extraordinary patience and resolve in this effort.
The young men and women who I meet across the country -- National Guardsmen and Women, Reservists, have been in Iraq one rotation, two rotations, three rotations, have been completely dedicated to trying to make this flawed mission work.
At some point, you have to acknowledge that the approach we're taking is not working and we have to try a different approach. And the president's attitude has been more of the same.
I think that the American people sent a strong signal in November that they want a change in course and that's something that I think is long overdue.
KING: When you opposed it, you could not have known that there were no weapons of mass destruction, so therefore even if there were, you'd have been against this war?
OBAMA: No, I -- I just -- I said very explicitly I thought the evidence for weapons of mass destruction were flimsy. I did not think that the administration had made the case that there were weapons of mass destruction that would cause an imminent threat to the United States. And keep in mind, that was the justification for us going into this war. I did not think that the administration was justified in mentioning mushroom clouds and the fact that if we didn't get in there right away, it might be too late.
We had the opportunity, I think, to forge an international coalition around some very tough inspections, because there's no doubt that Saddam Hussein posed a long-term threat to us. And I think the world generally recognized that he was somebody who had already invaded Kuwait once, who was mistreating and abusing his people, that he was somebody who needed to be incapacitated.
What we didn't need to do was to launch a full blown invasion.
But, again, that's in the past. At this point, what we've got to figure out is how do we move forward.
I don't think there are any good options left in Iraq. There are bad options and worse options. It is my judgment -- and I think it's the judgment of most military and political experts -- that the best we can hope for, at this point, is to make sure that we are seeing some sort of accommodations between the various factions.
The only leverage we have to encourage those factions to start coming to the table is if we say we are not going to be there in an open-ended military commitment. And that's what my bill is designed to do. It says we begin a phased redeployment out of Iraq starting on May 1st. Our target goal is to get combat troops out by March 31st of next year.
But it also provides a series of benchmarks to say to the Iraqi government and the Iraqi factions, if you are willing to disarm the militias, if you're willing to spread oil revenues equitably, if you're serious about rooting out corruption, then we're going to continue to be a partner and we want to engage the entire region in a partnership to make sure that Iraq is stable and that the Iraqi people, who have suffered for so long, actually have some opportunity for a better life.
KING: I know you apologized, senator, when you used the word wasted with regard that those who have died. And a lot of things are said in campaigns that are taken back and can be unfortunate.
But what would you say to the parent or the wife or the husband of someone killed?
OBAMA: Well, what I would say is we are extraordinarily grateful for the devotion of that soldier, that we recognize they have done so because they feel a duty to this country. They are committed to the values and ideals that we stand for. There is no higher calling than sacrificing on behalf of the nation.
What I would say is also, though, that our civilian leadership has not provided the same level of devotion to these soldiers as they have shown us. We have given them a mission that was flawed from the outset. We have not adequately equipped them. We have shortchanged them on basics like body armor or night vision goggles. When they've returned, most shamefully, we have shown a disregard for their transition from service into civilian life. Walter Reed and the scandals that occurred there are just the tip of the iceberg. If you talk to any veteran who is back home, they will tell you the extraordinary difficulty just getting their basic paperwork out of the Department of Defense and transferred to the Veterans Administration Committee.
People will talk about the inadequacy of services for Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder --
OBAMA: ... that could make a difference as to whether or not a veteran is going to be able to transition into civilian life.
So, what I would say is that all of us -- Republican, Democrat, I don't care what your affiliation is, I don't care what your stance on the war is -- has an obligation to make sure that our soldiers who have returned, our returning heroes, are treated properly.
KING: So you're emphatically saying the civilian has let down the military?
OBAMA: Absolutely. And I think that there are many in the military who feel that way, as well.
OBAMA: And I think that one of the things that -- that I've been struck with in conversations with military officers is the degree to which the military is so much more sophisticated, oftentimes, about the cost of war, the limits of our military in terms of what it can achieve in difficult situations like Iraq.
They are much more prudent, much more mindful. And one of the tragedies, I think, of this whole process, has been the fact that you had people like Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney who basically disregarded warnings from the military from the start.
We'll be right back with Senator Barack Obama.
He's made an amazing start of this quest for the Democratic nomination.
We'll talk about that and other things when we come back.
He's in Oklahoma City.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: And if George Bush doesn't listen, then we're going to make him listen because it's time for us to bring our young people home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home. That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Senator Obama, you disagree with that. He says it would be devastating to leave now. You say no.
OBAMA: Well, first of all, I don't know anybody who's been talking about packing up and going home. I think that everybody has recognized we've got a major national security interest in the region, particularly in Afghanistan, where we're starting to see the Taliban resurgent al Qaeda strengthening.
So, under my plan, and I think most other proposals that have been discussed, what we want to do is make sure that we've got some forces that are over the horizon to help stabilize the situation in Iraq. Also, forces placed in Afghanistan to make sure that we're finishing the job there.
But the president's basic premise, that somehow if we just keep on doing what we're doing now, we're going to see success where we've seen failure in the past, just is not borne out by the facts.
You know, we have consistently tried the same approach that the president is trying now...
KING: Well, how about more troops now, though?
OBAMA: ... even those who are supporting -- but here's the thing, Larry -- even those who support the escalation have acknowledged that 20,000, 30,000, even 40,000 more troops placed temporarily in places like Baghdad are not going to make a long-term difference.
What the militias are essentially doing is they've just pulled back. They've said as long as there's these increased troop presence, we'll lie low, we'll wait it out.
As soon as the Americans start leaving and redeploying into other areas, we will come back in because we haven't changed the underlying dynamic of the situation, and that is essentially that the Shia and the Sunni don't trust each other, have been unwilling to engage in any serious concessions toward each other and the various players in the region, like Iran and Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, have not been effectively engaged and are instead funding these various conflicts inside Iraq in ways that are damaging to the Iraqi people.
So what we have to do is make sure that we're taking seriously the diplomatic efforts in the region. We need a diplomatic surge. We need a surge in negotiations among the various parties inside Iraq.
What we are not going to be successful in doing is thinking that by putting an additional 20,000 or 30,000 young American men and women, many of whom have already served in Iraq and now putting themselves at risk once again, that somewhere they're going to be able to control what has become, effectively, a sectarian civil war.
KING: Senator Clinton has said if she were president, she would leave some troops in Iraq to fight al Qaeda, much after the rest come home.
What do you think?
OBAMA: You know, I'm not familiar exactly with what Senator Clinton's proposal is, so I don't want to characterize that.
I think that there is room for providing logistical training, counter-terrorism support for Iraqis if they have met various benchmarks that would allow our -- our assistance to be effective.
The same is true, by the way, economically. One of the things that I've said is that we should help Iraqi -- Iraqis rebuild, but it doesn't make any sense for us to pour money into ministries that are rife with corruption and are not actually delivering electricity or proper sanitation and sewage treatment to the Iraqi people.
And I think the same is true when it comes to the military.
The bottom line, the precondition for any continuing involvement by the United States in Iraq has to be a willingness on the part of Iraqi leadership and the heads of various Iraqi factions to come together and want to make Iraqi work as a unified country.
KING: And if they showed you that willingness as President Obama, then you would provide not only economic aid, but you would leave troops there?
OBAMA: Well, I think we would have to examine what would be helpful in actually advancing the cause of stability in the region.
What I don't want to do is make commitments to the Iraqi government of American troops being there indefinitely when the Iraqis themselves have not shown that having American troops there is going to make a significant difference.
KING: Touching other bases, Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace caused a furor last week. He said homosexuality is immoral. He said he was speaking personally and not on behalf of the Army. First, do you think it's immoral?
OBAMA: You know, I don't think that homosexuals are immoral any more than I think heterosexuals are immoral. I think that people are people and to categorize one group of folks based on their sexual orientation that way I think is wrong.
I disagreed with General Pace. More importantly, I think, traditionally, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff tries to stick to military issues precisely because of the kind of hot water that he got himself into this time out. And hopefully he's learned his lesson.
I hope, more broadly, that we take up the call of previous commanders in the field who have said that it's time for us to examine the policy right now that is very costly and excludes gays and lesbians who have been serving ably in the military from service.
KING: The former chairman, John Shalikashvili, who was a frequent guest on this show, was for it at the start and now came out against don't ask, don't tell.
Are you against don't ask, don't -- would you change that by executive order if president?
OBAMA: I agree with General...
OBAMA: Help me out here. Shalikashvili. The -- I agree with him that we've got a situation in which we need all the troops we can get who are well qualified, who are able, who are dedicated. It's apparently costing us millions of dollars in -- in -- in us rooting out folks who we have determined are homosexual and kicking them out of the military when they have performed their services well.
I think that is a policy that has to be absolutely re-examined.
KING: We'll be right back with Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It is not enough for the president to tell us that victory in this war is simply a matter of American resolve. The American people have been extraordinarily resolved. They've seen their sons and daughters killed, wounded in the streets of Fallujah. They've spent hundreds of billions of dollars on this effort, money that they know could have been devoted to strengthening our homeland security and our competitive standing as a nation.
The failure has not been a failure of resolve. That's not what's led us into chaos. It's been a failure of strategy.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: We're back with Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.
Frankly, senator, are you surprised at how well you're doing?
KING: No, I mean really...
KING: ... when you announced, you were way behind and now you appear in all the polls to be getting closer.
Are you surprised?
OBAMA: Yes, you know, I think it's very early at this point, Larry. I think that we're all doing what candidates do early in the campaign, which is meeting folks, raising money, putting together staffs and infrastructure.
It's very hard to predict what's going to be happening a year from now.
I'm very pleased with the progress we've made. I'm pleased with the enthusiasm. I'm most pleased that we seem to be attracting a lot of people who haven't been involved in politics before and I think that's a good sign for the months to come.
KING: There's an anti-Clinton ad out which your campaign said it has nothing to do with causing a stir on YouTube Internet site. It reuses footage from the famous 1984 Super Bowl for Apple Computer to slam Clinton and support Obama.
Here's a look and we'll get your comments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "1984," FROM YOUTUBE.COM)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Really help this conversation about our country to get started.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope to keep this conversation going all the way to November, 2008.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Are you disclaiming -- what are you -- what's your read on that?
OBAMA: Well, the -- we knew nothing about it. I just saw it for the first time. And, you know, one of the things about the Internet is that people generate all kinds of stuff. In some ways, it's -- it's the democratization of the campaign process.
But it's not something that we had anything to do with or were aware of and that frankly, given what it looks like, we don't have the technical capacity to create something like that. It's pretty extraordinary.
KING: Do you like all this chance of a proposed multi-primaries in February, that we can know by next February who the nominees are?
OBAMA: I think democracy would be better served if we spread out these primaries a little bit more so we could actively campaign state by state. I still think that Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, the four early states, are going to be, you know, very intense. There's going to be a lot of competition, a lot of eyes focused there.
February 5th you could see primaries in half the country. And nobody can campaign in half the country. You don't even do that during a general election.
So, you know, would I like to see it spread out a little bit more?
The answer is yes. But, you know, basically we will compete in whatever rules have been determined appropriately.
KING: All right, the most important -- I guess the major issue at hand these days is Alberto Gonzales' firing of the U.S. attorneys.
What's your read?
OBAMA: Well, I voted against Alberto Gonzales' confirmation for precisely the reason that we're seeing now. My -- and I said this on the floor of the Senate -- that although he seemed to be a capable attorney, he seemed to conceive of his role as being the president's attorney instead of being the people's attorney.
And part of the role of the attorney general is to say to the executive branch here are the limits of your power. Here are the things that you can't do.
I don't think Alberto Gonzales ever told the president that there was something he could not do.
And so, as a consequence, when the White House decides that a -- a U.S. attorney is not carrying out the political vendettas of the White House, then there are some questions as to whether Gonzales was encouraged to fire these individuals.
You've got a situation in terms of the FBI where the procedures used for issuing national security letters seemed to have been completely sloppy and based on erroneous fact. There doesn't seem to be any oversight there.
What you get a sense of is a -- an attorney general who saw himself as an enabler of the administration as opposed to somebody who was actually trying to look out for the American people's interests.
And for that reason, I think it's time for him to step down and for another attorney general who can exercise some independence to be put for the reminder of this president's term.
KING: Do you favor executive privilege or should Karl Rove and others in that like position be forced to testify before the House or Senate?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I think we'll -- we'll determine over the next several weeks how this administration responds to the very appropriate call by Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to have these individuals come in and testify. You know, there's been a tendency on the part of this administration to -- to try to hide behind executive privilege every time there's something a little shaky that's taking place. And I think, you know, the administration would be best served by coming clean on this.
There doesn't seem to be any national security issues involved with the U.S. attorney question. There doesn't seem to be any justification for not offering up some clear, plausible rationale for why these -- these U.S. attorneys were targeted when, by all assessments, they were doing an outstanding job.
I think the American people deserve to know what was going on there.
KING: We'll be right back with Barack Obama of Illinois.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When people talk about this campaign, they ask me why it is that we're generating so much excitement. I say it's not me. It's not me that's generating interest and excitement. It's the American people waking up after a long slumber and making a determination that we can have a better America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It's a pleasure to have as our special guest tonight, Senator Barack Obama. It's his sixth or seventh appearance on this program. It's always good to have him with us.
Tonight he's on as a star. He is the guest today and it's always good to see him.
The flag over David Geffen, a very prominent, very wealthy Hollywood producer, a former supporter of the Clintons, who came out very strongly and publicly not only anti-Clinton, but for you. First, were you surprised at that and, second, what's your reaction to the postmortem on it?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that there was a lot of sound and fury that really was overblown on this thing. David Geffen hosted a fundraiser, along with Jeff Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg, and I was grateful for their support. It was a wonderful event. And afterwards he voiced separately his personal opinions with respect to the Clintons. He has a relationship with them and a history with them that I wasn't aware of. But, you know, the bottom line is I've said consistently that I've got enormous respect for President Clinton, for Senator Clinton. I think they've been outstanding public servants. And you know I'm looking forward to having a vigorous debate about the issues that the American people face. I think they're much more concerned with my position on making sure that everybody has basic health care in this country or that we have an energy policy that deals with both the national security and environmental threats of our over-reliance on Middle Eastern oil than they are on whether there are some words back and forth between one of my supporters and one of Senator Clinton's supporters.
KING: Is 2000 different, Senator, in this regard? Is black -- being black, is that a mark against a candidate? Will people vote against someone just because they're black?
OBAMA: You know, I really don't think so. I think that the country has matured. I think that in this campaign, what we're seeing is that people are getting to know who I am. They want to know my track record. I'm relatively new on the national scene, despite my long track record of service back in the state of Illinois. And so, I think that we will be run through the paces like any other candidate.
Are there individuals who might not vote for me because of race? I'm sure there are, but, frankly, I think it's a small minority of the country. And there are folks that might not vote for me because of my political philosophy. And so, I think this race will be won or lost based on how well I am communicating to the American people that I can lead this country, that I can keep it safe, that we can put in place strategies to make sure that our kids are being educated, the American people have health care that is affordable and accessible, that we are dealing with an energy policy that's forward-looking and creating jobs and opportunity, and that we are bringing this war in Iraq to a close.
KING: How do you react to the "St. Petersburg Times" writing a view, "The world is too complex and dangerous for this likable, charismatic African-American neophyte to practice on-the-job training? Why should Americans trust you to lead them in difficult times?" Is experience a fair issue?
OBAMA: I think experience absolutely is a fair issue. Ad I am happy to put forward my experience against the other candidates. My experience as a community organizer means that I know how to bring people together to solve problems at the grassroots level, as well as at the legislative level. My experience as a civil rights attorney means that -- and as a constitutional lawyer means that I'm going to be mindful of our civil liberties and our civil rights in a way that this administration has not been. My experience as a state legislator, reaching across the aisle to solve difficult problems, like reforming a death penalty that's broken, or expanding health care to children who didn't have it, or passing ethics reform even against the objections of some people in my party, I think those are experiences that will signal to people that I am not about business as usual.
And I think even in the United States Senate, over the last several years, my work with people like Senator Dick Lugar, Republican of Indiana, on proliferation of weapons, trying to curb the proliferation of weapons, or working with Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma on creating more transparency in government, those are all experiences that I think are going to be relevant to the American people. And I feel very confident that if they know my vision and what I've accomplished in the past, that we will end up doing very well.
KING: Isn't it a little daunting to you, though?
OBAMA: Well, I think that anybody who considers the job of the presidency and doesn't think it's a little daunting probably hasn't been paying attention.
Look, the scale of the issues that we're going to be dealing with are enormous. And I think that whoever is the next president is going to be dealing with a host of issues that, unfortunately, have been left unaddressed over the last six years. But I'm very confident that the American people are now looking for a different approach to politics, one that's based on common sense, based on pragmatism, that's not based on ideology, but is based on reason and fact. And that suits the approach that I've taken to my politics and my leadership. And I think that it is possible that under an Obama presidency, we may -- we're able to build a consensus, a significant majority consensus around solving some of these major problems that we face in a way that we haven't done in quite some time.
KING: Back with some more issues and more questions of Senator Barack Obama on the trail in Oklahoma City. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Senator Barack Obama. He's in Oklahoma City. He's a major candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.
Scooter Libby, if you were president, would you give him a pardon?
OBAMA: No. I think that when you lie, as the jury determined he had, to federal investigators then that's a crime for which you need to pay. I think it is unfortunate that it appears that he ended up taking the fall for a broader attempt to discredit individuals who were serving our government. And I think that's an unfortunate, but he's the one who was prosecuted and I think he should serve his time and hopefully he can then rebuild his life. KING: You're a member of the Veteran Affairs Committee, are you not?
OBAMA: I am.
KING: Yes. How do you explain to yourself that it would take a newspaper, the "Washington Post," to expose the series of incredible occurrences at a VA hospital or a hospital dedicated...
OBAMA: A military hospital.
KING: ... to take care of veterans? How?
OBAMA: Well, I think it's inexcusable. And, in fact, I'll be going out to Walter Reed this week. You know I had previously visited Walter Reed and obviously, hadn't been given a tour of some of these buildings. I had been hearing from veterans about the difficulty in the transition between when they're in military hospitals and when they're discharged and go into the VA system.
And so we have been spending a lot of time focused on basic quality of life issues for veterans, last year and this year, again, trying to force the VA to have an honest budget and have more money allocated to veterans' services. One of the first issues I worked on when I came into the Senate was the fact that disabled veterans in my home state of Illinois weren't getting adequate services from the VA there and making sure that they were getting the same disability payments that folks in other states were getting.
So, you know, there have been a raft of problems across the board in terms of how our veterans are treated. This is just one more example of our failure to live up to what we profess to honor, and that is military service. And I think that it's a good wakeup call. I think the American people are disgusted by it. And I now have a piece of legislation in that would not only deal with the physical infrastructure of Walter Reed and other military hospitals, but would also say, how are we providing support to families to make sure that if a mother has to take time off of a job to visit with her wounded son or daughter, that, in fact, she's not going to be fired? How are we dealing with creating a system of one-stop service for veterans so that they're not getting the bureaucratic runaround and we could cut through some of the red tape?
I've got separate legislation dealing with homeless veterans. Veterans are seven times more likely to be homeless than non-veterans and that signifies that we're not doing a good job in providing the kinds of social services to them, particularly if they've got substance abuse problems or mental health problems.
So this is an area where, again, we should be able to achieve some consensus. There shouldn't be politics involved in this. I don't care whether you're a Republican, Democrat, what your stand on the war is, that -- the one thing we still have the opportunity to get right after this prolonged war in Iraq is to make sure that when our veterans come home, they are treated with the honor and the dignity that they deserve. KING: We're talking with Senator Barrack Obama of Illinois, running tough for the Democratic presidential nomination. We'll be right back.
KING: Are you surprised generally at the performance of Vice President Cheney?
OBAMA: No, I don't know that I'm surprised. I think that the president, the vice president have proceeded from a very ideological perspective. They were very insulated. They didn't listen, it seems, to people who didn't agree with them, whether it was in terms of the conduct of the war or the approach to many domestic issues. Because of that isolation, I think that you've seen not only enormous problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I think you've seen the kinds of tragic failure of federal response after Katrina and Rita.
You know my sense is that the American people recognize that. And that's the opportunity we have, I think, is to say that good government matters, competence matters, that if we are going to meet the challenges that we face on a variety of issues, like health care or the environment or energy or jobs, that the government is not going to solve all these problems, but it's got a vital role to play. And we've got to have somebody who believes that government has an appropriate role and is invested in making government work on behalf of people and not just on behalf of some special interests in Washington.
And that's the kind of politics that I think people are very hungry for, which is why, when I talk about these issues, we're attracting such huge crowds around the country.
KING: We have an e-mail question from Geraldine in Modesto, California. "This question will help me decide whether to give Senator Obama my vote. What's your position on illegal immigration? What would you do to stop it?"
OBAMA: Well, I think that there are a couple of things that we've got to do. Number one, we're going to have to secure our borders. And this past year, the Senate invested billions of dollars in improving border security. I think that's important because I think all Americans think that we should be able to regulate who comes in and out of this country in an orderly way, not only for the sake of our sovereignty, but also to avoid the hundreds of people who have been dying across the desert, the enormous costs that are placed on border states and border towns.
I also think that we've got to be serious about employers' obligations to check to see whether somebody is here legally or not. Up until this point, we haven't had an employment verification system that was tamper-proof. As a consequence, employers have been getting off the hook when they hire undocumented workers. And typically, it's the undocumented workers that get arrested and punished when there are raids, but the employers themselves are frequently let off the hook.
There hasn't been a serious program of employer sanctions. That has to be put in place.
But we also have to recognize that we've got 12 million undocumented workers who are already here. Many of them living their lives alongside other Americans. Their kids are going to school. Many of the kids, in fact, were born in this country and are citizens. And so, it's absolutely vital that we bring those families out of the shadows and that we give them the opportunity to travel a pathway to citizenship. It's not automatic citizenship. It's not amnesty. They would have to pay a fine. They would have to not have engaged in any criminal activity. They would have to learn English. They would have to go to the back of the line so that they did not get citizenship before those persons who had come here legally.
But I think that if we have a program of that sort, then we can combine the inherent compassion of the American people with the tough- mindedness that's necessary for our security and our long-term wellbeing.
KING: We'll be right back with more of Senator Obama after these words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If this becomes your campaign, it can't be stopped. If this is your campaign, when a million voices come together, then we will make sure everybody has health care in this country. When this is your campaign, we'll make sure that we stop global warming. When this is your campaign, we will educate every child.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A couple of other quick things.
We have another e-mail from Jan in Raleigh, North Carolina. "Aside from being an obviously devoted spouse and mother, your wife has a very impressive professional resume. If she becomes First Lady, what causes do you expect her to take up as her own?"
OBAMA: I'm very careful about not speaking for Michelle. So, Larry, you're going to have to have her on the show and she'll tell you. But, you know, in the past, she has been involved in a wide variety of issues: children's issues, health care issues. She works with a hospital. She's very interested in getting young people involved civically. She ran one of these AmeriCorps programs, called "Public Allies" in Chicago that helped young people connect with public service work and get leadership training. And so, she's really big on encouraging people to get involved in their communities. And I think that's something that she would be likely to continue if she were in the White House.
KING: One other thing. It took a heart attack to stop me. How are you doing with the smoking?
OBAMA: You know I'm doing all right. That shows you how scared I am of my wife, that I cut that out, chewing Nicorette. It's working so far. And I have to say, Larry, you look great. In fact, I think a bunch of people are going to want to get that procedure so that they look as good as you're looking right now.
KING: I feel good, too.
OBAMA: We're glad you're back on the show.
KING: Thank you, Senator. Thanks so much. You too. Always good having you, thank you. Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, Heather Mills, the first contestant on "Dancing With The Stars" to ever compete with an artificial leg. That brings us to tonight's "Textbook Question," "Do you expect Heather Mills to be a finalist on "Dancing With The Stars?" Text your vote from your cell phone to CNN TV which is 26688. Text King A for yes, King B for no, and we'll tell you how you voted tomorrow night when Heather Mills will be right here.
And of course, you can always e-mail us by going to CNN.com/Larry King. And now, as we close, a look back at the first four years in the war in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Coalition forces have begun striking selective targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war.
In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got him.
BUSH: And my message today to those in Iraq is we'll stay the course. We'll complete the job.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I think they're in the last thrills, if you will, of the insurgency.
BUSH: Our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them, five per day, will be deployed to Baghdad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's it for tonight's addition of LARRY KING LIVE. Anderson Cooper with "AC 360" is next.
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