August 24th, 2007
09:17 AM ET
15 years ago

Obama takes issue with Iraqi leader debate

Watch CNN's Don Lemon interview Obama Thursday.

DILLON, South Carolina (CNN) - White House hopeful Barack Obama called the debate over the competency of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a "distraction" Thursday, a day after rival Hillary Clinton called for the embattled leader's removal.

"I think this is a distraction - this whole notion of 'is Maliki the right guy?'" Obama told CNN's Don Lemon. "We can replace Maliki with four, five other guys, but if the underlying political dynamic is not changing, then we will not see progress in Iraq."

On Wednesday afternoon, Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released a statement calling for the ouster of the prime minister, saying, "The Maliki government is nonfunctional and cannot produce a political settlement, because it is too beholden to religious and sectarian leaders."

In the interview with CNN, Obama also seemed to echo Clinton's controversial comments from earlier in the week that the surge was "working" in some areas, but reiterated his position that the U.S. should begin an "orderly withdrawal" from the country.

"We know that our troops are performing well under the surge and there has been a temporary reduction in violence,” he said. “But we also know that none of the Iraqi factions have taken seriously the need to come to political accommodation, and we can't create a stable Iraq until that happens - which is why I believe that we need to - more than ever - initiate the kind of responsible, orderly withdrawal that will trigger a change in behavior on the part of the factions.”

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Ron, Plano, TX

    Obama took the Maliki debate and developed a real answer. It's not just about Maliki not working. Clinton is quick to pounce on Maliki and demand he be overthrown. Our next President needs to be cooler headed than that... someone able to reason... someone who doesn't just make a comment to please a crowd of veterans. HRC could have all the experience in the world, and it still doesn't match Obama's ability to come up with real solid answers.

    August 23, 2007 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |


    August 23, 2007 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  3. David, Salinas, CA

    I’m still an undecided Democrat. (I’m down to Clinton, Obama, Biden & Richardson). But I have to disagree with Senator Obama on this Maliki situation.

    If the problem in Iraq is mostly political, (and I agree that it is), then how is it not relevant to criticize the Iraqi political leadership? If Iraq has a future as a nation, someone has to step up and unify the factions. Miliki hasn’t done the job, and the Sunnis have walked out. It’s not up to us, of course, but considering the circumstances we’re entitled to have our say.

    I think Senator Obama is wrong to call this a distraction. I think Senator Clinton is correct in calling for Maliki’s replacement. And I think Senator Biden has the best overall plan for Iraq.

    August 23, 2007 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  4. Pete, Wash. Twp. MI

    Shame on hillary. She wants to bring down the first elected government in Iraq. Wow !

    It sounds like something Bush would do. Perhaps she is REALLY Bush/Cheney Lite. The next thing she will want is to support Bush in gitting rid of the leaders of Iran, North Korea and Syria.
    Yes, the same hillary, who voted for the War, just like George W. Bush wanted her to do.

    What is she thinking?

    This proves she has NO experience, and NO judgement.

    Obama has it right again.

    August 23, 2007 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  5. Ryan, Provo, UT

    Every time I hear Obama calling it like it is, it's like a breath of fresh air. I absolutely love that he refuses to participate in the political games and fluff controversies that dominate our political discussion.

    August 23, 2007 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  6. Adam, Plano, TX

    and people think Obama is "inexperienced" and "naive"? how sad.

    August 23, 2007 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  7. John S. Chicago, Illinois

    I agree with Barack. It makes the most sense.

    August 23, 2007 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  8. Christian, Tampa FL

    As is consistent with Senator Obama, he brings up a good point and shows his willingness to bluntly bring up the real truth. Good for him.

    August 23, 2007 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  9. Go Bo, Haslett, MI

    Spartan Internet Consulting has released the first SIPP index results for the week of August 16th- 22nd, with Barack Obama ranked highest for the week with a score of 21.29 percent.

    The most notable gainers included John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich with increases of 0.43 percent and 0.37 percent, respectively.

    August 23, 2007 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  10. RICH,NY NY

    I agree with obama if the people in iraq government cant come together to pass any type of laws to begin to become a functioning government it doesnt matter what guy they put at the top! It just like iraq is becoming a mirror reflextion of what happens to a government that cant come together to pass legislation to end this war! NONFUNCTIONAL!!!!

    August 24, 2007 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  11. KebD, Flint

    How can anyone NOT vote for Obama??

    Really. This guy just calls a spade a spade. He gets right to the heart of each matter with intelligence, wisdom, and TRUE, genuine judgment.

    OBAMA 08!!

    August 24, 2007 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  12. Mike

    The Electoral College has created these stupid situations in a few states. I think it is time to abolish the EC in favor of the popular vote winner.

    August 24, 2007 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  13. Jen, Gainesville, FL

    I totally agree with Obama's assessments. They show leadership and judgment. With these two, what is the point of further talking about experience?

    August 24, 2007 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  14. Dan, TX

    I guess it makes some sense that if there is not a known strong leader and US ally to replace al-Maliki it might be premature to call for him to step down. We need to know something about who the replacement is going to be.

    August 24, 2007 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  15. Robert M. Reidy, Tillson, N.Y.

    I can see how the orderly withdrawal would create political pressure within the Iraqi government to find quick creative solutions to solve the disunity amongst the competing factions. This is certainly a mess made by the none existent planning for the aftermath of a terrible decision to invade in the first place.
    Barak is on top of this and
    a creative problem solver. I am with him on this.

    August 24, 2007 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  16. spinstopper

    "We can replace Maliki with four, five other guys, but if the underlying political dynamic is not changing, then we will not see progress in Iraq."

    Obama doesn't seem to get the fact the Iraq has a democratically elected government now. Isn't that the job of "the people" in a democracy? Why is a do nothing Senator from the sorriest US Congress in history expecting more than he's given from a fledgling democratic government in Iraq? POLITICS??

    August 24, 2007 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  17. Allen, Indianapolis IN

    Once again Obama speaks plainly and truthfully. I'm surprised CNN couldn't find a way to twist honest rhetoric info a naive mistake of some kind.

    Well, they did move the no-substance basketball shot above this story. If you can't twist it, burry it. Right CNN?

    August 24, 2007 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  18. John Swanson Chicago

    Weird, I left a comment on this article last night that merely said, "I agree with Barack. He makes the most sense to me."

    Good thing CNN viewed that as a threat and decided to remove it for no reason whatsoever.

    August 24, 2007 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  19. Daniel O

    Common sense politics! Al Maliki is not the problem. He was elected with a lot of compromises by Iraqi sectarian hardline leaders and this took time. Right now Iraqi is highly polarised and No single man or woman from one community will be viewed as neutral and without suspicion. Replacing Maliki wiil be a mere change of guard.
    Obama is right, we better tackle the underlying bigger problems and stop the blame game.

    August 24, 2007 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  20. Daniel O

    Sorry Hillary, but replacing this guy will take lots of time compromising and will be unnecessary distraction to the real problems underlying his failure.

    In a peaceful, stable and less divided country, our congress here has been least effective in reaching agreements because of bipartisan politics.

    How more difficult is this in Iraqi where Maliki is trying to hold together a fragile government with warlords in parliament pulling in different directions on one side and Americans issuing threats and ultimatums on the other side. And his life is always in danger.

    Maybe some people think they can do better if given the chance to be Iraqi PM.

    August 24, 2007 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  21. David, Salinas, CA

    Though I (mildly) disagree with John Swanson of Chicago on this relatively minor issue, I’d like to support him in criticizing CNN’s bizarre and arbitrary policy on deletion of posts. Though I (obviously) manage to get my two cents in, I’m tired of re-posting or losing the thread of conversation when an entirely reasonable comment is deleted for no reason.

    CNN needs to get its act together. Rude, racist or entirely irrelevant comments are left up for weeks, while well-crafted on-topic postings (from all ideologies) disappear without a trace. CNN provides no coherent posting policy and never an explanation from the unnamed moderators. There’s an established netiqutte for hosting a blog, and CNN needs to learn it.

    I hope the other regular posters will join us in demanding Ticker reform.

    August 24, 2007 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  22. Chip Celina OH

    RE: spinstopper...or is that spinStarter?

    You don't seem to get the fact that he is merely providing his analysis of the situation.

    He's not advocating the removal of Maliki, as some other candidates are 'vocal' about doing, simply noting it wouldn't have any effect until other factors come into line.

    Have a good day,


    August 24, 2007 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  23. SM - Stamford-CT

    The US record of 'selecting' leaders in countries has been a sorry mess! I agree with Obama that its time we learnt to organize ourselves rather than mess about with other countries.

    August 24, 2007 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  24. Shawn, Atlanta, Georgia

    As I always say, pay attention to voice in these postings. You ever notice that when articles appear on Obama, the comments are always favorable to him and they appear to be in the same voice? If this same article were on Hillary, someone would somehow try and connect it to corruption and then say flattering things about Obama. I guess that's an example of turning the page in politics.

    August 24, 2007 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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