July 5th, 2008
04:21 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama insists he's 'been very consistent' on Iraq

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[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/05/art.obamaplane070508.ap.jpg caption="Sen. Barack Obama speaks on his Iraq policy aboard his campaign plane headed to Missouri on Saturday."]
ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) - Sen. Barack Obama, speaking on board his campaign plane as it headed to St. Louis on Saturday, continued to defend his position on Iraq - and questioned reporters' parsing of his words.

"I am surprised at how ... the press ... I'm not trying to dump on you guys, but I'm surprised at how finely calibrated every single word was measured," Obama said.

"I wasn't saying anything that I hadn't said before. That I didn't say a year ago. Or when I was a U.S. senator. If you look at our position, it's been very consistent. The notion that we have to get out carefully has been a consistent position," he said.

"The belief that we have a national security interest in making sure Iraq is secure, I've been saying consistently," he added. Noting "the worst-case scenarios and the parade of horribles that has been trotted out by John McCain and others about genocide if we left," he said he has always reserved "the right to protect people from genocide."

"So a lot of these statements that I've made have been entirely consistent," Obama added.

Late Saturday afternoon, McCain's campaign responded to Obama's comments.

In a statement, campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said, “We are all absolutely committed to ending this war, but on Thursday Barack Obama’s words indicated that he also shared John McCain’s commitment to securing the peace beforehand. What’s really puzzling is that Barack Obama still doesn’t understand that his words matter."

In North Dakota on Thursday, Obama denied that 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.

Presumably unhappy with the media's coverage of his earlier statements on Iraq - and after the Republican National Committee issued attack emails asserting he's "reversed" his position - Obama called a second news conference later Thursday to reiterate that he is not changing his stance.

Watch: Obama clarifies his comments on Iraq

"We’re gonna 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," he said.

"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."

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Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Iraq
soundoff (222 Responses)
  1. Belle2

    Now let’s talk about flip-flops. All politicians are guilty of flipping their opinions. Obama took Clinton’s policies, changed them just a bit, and made them his own. Now, he has reverted to her original positions on many issues (including Iraq). He is about change alright, changing his mind. He does not appear to believe in anything, not even the church he attended for 20 years.

    July 5, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  2. Really I mean Really

    i never thought I see the day when CNN would be compared to FOX News when it comes to crappy reporting but when you need to sale air time & webspace you do what everyone else does
    . Everyone knows Obama said he would pull the troops out in 16 months and he would also listen to the Generals on the groung. But for some reason you guys keep trying to flip this around. Do me a favor and stop posting this stuff as if I'm a uneducated White rural voter.

    Please do me afavor and balance out the reporting you guys are not reporting the news on a even level between the to people running for Office.

    McSame is running around visting people that are not losing their jobs to companies abroad he needs to be here in the states talking to the people.

    Right now he only flip flopping I see being done is by CNN. I can't wait for this to be over I have for ever turn of the TV. cable news has runed my watching pleasure I have now gone back to reading books.

    Thanks for helping put my life n order again.

    July 5, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  3. Woman4Obama

    I am growing more & more disgusted with the media's coverage of the 2 candidates.Why is it that no one questions John McCain 100 year war campaign? It's awfully sad that a former general(Wes Clark) who has no obligation to do any reporting at all had to call McCain on his experience.Especially when we get 2 or 3 days of scrutiny about flagpins & campaign finance.Now you're picking apart Obama's stance on Iraq.Didn't Scott McClellan call into question the media's oversight to scrutinize Bush's WMD theory & the choice to go to war in Iraq?Instead you guys are trying to beat up the general who has the same if not more experience than John McCain himself.Shouldn't we as americans question John McCain's experience or motive for that matter especially in the face of 100 years as he proposed!

    July 5, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |




    July 5, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  5. Really I mean Really

    sorry for the miss types but you get my meanng

    July 5, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  6. Ilona Hussein Proud Canadian

    I cannot understand why the media is so determined to portray Barack as a flip flopper, it is almost like they are in cahoots with John flip-flop McCain to reverse the truth.

    Everyone knows that change is ongoing, when things change you have to be prepared to modify your plans, or you will be left behind. Barack did not change his plans to bring the troops home in sixteen months. But he is not going to put them in danger while doing this. He may bring home one brigade in one month or he may bring them home three brigades another month. He has always said that he will continue to refine his plans. And I honestly believe that if he thought keeping to his sixteen month plan will put Americans in harms way, YES HE WILL MAKE CHANGES.

    I just wish the media would stop giving John McCain such a free ride, John McCain has flipped and flopped more than a FISH OUT OF WATER, but the media is just going after Barack, while McCain is allowed to get away with anything. Just look at his Naval Records, seventeen hand picked pages out of 600 or more IS NOT BEING TRANSPARENT, WHAT IS HE TRYING TO HIDE, HE EXPECTS PEOPLE TO TREAT HIM AS A HERO, WHY THEN IS HE NOT PREPARED TO MAKE HIS RECORDS AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC?

    I think that this (change) is partly responsible for some of Hillary's supporters still "saying" that they are NOT going to support Barack. Their candidate lost and they cannot accept it. These voters were NEVER REAL HILLARY SUPPORTERS! They were a) voting for a WOMAN, ANY WOMAN, not necessarily for Hillary b) they were NOT prepared to vote for an AFRICAN AMERICAN. These two groups of voters had ABSOLUTELY NO INTENTION OF SUPPORTING BARACK! Needless to say the loss.....is theirs to deal with.

    Barack's supporters, together with genuine democratic Hillary supporters, should simply let these other non-supporters know in no uncertain terms that they are free to vote or not vote as they will!
    I honestly don't think that they should be pandered to like a two year old.

    So please PUMA-PAC and all of the other anti Barack supporters, get over it! Just STOP WITH THE WHINING. You are not fooling anyone, you can shoot yourself in the foot, you can throw your country to the wolves, it is YOUR CHOICE.

    Barack supporters KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! We are ALL rooting for you. YES YOU CAN.

    July 5, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  7. casey

    Why does everyone keep ragging on him for "flip-flopping"?? I would say he's been pretty consistent from day one. And in this particular case, I would certainly hope that he be willing to change his plan should the need arise. He is keeping a close eye on Iraq, and if suddenly the situation changes and requires us to stay longer, he has every right to change his mind. That's not flip-flopping, that's safe leadership. It's time we wake up and realize that. Obama, you have 100% of my respect. You're a well-educated, brilliant man who will make an excellent president.

    July 5, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  8. Landon

    I am amazed that we allow people to say that Obama "reversed" his position. If he had said that he wouldn't withdraw or that he would endorse another surge, that is a reversal. His statements are nothing like that.

    July 5, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  9. matt

    The only reason why this is talked about so much is because the media is controlling the debate and twisting his words. The spot light is on Obama because he WILL be elected.

    July 5, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  10. bob from nola

    Reporters often get in the way. If you want to get the correct picture, don't go to the McCain camp and their spin, and don't go to the media. Ask Obama. He will lay it out eloquently, truthfully and practically. His campaign should illustrate a perfect picture of campaign management and organization perfection. McCain is a sad picture of slow campaigning and mixed messages. Report on that some more.

    July 5, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  11. Shannon

    Great! I am glad that CNN is reporting this accurately. Obama has always had the exact same position on Iraq as can be proven by his countless town hall meeting answers, debate responses, and other statements. It is sad that some in the MSM listen solely to the McCain camp without checking out the facts.

    July 5, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  12. Strict Script

    "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."

    ...well said, Senator, but next time please include 100 years, which is what came directly from Mr. McPain's mouth.

    Now, I have noticed the media isn't reporting much on McCain. Could they also be concluding that the man and his twin bother dubya are becoming irrelevant to Americans? Bush should be impeached immediately and tried at a War Crime Tribunal. McCain also needs to be answerable for wanting to run a third Bush term.

    July 5, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  13. Mike

    A stupid hack job of a news story from CNN’s Jessica Yellin is leading people by their noses like cattle. Obama saying his Iraq withdrawal plans are fluid was in response to a question about whether Obama would listen to advise from the Commanders on the ground. Obama being intelligent and pragmatic said’of course’. Then Yellin makes up a story that says Obama is backing up because things in Iraq are peachy keen. I do not think thirty young American Heroes being blown up in June and millions of dollars a day wasted is that darn peachy! The fact that things are better temporarily in Iraq gives us the opportunity to leave, not a reason to stay. Iraq is an independant nation where seventy percent of it’s people to include their leaders, want America to go home. So, are we the good guys or a Roman Legion style occupation force? Obama will end the war in Iraq like he promised and will use good common sense in doing it.

    July 5, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  14. Jim

    He has been consistant...This like the General Clark story was a McCain fed story, and the media followed along like rats.

    July 5, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  15. K of TX

    Only a complete FOOL would reject out of hand the input of experienced individuals when setting the foreign policy for the nation. To call someone a flip-flopper because he is open to listening to opinions forming around the current situations is just plain stupid. I think as much as we Americans want competency and honesty from our leaders, we always try to dismantle them when they show up unexpectedly and in a different package. Sen. Obama has been more forthright and transparent on the issues affecting millions of Americans daily than ANY OTHER candidate this year. NOW WE WANT TO BEAT HIM UP FOR IT!

    America, MAKE UP YOUR MIND!

    Barack Obama '08-'12

    July 5, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  16. Griff

    Consisting of what? The Military in any war zone, require a Man...
    No place for Little Boy's...

    July 5, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  17. Dem in CA

    What should be questioned is not Obama's stance on Iraq, which has been consistent, but this idea that the surge is working. If you recall, the surge was called for in order to buy time for the Iraqi government to get it's act together. That hasn't happened and doesn't seem to be happening anytime soon.

    The claim that the surge is working because deaths are down is revisionist–deaths for Americans would be nil if they all came home. The press (read CNN) needs to as McCain and Bush why they are being inconsistent in their surge goals, and why the surge, as they originally described, it ISN'T working.

    July 5, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  18. paul

    Welcome to the big leagues Obama.

    July 5, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  19. Adeyinka. I.

    he has clearified this question out that he won't change his stance. let move to other aspect especially economy.

    July 5, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  20. Howard Hogan

    A good leader is compelled to evaluate and adapt to any ongoing and changing situation. I would be more worried if the leader was unwilling to adjust to changing conditions. We have seen the consequences of "Stay the Course". The ability to recognize and adapt is taught in life and severely stressed in the military. Sone have labled this "Flip Flopping". I would hope that our next leader posesses the characteristics of Awareness and Adaptability. If we have a leader that surges forward with blinders on, that can only lead to self destruction. We should not look at a person changing his strategy, but why he did.

    July 5, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  21. RyanD.

    lol @ "refining" being "changing your entire position".

    Straws, Old Man McCain...you're grasping at them. You're the ultimate flip-flopper, John...quiet down before it gets ugly.

    Obama 08'

    July 5, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  22. Kim

    Jessica Yellin is not worth her pay check if she does not have something to report on, the juicer the better.She and her ilk are hunting for any slip of tongue, particularly from Senator Obama, to create a crisis. It is a pity!
    There are more of these reporters who should take the time off and let the public hear from the candidates and make their own interpretations.
    I heard what senator Obama said, and anybody with any understanding and ability to read and write at the 6th grade level would agree with Obama.
    He did not change his stand. He is pragmatic and that will bring victory. Obama will be a leader we can trust and follow.

    July 5, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  23. Susan, OH

    It's really sad that the main stream media and cable news are to "lazy" to do research on these issue. Obama has been consistent on these issue go to BarackObama.com, read his books, or early 2007 these transcript are on the Internet. TMZ should start reporting on this election you know they will investigate a story, not just spin it because the other side want you to.

    Good riddance to cable news

    July 5, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  24. Liam Danhof

    Mr. Obama
    I hope you realize that the weight if the world is on your shoulders. Everyone in the entire world is watching you and what you are going to do. Please stay consistant and on message. Keep to the left because that is what we are all looking for in you. As someone who lived in the South Commons area of Chicago and I am white by the way I know what the deal is. You are tough and a straight shooter and just don't forget where you came from. We, the world, is counting on you. No president has ever had so much responsibility as you will have. Stay true to your roots. Liam

    July 5, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  25. Joe Moore

    I just really like Barack. With the help of all Americans, I feel he will do some great things for our country and the world!

    July 5, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
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