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Obama on Leno: Hillary has declared 'mission accomplished' too soon
Mike Aivaz and Jason Rhyne
Published: Thursday October 18, 2007

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Democratic Presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) told Tonight Show host Jay Leno on Wednesday that be was untroubled by the perception among many that he is trailing rival Hillary Clinton in the race for his party's nomination.

"Hillary is not the first politician in Washington to declare 'mission accomplished' a little too soon," he joked. "Really, until those folks start going into the polling place, these races end up being very fluid."

Regardless, says Obama, he's no stranger to underdog status. "When your name is Barack Obama," the candidate remarked, "you are always the underdog."

The senator also weighed in on the recent revelation that he is related -- albeit distantly -- to Vice President Dick Cheney.

"I have to ask about your family," Leno quipped. "Dick Cheney, you and he are eighth cousins."

"People have been doing these genealogical studies of me, and I've got all kinds of rogues in my background," the candidate responded, "You're always hoping for, you know, kings and great leaders."

Sen. Obama added that he was "OK with" being related to Cheney, but noted that he wasn't eager to be "invited to the family hunting party."

Later in the interview, which bounced from serious foreign policy discussion to casual talk about Obama's domestic abilities, the senator said that he was troubled by a Bush press conference yesterday warning of World War III if Iran achieved nuclear capability.

"When you use language like that," he said, "it alienates the rest of the world's community. We've got a war in Afghanistan, a war in Iraq...at this point in time I hope that the president will be a little more sober and responsible in the language he uses, because this is not helpful."

Obama also used the Late Night forum to answer critics who have faulted him for not wearing an American flag pin on the campaign trail, a near ubiquitous accessory among presidential candidates.

"I wore a pin right after 9/11," he said. "When I took it off, I lost it. I didn't replace it even though I have terrific respect for those who wear it, because I think a lot of politicians will put their flag pin on and act in a real unpatriotic manner."

"I mean you had Alberto Gonzales wearing a flag pin the whole time he was shredding the Constitution," he continued.

Asked later by Leno about whether former president Bill Clinton would significantly enhance wife Hillary's presidential run, Obama agreed -- but said his own wife, Michelle, was "no slouch."

"If there's a debate between Michelle and Bill, I'm putting my money on my girl," he said, drawing a laugh from the crowd.

A quick Leno fired back, "You would leave your wife alone with Bill Clinton?"

Describing life on the campaign trail, Obama contrasted his one-on-one interaction with voters during the primary process with his senatorial duties in Washington.

"You actually feel encouraged when you talk to the American people," he said. "Of course then you have go back to Washington. That's a downer."

The following video is from NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno, broadcast on October 17, 2007


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