Excerpts of Sen. Barack Obama's interview with the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Share with others:
I try to win every state. The reason that we've won twice as many states is because we've competed in every state. And so we're actively competing in Pennsylvania, so we want to win and I think a win is a win and a loss is a loss and I think if Sen. Clinton wins, I'm sure she'll take credit for it, and if I win, I will, too. Now, having said that, I don't think there's any doubt we're the underdogs in this state.
There has been a very systematic effort to suggest I'm not sufficiently pro-Israel. The fact that my middle name is Hussein I'm sure does not help in this regard. The fact is though that nobody's has been a more stalwart ally of Israel. I have consistently said that their security is paramount that there's a special relationship between the United States and Israel that we will continue to work with them as our strongest ally to ensure their security. As a consequence, actually in all the votes, statements and so forth that represent my public record, my support of Israel is as strong as Sen. Clinton's or McCain's.
So what I think real meaningful bipartisanship entails is having discussion in which we identify common goals and common aims, we push the ideology and the dogma aside and we figure out how do we get from point A to point B with a spirit of open mindedness and cooperation. And sometimes that works and sometimes that doesn't.
I'm a big believer in business. I think business create jobs, I think that our economy has to grow in order for everybody to prosper. If we've got a shrinking economy, I don't care how the pie's divided. Sooner or later, we're going to have problems. That's probably the reason why I got such strong support in the business community in Illinois. There are certain issues where the conventional wisdom within the business community is going to differ from what I think the country needs. And I'll give you some very specific examples. I think that our tax vote has made worse the trends of income inequality in this country and that's not good for the economy and that's not good for business. A lot of that income inequality has to do with globalization and the fact that in world markets capital can move anywhere it wants and labor can't and that has made it more difficult for low skilled worker and semi-skilled workers to compete and that puts a downward pressure on them. But when we give tax cuts to the folks who are the biggest beneficiaries of globalization we are, I think, putting ourselves down the path of long term economic instability. Ironically, part of what's happening in the mortgage crisis in pain trickling up because people can't pay their mortgages.
I believe in trade. I think all countries can prosper. But if the only beneficiaries of trade are corporate bottom lines and workers are losing their jobs, there's going to be a lot of strong anti-trade sentiment out there and you're going to strangle the goose that lay the golden egg. So you have an interest in making sure workers are benefiting and if jobs are moving overseas that there's a strategy to make sure they still have their health care and they still have their retirement security and they're able to retrain for jobs of the future. And those are investments, frankly, that we just have not made. We talk about them, but we don't make them.
No body has been a stronger champion of ethics reform legislation, both at the state level -- I passed campaign ethic reform legislation, first in 25 years in Illinois despite it being resisted not just by Republicans, but also Democrats - and I did the same thing in Washington, passing the toughest reforms since Watergate. I think it is very important for us to reduce the influence of special interest and lobbyists. This has been a central theme of our campaign. That's why I don't take back money, that's why I don't take money from federally registered lobbyists. We have raised more money than any other candidate in this race, which is shocking not just to everybody else but to me. By building the strongest grassroots organization in the country, we've got over 1.3 million donors. In February, 90 percent of our donations came over the Internet.
Initially I'm sure there was a novelty factor. All right? You've got this 46-year-old black guy named Barack Obama with these big ears with this weird story. So you know I think a lot of people were just kinda curious. "What the heck is this?" And so the media fed on the novelty, which, you know, in a celebrity obsessed culture meant I had a certain advantage initially getting in. I think that novelty effect wore off pretty quickly. And had it just been that, I wouldn't be sitting here. What I think has been the secret to our success has been that people are not simply excited about me. I think I've become sort of a symbol of their excitement about each other. You go to one of our meetings or go into our campaign office -- I bet if you went into our campaign office right now, you'd see 200 volunteers in there. They're from every walk of life. You've got young people, which everyone talks about, but we've also got retirees who are coming in every single day. They're black, they're white. I can't tell you how many people have said "being involved in one of your meetings or your campaign is the first time I've seen people from all these diverse backgrounds come together in this way." People will talk about it and they're excited about it. And so part of the excitement is, I think, people just feeling like this is a vehicle for their voice to be heard, for what they do to matter. They feel empowered.
We're not in a position right now to raise interest rates and take some of the steps normally that would attract more investors into dollar based investment. I think that the long term strategy has to be getting our balance trade fixed. The biggest area of opportunity there is to solve this energy problem. Which means, I think, the kind of cap and tray system that I've talked about where we can generate billions of dollars that are reinvested in Apollo project, a Manhattan project for energy independence, investing in solar and wind and biodiesel that puts people back to work right here in Pittsburgh and all across the country. It's important for us to reduce our deficit over time. Now we've dug ourselves a deep hole and so the first thing to do is stop digging the hole. I think ending the war in Iraq is part of that step towards fiscal responsibility. It's not the only one.
The Roberts court seems to be more comfortable with the continuing consolidation of executive power. More comfortable with secrecy, more comfortable with a cramped reading of due process, than I think the Constitution requires. And as somebody who taught Constitutional law for ten years I have pretty strong opinions about this. What I've said is that I don't have litmus tests for Supreme Court justices, but I do want a Supreme Court justice to understand the role, the special role, of the courts. And that is to guard against the abuse of power in the other branch and to look out for the losers, or the outsiders, or the minorities, or those with unpopular opinions.
You guys got to see this for the first time. It was handed to me at a veterans event that we did today by a disabled veteran who said to me, 'I know that as I'm going around talking about all the terrific work you've done on the veterans affairs committee and stuff, some of my fellow vets ask about it.' I guess he's the head of the committee for disabled veterans here in Pennsylvania and he said, 'So I'm givin' this to you. I want you to wear it.' This was an interesting thing. This notion that I was somehow refusing to wear a flag pin was just not accurate. I wore one right after 9/11, at some point stopped wearing one, as I think a lot of people may have, and when a reporter asked me about it all I said was 'Well, I haven't been wearing one and I do think that after 9/11, I started seeing a lot of people who were wearing flag pins but voting in ways that I thought didn't always speak to what I think our patriotism requires.' And so I think what's more important is what I do, than what I wear. This was not a statement that I was somehow making. When you have a disabled veteran who's fought for his country asks you to wear one then that's something I'm happy to do. It's the same reason I wear this bracelet that a mother gave me after a rally in Green Bay, Wis. Her 20-year old son was killed in a roadside bomb. I haven't taken it off since.
First Published April 16, 2008 6:10 am