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. Daniel

    Barack is inexperienced and he has no foreign policy. He does not know how to manage our great country. He is a joke.

    July 3, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  2. Kamran

    I find a lot of peoples comments laughable...

    So let me guess, it's a bad thing to have a president that thinks rationally?...Analyzing the situation before he makes a judgement?...Compared to Bush's "Stay the Course" policy that is obviously what McCain is picking up...95% of the time McCain has agreed with bush for voting in congress, he says we will stay in Iraq for 100 years and that "I will never surrender in Iraq my friends, I will never surrender"...This is the same stubbornness that I've seen for the past 8 years from Bush...

    I'm just amazed at how close the polls are, I guess a large portion of Americans really are ignorant considering other nations are praising and displaying their support for Obama...and calling us imbeciles if we don't choose him....The falling standards of the US is definitely not just in jobs, but it seems in rational/logical thought and intelligence as well...America has officially become a dumb puppy.

    July 3, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  3. LT for Obama

    Clinton/McCain –

    Ditto for the fact that there are clips of Barack saying that he will carefully get the troops out after laying out his plan to the military commanders and finding out what the situation is on the ground. Heck, I listened to one on my way home from work. It was from the last debate with Hillary.

    This is called selective hearing and reading and only responding to what you read today instead of actually listening to the actual candidates.

    July 3, 2008 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |

    Don't worry Barack. Americans know how the Republicans/Gop work. We WON'T fall for it. VOTE BARACK OBAMA NOVEMBER 4.

    July 3, 2008 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  5. Michael Hussein from MA

    Seriously considering changing my middle name – Sen Obama is a God-send 1) read: his books to understand the moral fiber that makes up this tremendous person 2) pray: for his continued insight, vision, and fortitude 3) believe: he will change how we govern and how positively we are perceived world wide – thanks for listening

    July 3, 2008 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  6. Fionna

    He is such a liar. That is more flip flopping of his mouth. Perhaps he should take some time keeping his mouth shut and listen and think more.

    July 3, 2008 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  7. No McCain!

    Good... I like it. But I suggest to Obama to divert troops to Afghanistan and northern Pakistan to take out our REAL enemies, (bin Laden and the Taliban to name a few.) Does he have that in mind? Just a suggestion...

    As far as I'm concerned, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

    Obama '08

    July 3, 2008 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |

    Obama CLEARLY stated that his position has not changed and it HAS NOT, if any of you haters had a clue about what he has said since the start of this campaign you would know that what he said today is the same as 16 months ago...

    Why doesn't the media, the fake-o-crats (you know who you are... puma, and the rest of you Bush loving fools take a moment to verify your facts before spouting off as usual.

    July 3, 2008 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  9. colene

    mccain and cnn do not think for me . i think for myself and i know what he said and he has not changed and i am still voting for obama.

    July 3, 2008 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  10. James in Ohio

    For each of you saying Obama hasn't changed his position I ask you to remember how he mocked Hillary. Obama said her Iraq position of having a measured safe withdraw by not committing to a specific timeline was wrong. Seems he now is saying Hillary was right, and he was wrong. Face it folks you were blinded by his rock star show ignoring his inexperience and his past relationships. Each of you kept giving him the benefit of the doubt, just like so many did for Bush and look where that got us.

    Just say no deal. NObama!

    July 3, 2008 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  11. Timber

    Obama is nothing but smoke and mirrors and people actually fall for it! It really makes me wonder about the future of our country.

    July 3, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  12. librarian in mississippi

    Obama did not change his stance. This war, that GB started, is going to be tricky to extricate ourselves from. We, the US, destabilized the country of Iraq with our military intervention in a country that did not need our help. Now, if we leave too soon, you can bet that the extremists will attack the US again. In a way we killed the only person that could help us get out of Iraq – Saddam. At least he could control half of the population, those that were loyal to him. Now we have no one person in the country that can control a significant portion of the population. Thanks Bush. There is no military solution for Iraq, we cannot beat the people into submission. Think about it, would other countries be able to come into the united states and take over like we have done in Iraq without the people protesting? Hell no! The solution is going to involve getting the sides to talk and agree on a cease fire. I think that Obama can do that because he understands the value of talking as opposed to shooting from the hip.

    July 3, 2008 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  13. Marty, FL

    The media seems to spin words to keep their ratings alive.

    Obama has not changed his poistion on this issue. He is the candidate in this election that will end the war in Iraq that should have never been started in the first place.

    July 3, 2008 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  14. steve

    Obama had not changed his Iraq policy.
    The big culprit are MSM and Mcsame camp who misrepresented his earlier statements.
    American press is looking very ridiculous this early in the election circle.
    They should just go and find another profession that represent this new low in reporting.

    July 3, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  15. mitchell

    Changing your mind should be a welcoming relief for this country, especially when it is about facts and substance. When someone has new information that the public is not privy too, it is extremely important to act accordingly . A smart leader knows when to rethink a serious situation as new development becomes available. If it is in the best interest for this country, then I applaude him. Mr. Obama has done just that while others are ready to rush and condemn. I'm sure Mr. Mccain has changed his mind quite a few times as well.

    Think of something else, please.

    July 3, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  16. S. Boatman Warrensburg Mo.

    Mccain Is A Lair! Obama Is Honest! Mccain Flips And Flops! Obama Doesnt! Mccain Lacks Judgement! Obama Shows Good Judgement! Mccain Has Nothing! Obama Has It All!

    July 3, 2008 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  17. twister49

    Superdelagets - you asked for him now you got him... BRING HILLARY BACK TO THE RACE>>>>>>

    July 3, 2008 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  18. capitalist

    soon everyone will realize that this guy is an empty suit...just do some research..the guy is a socialist and has no clue what to do with regard to foreign policy...just go to youtube and type in 'obama socialist' and you will see a clip from a debate where he says he's for raising the capital gains tax...in the same clip the moderator reminds him that, in fact, when the tax is lowered the government brings in more revenue than when it is higher...he says something along the lines of, you have to do what's fair...funny...not only is he confused about this basic concept he thinks its fair to tax at a higher rate and make less money off of the tax!!...and this guy has a good strategy for iraq??? priceless...besides, iraq is going much better now that's why you don't hear about it on the news anymore...wake up people..the guy is nothing more than a good speaker...

    anyone but obama in 08

    July 3, 2008 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  19. election watcher

    Obama has already changed his stance on Iraq multiple times. He's even voted one way while claiming he voted another. The upshot is we cannot believe one word that comes out of his mouth. Just looks at the false claims in his latest ad on factcheck.org.

    July 3, 2008 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  20. Joe Reg

    100 years war is not sustainable.

    Obama will bring political stability in the Middle East and bring back the troops with victory.

    History in the making!

    Obama 08 & 12.

    July 3, 2008 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  21. Jen, CA

    WRONG! Throughout the primaries, Obama said "immediate withdrawal" from Iraq. Now he lies again. Obama, quite simply, lies all the time!

    July 3, 2008 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  22. Olivia

    This article absolutely DISGUSTS me. Reporters ask him if he will be out in 16 months; he answers that as president he plans to have troops out in 16 months; yet CNN reports that he "did not answer the question directly?" What is WRONG with you people?

    Watch any of the previous debates, and you will hear Obama saying time and again that he would be as CAREFUL bringing troops out as Bush was CARELESS sending them in. This is EXACTLY what he has said from day one.

    It's not flip-flopping to say that he will evaluate the situation carefully and make necessary adjustments; it's intelligence that our current president and McCain are completely lacking. Bush will stubbornly refuse to make ANY changes no matter WHAT happens because he can't handle being wrong. To all the people who wrote these comments – are you really such uneducated sheep? Can't anyone read an article and sift through it applying their own common sense and intelligence, rather than just absorbing it as 100% fact? This country is filled with ignorant, blind followers and it is really disturbing.

    July 3, 2008 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  23. Trollmaster

    If we have 1/4 of the troops we have now in Iraq by the end of Obama's 1st term, that's good enough for me.

    It's far better than the alternative with McCain's Stay the course, Mission Accomplished, the Surge is working, or what other failed empty slogan he's going to come up with. After 4 years of McCain, we'll have a 12 to 13 trillion national debt, and we're still going to have roughly the same number of troops in Iraq and he's going to still say "we're winning in Iraq" with zero signs of withdrawing our troops.

    July 3, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  24. Dan

    So Obama is willing to decide his position after going there? What about the intelligence reports? Does he really need to see it with his own eyes? Glad to see he can't make up his mind, unless it polls well.

    July 3, 2008 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  25. Mike from Houston

    Obama , we are with you. We know who is the flap-flopper and find no
    issue to talk about.

    July 3, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
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