Barack Obama Sits Down With Newscenter 11

By: Chris Brennaman Email
By: Chris Brennaman Email

Historically, Mississippi has not been a factor in determining the Democratic Presidential candidate. How do you now appeal to those voters that may think that their vote doesn't count?

If they've been following this race at all, they know it counts. We've got a historic and very close race in the Democratic primary. I come into Mississippi with a sizable lead in delegates and states and popular vote, but I'm also running against a very tenacious candidate in Senator Clinton. We want to make sure that everyone understands that Mississippi's vote, this time, will count. If anybody has any questions in terms of where they need to vote, where they go to vote, they can get on our website,, we can give them the information that they need. I think it's very important for everybody to turn out on this one.

Is it hard to not look past a small state like Mississippi, with only 33 delegates?

No, because every delegate counts at this point. We just came from Wyoming where there were only 12 in the state, but myself, Senator Clinton, President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton were all there, because I think that people recognize that every delegate is going to make a big difference in this election. More importantly, I hope that the people in Mississippi understand that so many of the issues that we talk about all the time here in Mississippi -- lack of health care, education system that is not working for too many children, lack of good jobs that pay a living wage -- all those issues are affected by what happens in Washington. If we have special interests and lobbyists and fat cats who are making the decisions in Washington, then we are not going to be able to change those things. Part of what this campaign has been about is saying that we can create a new excitement, get the American people involved. I don't take money from federal registered lobbyists, which means I am going to be accountable to ordinary people and we can start attacking these problems in a serious way.

It's been about 2-and-a-half years since Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of this state and there are still people that are struggling to recover from that. As president, what can you do to help these people.

I want to have somebody who is reporting directly to me that is overseeing reconstruction in the Gulf. I think it is critical that we get the money into the hands of the people who need it. We've allocated a lot of money and not all of it has actually gone to reconstructing homes, reconstructing businesses. I think it is important to continue with the Go Zone that provides tax breaks that are needed for those companies to want to relocate here. We have to improve the system of barriers, both man-made and natural, that will prevent the kinds of catastrophic storm effects that we saw out of Hurricane Katrina. All these things are going to be important, but understand that there are a lot of problems that existed here in Mississippi -- lack of affordable health care, lack of educational quality -- that preceded the storms. If we don't take care of those issues, then Mississippi is going to continue to struggle.

You said in Wyoming that, if elected, you will bring the war to an end in 2009. What is your plan to do that?

I, upon taking office, will immediately call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We will come up with a plan to start executing a phased withdrawal. We can probably do it safely, carefully, honorably at a pace of about one to two brigades per month. That means that it will take at least a year to get our combat troops out. It's important for us to have the diplomacy inside of Iraq and the region as well as the humanitarian assistance and the training of police forces inside of Iraq to ensure that there is some sort of stabilization there.

At an event with Bill Clinton Saturday in Meridian, John Grisham said that he would like to support your run for president -- in about 8 years, when you have more experience. How do you address that?

I love John Grisham's books, but if you really look at the issues that matter to the American people, especially on foreign policy, I'd argue that my judgment has been far superior to Senator Clinton's on issues ranging from Iraq to what we do with the terrorists who are in Pakistan and the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan to how we deal with Iran and our willingness to talk to leaders that we don't like. Senator Clinton, like Senator McCain, has been caught up in some conventional wisdom in Washington that has not served the American people well and has not made us safer. It is the need for a different kind of judgment that led me run in this race in the first place.

Illegal immigration is a worry for a lot of people in Mississippi as the Hispanic population grows. If access to the United States is not controlled through Mexico, is there a concern that this could be an opening for terrorists?

I think that the American government has an obligation to have strong border security. That's part of what it means to be a sovereign nation is knowing who comes in and who leaves the country. We need to have better surveillance and better patrols on the borders. I have consistently supported significant additional increases in funding for those purposes. We have to crack down on employers who are hiring undocumented workers purposely to avoid paying U.S. workers a decent wage and decent benefits. If we do those two things, then I think we also have to realize that there are also 12 million undocumented workers here in the United States. Many of them have put down roots, many of them have children who are U.S. citizens. We are not going to send them back. Realistically it would cost us billions of dollars, we would have to allocate all of our law enforcement resources to it. What we need to do is get them out of the shadows -- require them to register, require them to pay a fine, require them to pay back taxes and learn English, require them to get at the back of the line so that they can't get citizenship before those that came here legally, but give them a pathway to legalization so that we at least know who these people are and that's an important security measure as well.

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