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. RJ, CA

    Obama's way over his head, and he ran too soon (maybe 8 years in the U.S. Senate would have given him "perspective." because he obviously has none right now). Obama promises everything to everyone. GIMME, GIMME, Obama! Barack, be sure to line the U.S. streets with gold, so we can afford all of your "impossible" dreams. I think slowly but surely America is beginning to understand - it's sort of a gut feeling - that something is just not quite right with him when it comes to reality.

    July 3, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  2. Vig

    What we have here is an individual who is being controlled by "the party" and by all the inside politics none of us are privy to. Your knight in shining armor is turning out to be just one of the good ole boys.

    July 3, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  3. Tina, NC

    Do you people even READ. He has NEVER changed his position. I've listened to alot of townhall meetings and seen every debate. He hasn't changed anything. I've heard him say the same thing he said in this article at least 6 or 7 times.

    You people just love being spoon feed crap by the MSM don't you. That's exactly why we've got your hero Bush. Now, you just sit back and say come on MSM and McLame tell me what to believe. I promise I won't question it. That would require a few more brain cells.

    Talk about drinking the Kool-Aid!!!!

    July 3, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  4. saga4obama

    CNN...why ids it you don't post real comment about McCain? why is it you close comments relating to McCain and leave them open for Obama? are you really objective?

    DUMPMCCAIN.COM

    July 3, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  5. Ryan

    I am really confused what everyone is talking about.. That really is exactly what he has been saying all along. It has always been one to two brigades a month.. so what is everyone whining about?

    July 3, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  6. Tina, NC

    Lt for Obama,

    Exactly!

    100% right!

    July 3, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  7. Lance

    Its because the language he used in the morning speech was very reminiscent of Hillary's position in the primary (which Obama tore into her for).

    When he was the underdog he promised to run a publicly financed campaign. Now that he is the heavyweight he changes his mind claiming he needs the 1/4 billion to fight republican pac's and 527's (even though democratic pac's and 527's outspend the republicans by 10 to 1).

    He blasted NAFTA as the scourge of the midwest but now its not so bad.

    He claims to not take money from lobbyists but takes regular max donations from their spouses. (Last count I saw McCain Lobbyist money was approx 650k Obama 425k).

    Also someone commented on McCain's travel. You do realize he is the chairman and highest ranking member on the armed forces committee. So you want to blast McCain for doing his job but its OK that Obama has done nothing as the head of a committee for our policies in Afghanistan. Columbia and Mexico are important allies.

    But what would I know, Im just an intelligent, socially liberal, fiscally conservative voter that actually reads.

    July 3, 2008 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    All you right-wing dittodork nut jobs, GET A LIFE! You know your candidate McSame represents just four more years of a polilcy that bankrupt America and made us less safe. So instead of getting with the Obama program for change, you make up stuff and think that you are fooling us THINKING folks. Pul-leeze! Obama = get out of Iraq in a responsible manner (whether that be 16 months or 20 months – who cares!. McSame = stay indefinitely up to 100 years! And you right-wingers clutch at straws! no-one is going to change their vote for Obama if he takes a month or two longer to get out of Iraq.

    After all that BS about Wes Clark insulting McSame. if you bothered to read or listen to his comments, you would see that he actually praised McSame as a war hero. You've got NOOTHING, so you twist words, make stuff up and pray that the rest of us will be fooled into electing a grumpy old man for 4 more years of failed policies. Give us all a break!

    July 3, 2008 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  9. truthteller

    All you right-wing dittodork nut jobs, GET A LIFE! You know your candidate McSame represents just four more years of a polilcy that bankrupt America and made us less safe. So instead of getting with the Obama program for change, you make up stuff and think that you are fooling us THINKING folks. Pul-leeze! Obama = get out of Iraq in a responsible manner (whether that be 16 months or 20 months – who cares!. McSame = stay indefinitely up to 100 years! And you right-wingers clutch at straws! no-one is going to change their vote for Obama if he takes a month or two longer to get out of Iraq.

    After all that BS about Wes Clark insulting McSame. if you bothered to read or listen to his comments, you would see that he actually praised McSame as a war hero. You've got NOOTHING, so you twist words, make stuff up and pray that the rest of us will be fooled into electing a grumpy old man for 4 more years of failed policies. Give us all a break!

    July 3, 2008 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  10. c

    yea obama never changed his stance for he is to end war mccain isnt and obama is trying get ll imfo he needs so he can wthdrawl so this shows good judgment

    July 3, 2008 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  11. RJ, CA

    Yes, Senator Obama - do whatever it takes to get elected. Who cares about truth?

    July 3, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  12. Eugene

    Let's hear it for a candidate who desires strategic flexibility. All along he has said we must be as careful getting out as we were careless going in. Our country is so fed up with inflexible dogmatic insanity.

    July 3, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  13. Claudia

    Considering Obama has been lauded as this great orator and communicator , it is laughable that he always has to come back and explain what he really meant to say.
    Wake up America , this man is a fake and has you all duped.

    July 3, 2008 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  14. Whats next with Obama?

    Flip flop
    Flip flop
    Flip flop
    Flip flop
    Flip flop
    Flip flop
    Flip flop
    Flip flop
    Flip flop
    Flip flop

    Obama makes John Kerry look like a straight shooter.

    July 3, 2008 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  15. Brian

    In 2005, he called for a phased withdrawal of our troops

    So how exactly is he flip flopping?????
    Come on Repubby Lie machine....

    Why are we even in Iraq Again?
    WMD..... oh wait to free Iraqi's from Saddam..... Oh Wait to let them vote in a Democracy.... Oh wait to stabilize (torture) the country..... Oh Wait, we NEED permanent bases over there now even if the Iraqi's don't agree to them..... Oh wait we have to un-nationalize the Oil over there and give them to OUR favorite oil companies...

    July 3, 2008 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  16. TPnTN

    Some of you people are true idiots! What is so hard to understand about wanting to make the right decisions (judgment) at the time of making decisions? IF he said that he would have all troops out in 16 months and that he would not listen to reason or those who are in direct contact with the situation, then and ONLY then would he be on the wrong path or acting like Bush/McCain. Maybe some of you need to understand what refine means...Webster will tell you what it means and Google will get you there too.

    Set a goal, but be aware of changes so that you don't cause more harm than good. Set a goal and remain open to the need to modify, refine, improve, or even alter some of the ideal plans. These are things that occur in a good strategic plan.

    His stance and goal has not changed!! Understand?

    July 3, 2008 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  17. Willy

    POTUS in not OJT. You lack seasoning kid.

    July 3, 2008 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  18. Obama 08: Female, 60, white

    Clinton?McCain: and what was Hillary saying?? She was the one who criticized Obama for saying it would take sixteen months...she was the one who insisted on a quick withdrawal...

    July 3, 2008 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  19. New Yorker

    annette – You are an ungrateful brat. McCain served in the military so even ungrats like you could keep their right to free speech. Nothing like slapping the face of a true patriot.

    July 3, 2008 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  20. Willy

    POTUS is not a project upgrade position.

    July 3, 2008 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  21. adam

    HE DIDN'T CHANGE ANYTHING, HE BEEN SAYING THAT FOR A LONG TIME.CNN DON'T MAKE IT SOUND THAT HE DID. FIRST READ ALL HE SAID BEFORE. ATLIST HE ISN'T SAYING WE GOING TO BE IN IRAQ FOR A 100 YEARS.

    GO OBAMA

    July 3, 2008 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  22. That's Reality

    Change you can believe in. Everytime Obama changes his mind you can believe he changed his mind. Yay! That's change you can believe in! That's the kind of "change" we need in Washington! It's about time all you liberals, who have been duped thus far, wake up to reality. Obama doesn't have a clue as to what is going on. Vote McCain, we need experience and integrity not a novice who flip-flops as the polling winds blow.

    July 3, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  23. christine

    i will go with unepressed on this issue this media in now lying the media is now the flip flop i have ever seen now and the media in now trying to get news an way they can if they is no news on there cable nateworks oh please god forbid stop stop stop all this media madness if you dont have new talk about angelina joylie or something not lie about senator obama's iraq policy

    July 3, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  24. pjh

    When will you Obama followers admit he is a big flip-flopper. During the primaries he talked about removing troops immediately. Then one of his advisors opened her mouth during an interview and said it may take until 2010. It's just another issue he is flipping on just like FISA, NAFTA, and public financing.

    July 3, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  25. J

    The media makes this an issue because they have nothing else to report. They do it for ratings and for money. If you actually think this is a flip flop, I feel sorry for you. The media needs to start setting a higher standard if we're going to improve politics in this country.

    July 3, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
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