October 22, 2006

Barak-Obama-MTP.jpg Barack Obama opened the door as a 2008 Presidential candidate on "Meet the Press." That's exciting news. I like Obama although I've had problems with some of the things he's said in the past.

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MR. RUSSERT: But it’s fair to say you’re thinking about running for president in 2008?

SEN. OBAMA: It’s fair, yes.

Matt Stoller wants Barack to run Though you probably know me as someone who's not a fan of Barack Obama, I do want the Senator to run for President in 2008. I think it would be good for him, good for the party, and good for the country. I'm big on process, on public debate, on public deliberation, and we need his voice in the fray. We need to hear from him, what's his vision? What are his principles? What kind of America does he support? How will he stand up to pressure when he is debating other Democrats? In other words, what, exactly is his voice?...read on

Trancript via MSNBC

MR. RUSSERT: You talk about visiting the White House and how the president was very gracious meeting members of the Congress and made a presentation, and then in the middle of the presentation, this is how you write about it, “The President’s eyes became fixed; his voice took on the agitated, rapid tone of someone neither accustomed to nor welcoming interruption; his easy affability was replaced by an almost messianic certainty.”

SEN. OBAMA: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: “Messianic certainty.” Those are strong words.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, I, I think the president is, is a complicated person. As I say in the book, I think he is a decent person, and, and the—I like him personally. I think that the president has come to approach the problems we face in very ideological, absolutist terms, and I think that’s, to a large degree, characterized how the Republicans who’ve been controlling Congress have operated over the last several years. And I think that has been a mistake. I think that the American people are historically a nonideological people. I think when we operate on the basis of common sense and pragmatism, we end up with better outcomes. And I think that part of the reason the Republican Party is going to—has been doing poorly in this election is because people have said, you know, when we look at issues like health care or education or Social Security or foreign policy, it seems as if the president has only one narrow approach and is not taking in the advice and dissenting views that might make for better proposals. And, and that is something that, you know, I think anybody who’s in power for a while can fall victim to; I think this administration has been particularly victimized by that problem.

MR. RUSSERT: But when you say “messianic certainty”...


MR. RUSSERT: ...you’re suggesting that it’s almost as if he believes God wills it.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, I, I don’t presume to know what is in the president’s heart. I think that one of the president’s strengths from a political perspective is that certainty. I think that the problem has been that that certainty has precluded him from looking at issues based on facts as opposed to based on ideology. And I, you know, I quote in the book one of my favorite stories from the Senate when Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York is in an argument with a colleague on the floor, and the colleague’s probably not doing too well in that argument, Pat Moynihan was a pretty smart guy, and at some point, the other senator gets frustrated and says, “Well, you know what, Pat? You’re just entitled to your own opinion and I’m entitled to mine.” And, and Moynihan frostily, I—I’m sure, says, “You are entitled to your opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.” And I think this administration has, has not always understood that distinction. And that’s part of the reason why we’ve had problems in Iraq and that’s part of the reason why we’ve had problems with our, with our budget. There’s been an unwillingness to look squarely at the facts in making decisions.

MR. RUSSERT: You did say the president gave you some advice, and this is what you write, “You’ve got a bright future,” said President Bush, “very bright. But I’ve been in this town awhile and, let me tell you, it can be tough. When you get a lot of attention like you’ve been getting, people start gunnin’ for ya. And it won’t necessarily just be coming from my side, you understand. From yours, too. Everybody’ll be waiting for you to slip, know what I mean? So watch yourself.” Good advice?

SEN. OBAMA: Absolutely good advice. I—the—you know, I think that it is important to not buy into your own hype or, or your press clippings. And one of the advantages I have, I think, in that is I’ve got a wife who knocks me down a peg any time I start thinking that what they’re writing about me is true.

MR. RUSSERT: You do write this, and it’s a very interesting observation, “When you watch Clinton vs. Gingrich or Gore vs. Bush or Kerry vs. Bush”—so that’s ‘98, 2000, 2004--“you feel like these are fights that were taking place back in dorm rooms in the sixties. Vietnam, civil rights, the sexual revolution, the role of government - all that stuff has just been playing itself out, and I think people sort of feel like, Okay, let’s not re-litigate the sixties 40 years later.” Are you suggesting that those political players are, are the past and you represent a new generation that won’t get caught or bogged down in those kinds of debates?

SEN. OBAMA: I think, I think the categories we’ve been using were forged in the ‘60s. You know, I think the arguments about big government vs. small government, the arguments about, you know, the sexual revolution, military vs. nonmilitary solutions to problems. I think, in each and every instance, a lot of what we think about is shaped by the ‘60s, and partly, you know, the baby boomers is—are a big demographic. I write about the fact that, whether it’s the market for Viagra or how many cup holders are going to be in, in a car, a lot of it’s determined by what the baby boomers want. Our politics isn’t that different, and my suggestion is that—take the example of big government vs. small government. My instinct is is that the current generation is more interested in smart government. Let’s have enough government to get the job done. If, if we’re looking at problems, if the market solution works, let’s go with the market solution. If a solution requires government intervention, let’s do that. But let’s look at what are the practical outcomes. And I think that kind of politics is what the country’s hungry for right now.

MR. RUSSERT: You told Vogue, Men’s Vogue magazine, that if you wanted to be president, you shouldn’t just think about being president, that you should want to be a great president. So you’ve clearly given this some thought.


MR. RUSSERT: And what would, in your mind, define a great president?

SEN. OBAMA: Obviously, most of the time, it seems, that the president has maybe 10 percent of his agenda set by himself and 90 percent of it set by circumstances. So, you know, an Abraham Lincoln is defined by slavery and the war, FDR defined by the Depression and, and World War II. So I’m not sure that I can categorize what is, is—are those ingredients in each and every circumstance.

But I think, when I think about great presidents, I think about those who transform how we think about ourselves as a country in fundamental ways so that, that, at the end of their tenure, we have looked and said to ours—that’s who we are. And, and our, our—and for me at least, that means that we have a more expansive view of our democracy, that we’ve included more people into the bounty of this country. And, you know, there are circumstances in which, I would argue, Ronald Reagan was a very successful president, even though I did not agree with him on many issues, partly because at the end of his presidency, people, I think, said, “You know what? We can regain our greatness. Individual responsibility and personal responsibility are important.” And they transformed the culture and not simply promoted one or two particular issues.

MR. RUSSERT: The last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, said this: Barack Obama, who he thinks has the intelligence and the toughness necessary to be president, but has to be careful about running too soon. Is that a fair comment?

SEN. OBAMA: I think it’s a fair comment, absolutely.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you think the—President Clinton has some self-interest in making that comment?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, the—I don’t know how the president’s thinking. I’m a big admirer of Bill Clinton’s work. I think that—the one thing I’m clear about in terms of the presidency is, is it can’t be something that you pursue on the basis of vanity and ambition. I think there’s a, there’s a certain soberness and seriousness required when you think about that office that is unique. And at some point, the bargain you’re making with the American people is, is that, “You put me in this office and my problems are not relevant. My job is to think about your problems.”

And so anybody, I think, who’s pursuing it, has to, has to understand the gravity of it, and, and make sure that the reason they want to do it is not simply because they want to see their name in the headlines.

MR. RUSSERT: You’ve been a United States senator less than two years, you don’t have any executive experience. Are you ready to be president?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I’m not sure anybody is ready to be president before they’re president. You know, ultimately, I trust the judgment of the American people that, in, in any election, they sort it through. And that’s, you know, we have a long and rigorous process, and, you know, should I decide to run, if I ever did decide to run, I’m confident that I’d be run through the paces pretty good, including on MEET THE PRESS.

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