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What are the weaknesses of Obama and McCain?

The Real News Network’s Senior Editor Paul Jay pursues his discussion with talk show host Sam Greenfield at the “New Media Seminar” in New York City. They delve into the issue of religious affiliation and its impact on the respective campaigns of this year’s presidential hopefuls. At stake are questions of faith and patriotism on the campaign trail.


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Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Thank you for joining us for the next part of our interview with Sam Greenfield of WVNJ, who broadcasts a talk radio show in the New York area. Sam, we’re talking about Obama.


JAY: And I’m challenging you that over the course of this election campaign, do progressive Democrats keep making excuses for Barack, that he has to say things for tactical reasons, or McCain’s so much worse we can’t say anything against Barack?

GREENFIELD: It’s just too early for me to give a critique. He’s just been, you know, anointed. So right now he’s doing what he has to do to lay groundwork. Later on in the campaign, we’ll see. But no, I won’t be silent.

JAY: Talk about the weaknesses of McCain and the weaknesses of Obama in this coming election.

GREENFIELD: One of the weaknesses of McCain—and this, frankly, surprises me, and I mean that—is the comments about his age. Bob Dole ran when he was 68 or 69. Reagan ran when he was 69 or 70. This guy’s 72. Now, granted, he spent five years in hell, and, you know, to the point I’m thinking [inaudible] that raises arms about, you know, and all that, but I’ve never seen them make fun of a guy’s age like this. You know, I think it was Stephen Colbert who said, "You know, at the signing of the Declaration, and if you look closely, you’ll see McCain’s signature." That kind of thing. He’s got that working against him. He’s got the Bush hangover, which he cannot escape.

JAY: Bush ran in 2000 as the compassionate conservative. And McCain’s trying to re-brand himself—.

GREENFIELD: Wasn’t that hysterical? Seriously.

JAY: In retrospective hysterical? It was pretty funny at the time.

GREENFIELD: He meant compassionate for conservatives. That’s the part people missed.

JAY: And McCain’s trying to brand himself now as the rational conservative, not bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.

GREENFIELD: I’m sorry. That’s—.

JAY: But he’s surrounding himself with people like James Woolsey, Randy Scheunemann, the guys that reorganized something called the Committee on the Present Danger, which is the latest formation of the hardcore neocons.

GREENFIELD: It reminds me of Syriana—the Committee to Liberate Iran. CLI.

JAY: Which is real.

GREENFIELD: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

JAY: Scheunemann’s the one that created the Committee for a Free Iraq.

GREENFIELD: Absolutely. Yes.

JAY: What do you think of the way the media is covering McCain?

GREENFIELD: I think the media does a shameful job. You mean mainstream media? It does a shameful job of covering these people. "I’m a maverick," says McCain. He’s voted with Bush 95 percent of the time. He has a volcanic temper. They don’t talk about the fact that he dumped his first wife to marry a billionaire’s daughter. They don’t talk about the fact he was reluctant to release his medical records. And here’s the thing they’ll never talk about because it’s a minefield for the Democrats, a minefield: John McCain never served in Vietnam. John McCain was a pilot, got shot down, and did five years in a jail. He was never on the ground. He never engaged in strategy. So he doesn’t know what it means to fight in that war. Hegel does, Chuck Hegel. Jim Webb does. Both these guys are against the war. But you can’t say it, because, "How dare you impugn—." And I do think he’s a hero. He could have been released early and he chose not to be. That was very courageous. But he knows nothing about fighting this war or any war.

JAY: If you go to the Obama weaknesses, what do you find?

GREENFIELD: I think that the Obama weaknesses right now are he’s trying to please too many people. I don’t admire the positions he took, but I really admire a guy—.

JAY: So if you think Obama is shifting positions—.

GREENFIELD: I think he’s a politician.

JAY: I mean, the Kyl-Lieberman amendment’s a pretty good example. His AIPAC speech goes against this.

GREENFIELD: No, it’s the perfect example. And I think you’re going to see more of that as time goes on. But—and I’m not making any excuses for him—when you’re speaking in South Florida, you wear a yarmulke. When you’re speaking in Detroit, you wear a union jacket.

JAY: But is there any reason to think that Obama isn’t sincere and in fact believes exactly what he’s saying? In other words, does he not believe in a fundamentally traditional, conservative American foreign policy, if one describes Bush as a radical conservative?

GREENFIELD: I think that what Obama believes is that there are people in this world who want to kill us. He believes that. But the mistake he doesn’t make is the mistake that the Republicans have made since 1950. They made it, first, there’s worldwide communism, as if Albania had any commonality with China. Now you have worldwide terrorism, as if the Islamic jihad and Hezbollah have meetings. And they don’t.

JAY: But this same politics is very much in the Democratic Party as well—not the whole party, but there’s a section or group in the party. And James Woolsey was a Democrat; he was not a Republican.

GREENFIELD: Well, so was Reagan until he met Nancy.

JAY: And who is Lieberman?

GREENFIELD: Lieberman to me is the Roy Cohen of this century. This is his attitude: as long as Israel is safe, okay, I will bomb a children’s park in Tehran. As long as Israel—. And the fact that a man of his age doesn’t understand that in order to keep Israel safe, you have to negotiate with the people around them, since it’s the size of a postage stamp—.

JAY: Which many people in Israel believe. We only hear the position of the hard right in Israel.

GREENFIELD: No, no, no. The majority believe that. I was in Israel. The majority believe that. They absolutely do. You can’t ignore. You know, it’s like ignoring Cuba. It’s like if you want the Cubans to overthrow Castro, give them Internet. You know, send jeans. You know, Russia fell because people got tired of waiting in line two and a half hours for toilet paper. I mean, you know, it’s much more basic than we think. But in terms of the Middle East and in terms of negotiating, Israel will be safest when you give air, breathing air, to the other side’s opinions, because if they make any sense, they should be listened to, and if they’re ridiculous, they should be ignored.

JAY: So what do you think?

GREENFIELD: I said in my Jewish-uncle pose. Yes.

JAY: Is this going to be a close election? Or is this going to be a Democratic wave?

GREENFIELD: No, I think it’s going to be a rout. All the Democrats need is one picture, photograph of John McCain stumbling, one picture of John McCain holding his hip, one picture, and you’ve got the 46-year-old guy against the 72-year-old guy. And I think in the debates, McCain could leap across the aisle and go for him—he’s got a horrible temper. I saw him last week. They were asking him about that Phil Graham lobbying thing, and he said, "He’s not a lobbyist. Next question." You can’t do that on the campaign trail.

JAY: Thank you for joining us.

GREENFIELD: Thank you. It was my pleasure.

JAY: And thank you for joining us, and hopefully we will talk with Sam Greenfield off and on over the course of the election and see if his predictions turn out to be true.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.