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. annette

    So whats her name comes on and says: this is Cnn no bias no BULL, ha no more has she said this she goes off with some "catchy" (not) headline about Mr. Obama coming out to express himself more clearly. Aparently CNN the whole misrable crew at CNn only hears what it wants to hear, and that is this negative s... they run on all day long. Well, I only want to hear positive (in the words of Harv Ecker: if you are going to be negative don't stand next to me), so I have this remote in my hand, that only wants me to turn onto positive rational smart thoughts, so I tune you out CNN you are too negative for my remote and me.
    If you want to be ubbiased then dammet be it

    July 3, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  2. annette

    Mr. Obama, you rock.

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

    now he has the exact same policy in Iraq as McCain. Hmmm, who would be best suited, the inexperienced newcomer or the experienced oldie. I'd go with oldie

    July 3, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  4. annette

    Mc.shame you suck

    July 3, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  5. tom, boston

    Senator Obama,

    do whatever it takes to get elected.

    then we'll kick the neo-cons, corpocons, and AIPAC out of washington into the prison.

    once and for all.

    July 3, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  6. saga4obama

    love this brothers swagger

    July 3, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  7. s.positive

    I guess the media, RNC and the ignorant opponents of Obama cannot articulate an explained statement... Surprised to see the number of dummies floating around.

    July 3, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  8. yns

    More "rhetoric" from the typical politician to get votes from whoever he can get. If you go back and take a look at what he said in the beginning and what he is saying now.... you will find very different comments.... voters beware!!!!

    July 3, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  9. Tim

    Obama shouldn't have to apologize for having a nuanced and responsible position. Not every solution is simple!

    July 3, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  10. Clinton/McCain

    What a joke. Does he not realize we can look at past clips of him saying the war would be over by 2009.

    July 3, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  11. ME

    Does BO knows how to withdraw the troops from Iraq.???? Maybe he is flip flopping because he doesn't know how!!!!! The DNC sure did pick a looser for this election and we, the American people are going to pay the price.

    I will have to reconsider giving my vote to him, I thought he was different and was bringing "change" but I see that the "saga" will continue.................

    July 3, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  12. NPA

    So the republicans start a rumor, throw it out there, and now the media is insisting on it without proof? It's all journalism.

    July 3, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  13. richard

    why is this so difficult for the media to understand? what are you people dense or something?

    re-evaluating the time line because of changes does not mean obama wants to all of a sudden stay the course. a timely withdraw is what we will get with obama, period. changes on the ground will change the strategy of the withdraw, but a withdraw it will still be.

    July 3, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  14. Michael, Lorain, Ohio

    The notion that the surge has worked is complete falsehood. The man responsible for the success in less US troops being killed isn't even a US citizen. Al-Sadr and his Medhi army have had a cease fire arrangement which has lead to a dramatic drop-off in bombings. That cease fire is slated to end when he forms his new militia, then the surge will unfortunately fail. We need to get out of this civil war and let them fight amongst themselves. Maybe then we can get back to taking care of our own country!

    July 3, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  15. christine

    i dont think obama had changed his iraq policy but i think if reporters are not smart enough to see whats going we will be in the same bush mess again were reporters took us to war for no reason i dont know why then dont learn from mistakesm obama said he would refine his iraq policy, refne means remove unwanted substance, improve something, so did it occur to reporters that he meant pulling our troops, since everybody is saying they is progrss, so if they is progress why keep our troops for 100 years instead of focusing on afganistan i think reporters should be smart to look in the dictionary if they dont understand some of these words, dont run with a story simple because another campaign is pushing it before you gather the right information this is why we are paying $4.90 at the pump because you all took us to this war listening to push and his people and this is what mccbush is doing now, american people want journalist that are smart please stop this kind of press we are sick and tired of it , washington post, huffington post, msnbc, do your job and think before you put something out use your common sense thats why you are journalist SO DISSAPOINTED WITH HOW THE MEDIA TOOK US TO WAR

    July 3, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  16. LT for Obama

    This is something he has been saying for months. In the last debate he said the same thing yet no one said anything about it until McCain and his people needed to find a reason to get the focus off the fact that he is running all over Columbia and Mexico promising more jobs there and pushing free trade like it is going to make the US more prosperous.

    July 3, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  17. David Armendale, SF, CA

    Is it just me, or do the media seem bent on misunderstanding Obama's position in this case in order to fan the flames of a false controversy? I'm truthfully concerned for the mental health of these block-headed reporters who seem determined to get this story so woefully wrong. My primary concern is the amateurish quality of reporting of Obama's statements today being largely infected by questions based upon misperceptions fed to them by those whose profession it is to instill doubt about Obama. Are these reporters for CNN and these other "News Organizations" so easily manipulated? Are they really this dumb, or just hard up for any controversy, manufactured or otherwise, that they can feed upon?

    July 3, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  18. Independent Voter

    A RANK AMATEUR PLAYING WITH HUMAN LIVES!!

    July 3, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  19. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    AGAIN, WHY SHOULD OBAMA CHANGE HIS STANCE ON WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ. IF THINGS ARE GOING SO GREAT THERE NOW AS MCCAIN AND BUSH SAY, THERE IS NO NEED TO CHANGE, THE ONLY THING LEFT IS WITHDRAWAL. IT DOESN'T TAKE A GENIUS TO FIGURE OUT THIS IS NO MULTIPLE CHOICE QUESTION, IT JUST PUTS A NAIL IN THE COFFIN THAT MCCAIN AND BUSH'S FAILED POLICY HAD NO PLAN. THINK ABOUT IT.

    July 3, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  20. To all Obama haters

    I think people who don't like Obama even if you read what he said to this people a million times they will not understand cause they are so busy with hate. A reasonable person will look at things even if you have to quit a job you have to look for options first then quit the people saying he is flip floping are the ones who quit there jobs and live off there mom and dad with no shame cause the are slow to understand in life the people who make it are the smart ones.

    July 3, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  21. Franco

    Hello American People!!!

    Once again, Obama is demonstrating that he is not the "agent of change" but the changing agent........................

    God Blessd America!!!

    July 3, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  22. Texas Trail Dog

    WELL HE BETTER CHANGE HIS STANCE UNLESS HE WANTS THE ARABS HERE MUCH SOONER THAN THEY HAVE PLANNED. THEY'RE RUBBING THEIR PALMS TOGETHER AND LAUGHING THAT THE STUPID INFIDELS WILL ELECT THIS MUSLIM TO THE HIGHEST OFFICE OF THE LAND. HOW CAN AMERICANS BE SO IGNORANT AS TO ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN. PLEASE LORD BE WITH US BECAUSE THE ARABS WON'T WHEN THEY BEHEAD THE MEN AND STONE TO DEATH OUR WOMEN AND CHILDREN. SAY NO TO OBAMA, NOW.

    July 3, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  23. richard

    McFlipFlop divorced his first wife because she lost her glamour in a car accident. He committed adultery and married Cindy just one month after the divorce. HE denies the economy is in trouble. He flips on his rejction of the Bush tax cuts. Heck he flips on his own immigration bill. He left the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees when they were not intimidated by his temper. He grabs an opponebt by th eneck while on a diplomatic missions. Could Obama ever say anything that would make him worse than McFLip Flop.

    July 3, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  24. Peter E

    Ah, but the devil is in the vocabulary... note that he always emphasizes 'combat' troops. What he doesn't tell you (but you can read in the small print of his plan actually) is that even with the 'complete withdrawal of all combat troops' we'd still have tens of thousands of US military/service personel left in harms way in Iraq.

    He calls it 'withdrawal.' I call it deceptive political ploy.

    July 3, 2008 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  25. Eric in Cali

    I'm voting for Obama no matter what!
    HE is better than McCain! Or Everything!
    The Repulselicans want 4 more years of the last 8 ...Please!
    Obama can flip, flop, pulsate, pop-lock, skip, dance , peddle, swim, moonwalk...I'm voting for him! Period. Full Stop!

    To vote McCain is the continuation of Bush!

    July 3, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
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