Wednesday, April 30, 2008

McCain Discusses Health Care - Transcript

April 29, 2008
McCain Discusses Health Care in Tampa
John McCain

Thank you. I appreciate the hospitality of the University of South
Florida, and this opportunity to meet with you at the Moffitt Cancer
Center and Research Institute. Speaker Moffitt, Dr. Dalton, Dean
Klasko, thank you for the invitation, and for your years of dedication
that have made this campus a center of hope for cancer victims
everywhere. It's good to see some other friends here, including your
board member and my friend and former colleague Connie Mack. And my
thanks especially to the physicians, administrators, and staff of this
wonderful place.

Sometimes in our political debates, America's health-care system is
criticized as if it were just one more thing to argue about. Those of
you involved in running a research center like this, or managing the
children's hospital that I visited yesterday in Miami, might grow a
little discouraged at times listening to campaigns debate health care.
But I know you never lose sight of the fact that you are each involved
in one of the great vocations, doing some of the greatest work there
is to be done in this world. Some of the patients you meet here are in
the worst hours of their lives, filled with fear and heartache. And
the confident presence of a doctor, the kind and skillful attentions
of a nurse, or the knowledge that researchers like you are on the
case, can be all they have to hold onto. That is a gift only you can
give, and you deserve our country's gratitude.

I've had a tour here this morning, and though I can't say I absorbed
every detail of the research I certainly understand that you are
making dramatic progress in the fight against cancer. With skill,
ingenuity, and perseverance, you are turning new technologies against
one of the oldest enemies of humanity. In the lives of cancer
patients, you are adding decades where once there were only years, and
years where once there were only months. You are closing in on the
enemy, in all its forms, and one day you and others like you are going
to save uncounted lives with a cure for cancer. In all of this, you
are showing the medical profession at its most heroic.

In any serious discussion of health care in our nation, this should
always be our starting point -- because the goal, after all, is to
make the best care available to everyone. We want a system of health
care in which everyone can afford and acquire the treatment and
preventative care they need, and the peace of mind that comes with
knowing they are covered. Health care in America should be affordable
by all, not just the wealthy. It should be available to all, and not
limited by where you work or how much you make. It should be fair to
all; providing help where the need is greatest, and protecting
Americans from corporate abuses. And for all the strengths of our
health-care system, we know that right now it falls short of this

Some 47 million individuals, nearly a quarter of them children, have
no health insurance at all. Roughly half of these families will
receive coverage again with a mother or father's next job, but that
doesn't help the other half who will remain uninsured. And it only
draws attention to the basic problem that at any given moment there
are tens of millions of Americans who lost their health insurance
because they lost or left a job.

Another group is known to statisticians as the chronically uninsured.
A better description would be that they have been locked out of our
health insurance system. Some were simply denied coverage, regardless
of need. Some were never offered coverage by their employer, or
couldn't afford it. Some make too little on the job to pay for
coverage, but too much to qualify for Medicaid or other public
programs. There are many different reasons for their situation. But
what they all have in common is that if they become ill, or if their
condition gets worse, they will be on their own -- something that no
one wants to see in this country.

Underlying the many things that trouble our health care system are the
fundamental problems of cost and access. Rising costs hurt those who
have insurance by making it more expensive to keep. They hurt those
who don't have insurance by making it even harder to obtain. Rising
health care costs hurt employers and the self-employed alike. And in
the end they threaten serious and lasting harm to the entire American

These rising costs are by no means always accompanied by better
quality in care or coverage. In many respects the system has remained
less reliable, less efficient, more disorganized and prone to error
even as it becomes more expensive. It has also become less
transparent, in ways we would find unacceptable in any other industry.
Most physicians groups and medical providers don't publish their
prices, leaving Americans to guess about the cost of care, or else to
find out later when they try to make sense of an endless series of
"Explanation of Benefits" forms.

There are those who are convinced that the solution is to move closer
to a nationalized health care system. They urge universal coverage,
with all the tax increases, new mandates, and government regulation
that come along with that idea. But in the end this will accomplish
one thing only. We will replace the inefficiency, irrationality, and
uncontrolled costs of the current system with the inefficiency,
irrationality, and uncontrolled costs of a government monopoly. We'll
have all the problems, and more, of private health care -- rigid
rules, long waits and lack of choices, and risk degrading its great
strengths and advantages including the innovation and life-saving
technology that make American medicine the most advanced in the world.

The key to real reform is to restore control over our health-care
system to the patients themselves. Right now, even those with access
to health care often have no assurance that it is appropriate care.
Too much of the system is built on getting paid just for providing
services, regardless of whether those services are necessary or
produce quality care and outcomes. American families should only pay
for getting the right care: care that is intended to improve and
safeguard their health.

When families are informed about medical choices, they are more
capable of making their own decisions, less likely to choose the most
expensive and often unnecessary options, and are more satisfied with
their choices. We took an important step in this direction with the
creation of Health Savings Accounts, tax-preferred accounts that are
used to pay insurance premiums and other health costs. These accounts
put the family in charge of what they pay for. And, as president, I
would seek to encourage and expand the benefits of these accounts to
more American families.

Americans need new choices beyond those offered in employment-based
coverage. Americans want a system built so that wherever you go and
wherever you work, your health plan is goes with you. And there is a
very straightforward way to achieve this.

Under current law, the federal government gives a tax benefit when
employers provide health-insurance coverage to American workers and
their families. This benefit doesn't cover the total cost of the
health plan, and in reality each worker and family absorbs the rest of
the cost in lower wages and diminished benefits. But it provides
essential support for insurance coverage. Many workers are perfectly
content with this arrangement, and under my reform plan they would be
able to keep that coverage. Their employer-provided health plans would
be largely untouched and unchanged.

But for every American who wanted it, another option would be
available: Every year, they would receive a tax credit directly, with
the same cash value of the credits for employees in big companies, in
a small business, or self-employed. You simply choose the insurance
provider that suits you best. By mail or online, you would then inform
the government of your selection. And the money to help pay for your
health care would be sent straight to that insurance provider. The
health plan you chose would be as good as any that an employer could
choose for you. It would be yours and your family's health-care plan,
and yours to keep.

The value of that credit -- 2,500 dollars for individuals, 5,000
dollars for families -- would also be enhanced by the greater
competition this reform would help create among insurance companies.
Millions of Americans would be making their own health-care choices
again. Insurance companies could no longer take your business for
granted, offering narrow plans with escalating costs. It would help
change the whole dynamic of the current system, putting individuals
and families back in charge, and forcing companies to respond with
better service at lower cost.

It would help extend the advantages of staying with doctors and
providers of your choice. When Americans speak of "our doctor," it
will mean something again, because they won't have to change from one
doctor or one network to the next every time they change employers.
They'll have a medical "home" again, dealing with doctors who know and
care about them.

These reforms will take time, and critics argue that when my proposed
tax credit becomes available it would encourage people to purchase
health insurance on the current individual market, while significant
weaknesses in the market remain. They worry that Americans with
pre-existing conditions could still be denied insurance. Congress took
the important step of providing some protection against the exclusion
of pre-existing conditions in the Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act in 1996. I supported that legislation, and nothing
in my reforms will change the fact that if you remain employed and
insured you will build protection against the cost of treating any
pre-existing condition.

Even so, those without prior group coverage and those with
pre-existing conditions do have the most difficulty on the individual
market, and we need to make sure they get the high-quality coverage
they need. I will work tirelessly to address the problem. But I won't
create another entitlement program that Washington will let get out of
control. Nor will I saddle states with another unfunded mandate. The
states have been very active in experimenting with ways to cover the
"uninsurables." The State of North Carolina, for example, has an
agreement with Blue Cross to act as insurer of "last resort." Over
thirty states have some form of "high-risk" pool, and over twenty
states have plans that limit premiums charged to people suffering an
illness and who have been denied insurance.

As President, I will meet with the governors to solicit their ideas
about a best practice model that states can follow -- a Guaranteed
Access Plan or GAP that would reflect the best experience of the
states. I will work with Congress, the governors, and industry to make
sure that it is funded adequately and has the right incentives to
reduce costs such as disease management, individual case management,
and health and wellness programs. These programs reach out to people
who are at risk for different diseases and chronic conditions and
provide them with nurse care managers to make sure they receive the
proper care and avoid unnecessary treatments and emergency room
visits. The details of a Guaranteed Access Plan will be worked out
with the collaboration and consent of the states. But, conceptually,
federal assistance could be provided to a nonprofit GAP that operated
under the direction of a board that i ncluded all stakeholders groups
-- legislators, insurers, business and medical community
representatives, and, most importantly, patients. The board would
contract with insurers to cover patients who have been denied
insurance and could join with other state plans to enlarge pools and
lower overhead costs. There would be reasonable limits on premiums,
and assistance would be available for Americans below a certain income

This cooperation among states in the purchase of insurance would also
be a crucial step in ridding the market of both needless and costly
regulations, and the dominance in the market of only a few insurance
companies. Right now, there is a different health insurance market for
every state. Each one has its own rules and restrictions, and often
guarantees inadequate competition among insurance companies. Often
these circumstances prevent the best companies, with the best plans
and lowest prices, from making their product available to any American
who wants it. We need to break down these barriers to competition,
innovation and excellence, with the goal of establishing a national
market to make the best practices and lowest prices available to every
person in every state.

Another source of needless cost and trouble in the health care system
comes from the trial bar. Every patient in America must have access to
legal remedies in cases of bad medical practice. But this vital
principle of law and medicine is not an invitation to endless,
frivolous lawsuits from trial lawyers who exploit both patients and
physicians alike. We must pass medical liability reform, and those
reforms should eliminate lawsuits directed at doctors who follow
clinical guidelines and adhere to patient safety protocols. If Senator
Obama and Senator Clinton are sincere in their conviction that health
care coverage and quality is their first priority, then they will put
the needs of patients before the demands of trial lawyers. They can't
have it both ways.

We also know from experience that coordinated care -- providers
collaborating to produce the best health outcome -- offers better
quality and can cost less. We should pay a single bill for
high-quality disease care, not an endless series of bills for
pre-surgical tests and visits, hospitalization and surgery, and
follow-up tests, drugs and office visits. Paying for coordinated care
means that every single provider is now united on being responsive to
the needs of a single person: the patient. Health information
technology will flourish because the market will demand it.

In the same way, clinics, hospitals, doctors, medical technology
producers, drug companies and every other provider of health care must
be accountable to their patients and their transactions transparent.
Americans should have access to information about the performance and
safety records of doctors and other health care providers and the
quality measures they use. Families, insurance companies, the
government -- whoever is paying the bill -- must understand exactly
what their care costs and the outcome they received.

Families also place a high value on quickly getting simple care, and
have shown a willingness to pay cash to get it. If walk-in clinics in
retail outlets are the most convenient, cost-effective way for
families to safely meet simple needs, then no policies of government
should stand in their way. And if the cheapest way to get high quality
care is to use advances in Web technology to allow a doctor to
practice across state lines, then let them.

As you know better than I do, the best treatment is early treatment.
The best care is preventative care. And by far the best prescription
for good health is to steer clear of high-risk behaviors. The most
obvious case of all is smoking cigarettes, which still accounts for so
much avoidable disease. People make their own choices in this country,
but we in government have responsibilities and choices of our own.
Most smokers would love to quit but find it hard to do so. We can
improve lives and reduce chronic disease through smoking cessation
programs. I will work with business and insurance companies to promote
the availability and use of these programs.

Smoking is just one cause of chronic diseases that could be avoided or
better managed, and the national resources that could be saved by a
greater emphasis on preventative care. Chronic conditions -- such as
cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma --
account for three-quarters of the nation's annual health-care bill. In
so many cases this suffering could be averted by early testing and
screening, as in the case of colon and breast cancers. Diabetes and
heart disease rates are also increasing today with rise of obesity in
the United States, even among children and teenagers. We need to
create a "next generation" of chronic disease prevention, early
intervention, new treatment models and public health infrastructure.
We need to use technology to share information on "best practices" in
health care so every physician is up-to-date. We need to adopt new
treatment programs and fi nancial incentives to adopt "health habits"
for those with the most common conditions such as diabetes and obesity
that will improve their quality of life and reduce the costs of their

Watch your diet, walk thirty or so minutes a day, and take a few other
simple precautions, and you won't have to worry about these
afflictions. But many of us never quite get around to it, and the
wake-up call doesn't come until the ambulance arrives or we're facing
a tough diagnosis.

We can make tremendous improvements in the cost of treating chronic
disease by using modern information technology to collect information
on the practice patterns, costs and effectiveness of physicians. By
simply documenting and disseminating information on best practices we
can eliminate those costly practices that don't yield corresponding
value. By reforming payment systems to focus on payments for best
practice and quality outcomes, we will accelerate this important

Government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid should lead the way
in health care reforms that improve quality and lower costs. Medicare
reimbursement now rewards institutions and clinicians who provide more
and more complex services. We need to change the way providers are
paid to focus their attention more on chronic disease and managing
their treatment. This is the most important care for an aging

There have been a variety of state-based experiments such as Cash and
Counseling or The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
that are different from the inflexible approaches for delivering care
to people in the home setting. Seniors are given a monthly allowance
that they can use to hire workers and purchase care-related services
and goods. They can get help managing their care by designating
representatives, such as relatives or friends, to help make decisions.
It also offers counseling and bookkeeping services to assist consumers
in handling their programmatic responsibilities.

In these approaches, participants were much more likely to have their
needs met and be satisfied with their care. Moreover, any concerns
about consumers' safety appear misplaced. For every age group in every
state, participants were no more likely to suffer care-related health

Government can provide leadership to solve problems, of course. So
often it comes down to personal responsibility -- the duty of every
adult in America to look after themselves and to safeguard the gift of
life. But wise government policy can make preventative care the
standard. It can put the best practices of preventative care in action
all across our health-care system. Over time that one standard alone,
consistently applied in every doctor's office, hospital, and insurance
company in America, will save more lives than we could ever count. And
every year, it will save many billions of dollars in the health-care
economy, making medical care better and medical coverage more
affordable for every citizen in this country.

Good health is incentive enough to live well and avoid risks, as we're
all reminded now and then when good health is lost. But if anyone ever
requires further motivation, they need only visit a place like the
Moffitt Center, where all the brilliance and resourcefulness of
humanity are focused on the task of saving lives and relieving
suffering. You're an inspiration, and not only to your patients.
You're a reminder of all that's good in American health care, and we
need that reminder sometimes in Washington. I thank you for your kind
attention this morning, I thank you for the heroic work you have done
here, and I wish you success in the even greater work that lies ahead.


Obama Responds to Rev. Wright Controversy

Obama's Press Conference on Wright
Barack Obama

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

April 29, 2008

OBAMA: I have spent my entire adult life trying to bridge the gap
between different kinds of people. That's in my DNA. Trying to promote
mutual understanding, to insist that we all share common hopes, and
common dreams, as Americans and as human beings. That's who I am,
that's what I believe, that's what this campaign has been about.

Yesterday we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by
the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we
saw yesterday. I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ
since 1992. I've known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person
that I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His
comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that
they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe
that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black

They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if
Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it,
then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday,
well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.

Now, I've already denounced the comments that had appeared in these
previous sermons. As I said, I had not heard them before. And I gave
him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining
that he has done enormous good in the church. He has built a wonderful
congregation. The people of Trinity are wonderful people, and what
attracted me has always been their ministries reach beyond the church

But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as
the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS, when he suggests
that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices
of the 20th and 21st centuries, when he equates the United States
wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses.

They offend me. The rightly offend all Americans. And they should be
denounced. And that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally
here today.

Let me just close by saying this. We started this campaign with the
idea that the problems that we face as a country are too great to
continue to be divided, that in fact all across America people are
hungry to get out of the old, divisive politics of the past.

I have spoken and written about the need for us to all recognize each
other as Americans, regardless of race or religion or region of the
country, that the only way we can deal with critical issues like
energy and health care and education and the war on terrorism is if we
are joined together.

And the reason our campaign has been so successful is because we have
moved beyond these old arguments.

What we saw yesterday out of Reverend Wright was a resurfacing and, I
believe, an exploitation of those old divisions. Whatever his
intentions, that was the result. It is antithetical to our campaign.
It is antithetical to what I am about. It is not what I think America
stands for.

And I want to be very clear that, moving forward, Reverend Wright does
not speak for me. He does not speak for our campaign. I cannot prevent
him from continuing to make these outrageous remarks, but what I do
want him to be very clear about, as well as all of you and the
American people, is that when I say that I find these comments
appalling, I mean it.

It contradicts everything that I am about and who I am. And anybody
who has worked with me, who knows my life, who has read my books, who
has seen what this campaign is about, I think, will understand that it
is completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take
this country.

Last point. I'm particularly distressed that this has caused such a
distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the
American people. Their situation is getting worse. And this campaign
has never been about me. It's never been about Senator Clinton or John
McCain. It's not about Reverend Wright.

People want some help in stabilizing their lives and securing a better
future for themselves and their children. And that's what we should be
talking about.

And the fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was
appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in
the midst of this major debate is something that not only makes me
angry, but also saddens me.

So with that, let me take some questions.

QUESTION: Why the change of tone from yesterday? When you spoke to us
on the tarmac yesterday, you didn't have this sense of anger and

OBAMA: Yes, I'll be honest with you -- because I hadn't seen it yet.

QUESTION: And that was the difference you...


QUESTION: You heard the reports about the AIDS comments.

OBAMA: I had not. I had not seen the transcript. What I had heard was
he had given a performance, and I thought at the time that it would be
sufficient simply to reiterate what I had said in Philadelphia.

Upon watching it, what became clear to me was that it was more than
just him defending himself. What became clear to me was that he was
presenting a worldview that contradicts who I am and what I stand for.

And what I think particularly angered me was his suggestion somehow
that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political
posturing. Anybody who knows me and knows what I am about knows that I
am about trying to bridge gaps and that I see the commonality in all

And so when I start hearing comments about conspiracy theories and
AIDS and suggestions that somehow Minister Farrakhan has been a great
voice in the 20th century, then that goes directly at who I am and
what I believe this country needs.

QUESTION: Senator, what do you plan to do about this right now to
further distance (inaudible) and the need to do that? And what does
this say about your judgment of super delegates, who are right now
trying to decide which Democratic nominee is better? Your candidacy
has been based on judgment. What does this say about...?

OBAMA: Well, as I said before, the person I saw yesterday was not the
person that I have come to know over 20 years. I understand that I
think he was pained and angered from what had happened previously
during the first stage of this controversy.

I think he felt vilified and attacked, and I understand that he wanted
to defend himself. I understand that he's gone through difficult times
of late and that he's leaving his ministry after many years. And so
that may account for the change.

But the insensitivity and the outrageousness of his statements and his
performance in the question and answer period yesterday, I think,
shocked me. It surprised me.

As I said before, this is an individual who's built a very fine
church, and a church that is well respected throughout Chicago. During
the course of me attending that church, I had not heard those kinds of
statements being made or those kinds of views being promoted.

And I did not vet my pastor before I decided to run for the
presidency. I was a member of the church. So what I think it says is
that I did not run my pastor through the paces or review every one of
the sermons that he had made over the last 30 years. But I don't think
that anybody could attribute those ideas to me.

QUESTION: What effect do you think this is going to have on your campaign?

OBAMA: That's something that you guys will have to figure out.
Obviously, we've got elections in four or five days, so we'll find out
what effect it has.

But ultimately, I think that the American people know that we have to
do better than we're doing right now. I think that they believe in the
ideas of this campaign. I think they are convinced that special
interests have dominated Washington too long. I think they are
convinced that we've got to get beyond some of the same political
games that we've been playing.

I think that they believe that we need to speak honestly and
truthfully about how we're going to solve issues like energy or health
care. And I believe that this campaign has inspired a lot of people.

And that's part of what -- going back to what you asked, Mike, about
why I feel so strongly about this today -- after seeing Reverend
Wright's performance, I felt as if there was a complete disregard for
what the American people are going through and the need for them to
rally together to solve these problems.

Now is the time for us not to get distracted. Now is the time for us
to pull together. And that's what we've been doing in this came. And
there was a sense that that did not matter to Reverend Wright. What
mattered was him commanding center stage.

QUESTION: Have you had a conversation with Reverend Wright lately?


QUESTION: What's going to happen with these distractions that have taken you...?

OBAMA: Well, I want to use this press conference to make people
absolutely clear that, obviously, whatever relationship I had with
Reverend Wright has changed, as a consequence of this.

I don't think that he showed much concern for me. More importantly, I
don't think he showed much concern for what we are trying to do in
this campaign and what we're trying to do for the American people and
with the American people.

And, obviously, he's free to speak out on issues that are of concern
to him, and he can do it in any ways that he wants. But I feel very
strongly that I want to make absolutely clear that I do not subscribe
to the views that he expressed. I believe they are wrong. I think they
are destructive. And to the extent that he continues to speak out, I
do not expect those views to be attributed to me.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

OBAMA: Well, the new pastor, the young pastor, Reverend Otis Moss, is
a wonderful young pastor. And as I've said, I still very much value
the Trinity community. I'll be honest. This has obviously put strains
on that relationship, not because of the members or because of
Reverend Moss, but because this has become such a spectacle.

And when I go to church, it's not for spectacle. It's to pray and to
find a stronger sense of faith. It's not to posture politically. It's
not to hear things that violate my core beliefs. And I certainly don't
want to provide a distraction for those who are worshiping at Trinity.

So as of this point, I am a member of Trinity. I haven't had a
discussion with Reverend Moss about it, so I can't tell you how he's
reacting and how he's responding.

QUESTION: Senator, I'm wondering -- sort of following on Jeff's
question about why it's so different now -- have you heard from some
of your supporters. You have some, obviously, supporters who expressed
any alarm about what this kind of thing is doing to the campaign?

OBAMA: I don't think that it's that hard to figure out from if it was
just a purely political perspective. My reaction has more to do with
what I want this campaign to be about and who I am. And I want to make
certain that people understand who I am.

In some ways what Reverend Wright said yesterday directly contradicts
everything that I've done during my life. It contradicts how I was
raised and the setting in which I was raised.

It contradicts my decisions to pursue a career of public service. It
contradicts the issues that I've worked on politically. It contradicts
what I've said in my books.

It contradicts what I said in my convention speech in 2004. It
contradicts my announcement. It contradicts everything that I've been
saying on this campaign trail.

And what I tried to do in Philadelphia was to provide a context and to
lift up some of the contradictions and complexities of race in
America, of which Reverend Wright is a part and we're all a part, and
try to make something constructive out of it.

But there wasn't anything constructive out of yesterday. All there was
was a bunch of rants that aren't grounded in truth. And I can't
construct something positive out of that.

I can understand it. People do all sorts of things. And as I said
before, I continue to believe that Reverend Wright has been a leader
in the Southside. I think that the church he built is outstanding. I
think that he has preached in the past some wonderful sermons. He
provided valuable contributions to my family.

But at a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you
believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you
believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that's enough.
That's a show of disrespect to me. It is also, I think, an insult to
what we've been trying to do in this campaign.

QUESTION: Senator, did you discuss with your wife after having seen
Reverend Wright's performance in what was...?

OBAMA: Yes, she was similarly angered.

QUESTION: Reverend Wright said it was not an attack on him, but an
attack on the black church. First of all, do you agree with that? And
second of all, the strain of theology that he preached -- black
liberation theology -- explain something about the anger that seems to
be some of the sentiments in the church in (inaudible). How important
a strain, then, is liberation theology in the black church? And why
did you choose to enter the church then?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, in terms of liberation theology, I am not a
theologian. So I think to some theologians there might be some well
worked out theory of what constitutes liberation theology versus
non-liberation theology.

I went to church and listened to sermons. And in the sermons that I
heard -- and this is true, I do think, across the board in many black
churches -- there is an emphasis on the importance of social struggle,
the importance of striving for equality and justice and fairness, a
social gospel.

So I think a lot of people, rather than using a fancy word like that,
simply talk about preaching the social gospel. And there's nothing
particularly odd about that. Dr. King, obviously, was the most
prominent example of that kind of preaching.

But what I do think can happen -- and I didn't see this as a member of
the church, but I saw it yesterday -- is when you start focusing so
much on the plight of the historically oppressed that you lose sight
of what we have in common, that it overrides everything else, that
we're not concerned about the struggles of others, because we're
looking at things only through a particular lens, then it doesn't
describe properly what I believe in the power of faith to overcome,
but also to bring people together.

Now, you had a first question, Joe, that I don't remember.

I did not view the initial round of sound bytes that triggered this
controversy as an attack on the black church. I viewed it as a
simplification of who he was, a caricature of who he was, and more any
thing, something that piqued a lot of political interest.

I didn't see it as an attack on the black church. And probably the
only aspect of it that probably had to do with specifically the black
church is the fact that some people were surprised when he was

That is just a black church tradition, and so I think some people
interpreted that somehow as, wow, he's really hollering, and black
preachers holler and whoop. And so that, I think, showed sort of a
cultural gap in America.

The sad thing is that although the sound bytes that, as I stated,
created a caricature of him, and when he was in that Moyers interview,
even though there were some things that continued to be offensive, at
least there was some sense of rounding out the edges, yesterday I
think he caricatured himself. And as I said, that made me angry, but
also made me saddened.

QUESTION: Previously, you talked about giving him the benefit of the
doubt for -- especially, I guess, in the Philadelphia speech -- for
trying to create something positive about that. Did you consult him
before the speech or talk to him after the speech in Philadelphia to
get his reaction or his input?

OBAMA: I tried to talk to him before the speech in Philadelphia,
wasn't able to reach him because he was on a cruise. He had just
stepped down from the pulpit. When he got back, I did speak to him. I
prefer not to share sort of private conversations between me and him.
I will talk to him, perhaps, someday in the future.

But what I can say is I was very clear that what he had said in those
particular snippets I found objectionable and offensive and that the
intention of the speech was to provide context for them, but not to
excuse them, because I found them inexcusable.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Sunday, you were asked whether to respond to
(inaudible) saying that Bill Clinton had (inaudible). Is the decision
(inaudible) irreparable damage? Is this relationship with Reverend
Wright irreparable damage, do you think?

OBAMA: There has been great damage. It may have been unintentional on
his part, but I do not see that relationship being the same after

Now, to some degree, I know that one thing that he said was true, that
he was never my, quote/quote, "spiritual advisor." He was never my
spiritual mentor. He was my pastor. And to some extent how the press
characterized in the past that relationship, I think, was inaccurate.

But he was somebody who was my pastor, and he married Michelle and I,
and baptized my children, and prayed with us when we announced this
race, and so I'm disappointed.

Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.
Barack Obama is a Democratic Senator from Illinois and a candidate for
the Democratic presidential nomination.