Obama’s ‘View’

By Ed O'Keefe

Mar 28, 2008 12:33pm

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller Reports: Barack Obama cozied up on the couch with the women of ABC’s "The View".

"I am surrounded by women, well you guys always surprise me, always something up your sleeve," the Senator remarked.

When questioned by co-host Joy Behar if he was tough enough to survive the attack machine in this race, Obama responded, "I’m skinny but I’m tough."

"There (have) been some tough punches thrown in this primary, it’s not like I’ve been taking a cake walk though this primary," Obama said.

Obama said the best way to withstand the negative criticism is the let it roll off your sleeve, and realize that not everyone he says is going to make everybody happy. But the presidential candidate said not to expect him to be swiftboated, a la John Kerry in the 2004 election, saying he will respond faster if under a similar attack.

"I don’t think it’s gotten dirty," Obama said, in reference to his tight contest with Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

Race was the predominant issue of the interview.

"I never heard him say some of the things that have people upset," Obama said in reference to the controversial remarks of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor of 20 years. 

Rev. Wright, the retired pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, has a long history of what even Obama’s campaign aides concede is "inflammatory rhetoric," including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own "terrorism."

An ABC News review of dozens of the Rev. Wright’s sermons, offered for sale by the church, found repeated denunciations of the United States based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans.

"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people," he said in a 2003 sermon. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

In addition to damning America, he told his congregation on the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001, that the United States had brought on al Qaeda’s attacks because of its own terrorism.

"I’m not vetting my pastor," Obama told "The View", "I didn’t have a research team during the course of 20 years to go pull every sermon he’s given and see if there’s something offensive that he’s said."

The senator agreed Wright’s remarks are "rightly offensive" but described the Reverend who baptized his children and married he and his wife as a "brilliant man who was still stuck in a time warp."

"View" co-host Elisabeth Hasslebeck expressed concern that Obama’s choice of pastor may show a lack of judgment.

The candidate explained, "Part of what my role in my politics is to get people who don’t normally listen to each other to talk to each other, who [say] crazy things, who are offended by each other, for me to understand them and to maybe help them understand each other."

Obama said he talked to Wright after the controversy erupted.

"I think he’s saddened by what’s happened, and I told him I feel badly that he has been characterized just in this one way, and people haven’t seen this broader aspect of him," Obama said.

On another subject, when asked for specifics by co-host and frequent critical Elisabeth Hasslebeck on his plan for the economy, Obama spoke about the need to roll back President Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

"You’re in trouble, Barbara," co-host Sherri Shepherd interrupted, warning the renounced journalist as the audience rolled in laughter, "You’re gonna be in trouble when he rolls back tax cuts!"

The Senator arrived about 20 minutes late from a lunch fundraiser at the Credit Suisse building in Manhatten to the Thursday taping of the episode which aired nationwide on Friday.

During the brief breaks for commercials, Obama whispered to Barbara Walters, each with their hand over their microphone to protect their conversation from being shared with the studio audience.

Obama greeted co-host Whoopi Goldberg’s daughter and granddaughter, who sat front row in the audience.

"I want your vote," Obama said to the eighteen-year-old high school senior.

Actress Angela Bassett was also in the audience, prompting Obama to comment, "You got some fancy folks in the audience."

Barbara Walters, seen carrying Obama’s book "Dreams of My Father" introduced the candidate to her two longtime friends who were also in the front row.

"They’ve never come before," Walters commented beforehand.

Joy Behar carried four books out to be signed by the Senator after the show, passing them off for to the staff.

Sherri Shepherd, who said she dressed up in there church outfit and "Obama-fit" before the show, was clad in a skinny black dress and white sweater overtop, and said the picture her and Obama took together during the commercial break was her prom picture.

Shepherd told Obama during the show that she was planning on voting for Hillary Clinton, but after his speech on race last Tuesday she switched and will be voting for him.

"I want to be leave "The View" to campaign for you," she joked.

Before the taping started, the predominantly female crowd, many sporting Obama buttons or shirts, were entertained by Maura McGinnis reading her poem entiteld "Obama for Rainbows", about the bridging of racial divides.

Walters graced the crowd before the taping, saying that it was a "historic day" for the show and assured the crowd they will also have Sen. Hillary Clinton on the show soon.

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