Pubdate: Wed, 14 May 2008
Source: Willamette Week (Portland, OR)
Copyright: 2008 Willamette Week Newspaper
Author: James Pitkin
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


The Democratic Presidential frontrunner talks timber payments, Gordon 
Smith and of course tattoos.

Sen. Barack Obama once remarked on the long odds of a "skinny guy 
from the South Side with a funny name" finding success in American politics.

How much more improbable then that Oregon - an overwhelmingly white 
state 1,700 miles from his Chicago home - could finally put the 
Illinois senator over the top this Tuesday, May 20, in his bid for 
the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Obama campaign looks to that date as the day to finally declare 
victory over Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), after an anticipated 
Oregon win gives Obama a majority of pledged delegates nationwide. 
Little wonder then that Obama's third Oregon swing May 9-10 felt more 
like a victory lap than a campaign stop. In Beaverton, Albany, Eugene 
and Bend, Obama test-drove a new strategy of targeting Sen. John 
McCain (R-Ariz.) and largely ignoring Clinton.

WW caught up with Obama following a town-hall meeting in Albany, 
where he spoke to a crowd of 3,000. After our longer interview with 
his rival ("Twenty Minutes With Hillary," WW, April 9, 2008), we 
asked Obama in the much smaller amount of time granted by his 
campaign about Oregon issues like medical weed, local politics and a 
healthcare plan from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

WW: What's the biggest difference between you and Hillary Clinton on 
an Oregon-specific issue?

Barack Obama: I don't spend all my time reviewing Sen. Clinton's 
positions. But I can talk to you about my positions on some issues 
that are very specific to Oregon. I think it's important for a state 
to have the ability to make decisions about the siting of liquefied 
natural gas stations. I think it's important for us to have a policy 
on county payments that is consistent and that allows for long-term 
planning for local communities, so that they're not scrambling to 
figure out do they have to lay off deputies from the county or do 
they have to close libraries. So I'm committed to working with Sen. 
[Ron] Wyden and Congressman DeFazio and others to make sure that 
we've got a system to help deal with counties where so much of the 
land is taken up by federal lands.

WW: Can you see a time when those timber payments would go away?

Barack Obama: What I'd want to do is negotiate with local counties to 
figure out how are we ensuring that basic necessities are paid for, 
and do it in a way that recognizes that the best way to handle this 
over the long term is to generate more economic growth in these 
communities. But we've got to do it in a way that is environmentally 
sound as well.

WW: Would you stop the DEA's raids on Oregon medical marijuana growers?

Barack Obama: I would because I think our federal agents have better 
things to do, like catching criminals and preventing terrorism. The 
way I want to approach the issue of medical marijuana is to base it 
on science, and if there is sound science that supports the use of 
medical marijuana and if it is controlled and prescribed in a way 
that other medicine is prescribed, then it's something that I think 
we should consider.

WW: What's the nicest thing you can say about Sen. Gordon Smith?

Barack Obama: I think Gordon Smith is a very nice man. I think he's 
very gracious, very polite, and I enjoy talking to him. I think 
Gordon Smith's problem is that he rarely breaks away from George Bush 
and the Republican agenda that I think has done this country great 
damage. But personally I think he's a perfectly decent person.

WW: The hottest race besides yours on Oregon's May 20 ballot is the 
Democratic senate contest between Steve Novick and Jeff Merkley.

Barack Obama: I have no opinion on that.

WW: Do you care who wins?

Barack Obama: I have no opinion on a Senate primary.

WW: What do you think of Sen. Wyden's Healthy Americans Act?

Barack Obama: I think that Ron has done a lot of really smart work in 
thinking about the issue, and he is somebody I will have at the table 
as I'm negotiating to bring about a universal health care plan. I 
have expressed some concerns about the feasibility of shifting so 
quickly away from the employer-based system to a system in which each 
individual is responsible for buying their own health care. But I 
think the idea of portability is one that is important. I'm looking 
forward to having him as one of the driving forces in the Senate 
behind getting universal health care.

WW: Any irony that Oregon may put you over the top in the pledged 
delegate count?

Barack Obama: I think it would be wonderful. I don't know how ironic 
it would be, but I would be thrilled by it happening and I hope it does.

WW: If you had a tattoo, what would it be and where would you put it?

Barack Obama: Uh, I cannot imagine any circumstances in which I would 
get a tattoo.

WW: If you were under duress.

Barack Obama: If a gun was put to my head?

WW: Yes.

Barack Obama: Then I suppose I'd have to have [his wife] Michelle's 
name tattooed somewhere very discreet. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake