Part 1: Obama Talks War on Terror, Iran and Pakistan in First-Ever Interview With O'Reilly

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This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," September 4, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Impact" segment tonight: our first conversation with Senator Barack Obama. It's been a long time coming, as you know. Thursday afternoon, I met with the senator in York, Pennsylvania.

Now, we're going to play you the first part of the interview right now, and the rest of it, which is fairly extensive and provocative, will be seen next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Roll the tape.

Click here to watch Part 1 of O'Reilly's first-ever interview with Obama.


O'REILLY: Well, first of all, thanks for being a man of your word.


O'REILLY: But I was worried there for awhile. It's been nine months since we last met in New Hampshire.

OBAMA: It took a little while. I've had a few things to do in between, but I appreciate you having me on the show.

O'REILLY: OK. Let's start with national security. Do you believe we're in the middle of a War on Terror?

OBAMA: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: Who's the enemy?

OBAMA: Al Qaeda, the Taliban, a whole host of networks that are bent on attacking America, who have a distorted ideology, who have perverted the faith of Islam, and so we have to go after them.

O'REILLY: Is Iran part of that component?

OBAMA: Iran is a major threat. Now, I don't think that there is a — the same — they are not part of the same network. You've got Shia, and you've got Sunni. We've got to have the ability to distinguish between these groups, because, for example, the war in Iraq is a good example, where I believe the administration lumped together Saddam Hussein, a terrible guy, with Al Qaeda, which had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein.

O'REILLY: We'll get to that.

OBAMA: And as a consequence, we ended up, I think, misdirecting our resources. So they're all part of various terrorist networks that we have to shut down and we have to destroy, but they may not all be part and parcel of the same ideology.

O'REILLY: But I still don't understand — and I'm asking this as an American as well as a journalist — how threatening you feel Iran is? Look, if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, OK, to me, they're going to give it to Hezbollah if they can develop the technology. Why not? And they'll say, "Well, we didn't have anything to do with it."

So therefore, the next president of the United States is going to have to make a decision about Iran, whether to stop them militarily, because I don't believe — if diplomacy works, fine, but you've got to have a Plan B, and a lot of people say, "Look, Barack Obama is not going to attack Iran."

OBAMA: Here's where you and I agree. It is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon. It would be a game changer, and I've said that repeatedly. I've also said I would never take a military option off the table.

O'REILLY: But would you prepare for one?

OBAMA: Well, listen...

O'REILLY: That's the question though, senator. Anybody can say option. Would you prepare for it?

OBAMA: Look, it is not appropriate for somebody who is one of two people who can be the president of the United States to start tipping their hand in terms of what their plans might be with respect to Iran. It's sufficient to say I would not take the military option off the table and that I will never hesitate to use our military force in order to protect the homeland and United States' interests.

But where I disagree with you is the notion that we've exhausted every other resource, because the fact of the matter is that, for six, seven years, during this administration, we weren't working as closely as we needed to do with the Europeans to create...

O'REILLY: Diplomacy might work. You might be able to sanction economically.

OBAMA: …sanctions.

O'REILLY: Maybe.

OBAMA: Maybe.

O'REILLY: But that's all hypothetical.

OBAMA: Everything is hypothetical, but the question is, are we trying to do what we need to do to ratchet up the pressure on them, to change their...

O'REILLY: OK. We'll assume you're going to ratchet everything you can ratchet. But I'm going to assume that Iran is going to say, "Blank you. We're going to do what we want." And I want a president, whether it's you or McCain, who says, "You ain't doing that."

All right. Let's go to Iraq. I think history will show it's the wrong battlefield, OK? And I think that you were perspicacious in your original assessment of the battlefield.

OBAMA: I appreciate that.

O'REILLY: I think you were desperately wrong on the surge, and I think you should admit it to the nation that now we have defeated the terrorists in Iraq, and the Al Qaeda came there after we invaded, as you know. We defeated them.

OBAMA: Right.

O'REILLY: If we didn't, they would have used it as a staging ground. We've also inhibited Iran from controlling the southern part of Iraq by the surge, which you did not support. So why won't you say, "I was right in the beginning. I was wrong about that"?

OBAMA: If you listen to what I've said, and I'll repeat it right here on this show, I think that there's no doubt that the violence is down. I believe that that is a testimony to the troops that were sent and General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated, by the way, including President Bush and the other supporters. It has gone very well, partly because of the Anbar situation and the Sunni awakening, partly because of the Shia military. Look...

O'REILLY: But if it were up to you, there wouldn't have been a surge.

OBAMA: Look...

O'REILLY: No, no, no, no.

OBAMA: No, no, no...

O'REILLY: If it were up to you, there wouldn't have been a surge.

OBAMA: No, no, no.

O'REILLY: You and Joe Biden, no surge.

OBAMA: Hold on a second, Bill. If you look at the debate that was taking place, we had gone through five years of mismanagement of this war that I thought was disastrous. And the president wanted to double down and continue on an open-ended policy that did not create the kinds of pressure on the Iraqis to take responsibility and reconcile.

O'REILLY: But it worked. It worked. Come on.

OBAMA: Bill, what I've said is — I've already said it succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

O'REILLY: Why can't you say, "I was right in the beginning, and I was wrong about the surge"?

OBAMA: Because there's an underlying problem where what have we done. We have reduced the violence.


OBAMA: But the Iraqis still haven't taken responsibility, and we still don't have the kind of political reconciliation. We are still spending, Bill, $10 to $12 billion a month.

O'REILLY: And I hope if you're president, you can get them to kick in and pay us back.

OBAMA: They've got $79 billion.

O'REILLY: I'll go with you.

OBAMA: Let's go.

O'REILLY: We'll get some of that money back.

All right. Let's go to Afghanistan. Look, there's no winning the Taliban war unless Pakistan cracks down on the guys that are in Pakistan.

OBAMA: You and I agree completely. Right.

O'REILLY: We all know that.

OBAMA: Right.

O'REILLY: You gave a speech in Denver — good speech, by the way.

OBAMA: Thank you.

O'REILLY: But you bloviated about McCain not following him to the cave. You're not going to invade Pakistan, senator, if you're president. You're not going to send ground troops in there. You know it.

OBAMA: Here's the problem. John McCain loves to say, "I would follow them to the gates of Hell."

O'REILLY: But he's not going to invade either.

OBAMA: And the point is what we could have done...

O'REILLY: No, not could. Let's stay in now.

OBAMA: What we can do...


OBAMA: stay focused on Afghanistan and put more pressure on the Pakistanis.

O'REILLY: Like what?

OBAMA: For example, we are providing them military aid without having enough strings attached. So they're using the military aid that we use to Pakistan, they're preparing for a war against India.

O'REILLY: So you're going to pull it out and let the Islamic fundamentalists take them over?

OBAMA: No, no, no, no. What we say is, look, we're going to provide them with additional military support targeted at terrorists, and we're going to help build their democracy and provide...

O'REILLY: We're doing that now. Negroponte's over there, and he's doing that.

OBAMA: That is not what we've been doing, Bill. We've wasted $10 billion with Musharraf without holding him accountable for knocking out those safe havens.

O'REILLY: So you are going to — again, more diplomacy, and we need it, absolutely, trying to convince the Pakistan government to take a more aggressive approach. If you don't, we're going to pull…

OBAMA: And what I will do is, if we have bin Laden in our sights...


OBAMA: ...we target him, and we knock him out.

O'REILLY: But everybody would do that. I mean, that would be the biggest win Bush could have.

OBAMA: Of course.

O'REILLY: If you send ground troops in, all hell breaks loose.

OBAMA: We can't — we can't have — and nobody talked about some full-blown invasion of Pakistan, but the simple point that I made was we've got to put more pressure on Pakistan to do what they need to do.


O'REILLY: All right. Again, the rest of the interview will be seen on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, and it is lively.

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