Obama says Mark Penn should be fired, not demoted. On abortion, campaign finance at press conference.

SHARE Obama says Mark Penn should be fired, not demoted. On abortion, campaign finance at press conference.

Barack Obama Press Avail Q and A

April 11, 2008

Indianapolis, Indiana

BO: With that, let me take some questions. Go ahead.

Q: Senator, Tuesday [inaudible] – Question about public financing and comment at Washington DC fundraiser?

BO: you know I really wasnt trying to send a signal. I was talking to a group of funders who are representative of over 1.3 million people who have given us donations and applauding them for doing what I think all of us who have been interested in campaign fianc reform have touted as the way to go. Which is small donations in small numbers and a lot of people participating as opposed to a few people participating. Really what I was trying to suggest was that through the internet and the enthusiasm for this campaign we have created a model for being able to compete at the highest levels of politics without being dependent on big monied interests and I think thats a real positive. My position on public financing continues to be the same as the one I talked about a month and a half ago, when this first came up, which is that I would like to see a system preserved and I intend if I am the nominee to have conversations with Senator McCain about how to move forward in a way that doesnt allow third parties to overwhelm the system

Q: Colin Powell gave you a compliment yesterday. Do you speak to him on a periodic basis, and [inaudible] – what do you think about his plan for large numbers of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also said in terms of drawing down troops in Iraq you cant just turn off the switch and whoever Bushs successor is [inaudible]

BO: well, point number one: I think Colin Powell is an outstanding public servant. Hes someone who Ive known for a long time and have extraordinary respect for. Were not speaking on a regular basis but we speak occasionally and every time that we do I find it very useful, because hes somebody who I think has good judgment, loves this country, and is somebody whose counsel I actively seek. So, I appreciate the kind words. In terms of his posture on Iraq, I think hes exactly right and what he said is consistent with what I said, which is that we have to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. This is not going to be matter of just being able to say were pulling them all out regardless of consequences. What Ive consistently said is were going to get our combat troops out in a methodical, orderly responsible way. And there will be consequences. I dont think anybody who knows the situation there thinks its going to be easy or simple. Its going to be a messy process. Its something I signaled strongly when I questioned General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker this week.

Q: [inaudible] question about what reforms are needed in the public finance system?

BO: I think that its is creaky and needs to be reformed if its going to work. We know that the check off system has been declining in participation and as a consequence the amount of money raised through the public financing system may be substantially lower than can be raised through small donation s over the internet. Which present candidates then with some pretty tough decisions in terms of how they want to move forward if they want to compete in as many states as possible. How we might modify that is something I think a bipartisan group should examine because I dont think thats something thats going to be fixed by legislative fiat by one party.

Q: [inaudible] executive pay bill has been referred to the Senate Banking Committee, which Senator Dodd chairs. What conversations have you had with him, when has he said he will bring up the bill?

BO: Well, Senator Dodd obviously is consumed right now with the housing issue. I dont expect this executive pay bill will move before the housing issue does. Most of my conversations with Chris lately have been around getting the housing issue moved. I am going to be encouraging Chris to move this bill as well, so that we can start having debate about it in committee.

Q: Do you consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization?

BO: Yes.

Q: And secondly, do you think Jimmy Carter – former President Carter should meet with Hamas leaders?

BO: You know, Im not going to comment on former President Carter, hes a private citizen, and its not my place to discuss who or who he shouldnt meet with. I know Ive said consistently that I would not meet with Hamas, given that its a terrorist organization. Its not a state, and until Hamas clearly recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism, and abides by our believes that the Palestinians should abide by previous agreements that have been entered into, I dont think conversations with them would be fruitful.

Q: Senator, you mentioned the check-off system for public financing. You released your tax returns the other day; you yourself have not checked off the three dollars, what does that mean?

BO: You know, I have always checked off three dollars in the past. So the — Im going to have to talk to my accountant. That may have been an oversight or a mistake. In all my previous years when Ive prepared it, I have. So I should find out whats going on there. This may be a situation where my accountant, through oversight, didnt do it.

Q: Senator you have mentioned that you would speak with Senator McCain, should you become the nominee, about the likelihood of being able to fashion some type of an agreement for the final five months of the presidential campaign. Is that really a realistic possibility, to keep those parties out? I mean the fact is these groups are forming right now.

BO: You know I think that — I am committed to having these conversations. And I cant speak for Senator McCain. I think everybody, including the public, would benefit from a system in which you did not have third parties raining down millions of dollars, primarily in negative ads, directed at the other candidates, which I think will be a distraction from the substantive issues of the campaign. Whether or not we can pull it off, I dont know.

Q: Do you think Democrats are guilt of this as well? [inaudible]

BO: I think theres no doubt that both sides are involved in this process.

Q: [inaudible]- Question about what limitations he would support to a womens right to choose?

BO: You know, my position on abortion has been, I think, pretty clear. I think that abortion is always a tragic and difficult issue that has a moral element to it. And I trust women to make those decisions in consultation with their doctors, their clergy, their conscience. And you know, I think consistent with Rove v. Wade, we should be able to restrict late term abortions that as long as there are provisions to protect the life and the health of the mother. That is consistent with existing case law and its something that I support.

Q: [inaudible]- On this point there are a lot of socially conservative democratsTim Roemer and Bob Casey? Why do they see you as a different kind of democrat?

BO: There was a section of my most recent book that talks about the issue of abortion. I think the mistake pro-choice forces has sometimes made in the past, and this is a generalization it has not always been the case, has been to not acknowledge the wrenching moral issues involved in it. And so the debate got so polarized that both sides tended to exaggerate the other sides positions. Most Americans I think recognize that what we want to do is avoid or help people avoid making this difficult choice. That nobody is pro-abortion; abortions are never a good thing and it may be that those who have opposed abortion get a sense that Im listening to them and respect their positions even though where we come down may be different. And thats that kind of conversation that I think would allow us to move forward in actually reducing the numbers of abortions and thats how a lot of other countries handle this issue. Its a less polarized debate in part because there acknowledgement of legitimate concerns on both sides.

Q: [inaudible]- Any response to Mark Penn? Do you think he should be removed?

BO: I think that it was surprising to me that a high ranking if not the highest ranking member of Senator Clintons team would be engaged in business activities and lobbying that was directly contrary to the position that senator Clinton had taken. And let me put it this way I am not surprised that Senator Clinton found herself in a uncomfortable position as a consequence and I know that if staff of mine were putting me in that kind of position I would get rid of them.

Q: The Washington Post had a story about the role of bundlers on your campaign. What role do they serve you?

BO: Well first of all I think it is important to note that from the start we said we would disclose all our bundlers. I thought that was a very important principle that people knew who was raising significant amounts of money from me or on my behalf. We have a national finance committee. They are very active although they dont interact with me they interact mostly with each other. They are not as a general rule part of my day to day policy or advisory committee. Although there are some people who have raised money for me who are also prominent business leaders and so for example if we were putting forward a economic plan and there was some expertise there we might tap into it. But they are not as a general rule part of our policy making apparatus or determining the course of the campaign. Their focus is on raising money.

Q: [inaudible]- you said abortion was never a good thing, can you clarify?

BO: Lets be clear so that we are not starting a new story here. I dont think that anybody ever celebrates an abortion. That doesnt mean that a woman might not be the best thing for a woman at any given point. It is to say that I dont think any woman would prefer having an abortion as opposed to not being in that circumstance in the first place, it is stating the obvious I think. I know it was last question but I want to give the guys in the back a chance.

Q: [inaudible]

BO: Are you guys enjoying it or not?

Q: In your travelshow big is Indiana in your political future? What are the issues that stand out?

BO: I think Indiana is very important. Weve got three contests coming up in pretty big states. Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Indiana. They all have significant numbers of delegates and they are all states where Senator Clinton and I are actively campaigning. Senator Clinton I think is more favored in Pennsylvania and I am right now a little bit more favored in North Carolina so Indiana may end up being the tie breaker and so we want to work very hard in Indiana. Senator Clinton has some advantages here. I benefit partly from coming from an adjoining state. Issues that I see across Indiana are very familiar to me because they are not that different from a lot of the issues in Central and downstate Illinois. Youve got an awful lot of communities that were reliant on manufacturing, with manufacturings decline a lot of jobs get shipped overseas. Youve got an awful lot of people and a lot of towns all across the state that are struggling. And this is why in all my discussions with workers businesses here in Indiana, my focus has been on investing in infrastructure, investing in clean energy, investing in those areas that can strengthen our core economy and then making sure that were also investing in the people of Indiana who are hardworking, who are committed to turning the economy around. But some of whom have to obtain the skills that will allow them to compete in the 21st century economy. That I think is the central question, not just for Indiana but the country. In that way, Indiana is representative of whats going on throughout the country. Youve got a terrific base of workers and business experience but were in a global economy and Washington has not done enough to make sure Indiana and other key states particularly in the mid-west are making that transition into the 21st century economy. Thats what I want to do as president of the United States. Alright guys, thank you.

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