July 3rd, 2008
06:00 PM ET
12 years ago

Obama again denies change of Iraq stance

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Sen. Obama discussed his Iraq policy in North Dakota Thursday.

Sen. Obama discussed his Iraq policy in North Dakota Thursday.

(CNN) - Call it take two.

Barack Obama held a second news conference with reporters in North Dakota Thursday, to deny any suggestions that he's changing his position on withdrawing all combat troops from Iraq.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee opened his second go-around with reporters by saying, "We're going to try this again. Apparently I wasn't clear enough this morning on my position with respect to the war in Iraq. I have said throughout this campaign that this war was ill-conceived, that it was a strategic blunder and that it needs to come to an end."

The Illinois senator added, "I have also said that I would be deliberate and careful in how we got out, that we would bring our troops home at a pace of one to two brigades per month and that at that pace we would have our combat troops out in 16 months. That position has not changed."

Earlier, Obama met with reporters in Fargo, North Dakota, before holding a town hall that included many military veterans and their families.

In the first meeting, Obama denied any suggestion he's shying away from his proposed 16-month phased withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq, calling it "pure speculation" and adding that his "position has not changed." However, he told reporters questioning his stance that he will "continue to refine" his policies as warranted.

"We're planning to visit Iraq," Obama said, referring to his recently-announced trip scheduled for later this summer. "I'm going to do a thorough assessment when I'm there."

Asked if that means he is, in fact, open to options that would not include the removal of all combat troops within 16 months, the Illinois senator did not respond directly, but only said he will continue to "gather information."

National reporters and Republicans pounced on those comments. The Republican National Committee put out an e-mail statement saying that Obama was backing away from his position on withdrawal.

That may have led to the second media availability, where Obama said, "what I said this morning, and what I will repeat because it is consistent with what I've said over the last two years, is that in putting this plan together, I will always listen to the advice of the commanders on the ground but ultimately I am the person who is making the strategic decisions."

On April 10, Obama he told an Indiana crowd it may take "16 months to two years" to remove combat troops. In recent speeches, he's left out the phrase "16 months" entirely.

When asked again, in the second news conference, if he could tell reporters that he would not in the future change his 16-month timetable for combat troop withdrawal, Obama didn't directly answer the question, saying only that he intends as president to remove all combat troops within 16 months.

Obama placed some of the blame for the confusion Thursday on the McCain campaign, saying "I think what's happened is that the McCain campaign primed the pump with the press to suggest that somehow we were changing our policy when we hadn't and that just hasn't been the case. I've given no indication of a change in policy. I haven't suggested that we're moving in a different
direction. I think John McCain's going to have a much harder time explaining how he is willing to perpetuate a presence in Iraq for 10, 20, 50 years."

The McCain campaign responded following the second news conference with a statement saying, "Today, Barack Obama reversed that position proving once again that his words do not matter. He has now adopted John McCain's position that we cannot risk the progress we have made in Iraq by beginning to withdraw our troops immediately without concern for conditions on the ground. "There is nothing wrong with changing your mind when the facts on the ground dictate it," the statement said. "Indeed, the facts have changed because of the success of the surge that John McCain advocated for years and Barack Obama opposed in a position that put politics ahead of country."


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (177 Responses)
  1. peakarach,des moines,IA

    OBAMA=LIAR.
    OBAMA=HYPOCRITE.
    OBAMA=FLIP FLOP.
    OBAMA=FAKE.
    OBAMA=FRAUD.
    OBAMA=CON ARTIST.
    OBAMA=CROOK.
    OBAMA=COWARD.
    OBAMA=GUTLESS.
    OBAMA=PHONY.
    OBAMA=XEROX MACHINE.
    OBAMA=JUST WORD.
    OBAMA=OSAMA.

    July 3, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  2. chris

    obama is starting to talk like dubya.......makes sense considering his supporters have been acting like dubya's supporters for months now.....

    July 3, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  3. 4obama

    and he did not flip flop on Iraq!!! He said today what he has been saying all along

    July 3, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  4. Tony, Miami

    McEnd is full of it

    July 3, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  5. Joe the Troll

    First they criticize his stance, then they try to say he changed it and criticize that? Please. McCain's camp has nothing to say about the thoughtful mitigation of ideas after he's done so many 180s without good data to base them on.

    July 3, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  6. JK Ashburn, VA

    Apparently he can't read his own positions. I thought he was quite clear the troops are coming home right after inauguration day. Which is it, dude?

    You anti-war, anti-Bush Lefties must really be enjoying watching Obama move to Bush's position on this subject. Enjoy!

    July 3, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  7. Timber

    He is such a slimey politician! Is this the kind of change he wants? Say one thing to win the nomination and then change when you have it in the bag? Sorry, this is not change, politicians have been doing it for years, your not pulling the wool over EVERYBODY'S eyes. Just the liberal sheep. The conservative sheep voted Bush in twice, mesmerized by his Rove written speeches and fear mongering, now the liberal sheep are mesmerized by Obama's "change" (LOL) and his "teleprompter/preacher sounding" speeches. Oh and don't forget about fist bumping! Is that the new Macerana?! That alone should get him elected! How about Britany Spears as VP??! Possabilities are endless in our dumbed down society. Can't anyone think for themselves anymore? Open your eyes folks.

    July 3, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  8. Nate

    Well, should anyone be suprised. He is for change after all.

    July 3, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  9. Ben

    What's the big deal? Obama hasn't flip-flopped yet... he's just saying he's open to making adjustments to his plan. Now, if you want to see an example of flip-flopping, look at McCain's stances on Bush's tax-cuts.

    July 3, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  10. David Illinois

    If you believe the 16 month statements you are even sillier than Obama thinks you are. Get with it folks. He lied to you and he knew he was doing it. Remeber when he ranted against Hillary for saying a measured and safe withdrawl? sounds like exactly what he is now saying. this man is nothing new...no new change...no new attitudes and he sure as hell won't bring the party much less the country together. It is ok Obama fans you can now admit it you were sold a bunch a crafty speaches(lies) to win the primary ....Now he will run to the center....and lose. Oh by the way, when Bill ran(and won...twice) he already was in the center. This Obama will stoop so low to win the white house....Look out Oprah...after 20 years he will throw you under the bus too.

    July 3, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  11. True Democrat

    Nearly every one of his stances has "changed" since he became the democratic nominee. All to pander to the independents so he can win the election. Is that really "new politics" or the "same old"?

    In fact, he's becoming more like Bush.

    July 3, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  12. Lesley

    John McCain can't read. He must have been part of the no child left behind program that was underfunded and didn't get off the ground.

    July 3, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  13. Stephen

    This is ridiculous. I want a President who 1) recognizes the need to start getting out immediately 2) will listen and adapt to conditions and reports from generals. That is, was, and always has been Barack Obama. He was saying his line "careful getting out as we were careless getting in" throughout the primary season.

    It is clear that the media just wants to "trap" him into saying something contradictory. They want this race to be tight in order to keep ratings up, so right now that means trying to "get" something on Obama.

    July 3, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  14. Republican for Obama

    Commies will vote for McCain-Let there be no constitutional rights, let big brother invade our homes all in the name of dictatorship.

    Patriotic American's will vote for Obama-Let the constitution be adhered to, and not ignored.

    July 3, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  15. R.I.F.

    Once again the McCain camp makes a false accuataion and the media goes along with it as if it was a fact. It's just like when the McCain camp said that Clark was attacking McCain's milarty experience when all he was saying was that getting shot down is not a qualification to be president after the host, Bob Sheffer made a comment about Obama never being shot down. If this is the way that it's going to go for thje next four months then Obama doesn't stand a chance. Please report the facts and not waht the McCain camp tells you are the facts. The media is who cost Gore and Kerry the elections because the Repulbicans are good at twisting words and then the media just goes and runs with them

    Obama '08

    July 3, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  16. vick

    obama!

    July 3, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  17. Ula Nejad- Sacramento Ca

    He needs to tell the people HOW he intends to just that and the reasons why? We did not spend money for a cause greater than ourselves to only walk away and leave the Iraq buckle and return to civil war. We demand it!

    July 3, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  18. vince, Chicago

    Flip flop flip flop. I wonder how many people voted for him just on his anti-war stance. Under the bus.

    July 3, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  19. Abbey

    Whatever.

    July 3, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  20. not important

    Barack is a smart man. He is not a Lyndon Johnson. We all remember what Lyndon Johnson did during the Vietnam war. Obama will have the troops home and he will make sure that Iraq will not be another South Vietnam. McCain wants to bring an "honorable end" to the Iraq war. Richard Nixon said that same thing about Vietnam war in 1969 that John McCain is saying about the Iraq war in 2008. McCain will probaly expand the war.

    July 3, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  21. JosBam

    CNN CAN YOU PLEASE LEAVE THIS GUY ALONE ??? hE HAD BEEN VERY CLEAR SINCE THE BEGINNING !
    HE DID NOT CHANGE ANYTHING AND HE DID NOT FLIP FLOP…

    OBAMA 08 & 12

    July 3, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  22. Doug, DC

    This is silly. Of course as President Barack Obama will have to refine his IRAQ policy if his 16 month plan pose security risks to US soldiers!! HOWEVER, he will institute a change in direction in IRAQ policy and get our troops out of IRAQ much quicker than MCSane!!

    July 3, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  23. Lilah

    Republicans are seriously crazy. It doesn't matter WHAT Obama has to say, they'll twist his words until they are unrecognizable. The last paragraph in this story is downright laughable.

    July 3, 2008 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  24. Mark

    Did I get this right?

    The goal is withdrawl in 16 Months.
    If anything unforseen changes the strategy may be refinded.

    –> Sounds like a good plan to me.

    July 3, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  25. Tru Democrat

    Just another flip flopper . Hillary is really starting to look better every day. Now he has no one to mock the policies .

    July 3, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
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