From NBC's Michelle Perry and Andrea Mitchell
As charges and reactions continue to ricochet over what Obama actually said regarding the hypothetical use of nuclear weapons in Pakistan and/or Afghanistan, below is the actual transcript of the audio of the Associated Press' interview with Obama (which the AP has given to NBC News).
From the audio, it is clear that Obama initially rules out the use of tactical nuclear weapons -- then backtracks. His opponents, especially Clinton and Dodd, have attacked Obama for appearing to rule out the nuclear option -- in contradiction of traditional U.S. deterrence in both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Today, Obama's camp is standing firm and welcoming the contrast to what they are describing as "traditional Washington think," saying they are surprised that anyone would disagree with what he said.
The transcript is below...
AP: Sir, with regard to terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan ...
AP: Is there any circumstances where you'd be prepared or willing to use nuclear weapons to defeat terrorism and Osama bin Laden?
OBAMA: No, I'm not, uh, there has been no discussion of using nuclear weapons and that's not a hypothetical that I'm going to discuss.
AP: Not even tactical?
OBAMA: No. I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance. Uh, if involving you know, civilians... Let me scratch all that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table so...
AP: No discussion within your group?
OBAMA: I made a very narrow statement that I think is incontrovertible, which is if we've got a actionable intelligence then uh....that there are high value Al Qaeda targets, that we should take them out. And that's the extent of the statement. I mean it's...
AP: But the nuclear topic is bound to come up because of the fact that Pakistan has nuclear weapons and is certainly capable from Middle East experts to have an irrational religious fanatic type leader.
OBAMA: I'm not going that far field on this topic -- right now the question is are we going after Al Qaeda, and that's what the topic of the speech was about.
AP: Thanks for your time.
OBAMA: You bet.