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. Harry

    Aren't we entitled to review our position on any matter as circumstaces dictates? Senator Obama is not stone or concrete and therefore the journalists should not persist their questioning him as though he is a "GOD" and can predict or dictate the future with absolute certainty.

    He is only HUMAN and should be seen and regarded as such.!!!!!!!!!

    Mission was accomplished in Iraq nearly 2 years ago, so why can't the troops be withdrawn?????? or is the mission still uncertain and unknown by the prosecutors' of the unjust war?

    The line of questioning Senator Obama seem too judgemental.

    I look forward to Senator Barak Obama becoming the next President of the United States of America.

    Harry
    Kingston, Jamaica

    July 3, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  2. Jack

    Well here we go already. The ol' Democratic FLIP FLOP.

    Stand around, tell everyone what they want to hear, but when the rubber hits the road, fail to "walk the talk".

    Obama, you have nice dreams, but you don't know how to execute.

    July 3, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  3. Montana is Obama Country

    ......... Where is John McC's FLAG PIN....?????

    July 3, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  4. gary

    OBAMA ISA BIG FLIP FLOPPER. HRC WAS THE ONLY REALISTIC CANIDATE THAT WAS RUNNING. AMERICA GETS WHAT THEY ASK FOR.

    July 3, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  5. Shannon

    CNN should be able to pull up any of his countless town halls and realize that he said nothing different today than he has said for his entire campaign. This is an obvious attempt by McCain to play with the media and you have let them.

    July 3, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  6. jane

    Remember reverend Wright , this is not the man I knew 20 years ago, Obamy will go around, dance around depends of the circomstances, all for his own political gain.

    July 3, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  7. lila

    The media is a bunch of stupid crows. Cawing on and on that Obama changed his position in Iraq when in fact he said the same thing in the primary debates. Obama's mission in Iraq is and always has been to have us out in 16 months. He said so.. over and over.. to the cawing media crows today.
    Nothing is 100%. Only death. At some point... if our troops lives are in danger and Obama needs to slow withdraw until the hot spot is put out... he would consider it. It might take a few extra months. The mission is 16 months... but that is based on our troops being able to get out safely. It could take 20 months to fully withdraw safely.

    Now, McCain said today that his position is the same as Obama's.
    That's Huge news. That means McCain's mission is to withdraw our troops in 16 months. Why don't you media crows caw about that?

    And please don't delete my reply's.

    July 3, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  8. Chris

    Republicans have flooded the airwaves with this stuff and the press was all too willing to fall for it. I dare republicans to prove this is a flip flop.

    July 3, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  9. charles stewart

    Your coverage and space alloctated to Senator McCain continues to be biased in favor of Senator Obama.

    If you are his suraget, just tell your viewers and we will drive on.

    Why can't you just report the News and leave your spin in the rest room.

    I have been a long time fan of CNN but since you have gone to the extreme and adopted an agenda that is so anti McCain you will lose me.

    Charles Stewart

    July 3, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  10. Unempressed

    I'm starting to HATE the spin! The coverage lately has been gossip news – like the Enquirer!

    – Fist bump snub – Media screw up as there was no snub
    – Clark "attacking" McCain record – Spin Spin, he never attacked McCains record
    – "Refine" – apparently means "new direction" to media/McCain

    There's a dozen more...

    July 3, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  11. Milan N

    Obama's "change we can believe in" must have meant that he can "change" his mind whenever politically expedient. Maybe now all his supporters will see him "change" his most vital promise, to withdraw all the troops within a year...what a joke!

    July 3, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  12. Frank

    Too bad Bozo the Clown died today, otherwise he would have a fun day with this character!!! How many times have we heard Obama back track to explain what he meant, or what he should have said, or what he could have said more clearly!!!!! It is truely pathetic!

    July 3, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  13. Jim Samples


    He's a liar. He never said that until today... Gobble it up dummies...

    July 3, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  14. Tim, Hershey,PA

    Here we go again! Barack Obama is once again trying to have both sides of an issue. What does he really believe? He never talks about the disaster that would take place if we withdraw now. Here's the way I see happening. Once our troops withdraw prematurely the Mahdi militia would start a new round of revenge violence, which would in turn cause the sunni to retaliate and onward to total civil war.
    Once that happens the Kurds will demand their own country which will draw Turkey to get involved. And just like the Syrians did in Lebanon, Iran will take it upon themselves to occupy Iraq to "stabalize the country!" And you think oil is high now?
    We are getting close to acheiving our goals and the Iraqies themselves are finally beginning to see that their furure doesn't have to look so bleak. Why would you pull the rug from under their feet when things are changing for the better. Nobody said it was going to be easy. As a matter of fact, they told us it wasn't going to be easy. But it almost looks like the Democrats want this democracy in the Middle east to fail for their own political gains regardless of the sacrifies of our soldiers and their families, and particually the Iraqi people themselves. You think the Arabs hate us now? Watch if we leave prematurely.

    July 3, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  15. Vivienne

    John McCain is an idiot my friends.

    July 3, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  16. Lew In Atlanta

    Wow, scrambling twice in one day. Usually Obama's flip-flopping and double speak doesnt get any attention.

    OBAMA = SOCIALISM

    July 3, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  17. Nava-Canada

    Senator Obama has backed out from reopening NAFTA saying now that NAFTA after all is not so bad as he thought. Now he is changing his position on withdrawal of troops as against the wishes of the people of America.Come november, the situ in Iraq will be as good as what George predicted. War in Iraq was started with oil at the back of their minds and they found Saddam Hussain a scape goat to achieve their aims When the oil price sky rockets around November, people will realise that what Bush aimed is correct as they will have Soudi Arabia & Iraq to supply oil at US terms. Columbian govt.has left out the current President George Bush & Senator Obama but confided to Mr.McCain about the rescue mission to be conducted against the Columbian rebels. This is a sign of coinfidence that south/central Americans have for senator McCain. Coming colors are not so good for Senator Obama and the results in November may not be the same as people think right now.

    July 3, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  18. tony

    Obama critics,

    If you want to condemn Obama for changing his position on Iraq, at least wait until he actually changes position.

    In Obama's own words from his second new conference today, as reported by Fox News:

    "“We are 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. I have also said that I would be deliberate and careful in how we got out, that I would bring the troops home at a pace of one to two brigades a month and that at that pace we would have our combat troops out in 16 months.

    That position has not changed. I have not equivocated on that position. I am not searching for maneuvering room with respect to that position. What I said this morning and what I will repeat because it is consistent with what I have said over the last two years in putting this plan together. I will always listen to the advice of commanders on the ground but that ultimately I am the person making the strategic decisions.

    It is my view that strategically that for us to perpetuate this war in Iraq the way that John McCain has proposed and neglect the extraordinary problems that we are seeing in Afghanistan, to continue to spend 10 to 12 billion dollars a month, to continue to put enormous burdens on our military and military families is not the best way to make the American people safe.

    So we are going to go visit Iraq. I want to have conversations with commanders on the ground and Iraqi officials. When I come back that information will obviously inform how we shape our plans moving forward. For example, what is the current training situation and how many residual troops might be needed in order to train Iraqis to stand up both the army and the police? What is the current posture in terms of negotiations between the various Iraqi factions on critical issues like how oil is distributed oil revenues are distributed?

    But, you know, let me be as clear as I can be. I intend to end this war. My first day in office I will bring the Joint Chiefs of Staff in and I will give them a new mission and that is to end this war responsibly deliberately but decisively."

    In other words, what he wants to refine is the manner in which our troops in Iraq will be withdrawn, not whether it will be withdrawn.

    July 3, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  19. kev

    ha ha i knew this day would come. he had a strict time table and promise to be out of iraq in six months, but he's back pedaling as we all knew he'd have to if he was going to be honest and realistic. he said that the surge was useless, wasn't working, etc. and that the only way to deal with it was to pull out our troops and make the iraqis deal with it.

    at least mccain told us what we didn't want to hear from the get-go. of course obama just lied throughout the primaries in order to get votes from the left, and now he's trying to move to the center to get more votes. sounds like a typical politician to me.

    and mccain never said that he doesn't want to be in iraq for 100 years, he was answering someone who asked how long we might be iraq and he said "we might be there for 100 years; we still have troops in korea, and other parts of the world." he didn't say that he wants us to be at war for 100 years. that was a clear distortion by the media and obama.

    July 3, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  20. mag64

    The press are really very irritating. Mccain's campaign kept whining, he is going to change, he is going to change on Iraq by stating Obama's position as if there was some type of change. And when he says exactly what he has been saying all along, what does the drive by media do???? The jump on it and twist it like never before.

    He has not changed his position AT ALL. Look at Meet the Press, look at the Debates.

    Unlike McCain who has a 3 page list of flips in the last 4 months and does not even know who is in what country.

    This is amazing. It's a good thing by the polls, the american people do not care about flip flops because if they did McCain would be in grave trouble: CNN Poll: who has flip flopped: McCain 67% Obama 59% Who has the higher favorability ratings: Obama 63% McCain 59%

    No problem here folks: just move along.

    July 3, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  21. bo

    i love watching obama crumble under his own lies and public manipulation. (oh, but of course he's just pointing the finger at mccain's camp, saying that their telling lies).

    it also nice to see how he's taken mccain's advice and is going to iraq.

    July 3, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  22. Steve

    McCain's people calling Obama a flip-flopper has to be one for the Pot-Kettle Hall of Fame.

    And yeah, I know how the PUMA folks will spin this. Being that this crowd is entirely made up of a) members of Operation Chaos and b) Hillary "supporters" who think that hurt feelings are more important than issues, I can't say that I put much stock in what they say.

    July 3, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  23. Phrank

    Who knows? Once he realizes that the al-Maliki government is a puppet of Iran (Why else do you think we have to keep the forces we trained and equiped under observation by our spy satlelites?) he may want to pull all troops out immediately so as not to waste any more blood and treasure on the "success" that strengthens Iran. Could happen.

    July 3, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  24. CE

    He took one position to campaign against Senator Clinton. NOW, he is taking another position to campaign against Senator McCain.

    Flip-flop might be too kind – he is a TYPICAL POLITICIAN! The very thing he claimed not to be.

    Are more of his followers less blinded now by his empty words? If not, you have several more months to see him in his true light before the election. Too bad it did not happen in time to make Senator Clinton the nominee so the Democrats could win in November.

    Democrats for McCain – Just Say No Deal!

    July 3, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  25. patricia

    Go Obama!

    July 3, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
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