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. McCain=the draft

    To peakarach:

    You haven't done your homework. Google " the real McCain" and you will see everything you posted describes... McCain!
    And you can add, an evil little warmonger too!

    July 3, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  2. Kenneth M.

    I am so sick of theses people being so negitive about Obama. Look, we have seen what the Redubyacans can do. They had controle for the past 8 years and have stunk the country up. Now they want to blame it on the Dems because we have had the congress for 2 years. Well, it take more then 2 years to fix anything when everything is broken. And the History I mean Hillary fans are just a sad sack of political suckers moving to the right to spite themselves! Get a grip, Go Obama or stay at home.

    July 3, 2008 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  3. Rev. J. Wright

    Like I said before,..He is a politician saying what he has to say to get elected.....Is that so wrong?

    July 3, 2008 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  4. Just Capri

    I find it appalling that the MSM continually reports false news about Sen. Obama. Do they not recall "We will be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in"?? How many times did Sen. Obama repeat this phrase during the 23 primary debates? As Commander in Chief he will set the mission and the mission is withdrawal from Iraq – there has been no shift to the centre !

    July 3, 2008 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  5. Still-4-Hill 2

    At this point, does anyone know where Obama stands on the issues?

    I hope you people who voted for him get your free college education...hahahahahaha....like that's going to happen....Your money is going to fund Rev Wright's church.

    Still 4 Hill, but voting McCain

    July 3, 2008 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  6. G.R. FROM NYC

    OBAMA HAS BEEN SAY THE SAME THING FOR THE LAST YEAR, HE HAS NOT FLIP FLOP ON THIS ISSUE AND STOP HAVING THE MCCAIN CAMP LYING TO THE MEDIA AND STOP PARCING WORDS, ASK McCAIN WHAT IS HE GOING TO DO FOR THIS COUNTRY, HOW ABOUT VALUES AND WHAT HE DID TO HIS FIRST WIFE. ALL McCAIN IS DOING IS COMPLAINING ABOUT OBAMA. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, START TAKING McCAIN TO TASK FOR ALL OF HIS FLIP FLOPS OVER THE LAST 8 YRS.

    July 3, 2008 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  7. California Voter

    The longer this race goes, the more we get to know Obama for what he is, the same old politician he ranted about in the primary. The same old politician who panders to the voters. The old politician who tells the voters what they want to hear. His political campaign has been superb - it fooled all those college educated liberals - but he didn't fool the average working American and he is not fooling me. What change is he about? Nothing new from the looks of it, but he is being touted as the only person who can change Washington. Well, I agree he is a person of change - changing his positions. He is now the centrist. Please, who is the real Barack Obama and what are his real core values? Aas a member of a black liberation church for 20 years where hatred and racism were preached by the minister do we really know where Barack stands on that message?

    July 3, 2008 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  8. from MA

    I really feel bad for anyone who is so easily convinced. Use your own head and not paid liars. This is their job and it's hardly their fault some people are so easily fooled. Obama specificly said til this very day that he is still for withdrawing from Iraq in 16 months time. But how would it look if things begin to shape up and it's clear troops would help the situation in Iraq? A good leader isn't stubborn. A good leader is willing to change their policies and politics when change is needed. Obama is only saying at this time he sees no reason to not pull out in 16 months, but it's possible the situation might change in the future.

    As for McCain saying troops should stay in Iraq for 100 years? I'm pretty sure that was a mistake. I think he was just emphasizing his point that he will keep troops in Iraq as long as he thinks they need be there. After all, his goal IS to bring all troops home by 2013.

    July 3, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  9. Former Hillary supporter for Obama

    Do you critics actually read anything before you post or do you automatically jump in with Barack insults?

    Baracks stance is the same now as it was before. By removing our troops by one to two brigades each month. That'll take about 16 months.

    That is exactly the same stance as before. By him stating he may revisit it if the circumstances change is the right thing to do.

    July 3, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  10. Teresa, Georgia

    Carefully plan withdrawal of troops vs. keeping them there for another 100 years...which one is smarter?

    Obama 08

    July 3, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  11. Beryl

    The Repubs on this site know Obama has been consistent. They are just trying to find a way to slam him because they don't have a good candidate in this election.

    Don't hate. Just recognize that Obama is the INTELLIGENT choice for 2008.

    July 3, 2008 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  12. mountain man

    Obama wasn't so understanding of Hillary's nuanced Iraq stance I don't know why he expects us to treat him any better then he treated her?

    July 3, 2008 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  13. paul, nyc ny

    Sorry, Barack, but I watched the debate where you said you would remove the troops immediately and within the first 6months.

    Stand by your word as you are giving the Republicans attack commercial after attack commercial with your flip flopping. Dont ruin your chances and become a Mondale or a Dukakis in the History books.

    July 3, 2008 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  14. Just Capri

    Hypocritical McCain supporters (all 3 of them) – you really wanna criticize someone for flip-flopping and taking positions that are politically advantageous – really?? Have you been paying any attention at all to the DOUBLE TALK that your candidate spews on a daily basis????

    I never said that I didn't understand the economy?? - COME ON!!

    July 3, 2008 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  15. Dave from D.C.

    A sign of intelligence is to listen to input from all respected sources and make a decision based on the facts. Barack did not change his long-standing opinion on this matter. The problem with Bush/McCain and the Republican party is that they would rather stay with a failed policy and march 4,000 young Americans to their deaths in war than to admit a mistake and change a course of action. Who would you rather have as President, a person who can't admit that he was wrong or someone like Barack who will work to get it right? We don't need four more years of the failed policies that we now have? People, let's get real, too much is at stake.

    July 3, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  16. captain

    Where's the story?

    It sounds like he's saying what he's always said.

    The McCain camp is trying to make something out of nothing because that's what Republicans have to run on in 2008 – NOTHING.

    July 3, 2008 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  17. Pat for McCain

    Excuse me! WHAT DEFINITE PLAN does Obama have for "getting out of Iraq"? I'd love to know!

    July 3, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  18. ANGIE

    i think that thats a great decision on obamas part unlike mccain remember what he said i do IRAQ 100 YEARS I WILL NEVER SURRENDER IN IRAQ MY FRIENDS IT NOT IMPORTANT WHEN THE TROOPS COME HOME JUST AS LONG THEIR NOT IN HARMS WAY there you have it mccains words at least obama is more sensible and responsible unlike mccain that would leave them there for a 100 years!!!

    July 3, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  19. Fella from Chicago

    Not exactly the safe haven and feel good zone of the south side of Chicago, is it Barack? You're in the realm where men have to make life and death decisions daily affecting our men and women in uniform and keep people working in order to feed their families and pay they mortgages; not for a few thousand people in a city district, but for millions of Americans across the land. People are beginning to tire of your flip-flop promises. Come on back home to Chicago and let the good people of this nation get on to choosing a real man who can handle the pressure and stress of the Presidency; John McCain. Afterall, he's been in this national arena since 1982. You; well a first term Senator who has served only a half a term isn't exactly a blanket of security that we want protecting our children. Come back to Chicago Barack and all will be forgiven.

    July 3, 2008 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  20. sharon

    Americans have to start listening to WHAT Obama says. Do not listen to how McCain and the MSM twist it. Neither one have much else to do.

    July 3, 2008 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  21. Ernie

    Your presentation of this story has been very disapointing. No, not just because I'm an Obama supporter. It's more than that. Because CNN has covered his position on the Iraq War so repeatedly during the primary even McCain supporters should be able to repeat it...correctly. It's a shame that a candidate has to give another press conference because CNN and other news organizations sensationalize the news to keep an audience focused and theirby keep their ratings up. Insulting, respect your audience. We know it's difficult right now during this "in between" time of the election cycle but give us more substance and facts! We demand consistent substantative reporting for both candidates.

    July 3, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  22. Keith

    Obama is pushing for a change in policy that will make us safer because we'll be able to focus on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. McCain still hasn't come up with a workable plan. There's no way we can occupy Iraq for 100 years like McCain wants.

    Obama has been clear on this from the beginning. If it's news to anybody, they must have not been paying attention.

    July 3, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  23. Patrick from Atlanta

    Reading some of the responses on here makes me think we need to require an IQ test before allowing people to vote. You people act like a bunch of crybabies. Stop and think once in a while. The elections are not about who you "feel" will be the best president. I'm so sick of all this emotional nonsense that has taken over our elections. What happened to intellectual ideas? Obama is a smart respectable guy, and so is McCain. If we would stop and listen to what they really have to say all of this name calling wouldn’t be necessary.

    July 3, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  24. saga4obama

    people he did NOT change his position at all...my God reading some of these stupid @$$ post..it is no wonder Bush served two...(3 if McCain gets in) terms... DUMPMCCAIN.COM

    July 3, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  25. New Yorker

    John McCain won't have a hard time explaining how he is willing to maintain a presence in Iraq for another 50 years or so. It's simply called "national security" something Obama knows nothing about.

    Farrell, Bush's policy hasn't failed. You still aren't bowing to Allah are you? The only thing that is failing is the media getting the truth out about the success in Iraq. A victory in Iraq sure would make the democrats unhappy.

    July 3, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
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