ABC's Cuomo to Obama: 'America Inherently Racist'
Does "Good Morning America" mean "good morning all you racists"? Co-host Chris Cuomo seemed to suggest that on December 20. (Hat tip: Howard Mortman) Upon interviewing presidential candidate Barack Obama Cuomo inquired about Obama’s biggest obstacles.
"What do you think the bigger obstacle is for you in becoming president, the Clinton campaign machine or America's inherent racists, racism?"
Obama, though conceding he does not think "race has played a significant role in this campaign," went on to add that many people may vote for or against him because of his race.
"I have no doubt that there are people out there who might not be comfortable voting for me because of my race. But I think there are some people who are excited about the prospects of being able to help heal some of our past racial divisions."
Cuomo did pose some mildly challenging questions particularly for criticizing Hillary Clinton for her waffling, then voting "‘present’...over 100 times as a state legislature."
The entire transcript is below.
CHRIS CUOMO: Let's take a turn now to the race for '08. We'll have our exclusive interview with Democratic candidate Barack Obama in a moment. First, we want to update you on Rudy Giuliani. As we said before, the Republican candidate was hospitalized overnight. He had been campaigning in Missouri Wednesday and was on his plane heading back to New York when he started suffering flu-like symptoms. The decision was made to turn the plane around to get medical help. This morning, the Giuliani campaign said "after precautionary tests the doctors found nothing of concern at this time and Rudy will be going back to New York later today." So the news as far as we know is good. Meanwhile in Iowa, there are just two weeks left until the caucuses, and Illinois Senator Barack Obama holds a slim lead in many of the polls. The question is can he keep it? We're very happy to have the Senator joining us this morning from New Hampshire. Senator, good morning, thanks for being here.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): Thank you so much.
CUOMO: So one of the questions that pops up this morning, you have been a critic of Hillary Clinton for not having a definite stand on issues. Turns out that you voted "present" as opposed to "yes or no" over 100 times as a state legislature. One vote in particular I want to talk to you about. The bill was about trying juveniles as adults. You voted "present" instead of no. Were you playing politics?
OBAMA: No, as the newspaper points out, this was a standard practice in Illinois. You often times would strategically vote "present" because you were still negotiating a bill or because there was some element in the bill that was unconstitutional or had problems that needed to be tweaked. And there was a signal you would send to the sponsor of the bill that you were willing to work with them to try to make the bill better. But the fact is, is that I worked on tons of tough bills. I was a leader on very controversial stuff like reforming the death penalty or welfare reform in the state of Illinois. And as was noted in the article,I took leadership on many of the issues that were discussed.
CUOMO: We understand that more than 4,000 votes we're talking about,130 "present" votes. But let me ask you. When you put yourself out there as the agent of change, that you won't play politics as usual, and then the explanation for why you vote president, "present" is inside politics, is that sending a mixed message?
OBAMA: No, it wasn't inside politics, this was particular strategies in order to improve legislation that had an impact on my constituents. But, look, I understand we're in the last two weeks of a campaign and we're going to be spending time combing over everything from my kindergarten records to these "present" votes. But the fact is that on the critical issues, that often times have been controversial, I have been a leader, and that's what I think this election is going to be all about. People are absolutely convinced that now is a time for big change in how business is done in Washington because I think we've been communicating that change during the campaign, we're doing well in Iowa, and I think we'll be doing well elsewhere.
CUOMO: Now, both you and your main opponent at this point, Hillary Clinton are saying you're the proper agent for change. Hillary's husband, the former president, Bill Clinton, has been coming after you a little bit lately about whether or not supporting you is risky. Let's take a listen to what he had to say.
FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: It's less predictable, isn't it? I mean, when's the last time we elected a president based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?
CUOMO: That is just the opinion of one man. And our latest poll, ABC News/"Washington Post" poll, on the issue of experience, you still have a long way to go. Only nine percent of those polled say yes you have the experience for the job. Could it be that you are a promising candidate but just simply not ready?
OBAMA: Well, that's not what the poll says. What it says is they don't think I have the best experience. But I think we wouldn't be doing well if people weren't confident that I could lead this country. And the fact is, is that I've been in office longer than the two other candidates, that I've served in the United States Senate. The last time this argument was made, by the way, ironically, was it was levelled against Bill Clinton when he was running in '91/'92, and people were suggesting this is a governor of a small state, has no foreign policy experience, and he argued -- rightly at the time -- that the question was, did you have the experience rooted in the real lives of real people that could bring about real change? And I believe I have that experience. And increasingly the people in Iowa and the people in New Hampshire and across the country agree.
CUOMO: Let me ask you, now, John Edwards has been coming after you a little bit now. Obviously the Clinton campaign is bearing down on you. How is it different, going from being the hunter to the hunted, as a presumed front-runner?
OBAMA: Well, you know, it actually beats the alternative. You know, we're glad that we're doing well. You know, we've got terrific momentum on the ground in Iowa. We're seeing enormous crowds. I think people really want to see the kind of politics that can bring the country together that is pushing against the special interests, that is straight with the American people about the challenges we face, and they know that this election could be a defining moment for our politics and so whether it's on --
CUOMO: Let me ask you-
OBAMA: Please, go ahead.
CUOMO: I'm sorry Senator. Let me ask you, going to the same point. What do you think the bigger obstacle is for you in becoming president, the Clinton campaign machine or America's inherent racists, racism?
OBAMA: You know, I don't actually think race has played a significant role in this campaign. I have no doubt that there are people out there who might not be comfortable voting for me because of my race. But I think there are some people who are excited about the prospects of being able to help heal some of our past racial divisions. Overall, though, people are going to vote for me because they think I can deliver health care reform. They think I can bring well-paying jobs back to America. They believe that I can help repair our standing in the world and make us safer -- those will be the criteria by which people judge me and so far, so good.