Video: Obama on why the trip was worth it

NBC News and msnbc.com
updated 7/24/2008 4:44:01 PM ET 2008-07-24T20:44:01

Sen. Barack Obama called on European leaders Thursday to rejoin Washington in a focused campaign against the threat of terrorism, telling NBC News that the next president would have his work cut out to resolve “conflict and tension” that had built up during the Bush presidency.

“America needs Europe and Europe needs America,” Obama, D-Ill., the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, said in an interview with Brian Williams of “NBC Nightly News.” But he said that after eight years of President Bush’s leadership, Europe had adopted a view of the United States “as these cowboy operators on the world stage who don’t listen to anybody and who are the aggressors.”

Obama made a similar point in his address shortly thereafter to more than 100,000 people near the site of the former Berlin Wall, saying: “In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common.”

The interview was scheduled to air Thursday evening on “NBC Nightly News.”

Obama: Bush also to blame
Obama did not specify which European leaders he was referring to in his comments, which came four years after terrorist bombings killed 191 people and wounded nearly 1,800 more in Madrid, Spain, and three years after bombs killed 52 people and wounded more than 700 others on London’s mass transit system.

At the same time, he said Americans also had to slough off their false impressions of their European allies.

“Americans have a tendency to characterize Europeans as effete or unwilling to shoulder the necessary burdens for freedom when you’ve got a lot of coalition forces in Afghanistan who have taken serious losses,” Obama said.

“Hopefully, we can move beyond some of those stereotypes and recognize that we remain bound together by a set of values: a belief in freedom, democracy, markets, rule of law, human and civil rights,” Obama said. “That coalition of ideas and values is what’s necessary for us to solve transnational problems of the 21st century, like climate change, terrorism, genocide and poverty.”

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Obama acknowledged that his overseas trip was meant, in part, to show that he could be a tough-minded leader willing to make difficult decisions on foreign policy.

“What this trip has done is allowed me to talk about some of the critical issues that we face,” he said. “It’s also allowed me to send a message to the American people that the judgments I’ve made and the judgments I will make are ones that are going to result in them being safer.”

Obama ‘disappointed’ by McCain slam
In that vein, Obama rejected comments by his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who said in a speech Wednesday: “I had the courage and the judgment to say I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.”

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“I was disappointed by that language,” said Obama, who added that even though they disagreed on the war in Iraq and the need to send more troops to Afghanistan, “I’ve never questioned that he wants to make America safer.”

“For him to suggest that I don’t — for him to suggest that somehow I’m less concerned about the safety of my wife and daughter than he is — I think was unfortunate,” Obama said.

Asked about McCain’s assertion that time had proven him wrong on his opposition to Bush’s “surge” of new troops to Iraq, Obama agreed that “when you put 30,000 American troops in, of course it’s going to have an impact. There’s no doubt about that.”

But he refused to call the surge a success, insisting that it did not “solve our larger strategic questions.”

“Those 30,000 troops could have also been in Afghanistan during this time,” Obama said. “And we might have done a much better job of going after al-Qaida and the Taliban and stabilizing the situation there than we are right now.”

By Alex Johnson of msnbc.com.

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