Obama: “The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, but that she is a typical white person.”
The following is a transcript of the full text of the telephone interview 3/20/2008 with Senator Barack Obama and radio host Angelo Cataldi (6:11 minutes). The video of this interview is |here|. An interview with Larry King 3/20/08, in which Obama makes further explanation of these remarks video clip |here|.
Cataldi: Now, ladies and gentlemen, Senator Barack Obama. Hello senator.
Obama: How are you, sir.
Cataldi: Senator, it is a great honor and a privilege to have you on our show.
Obama: Thank you so much for takin the time
Cataldi: Oh, believe me senator. The first question I wanna ask you is a very basic one. Why should we elect you president?
Obama: Well, because I think that we’re at a moment in our history where we need tah –break from the past in a fundamental way. We need to bring the country together. We’ve gotta push off uh, special interests and lobbyists that have dominated Washington, and start getting a government that is tackling in a pragmatic practical way, some real problems that ordinary folks are going through every day, whether it’s losin’ their home to foreclosure or not having health care or seeing their wages and, and incomes flatline, uh, or seeing their loved ones deployed in Iraq. We’ve got some big issues and we can’t just have uh, the same old stuff, and I’ve got twenty years of experience in bringing about real change.
Cataldi: Yah, you mentioned experience and your opponent Hillary Clinton keeps talking about hers, Senator, and I’m always amazed by this, because most of her experience came not as the actual person, like Bill Clinton, but as the wife. How does she get away with using thirty five years of experience when she’s really only had eight in the senate?
Obama: Well, uh you know, it is a fact that she’s been in the public eye for a long time.
Obama: …so I think that people just feel like they know her, uh, she’s been around. She’s a, a ,a very smart lady and I think people respect her intelligence, uh, but you’re absolutely right, if you compare legislative experience, uh, I’ve, I was in the state legislature for eight years before I went to the United States senate. I’ve been in elected office longer than she has, uh, and ultimately the issue is not how long you’ve been in Washington. The question is what kind of judgment you bring to bear on the problems that we face.
Cataldi: Without a doubt. Senator, you gave an amazing speech on Tuesday, we were actually at the constitution center but not giving as eloquent a speech as you were, believe me, and you talked about your white grandmother and how there was a time when even she feared black men and that she even occasionally would use a racial or ethnic stereotype. (crosstalk) What does she say now about you being so close to the presidency?
Obama: Well, you know she’s extremely proud, and the uh, the point I was making was not that my grandmother, uh harbors, uh any racial animosity, she doesn’t. But she is a uh, typical white person who, uh, you know uh if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know, you know, there’s a reaction that’s been bred inta, uh, our experiences that, that don’t go away and that sometimes come out in, in the wrong way and, and that’s just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it, and what makes me optimistic is you see each generation feeling a little bit less like that, uh and that’s pretty powerful stuff.
Cataldi: Senator, but you will bear an extra responsibility as president in that you will be the first African American president, um, uh how will you approach that, will you, will you see that as another thing that you have to, you know, take care of every day, people are going to be watching that.
Obama: Well look, I think that uh if I’m uh, in the oval office I’ve got all kinds of things to worry about
Cataldi: That’s true ha ha…
Obama: …you know that, that comes with the job, but I wouldn’t be running if I wasn’t confident that I could help the country work through some of these issues. At the same time as we’re taking care of the business at hand, which is making sure that the economy’s working for ordinary people that they’ve got health care, that they can afford to send their kids to college, that we can end this war in Iraq that has cost us so dearly in blood and treasure
Cataldi: Senator the, the, your position about ending the war in Iraq has fascinated me because your opponents are saying if we do it the way senator Obama wants to do it we will be empowering our enemies, how do you respond to that.
Obama: You know, we’ve empowered our enemies by going into Iraq in the first place, I mean, think about it, we diverted resources from Afghanistan where bin Laden was and al Qaeda was, Afghanistan is now more violent ttah at any time since the Afghan war started. Bin Ladin is still at large. He sent out a tape yesterday, uh… we spent more money on this war than any war in our history and the, and there’s no end in sight, uh, it, it it has strained our alliances, fanned anti-American sentiment, it has been a strategic disaster uh and, you know, what I’ve called for is a responsible withdrawal that would get our strategy back on the right track.
Cataldi: Thank you, senator. Senator, you know what your schedule is… the one other thing I really wanted to know is, watching you on the campaign trail on Tuesday, it’s such an immense thing that we ask you to do before we elect a person president. How has it changed you?
Obama: You know uh, uh, one of the good things is , I think it ah, ah, it makes me realize that actually I can handle stress fairly well.
Cataldi: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, haaa, ha, ha
Obama: So you know I tend to be a pretty calm guy, uh, uh and I think that its made me appreciate my family that much more because I sure miss them.
Cataldi: Well that’s great. Senator we we can’t thank you enough for the time you’ve given us, and if there’s any thing we can do to help you carry Pennsylvania, we would do it, you’ve got a lot of fans here at WIP.
Obama: I look forward tah seeing you guys…maybe I can drop by the studio sometime.
Cataldi: Ah! Please! That would be awsome. Maybe after you’re president. Thank you, senator.
Obama: Talk to you soon.
Cataldi: Senator Barack Obama. Oh, that was…he’s very eloquent isn’t he?
Female voice: Very good.
Cataldi: He just automatically exudes that charisma. Did you feel that, Al, did you feel the charisma?
Male voice: So is he coming in?
Cataldi: Well, it sounds like he’s on his way in right now.
Male voice: (inaudible)…pitch before the primary….
Female voice: We’re definitely gonna promo that if he comes in.
Cataldi: That was exciting.