Barack Obama Interview: Complete Transcript

Now, keep in mind that back in the 1980s, I was working as a community organizer on the streets of Chicago and seeing the consequences of some of the bad ideas that Ronald Reagan had promoted.

But the broader point that I was making, George, and I don't think this is something that is subject to dispute, is that Ronald Reagan transformed American politics and set the agenda for a long time. You know, when Bill Clinton said the era of small government is over, he was echoing some of the shifts that had taken place. And part of what had happened was that Ronald Reagan was able to get Democrats to vote for the Republican ticket, oftentimes against their own economic interests. And people -- Democrats were often puzzled by that.

The point is that this is one of those moments when I think Democrats have the opportunity to do the same thing that Ronald Reagan did in 1980. I think there are a lot of disaffected Republicans. They've seen the disastrous policies of George Bush, both domestically and internationally, and the question is: Are we going to be able to reach out to those independents and those disillusioned Republicans, and form a working majority so that we can move our agenda forward? So you know, at no point did I suggest that my agenda was Ronald Reagan's agenda. The point was that in political terms, we may be in one of those moments where we can get a seismic shift in how the country views itself and our future. And we have to take advantage of that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you do not call them good ideas, but when you say that the Republican Party is challenging the conventional wisdom, isn't it fair for someone to conclude that you're complimenting the Republican Party there?

OBAMA: No, because some of the conventional wisdom was right. I mean, it was right to believe that we should be able to provide health insurance to all Americans.

Now, what I do believe is that we can't be bogged down in dogma, in thinking about how we're going to deliver health care. So I think it's very important for us to be willing to take ideas from all quarters, and to listen to Republicans and conservatives and others in terms of how we might go about accomplishing what is a critical goal, which is universal health care. The same is true with the notion of upward mobility.

You know, I think Reagan trickle-down economics were a disaster, but what I do think is important is for us to think about how can we empower ordinary individuals, so that they can get the education and the skills that they need in a market economy to succeed.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Take a look at this historically. How could Bill Clinton have changed the trajectory of the country in the 1990s in a way that he did not do? What would you have done differently?

OBAMA: Well, I actually think that Bill Clinton did an important service for the Democratic Party, and you know, if you read some of the things that I've written in my book, for example, I've been very complimentary of Bill Clinton, because I think that he recognized that we needed to take the old, traditional values of the Democratic Party -- of equality, of opportunity, of community -- and update them for a new era. And so, I think that Bill Clinton did important work back in the 1990s.

The question is now, we're in 2008, and how do we move it forward to the next phase? And I wouldn't be running for president if I didn't think that I was best equipped to move us in a new direction.

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