Transcript: George Stephanopoulos Interviews President Obama

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to some of those broader issues. Because you're also facing criticism on that. Sarah Palin, taking aim at your decision to restrict the use of nuclear weapons. Your pledge not to strike nations, non-nuclear nations, who abide by the nonproliferation treaty. Here's what she said. She said, "It's unbelievable, no other administration would do it." And then she likened it to kids on the playground. She said you're like a kid who says, "Punch me in the face, and I'm not going to retaliate." Your response?

OBAMA: I really have no response. Because last I checked, Sarah Palin's not much of an expert on nuclear issues.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the string of criticism has been out there among other Republicans as well. They think you're restricting use of nuclear weapons too much.

OBAMA: And what I would say to them is that if the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff are comfortable with it, I'm probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But not concerned about her criticisms?

OBAMA: No.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about President Medvedev. I'm going to see him tomorrow. You've spoken with him about 14 times negotiating this treaty. And it's been a struggle. If this was just two lawyers hammering out the details, what did you learn about him?

OBAMA: Well, he -- he is a -- he's a very deliberate, very methodical, very honest partner in negotiations, which I find very useful. He's somebody who says, "Here's what I can do, here's what I can't do." He, he showed flexibility in negotiations, that, you know, haven't always been the case in negotiations between the United States and Russia, where essentially you can just trade the talking points and not --

STEPHANOPOULOS: He -- really talked?

OBAMA: He actually talked, he actually listened. I think we've developed a good working relationship. And I, what he recognizes -- and is, I think, one of the central concerns of our whole approach -- is that, you know, although the United States and Russia remain by far the largest nuclear superpowers, that the issues of proliferation, the challenges of nuclear terrorism and asymmetric threats, loose nuclear materials, that these are all things that in this environment, probably pose a much greater danger to the safety and security of the American people, or for that matter, the Russian people, than, you know, particular payloads coming from historic adversaries like the United States and the former Soviet Union.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you convinced he's the man in charge in Russia?

OBAMA: You know, I will tell you, he has been able to consistently follow through on the commandments that he's made. You know, I think there's no doubt that he takes the counsel of Putin very seriously. I think that there's no doubt that, you know, Russia is a big, complicated country just like the United States is. And there are all sorts of different voices coming at him at any given time that he's got to take into account.

But what I've been impressed with is, is that from the time that we first met in London, a year ago to today, he has consistently been able to keep the commitments that he's made, and follow through on them, and -- and -- the treaty that we signed today is just one example of that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And it sounds like you may be now on the same page in dealing with Iran.

OBAMA: Uh-huh.

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