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Obama Calls for U.S. Military to Renew Focus on Afghanistan

In an interview with the NewsHour's Gwen Ifill, Sen. Barack Obama calls for the U.S. to dramatically scale down in military effort in Iraq and, instead, focus more forces on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And next, to our Newsmaker interview with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Gwen Ifill talked to him in Washington earlier today.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Senator Obama, welcome.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: Thank you so much.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Today we hear that General Motors is restructuring; Fannie and Freddie Mae are the subject of a rescue attempt by the government; inflation worries are up again. Would you do what this president has done if you were president to try to set this economy right?

  • SEN. BARACK OBAMA:

    Well, first of all, this has been a problem eight years in the making. And so absolutely not; I would not do what George Bush has done.

    He has neglected efforts to deal with an ongoing energy problem, hasn't been serious about creating greater energy efficiency, hasn't been serious about increasing fuel efficiency standards on cars that would have made our automakers more efficient, has not been serious about investing in solar, and wind, and biodiesel, and restructuring how we build our buildings or developing high-speed rail.

    So there are a host of things we could have done just in the energy sector. He has not been serious about restructuring our financial regulatory infrastructure and architecture to ensure that we didn't have some of the problems in the subprime housing market.

    Many of these we anticipated. We could see it two years, three years, four years ago, and yet there was not any serious action on the part of this administration.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    What would you do if you were president today?

  • SEN. BARACK OBAMA:

    Well, at this point, I was happy to hear that the president embraced the need to get this housing bill done. And I think we've got enough bipartisan support at this point that that's a good start, the Dodd-Frank bill that would allow borrowers and lenders to negotiate to stabilize homes before people get into deep water and go into foreclosure.

    You know, we've got 7,000 people who are being foreclosed on every single day. Every day that passes, that's 7,000 more families that may end up not having a home and communities that find themselves deteriorating. And the hardship in the communities are enormous.

    And so getting that done right away is important. Not only does that provide some relief to the American people and homeowners, but it also will help give a little more confidence to the housing market.

    I think it is important, with respect to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, that we ensure there's continued liquidity in the housing market, but that we're not devoting huge sums of money to bailing out shareholders or CEOs.

    I mean, I think that there's got to be some recognition that you can't have those institutions with all upside, but no downside, at least for the investors.

    But we do have to make sure that we have a stable housing market. That, I think, will help a lot in the short term.

    I also think it's time for us to initiate what I've called for, a second round of stimulus. I want to see energy rebates that are going out, several hundred dollars per family, that would allow people to absorb the rising costs short term of gas, potentially home heating oil, once the winter hits, rising food costs. All those things, I think, would be important short term.

    And then, long term, we've got a lot of work to do around a serious energy policy, around changing our tax code so that we're rewarding work and not just wealth. I want to provide a middle-class tax cut of $1,000 per family per year. I think it's going to be important for us to fix the health care system, which is a drain on a lot of family's budgets.

    So we're going to have a lot of long-term structural work that has to be done. Short term, we've got to get some money into the American people's pockets to deal with these rising costs and really strengthen the housing market.

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