Obama open to joint town hall meetings with McCain. Won’t be at Trinity Church on Sunday. Will be stumping soon in Michigan. Transcript.

SHARE Obama open to joint town hall meetings with McCain. Won’t be at Trinity Church on Sunday. Will be stumping soon in Michigan. Transcript.

CHICAGO–At a press conference in Bend, Oregon on Saturday, likely Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) says he is open to doing joint town hall meetings with Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), the GOP presidential candidate.

Obama also:

*said he will not attend Mothers Day services at Trinity United Church of Christ, even though he will be in Chicago on Sunday. He said coming to church with the hullabaloo of a presidential candidate would be a distraction. This also lets him avoid–in case he is there–the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

*said he will be campaigning soon in Michigan. I think Obama’s first campaign stop there could be as early as the night of May 20–when he is expected to gain the majority of pledged delegates.

click below for transcript


Barack Obama Press Avail

Bend, Oregon


*The answers are verbatim. The questions are paraphrased.*

Q: Senator Obama, what is your greatest challenge in a general

election? Is it race, is it the perception that you’re more liberal

than most voters, or is it the question of whether you’re experience

enough to be president?

BO: Well, I think that we haven’t finished this primary yet, so it’s,

I think it’s premature to start projecting how the general election is

going to play out. You know, every candidate has strengths and

weaknesses. You know, I’ve no doubt have some weaknesses, but I think

I’ve enormous strengths as well. And in a contest between myself and

John McCain, there is going to be a very clear choice on policy that I

don’t think is going to have to do with ideology and who theoretically

is more liberal or who’s more conservative. I think it’s going to have

to do with who has a plan to provide relief to people when it comes to

their gas prices, who has a real plan to make sure that everybody has

health insurance, who’s got a real plan to deal with college

affordability, who can help American families live out their dreams?

And so rather than an abstract set of questions about, is he too

liberal, is he too conservative, is he … how do voters handle an

African American, et cetera, I think this is going to be a very

concrete contest around very specific plans for how we improve the

lives of Americans, our vision for the future, and that’s a debate I’m

going to welcome.

Q: Here in Oregon we have an initiative petition process here where we

are allowed to create our own laws in the state of Oregon. We have

made some laws over the years that were not in favor of the Bush

Administration; medical marihuana; death with dignity. What can we

expect from an Obama justice department/Administration?

BO: I will be respectful of the state initiative and referendum

process, I think that the justice department has better things to do

than to raid folks that are trying to provide medical marijuana. I do

think that it is something that should be carefully regulated and

controlled. If we are going to make medical prescriptions for

patients, it should be done by a doctor and not something that people

would casually say, “hey this might help”. But I have no interest

seeing our justice department to spend its limited time and resources

challenging state laws that the people of Oregon have fought to

ratify, instead of cracking down on people that are putting harm on

our fellow US citizens.

Q: Senator, do you have any thoughts or plans about Michigan and

Florida? Not necessarily the delegates but the regular voters?

BO: Well, we are going to be actively campaigning in Michigan. We are

going to try to campaign there soon and I think that we are going to

make sure that the Florida and Michigan delegation by the time we get

to November I don’t think thats what’s going to get on voters minds.

What’s going to be on the voters minds is who has the better plan to

help make sure that my retirement is secure or rebuilding capacity.

Q: Some of the advisors to Senator John McCain have suggested that the

two of you should do some joint campaigning this summer doing town

hall meetings [inaudible]. Do you agree to that?

BO: I think thats a great idea. Obviously wed have to think through

the logistics on this but to the extent that should I be the nominee

if I have the opportunity to debate substantive issues before the

voters with John McCain, thats something Im going to welcome.

Q: Last night you mentioned flag pin etc…Question about how he will

address the challenges by the Republicans to his patriotism?

BO: Well have a chance Im sure over the coming months to engage in a

vigorous debate on what patriotism means and how all of us as a

country can display our patriotism. Ive said before and Id

undoubtedly say again the test of patriotism is whether we are true to

the ideals and values upon which this country was founded. And whether

were willing to fight and struggle on behalf of those values even

when its hard, even when its politically inconvenient. I believe

thats what Ive done in the past, I believe thats what Ive done in

this campaign, thats what I intend to do as a candidate for or as the

democratic nominee should I get the nomination. But I dont have some

particular trick or strategy to confront these issues; as they come up

we will face them directly.

Q: Do you have an uphill battle to be able to explain to voters who

you are?

BO: I don’t think that’s unique to me. I think that anybody who is

running for the presidency has to continually offer up to the American

people not only a set of policies and a vision for where he or she

wants to take the country but also has to give the American people

some insight into who he is or who she is and where those values and

ideals come from. And one of the things that I have discovered in this

campaign and I think I have spoken about this before and in avails is

that you could get into this race assuming that people know you and

the American people are busy, they have a lot of stuff going on. They

are not reading every blog or every article that is issued about you

that the vast majority haven’t taken the time to read my books or

watch interviews of mine and so I think they have a sense of who I am,

but you know I am applying for the most challenging job on the face of

the planet. And I expect that I am going to have to continually

describe for the American people who I am, where I come from, what

shapes my character and how I intend to lead this country.

Q: [inaudible] Question about strategy of talking more about John McCain than

Hillary Clinton? Can you tell me more about your strategy as you look toward a

General election?

BO: I will let you guys speak to strategy. You know I think

consistently I have said that I want to go into the general election

whether I am the nominee or not with the party unified and ready to

take on what I think is a wrongheaded vision of where the country

should go. We only have six contests left in the democratic primary.

We are getting to the point where somebody is going to be the nominee.

We are not going to have a lot of time to pivot and John McCain has

been given a free pass.

For the last few months he has been able to go on various tours and make assertions

that I think are questionable and it is important that we as democrats, both myself

and Senator Clinton remind our constituencies that that is the ultimate prize, winning in

November, and that is what I am going to continue to focus on.

Q: [inaudible] Question about John McCain and his straight-talker image?

BO: He has a straight talker image but it is not clear that lately he

has been following through on that image. This gas tax holiday was a

pander. He didn’t even have a way of paying for it and wasn’t

particularly vigorous in the defense of it. He simply threw it out

there thinking it might help get some votes. His tax proposals that

he just put forward, 400 billion dollars worth of tax cuts

disproportionally tilted towards the wealthy to corporations — a

doubling down of George Bush’s economic strategies. When those George

Bush tax cuts first came up, he said they offended his conscience. Now

he is the one proposing them. So I think we’re going to have to have a

debate not based on John McCain’s image or my image but on facts and

where we’ve stood on various issues.

Q: [inaudible] Are you going to attend church tomorrow?

BO: I am not going to burden the church at the moment with my presence

and as a consequence your presence. I think it’s important for the

church to be able to worship in fellowship especially on Mother’s day

which has some of the biggest attendance of the year without the

distractions of a presidential campaign.

Q: Price of fuel spiking and food prices and new projections that the

harvest of corn will be about 7% lower than last year. Do you believe

there is a point where we should suspend the use of ethanol?

BO: I have been a champion of ethanol over the past. I come from a

corn growing state and I’ve said before and I continue to believe that

we’ve got to develop alternatives to fossil fuels. What I’ve also said

is that corn based ethanol, I see as a transitional technology and

that we have to shift to cellulosic ethanol using non-food sources to

develop energy. That’s why I’ve proposed in my energy plan to

significantly increase the investment in other strategies for

alternative fuels, switch grass, wood chips, and so forth. It is not

clear to me and I don’t think its been definitively shown that

the use of ethanol is the biggest contributor to rising fuel prices.

The one thing I will say is if at some point we have to choose between

making sure that millions of people get adequate nutrition and energy

policy then I always want to make sure that people have enough to eat

and I think that’s got to be both a moral and a strategic imperative

for the United States.

Q: The other night John McCain suggested Hamas was a big supporter,

and he would be their biggest nightmare?

BO: Well I actually responded to it fairly explicitly the other day.

What I said was that this was ridiculous, that my position with

respect to Hamas was identical to John McCain’s. That I’ve said we

should not meet with them until they recognize Israel, until they

cease terrorist activities, until they support previous agreements

that have been made between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And I

went on to say that this was an example of I think a distorting of my

record that John McCain has been engaging in over the last couple of

weeks, that again is not consistent of the image or what he said he

wants this campaign to be about. I suggested he maybe lost his

bearings. His team somehow took this as an ageist comment. How that

was interpreted in that fashion is still not clear to me. Last I

checked people lose their bearings at every age, but as I’ve said

before: I think that Hamas is a terrorist organization that should be

isolated until such time as they recognize that terrorism is not a strategy

is not a strategy for them to obtain their political goals.

Q: Yesterday Congressman DeFazio while introducing you in Albany brought up the

Keating 5. Later on that night he did not bring it up. Do you think

that is fair game?

BO: Congressman DeFazio obviously delivered a speech that wasn’t my

speech. I don’t think there’s any doubt that John McCains public record

about issues that he has apologized for and written about is not germane

to the presidency. I was just asked previously about a whole host of issues

and associations that were a lot more flimsy than John McCain’s relationship

to Keating 5 and what I have said is that I cannot quarrel with the American

people wanting to know more about that, and of me having to answer questions

about it. I’ll take this last one.

Q: How do you feel about tying with Clinton in the superdelegate race?

BO: I think it’s an encouraging sign that our campaign is making

progress that superdelegates are moving in our direction. That they

think I can be a strong candidate in the general election that they

are looking forward to resolving this contest as soon as we can so we

can pivot and start talking about John McCain and the general

election. And our positive unified vision of where we want to take

the country. Ultimately though, what I’m going to be spending most of

my time doing is looking for the support not of superdelegates, but of

voters. That’s what I am so glad to be here east of the mountains

here in central Oregon. Its beautiful and the people are wonderful.

And the scenery is great and I wish I could take a bike ride and take

a hike, but apparently I have to do some more work.


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