Obama: Financial Crisis May Slow Agenda

ABC News Radio White House Correspondent Ann Compton interviews Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama on the eve of the 2008 election:

ANN COMPTON: Senator, thank you. Twenty-one months -- two years -- is there a moment in that time when you suddenly looked up and said this is going to happen?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Uh, maybe tomorrow at around 12 o'clock at night. You know, obviously there were moments like the Iowa caucus night where we said to ourselves -- we couldn't win this thing. But, I think that one of the strengths of our campaign is that we've always been very methodical about just looking at the thing right in front of us, and not get too far ahead of ourselves.

COMPTON: If you are elected, you've made a lot of campaign promises; you can't keep most of those. Maybe not even if you had a rubber stamp Democratic Congress. Can you?

OBAMA: Well, I think that we are not going to get everything done all at once, because of this financial crisis that's going to require a lot of attention, a lot of resources.

Not just money, but staff time thinking about how do we right the ship. And so, it means that some priorities may get deferred, but the core commitments that I've made in this campaign -- changing the tax code so that middle-class families are getting more of a break, initiating the kind of investment in clean energy that we have to have to deal not only with the economy and climate change and our national security, making sure that our health care system is controlling costs and providing better care for people, improving our education system -- those four domestic items will get done.

COMPTON: The first year?

OBAMA: Well, we will start working on them in our first year. We will have progress on all fronts by the end of my first term.

COMPTON: A lot of presidents have come to office saying, "I'm going to change the tone in Washington." Hasn't been done yet. What will you do?

OBAMA: Well, I think that circumstances are such that where people, I think, are going to be ready to solve problems instead of snipe at each other. But, I think if Democrats are successful, not just in my race, but in House and Senate races, I think it's going to be very important to understand we are not going to solve problems just by ourselves. We're going to have to have cooperation of the other party, and that means listening to them, and that means engaging them early, not simply trying to ram things down their throats.

COMPTON: Has the media given you an easy ride in this campaign?

OBAMA: I sure don't feel like, you know, it's fascinating to me, you know, there's been a running narrative of, 'oh, you know, the media's been easy on us.' I tell you what, when we were losing after Texas and Ohio and those six weeks in Pennsylvania, I think we were getting put through the ringer pretty well. Over the course of the two years, I think there's been a lot of skepticism about my campaign, coming from the media, and I think that we have had to earn, ah, the position that we are in right now.

COMPTON: You re-wrote the book on campaign donations and the campaign finance this year, and I wonder if you feel satisfied that you saw the potential for and had the safeguards for protecting and inventing the kind of fraud that can be done with credit cards and online donations? It's not as controllable as the old days, as just a paper check.

OBAMA: I think we are going to have to update across the board compliance systems. Our compliance rate -- our return rates of donations -- is actually lower than Sen. [John] McCain's and I think is as good as anybody's out there, considering the volume of small donations that we've been receiving.

So, there may be some modifications that we're going to have to make; having said that, I am extraordinarily proud of the fact that we have really broken the mold in how small donors can participate in the political process and have enormous impact; that's been really our secret weapon throughout this campaign.

COMPTON: Best moment of the campaign?

OBAMA: Uh, you know, the Iowa caucus night was, was wonderful. Just because, at that point, not many in the media gave us much of a chance, and to see the work of all the young volunteers on the ground, everyone working so hard for that to culminate in that victory was, was very sweet.

COMPTON: Was there a worst moment? Or what keeps you up at night?

OBAMA: Well, look, the night we lost New Hampshire was tough. We had been 10 points up, according to the polls, going into Election Day and lost by two, and that's one of the reasons why we take nothing for granted in this race and we don't believe those polls. But, you know, the thing that keeps me up is not actually winning or loosing -- it's governing. When I think about things when the lights are out and I'm tossing and turning in bed, it's how do we make sure we fulfill the commitments to the American people that we've made throughout this campaign.

COMPTON: Well that brings me exactly to where I wanted to bring this interview. I stood outside your beautiful Hyde Park neighborhood the other night, realizing that I was born and raised at 1329 50th, right at Kentwood, I'm third generation, and wondering why would any family really want to go through into what it means, you know, for kids at school age, for families that try to spend time together, who love their home? Have you ever given thought to what this really means for a family?

OBAMA: Oh, that's the first thing we gave thought to before we got into the race. Michelle and I talked about this and I told her from the outset if she didn't think that our family could survive the rigors of this thing, I wouldn't do it.

And, what gave me confidence was, not only is Michelle just an extraordinary mother and not only are we blessed to have kids that just happen to be really well adjusted, but we've got this wonderful support system; my mother-in-law, wonderful friends, and we do worry about the White House. Mostly how [his daughters] Malia and Sasha are able to have a childhood that goes through the same ups and downs that any childhood goes through in the spotlight, in the glare. My hope is that the media will be respectful. I thought that the Clintons handled raising Chelsea in the White House as well as it could be handled. She's turned out to be an extraordinary young woman. So far, what's given me confidence is that my kids are the same happy, joyful, fun, healthy kids that they were before this started. I think it's just that Daddy misses them a lot more.

COMPTON: Sen. Obama, thank you. It's been quite a couple of years, hasn't it?

OBAMA: It has been a wild ride. Thank you very much.