2004 Obama Interview Foreshadows 2008 Nomination

In never-before-seen interview, Obama talked about Iraq, economy, hope and fear.

Nov. 5, 2008— -- Four years ago, a Senate candidate from Illinois made headlines for giving a rousing keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.

On that night, Barack Obama spoke of "hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope" and said that "my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely."

Even more unlikely, perhaps, would have been the thought that Obama would return to the next convention as the presumptive presidential nominee, and would ultimately be elected president.

In 2004, "Nightline" anchor Ted Koppel spent the day behind the scenes with the then-Illinois state senator as he prepared for his moment in the spotlight, a moment that foreshadowed what was to come.

"I think there is no doubt that people are disturbed by the direction of [the Bush] administration," Obama said. "I think that Democrats I talk to feel that there is as much at stake in this election as there has ever been."

A 'Quagmire' in Iraq

"There were people who supported the war and people who opposed the war inside that convention hall," Obama told Koppel four years ago. "But what people are unified about is that, when we make a decision to go to war, that it should not be ideologically driven, that it should be driven by [a] set of facts and common sense with regards to how we mobilize our country and our national interest."

"And I think that there is a strong feeling that even among those that supported George Bush's decision initially to go in," he continued, "that there was some fudging of the numbers and shading of the truth, and that as a consequence of our inability to create a strong alliance around our actions, that we are now stuck in a quagmire that is going to cost us not only billion of dollars, but thousands of lives and will require a much longer term commitment than the American voters had intended when they rallied behind the president."

Obama went on to speak about Americans being disturbed with the direction the Bush administration was carving out for the country.

"There are a whole bunch of folks that don't like George Bush and I don't think that we can sugarcoat that," he said, "but what I would say is this, as I travel around the state of Illinois, what I am struck by is the degree to which the voters do not want to see this slash and burn politics that has become the norm in Washington, whether it is practiced by the Republicans or the Democrats."

Obama also voiced his concern four years ago about the state of the country's foreign policy, which he said had been characterized by the Bush administration's unilateral decision-making and apparent disdain for world opinion heading into the conflict with Iraq.

"That has concrete consequences over time and it may be simply a matter of emphasis, but a lot of things are a matter of emphasis," he said before transitioning to the home front. "On domestic policy it makes a difference whether you are giving tax cuts to the working poor, through the income tax credit, or you are giving tax cuts to the wealthy, through [a] cut in dividends."

"Well you could say both are in favor of tax cuts, but there is a real difference in terms of how that plays out in the lives of ordinary American families," Obama continued. "I think the same is true in the international front."

'Crossroads of History'

Standing before a crowd of thousands at this year's Democratic convention and being watched by an audience of millions, Obama's wife, Michelle, touted her husband's values of unity and love during the convention's opening night.

She spoke of the night 10 years ago he drove her and their newborn daughter home from the hospital, how he watched the two of them in the rearview mirror "feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands."

In his interview with Koppel, Obama discussed concerns for the future he found among his constituents.

"Demographically," Obama said of his home state in 2004, "you look at its North-South, East-West, Urban-Rural, what you hear is a common refrain that 'I am working myself to the bone, my wife or husband is working, we are seeing out health-care bills go up, we're seeing college tuition go up, we have no idea how we are going to save for retirement, and we are worried that we may be passing off a world that is a little bit poorer and a little bit meaner to our kids than the ones we inherited.'"

In the last four years, the American people have faced more economic uncertainty as gas prices have skyrocketed and thousands have struggled under the weight of the burgeoning foreclosure crisis.

In 2004, Obama was already speaking of the importance of a united America.

"I would say that the most important issue of the people are feeling right now is the sense of an America that is separating. That you have more and more opportunity, greater and greater wealth for some, and you have a vast middle class that is shrinking and a working class that is having trouble getting into the middle class," Obama said in 2004. "That the opportunities that might have been available to a family of modest means 30 years ago may no longer be available 10 years from now."

Obama addressed that issue in his keynote speech, calling on Democrats to unite behind candidates John Kerry and John Edwards.

"I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs and that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us," he said.