May 13, 2007 -- Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., could support a war-funding bill that includes benchmarks but lacks a timetable for withdrawal, the 2008 Democratic presidential candidate told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive "This Week" interview.
But Obama made clear he opposes giving the president a "blank check" for the war in Iraq.
"There's got to be something that signals the president is changing course, and that there are consequences to the Iraqi government failing to meet some of the benchmarks that we're talking about," Obama said.
And while, like the rest of the Democratic field for president, Obama has emphasized his support for withdrawing American troops from Iraq, he left the door open to returning to the country if the situation continues to deteriorate, especially if withdrawal were to incite a Shiite genocide of the Sunnis.
"I think we have some moral and humanitarian responsibilities to the Iraqi people," said Obama. "And that has to be factored in. I can't anticipate what Iraq will look like a year from now, because so much depends on how we carry out this phased redeployment and how effective we are when it comes to diplomacy."
New to the National Stage
Obama burst onto the national stage three years ago, with a fiery and passionate keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in Boston. But thirteen weeks after announcing his candidacy for president, it is clear that Obama has intentionally adopted a more low-key approach to campaigning in the early primary states.
"What I don't do when I'm campaigning is to try to press a lot of hot buttons and use a lot of cheap applause buttons, because I want people to get a sense of how I think about this process," said Obama. "I think that one of the problems with political speeches is that we all know what folks want to hear. We know who the conventional, stereotypical enemies are on any given issue, and we have a tendency, I think, to play up to that. And I actually think that we're in this moment in history right now where honesty, admitting complexity is a good thing."
But while Obama talks often about the need to compromise and find middle ground in politics, he also maintained that he is realistic about the limits of that approach.
"I'm not naive enough to think that if we all hold hands and sing 'Kumbaya' that somehow health care gets solved or education gets solved," said Obama.
Still, Obama told Stephanopoulos he sees his ability to bring people together as his strength.
"I think that I have the capacity to get people to recognize themselves in each other," said Obama. "I think that I have the ability to make people get beyond some of the divisions that plague our society and to focus on common sense and reason. And that's been in short supply over the last several years."
For the first time in a television interview, Obama discussed his new Secret Service protection, and said he was initially reluctant to receive it.
"I'm not an entourage guy," Obama said. "You know, up until recently, I was still taking my wife Michelle's grocery list and going to the grocery store once in a while."
Following reports that Obama was going to receive protection from the Secret Service, fellow Illinois Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin said some of the threats against Obama were racially motivated. But Obama said he doesn't think race will be a big barrier in his run for president.
"What I'm confident about, though, as I travel around the country, is that people are decent at their core in America," said Obama. "If I don't win, it's not going to be because of my race. It's going to be because I didn't project a vision of leadership that gave people confidence. It's going to be because of something I didn't do as opposed to because I'm African-American."