Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Transcript: Obama Press Conference on Jeremiah Wright

Read the full transcript:

OBAMA: 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 church.

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 walls.

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 outrage.

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 people.

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.

Obama Takes Lead in Senate Endorsements

Wasn't Hillary supposed to be very popular among her Senate colleagues:

Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) is now a more popular choice among his Democratic Senate colleagues than rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.).

Obama, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, received the backing of New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman on Monday, and now leads Clinton with 14 endorsements to 13. In addition, Bingaman is the latest in a string of committee chairmen to support the Illinois senator.

While only two of Clinton’s 13 backers chair Senate committees, eight of Obama’s supporters head a panel.

“To make progress, we must rise above the partisanship and the issues that divide us to find common ground. We must move the country in a dramatically new direction,” Bingaman stated. “I strongly believe Barack Obama is best positioned to lead the nation in that new direction.”

Obama is pledging a positive campaign despite the constant attacks from the Clinton mob:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, attempting to regain his momentum after losing the Pennsylvania primary, promised to shun negative campaigning as his race drags on against Hillary Clinton.

Obama, 46, an Illinois senator, began his drive for the nomination with a message of unity and the pledge that he wouldn't run a typical political campaign. Today, Obama said he realized his campaign had strayed in recent weeks.

``I told this to my team, you know, we are starting to sound like other folks, we are starting to run the same negative stuff,'' Obama told a crowd of about 5,000 in Wilmington, North Carolina. ``It shows that none of us are immune from this kind of politics. But the problem is that it doesn't help you.''

Obama and Clinton are campaigning in North Carolina today ahead of the state's May 6 primary. Indiana voters also go to the polls that day, and Obama said he expects to win both contests. While he continues to lead Clinton in delegates needed for the nomination, the next round of voting has taken on renewed importance since his April 22 loss to Clinton in Pennsylvania.

During the 1 1/2 hour town hall, Obama adopted a relaxed pose, shirt sleeves rolled up and a hand in one pocket for much of the time. He addressed concerns by some Democrats that the prolonged race would hurt the party in November, saying he had no doubt that the party would be united.

We need less negative campaigning more on the issues:
Differences With McCain

Both Obama and Clinton today emphasized their differences with presumed Republican nominee John McCain. Obama said he considers McCain, a former prisoner of war, a ``hero'' yet said, ``I differ with him profoundly when it comes to identifying what the country needs right now.''

Clinton criticized McCain and Obama as she proposed a windfall profits tax on oil companies to pay for a suspension of the federal tax on gasoline.

Clinton said the money from taxing oil-company profits ``would help to pay for what we need to do to continue to repair and modernize and rebuild our roads,'' while a moratorium on fuel-tax collections ``would give people during the peak driving months of the summer some temporary relief.''

She noted that Obama opposes suspending the 18.4 cents a gallon federal levy on gasoline and McCain, who proposed shelving the tax during the summer driving season, would use general revenue to replace money lost from the highway fund.

``That's a mistake,'' she said.

The economy, with the loss of a quarter-million jobs so far this year, has moved to the forefront of the presidential campaign as rising fuel costs add to pressure on consumers. The national average price of a gallon of gasoline is $3.60, up 66 cents since last year, and diesel prices average $4.24 a gallon, up from $2.92 a year ago, according to a survey by AAA.

Suspending fuel taxes would require congressional action before lawmakers take their summer recess, and previous attempts to pass a tax moratorium have failed.

McCain, 71, an Arizona senator, proposed in an April 15 economic speech a ``gas-tax holiday,'' from the May 26 Memorial Day holiday to Labor Day, which falls on Sept. 1. He also would lift the 24.4 cents a gallon tax on diesel fuel.

Obama says a fuel-tax moratorium would take money away from highway and bridge construction that the U.S. needs to spend while saving most people about $25 over the summer.

Economy in Crisis: Rice Shortages in the U.S.

While the press is talking about Rev.Wright America is experiencing unprecedented food shortages:

Reports of India and Thailand cutting exports of high-priced and fragrant gourmet rice have sent Asian families and restaurant owners in North Texas scurrying to buy what they can.

"When people see the prices, they say, 'Something is wrong,'" said Surinder Singh, owner of southwest Fort Worth's India Bazar, which specializes in South Asian and East European groceries. "Then they shop all around, even go to Arlington. When they come back, they're angry but they'll buy three 20-pound bags instead of their usual one."

Singh still has supplies, but they're getting tighter.

Costco and Sam's Club now allow a maximum of two to four institutional-size bags per customer, depending on supply.

On Saturday, Costco's Fort Worth store was sold out of both Indian basmati and Thai jasmine. And a Sam's nearby on Bryant Irvin Road has been out of basmati rice "for months," an employee said. Its Westworth store still had 20-pound bags at $15.42.

Richard Galanti, Costco's chief financial officer, said panic buying at his chain began about eight days ago in the San Francisco Bay area when a store manager limited sales to a single bag in response to a run on supplies. A local reporter who happened to be shopping wrote a story that got picked up around the region, then nationwide, spreading panic buying, he said.

For the week ending Sunday, Costco sold four times its typical volume of rice in that region, which includes Washington, Oregon, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii, Galanti told the Star-Telegram.

If that weren't bad enough, there's still the mortgage crisis:
The number of U.S. homes heading toward foreclosure more than doubled in the first quarter from a year earlier, as weakening property values and tighter lending left many homeowners powerless to prevent homes from being auctioned to the highest bidder, a research firm said Monday.

Among the hardest hit states were Nevada, Florida and, in particular, California, where Stockton led the nation with a foreclosure rate that was 6.6 times the national average, Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac Inc. said.

Nationwide, 649,917 homes received at least one foreclosure-related filing in the first three months of the year, up 112 percent from 306,722 during the same period last year, RealtyTrac said.

The latest tally also represents an increase of 23 percent from the fourth quarter of last year.

RealtyTrac monitors default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions.

All told, one in every 194 households received a foreclosure filing during the quarter. Foreclosure filings increased in all but four states.

The most recent quarter marked the seventh consecutive quarter of rising foreclosure activity, RealtyTrac noted.
[...]The surge in foreclosure filings also suggests that much-touted campaigns by lawmakers and the mortgage lending industry aimed at helping at-risk homeowners aren't paying off.

Hope Now, a Bush administration-organized mortgage industry group, said nearly 503,000 homeowners had received mortgage aid in the first quarter. Most of the aid was temporary, however.

Pennsylvania was a notable standout in the latest foreclosure data. The number of homes in the state to receive a foreclosure-related filing plunged 24.4 percent from a year earlier.

Sharga credited the decline to the state's foreclosure relief measures, noting that cities such as Philadelphia put in place a moratorium on all foreclosure auctions for April and implemented other measures aimed at helping slow foreclosures.

Wheat prices have doubled in only a few months:
Breaking the dollar barrier "scares me," said the Bronx-born owner of Bethesda Bagels. But with 100-pound bags of North Dakota flour now above $50 -- more than double what they were a few months ago -- he sees no alternative to a hefty increase in the price of his signature product, a bagel made by hand in the back of the store.

"I've never seen anything like this in 20 years," he said. "It's a nightmare."

What's a big part of the problem:
But underlying this food inflation are changes that are transforming U.S. agriculture and making a return to the long era of cheap wheat products doubtful at best.

Half a continent away, in the North Dakota country that grows the high-quality wheats used in Fleishman's bagels, many farmers are cutting back on growing wheat in favor of more profitable, less disease-prone corn and soybeans for ethanol refineries and Asian consumers.

"Wheat was king once," said David Braaten, whose Norwegian immigrant grandparents built their Kindred, N.D., farm around wheat a century ago. "Now I just don't want to grow it. It's not a consistent crop."

Shoved aside by other crops
In the 1980s, more than half the farm's acres were wheat. This year only one in 10 will be, and 40 percent will go to soybeans. Braaten and other farmers are considering investing in a $180 million plant to turn the beans into animal feed and cooking oil, both now in strong demand in China. And to stress his hopes for ethanol, his business card shows a sketch of a fuel pump.