Transcript: On the Trail With Barack Obama

And all I'm suggesting is that that's not what I think the country needs right now. I think we're at a unique time. The challenges we face are profound. Climate change is real and serious, and it's going to take a lot of work to solve. Overhauling our health care system is going to meet a lot of resistance from insurance companies, drug companies, from people who are accustomed to the status quo, even if they don't like it that much.

If we want to revamp our education system, that's going to require changing practices that date back to the agricultural age. And if we want to repair the damage that's been done around the world, we're going to have to initiate some diplomatic breakthroughs.

All of these things require, I think, a boldness that we haven't seen in a very long time, and the only way to get that boldness is to get a mandate from the American people. You can't finesse your way into taking these bold steps. You essentially have to say to the American people, "Here's what I'm going to do, and I'm banking that I can get a mandate from you to carry it out, because times are serious enough."

And so part of the debate taking place between myself and Senator Clinton and some of the other candidates really has to do with, what do you, American people, think is needed right now? If you think that we just need to tinker around the edges, if it's a matter of just sort, you know, muddling through and managing the status quo more effectively than George Bush has done, then I may not be the candidate who's the most obvious choice.

If, on the other hand, you think that we've got to do things fundamentally differently, and restore a sense of trust in our government, and have greater transparency, and that the American people have to be challenged a little bit more than they're being challenged right now, then I might be your guy.

MORAN: Policy. Iraq, there's no question at this point that there's been dramatic decreases in violence, just about across Iraq.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

MORAN: You still call for a withdrawal of combat troops. What would you say to somebody who says that is sacrificing, surrendering the progress that Americans have fought and died for?

OBAMA: Well, understand -- look, I am pleased with the reduction in deaths that have taken place. I intend to be the next president of the United States, and as such no one is rooting more than me for success in Iraq, so that I'm not inheriting this big mess. So I have no stock in failure in Iraq.

But here's the facts: 2007 was the highest -- had the highest death rate for U.S. troops of any year since this war began in Iraq. Same is true, by the way, in Afghanistan. We have reduced the levels of violence from the completely out of control, horrific levels that existed before the surge to the merely intolerable levels of violence that existed two years ago.

So we've essentially squared the block. We're back to where we started two years ago, except we've made no political progress. And my simple point is this, that the only way that we can secure a long-term stabilization of the country is if Iraqi leaders start arriving at some sort of political accommodation. They have not done so.

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