Iowa City, Iowa - Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama spent the day in Iowa City, Iowa where he touted his health care plan.
He sat down with NewsChannel 8's Matt Hammill to discuss how healthcare is affecting the wallets of Americans.
Here is the interview:
Barack Obama: What's absolutely clear is that we are becoming less healthy as a people. We may be the first generation that actually has a lower life-expectancy than our parents- at least our children might because obesity rates are going up so high.
Smoking is actually steadily declining, and that is a good thing, but obesity has skyrocketed. Just to give you some sense of the magnitude: if we went back to the obesity rates that existed in 1980, the Medicare system would save one trillion dollars in costs because so much of healthcare inflation is a consequence of obesity-related diseases.
Matt Hammill: Do you see any circumstances where as president you would ever send troops to Iraq?
Barack: Well obviously it's a hypothetical question because right now we have got over 100,000 who are there. My first goal is to get those troops out of Iraq, get them home, and some of them re-deployed to hunt down Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and the border of Pakistan. But you cannot hypothesize what is going to happen. What I know is if we remain on the course we are on right now, we are going to see more US casualties, more Iraqi casualties without any appreciable improvement in the situation on the ground there, and that the key to a solution in Iraq is going to be because the political factions make a decision that they are going to live together- it is not going to be because we impose a military solution in Iraq.
Matt: Never say never?
Barack: Well, you never say never about anything.
Matt: Mrs. Clinton considered pulling out of the Iowa Caucuses- did your staff ever have that conversation?
Barack: No. We are doing well in Iowa. We are building up staff and operations and volunteers here- partly because I feel so comfortable campaigning here. It feels like my home state-I am right next-door across the river. I think we are generating a lot of supporters here- it feels familiar campaigning in Iowa. Obviously, we have terrific competition- people like John Edwards have campaigned here for a long time and are going to do well, but we think we are going to be very competitive- we look forward to competing here vigorously
Matt: What success were you in Iowa?
Barack: We think that we can be in the top tier of candidates. We think the people of Iowa will be responsive to our message and we like our chances.
Matt: Do Iowans have good BS detectors? Are you finding that?
Barack: I think they do because they have been at this a long time. And their folks would like to lift the hood and kick the tires and take you out for a test drive. I suspect a lot of them will make their decision late after the full betting of the candidates and I think that is a healthy thing- the Iowa Caucuses are early and they set the tone for the country. I think Iowans are well informed and they take those responsibilities pretty seriously.
Matt: I work in your state now but I grew up here [Iowa] and I would be the first to tell you that this is hardly the bastion of diversity- given that thought, are you seeing indications that this presidential campaign can get beyond race?
Barack: Oh absolutely, we are going to places where there is not a big African American population and we are drawing thousands of people- great enthusiasm, terrific volunteers. When I ran for the US Senate, people assumed that we could not get votes in downstate Illinois other than a few pockets where there were African American voters. We ended up winning the White vote in rural Illinois- both within the primary and in the general- so my experience has been that people are looking for somebody who can help them in their lives: help them pay for healthcare, help them save for their children's college education, help them deal with rising gas prices, get their kid home from Iraq- those are the issues people are really concerned about and if I make a credible presentation that I am the person to lead this country in a better direction I think people will vote for me.
Matt: A called a friend of mine last night, who has been a 20-year long Democrat, and said, if you could ask Barack Obama one question what would you ask him? And she said ask him if he is for real. Ask him if he is the real deal. Ask him if he can remain independent if he is sitting in the White House.
Barack: I think the nice thing is that people have a track record to look at and they can see how I came up in the ranks- I did not arrive here because I had a father or family members who are powerful politicians. I do not come from wealth- I came here because I was a community organizer working with churches, helping people who had been laid-off from work at steel plants. As a civil rights attorney, as a state legislator, people can take a look and see that I have generally risen in politics based on relationships with folks at the grassroots level, and that is the reason I am in politics. I truly believe that there is a core decency to the American people and that ordinary people, if they have a chance to get the levers of power and make government responsive, usually make pretty good decisions and the country goes in a good direction.