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

Obama again denies change of Iraq stance


[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/03/art.boiraq0703.ap.jpg caption="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. Carol

    Well you voted for the liar....now all you male Obamaer's get ready to grab your bags.....its off to the Middle East for you clowns.

    July 3, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  2. Republican for Obama

    Oh, and FYI, if you McCain Morons didn't get it, he said 'he's not changing his position". Unlike your candidate who changes EVERYTHING after getting it wrong the first, second and even final time.

    July 3, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  3. Obama2008/2012

    Call it like you see it McCain,McShame ,McInsane ,McBush ,McLooser ,McLost it and that he has including his temper.

    July 3, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  4. Chris, Silicon Valley, CA, USA

    If you really want this war over, your candidate is Nader or Bob Barr, not Obama or McCain.

    July 3, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  5. Clinton, no, wait, McCain Supporter

    Now this IS really fun! The used car salesman doesn't know how to get out of Iraq! Where is all that self-righteous talk about Hillary Clinton dragging her feet and McCain not being willing to leave??

    Only yesterday, I was mused on this very blog how long it would be before he backed away from the biggest promise of all. And here it is. I am tickled pink! Obama will say ANYTHING TO GET ELECTED!!

    "Oh, this is not different than what I've been saying all along..." SURE.

    I wouldn't vote for this greedy liar if you paid me. Come to think of it, I bet the Obama cultists would pay anybody. He certainly has enough money to foot the bill. Your money, not mine.

    I think the Obama followers should rush to their nearest Army recruiter and sign up NOW! Barack needs YOU! JOIN THE ARMY TODAY!
    My question: how many more things does he have to say before America wakes up?

    July 3, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  6. Gobama

    Americans' mind span is so short that everything has to be in black and white. And that is not a good sign.
    It is a sign that the general education is substandard, when the mind cannot handle nuanced positions that DOES NOT alter a basic position.

    A good leader has to have a plan.
    And a good leader will allow for refinement of plan if and when events dictate an alteration.

    Obama has a definite plan for LEAVING Iraq.

    Bush-McCain has no plan for STAYING in Iraq indefinitely, even for a hundred years.

    Having a definite plan does not mean that adjustments are not allowed for UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES!
    Having a good plan means making allowance for adjustments. All worthy enterprises are run that way.
    That is why there are what are called 'cost overrun'; one may not know everything about the future.

    A good leader DOES NOT stubbornly 'stay the course' when unforeseen circumstances demands adjustment to plans.

    Obama is sending a message that says, "Getting out of Iraq".
    That will cause the Iraqis to 'man up' and reach an accord among themselves.

    McCain wants to go and be in Iraq for 100 years.

    McCain wants the war; because that's all that is in his blood - WAR without end!

    July 3, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  7. Tom, Obama supporter

    This is okay not bad

    July 3, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  8. Independent voter

    Amazing. Obama was right about Iraq from the beginning and has consistently called for the withdrawal of US troops, yet he is being badgered with "questions" about his position on Iraq? Other than the McCain campaign, who is raising specific questions about Obama's stance on Iraq?

    Bottom line: Obama completely trumps McCain on foreign policy. Obama was and is right about Iraq; he is actually took action regarding loose nukes (which Bush and Kerry expressly agreed was the gravest threat to the US back in 2004); Obama's proposals to negotiate more openly with unfriendly foreign governments (which were first derided by many) have been adopted by the Bush admin with regard to North Korea; the list goes on.

    I like John McCain but he belongs in the Senate, God bless him. He just doesn't have the judgment or temperament to be President.

    July 3, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  9. Roger from CA

    That release from the McCain campaign is too precious! I wonder if they even considered what Obama actually said, or they just set their email to "send" their statement at the time Obama was scheduled to wrap his news conference.

    I see that McCain's new head guy learned well from his old mentor, Karl Rove: repeat something (false) enough times, and it becomes the truth. At least the scared-of-their-shadow mainstream media will accept it as the truth, because they know otherwise that the Limbaughs and other conservative attack-dogs will scream "liberal media!!"

    As Obama says, he has not "reversed himself."

    I just hope that the American public is smart enough to tell the difference this time.

    July 3, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  10. Independent

    Obama has been the most consistent not just in this campaign but over his political career. The media is just trying to make news of nothing and McCain is trying to create news of Obama changing to save his dying campaign.

    July 3, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  11. Chuck

    Whatever will get the votes....

    Pretty much status quo there, Mr. "Change."


    July 3, 2008 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  12. white people for obama

    I guess he has to do this twice in one day because there are crazy people who don't get that he is not a flip-flopper. But it's okay for McCain to flip-flop on torture, gas prices, etc

    July 3, 2008 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  13. Lynn

    Right! Sure! Another flip – flop in the works!! How many are they now. I lost count. He reminds me everyday why I left the Democratic Party. 16 month phased withdrawal. Remember that for future reference. Iraq would be the only issue I would possibly vote for him on. The problem is – I don't trust him to do the right thing and get our troops out of Iraq or healthcare, or jobs or anything. He has no experience plus I am concern on his ties with the hate America culture. Then there is McCain?

    July 3, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  14. Val from MA

    Spineless empty suit with yet another broken promise. I clearly remember during the primary season Obama touted his "16 months" combat troops pull out from Iraq and now he is changing that also. Liar – he never said that his timeline was "always premised on makig sure that our tropps were safe." That's a pure lie!

    People: How can you believe a word that comes out of this guy's mouth? Unbelievable.

    July 3, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  15. The curious observer

    That's all well and good barrack; but this is not the time to be unclear about where you really stand on issues. you need to be firm now more than ever in these next 4 months. I have supported you from day one, but i hope i am not beginning to see worring signs..such as flip flopping on where you stnd on issues; because you WiLL be called out if this becomes the case......remember how you got here! ..and you will be quickly forgotten if you do not succeed in Niovember myfriend. God's speed.

    July 3, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  16. Monica for Obama in Indiana

    This title should read: Obama to refine his stance after visit to Iraq

    Obama is saying the same thing, just rewording it differently

    July 3, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  17. wisdom

    We don't trust Obama. We voted Clinton in the primaries because we did not know much about Obama. Now we know A LOT about him, we will vote McCain.


    July 3, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  18. Don Fitzgerald

    The Republicans, and NeoCons, can't tell that lie, often enough!! They know that, that is the issue that is going to sink their Swift-Boat!! Senator Obama is not like Senator " Questionable Conduct " McCain, of the " Keating Five ", Senator Obama will not back-track on his stance on the Disaster in Baghdad !! He will, as he rightly points out, begin the withdrawal of our troops, as long as this withdrawal will not put their lives in danger !! I know, that is music to our ears, as it is to our Armed Forces' and their families' ears !!

    July 3, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  19. rexx

    Of course obama changed his position. The primaries are over, now time to swiftly move to the center. lol. i mean what was his position anyway? Run like hell from iraq and hope the bad guys don't take over? lol. Welcome to reality. And welcome to President McCain.

    July 3, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  20. Independant , FL

    Barack Obama has not adopted McCain's policy of and ENDLESS WAR! Obama is just being more specific now. I always was a little worried about his stance of removing troops out in 16 months. However, I trusted his judgment and just knew he had common sense to know that you have to look at the facts on the ground. I was vehemently against this war from the start, but i still want it ended responsibly. Barack has always said we would be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in ,and I am glad he has refined what he meant by that. People are trying to make this a flip-flop. He's just being more specific that it all. Hello people! Just because you set a goal, does not,mean you will be able to achieve exactly the way you wanted too.

    July 3, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  21. Ian M

    Obama '08.

    July 3, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  22. Venus

    McSame's camp is just trying to gain some traction and news media!

    Go Bam! Stay focus and don't play their game! They are trying to keep the media from talking about McSame's shake up!

    July 3, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  23. Independant , FL

    Obviously, the media is not doing it's job if Mccain and Obama are almost even on a flip-flopping poll. To go back on Public financing just makes common sense when you are the unknown candidate and 10% of americans still think you are a muslim. Obama needs the extra money to introduce him self to the voting public. To say tax cut for the wealthy offend your conscience and then change your mind about your conscience is a character issue. Obama changes in position are minuscule in compared to McCain. Even if you think Obama flip-flops you can only point to a couple things.On the other hand:

    MCcain flip-flops:
    *flip-flopped on finance reform during the primary
    *Bush tax cuts for the wealthy
    *would vote against McCain-Feingold immigration bill(yes McCain as in John McCain)
    *would stay in Iraq 100 years, changed to would be out by 2013
    *against offshore drilling , for offshore drilling
    * called the religious right, agents of intolerance,then asks for there endorsement, and then rejected there endorsements
    *attacked Obama for be willing to meet with our enemies, yet he said , in 2006 on video we should be willing to engage Hamas
    *there is the thing about caring for the environment, yet saying we need more nuclear plants and need to drill off shore. (I know if it qualifies as a flip-flop but it sure is contradictory.

    July 3, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  24. Mike

    He denies a change because there was ummm, No Change!! A stupid CNN story by Jessica Yellin does not a change make. Wow CNN get some real news. How about some investigative journalism about how lunatic Bush plans to attack Iran and start World War Three!

    July 3, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  25. Brenda

    President Obama is a change I can believe in. He will get our troops home sooner then McCain would. Nuff said

    July 3, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
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