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. Annie

    Obama has consistently LIED and manipulated his cult followers.


    July 5, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  2. Christina

    You know, there was a comment on an article yesterday complaining that Obama is only a "junior" senator. Well, that person should have done their homework, because HRC is only a "junior" senator, too.

    United we stand. Divided we fall.
    Democrats '08

    July 5, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  3. The Other Campaign Strategists from 115th St & Amsterdam Ave.

    Just because the Repuyblicans repeat a LIE over and over doesn't make it true. We, as a country, should have learned that LESSSON over and over again.

    On Iraq, Senator Obama's position has been clear.

    We need to remove our troops from Iraqi and end our active involvement in the day to day prosecution of the war. That removal needs to be done fairly deliberately and likely completed before he would run for re-election.

    Anyone that wants to quibble about whether it will take 16 months, 18 months, 24 months, 30 months .... for the removal to be complete is not a pragmatic realist and is only looking to box the Senator in politically.

    By comparison, John McCain's position on Iraq is equally clear.

    We can not speak about our intent to remove troops anytime soon. Furthermore his vision is that most likely, the United States will have troops in Iraq for a LONG, LONG, undetermined amount of time.

    He has lamented that we could be there for 100 years. When criticized for this he backpedalled, saying the press was twisting his words and that he wasn't going to keep troops there that long.

    However, when trying to devine where McCain's head is on this, I call your attention to a June 1, 2008 interview on the Today Show, where McCain likened Iraq to Korea. We've had US troops stationed in Korea for more than 55 years.

    It seems clear to any thinking voter that McCain believes that a 20 or 40 or 60+ P(plus) year presence in Iraq is his position.

    Keeping it simple ....

    Obama = US soldiers out of Iraq in less than 3 years
    McCain = US soldier in Iraq for more than 30 years

    There's no flip floping and the two positions present pretty clear distinctions for the public.

    July 5, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  4. Kensing James

    Obama has been very consistent on his Iraq position. You can read every transcript on his Iraq speeches and you will find the words " we will be as careful leaving Iraq as we were careless going in". He has consistently said that he would consult with the generals on the ground to ensure the safe withdrawal of our troops.

    We know that the McCain camp who are desperately trying to paint Obama as someone who fip-flops (I must add here that, as if John McCain himself is not the bigger flip-flopper), will parse and twist every statement Obama makes, in their attempts to achieve their goal. The unfortunate development, however, has been the fact that the media has joined hands with the McCain campaign in twisting Obama's statements. That is the real sad part. The media's job in this campaign should not be to mislead the American people regarding the candidates' positions, but to truthfully report on those positions.

    Like most other Americans I hope that CNN will take a stand to report truthfully during this presidential campaign. The media should not be this year's swift boat.

    July 5, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  5. Former democrat for hillary, then obama

    Obama cannot be trusted. He stole the election from Hillary, and he's a proven racist who will say anything to gain political points. Unfortunately the DMC chose the wrong candidate this year, and I cannot support him now that he's flip-flopped all over the place.

    McCain '08

    July 5, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  6. wrong guy

    Mr Obama is saying things clearly, and I don't by any reason see any flip flop in his statement he still maintain that he is going to withdraw the tropes from the war they are fighting to enrich president Bush and his family.

    July 5, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    slowww news week

    July 5, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  8. mitchell hussein martin

    obama has been more consistent than any politician i've seen in 35 years.people just believe anything they hear,no matter who twists it,and then make baseless decisions on it.this is purely the fault of the media and cnn should be as ashamed of themselves as fox should be.reporters ask the same question 10 different ways to try to get a different response ,so they can pounce on it and make a major story out of someone 'flip-flopping'.sad that it works,for two weeks the media has made baseless claims of obama 'flip-flopping' that are just untrue,and fail to inform people that changes in certain situations require an ability to adapt one's policies and change according to needs.to not be able to adapt,leaves a person with only stubborness and futility,and creates grid-lock.the bush presidency is a shining example of what happens when you dont use the information at hand to adapt and change your tactics to meet current needs.think about it people.corporate media is keeping you stirred up for no good reason than to sell old news,the way they want it to be seen.

    July 5, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  9. New Yorker

    OK- you were saying what you were saying, and you feel a need to clarify it? Sounds like political double-talk to me.

    McCain 08
    Substance over Hype

    July 5, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  10. gotcha

    He is lying. He never said anything except the troops will be coming home immediately after I am president regardless of the circumstances. Liar , Liar, oants on fire. Cant trrust Obama, Flip Flop

    July 5, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  11. Terry, NJ

    Consistently flips flops, stands up, backs down, etc if it is supposed to make him more moderate to an issue. So much sugar yet very little other nutrients come from Koolaid. Just like Obama. All talk, not much more.

    July 5, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  12. CognitoErgoSum

    Obama said that he'd refine his Iraq policy further after he returned from his trip there.

    Gee, a leader who makes decisions based on fact, rather than sticking to his guns and dragging us all down with him... How refreshing!

    I thought going there the way we did was was stupid, but we have to leave with all the care that was never used getting into it in the first place.

    July 5, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  13. A Recovering Republican

    Typical of the press. All I have heard on the TV news, from the talking heads, and from the news in general is something along the line "did Obama flip-flop on Iraq?" Why - because the Republican propaganda machine pushed and the press is too lazy to evaluate it - and figure out it's a non-story, or to simply report the facts. It's about headlines and sound bites for the press - too lazy and too incompetent to do real analysis and writing.

    10 Years sober

    July 5, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  14. Angus McDugan

    Let's see another wonderful speach that will make us all understand why he is not changing his story. I am sure the Hillary supporters are really hacked off now that he is changing a key point that he ran against her on!!!

    July 5, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  15. Molly

    obama is a FRAUD!!! – The only consistent Message is CHANGE – daily to suit his political needs. This guy is NOT qualified to lead our country. The DNC made a Huge "bonehead mistake" – BUT – it's not too late to fix it – elect Senator Hillary Clinton at the convention – she IS qualified to lead us!!

    July 5, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  16. Dave, Illinois

    How dare the press question King O. Wow, some reporters were actually doing their job and pressing this guy a little? The part that kills me is how he corrects the reporters as to what they really heard. If a Republican did that, the press would be howling.

    Let the hateful Obamite rhetoric begin 5, 4, 3, 2, 1......

    July 5, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  17. Ani from San Diego's north county

    It's getting increasingly difficult to stay tuned to the GOP side of the political arguments presented on CNN. An example. Leslie Stahl on This Week in Politics. Enough of the vapid attacks, salivating over empty talking points. Do these people–ie Leslie Stahl–realize as much as we, the listeners, do how much of nothing they're saying and how low they're sinking to say so little.

    July 5, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  18. Obama2008/2012

    McSane/Bush fallowers just want to spread untrue rumors and they know exactly what Obama said but want to try to fabricate a story and it isn't working .
    If you think the past Obama movement was amazing you ain't seen nothing yet as to what is yet to come .
    Go Obama we love you and Michelle you are on your way to the Oval office with no turns off the main path .
    Mc Sane return to Arizona you are just wasting your time ,we don't need any more Bush enough Bush to last forever just look where it got us. OMG

    July 5, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  19. Jerry

    Thank goodness Obama's hitting back. Kerry just absorbed the blows and moved on. The press deserves to be held accountable, just as they try to hold everyone else accountable. I know Obama's position has been consistent because I've been paying attention (and it's not even my job!) But I also know that occasionally he's not spelled out all the nuances when giving an answer, so some quotes don't represent his position accurately, and that's his fault.
    OTOH, McCain can flip and flop and flip back without the same scrutiny. And we (the reading public) can only hope that some reporters see what McCain's camp is doing is completely dishonest and is the real story. I think I've had enough of dishonest presidents. Let's get someone who makes small mistakes occasionally and has the guts to take some of the responsibility and correct them.

    July 5, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  20. baffled

    This is quite sad. Now Barack has to do the reporters job, notifying them that he had previously advocated faith-based initiatives. Why? Because he knows how little informed they are.

    Why are journalists this incompetent? I am baffled. It is either incompetence - can't verify the accuracy of the information before reporting it as news - or they work together with the McCain campaign.

    A very recent example:
    We all know that “refine" also means to make more precise. What is wrong with Barack saying that he will detail his Iraq policy with more precision after talking with the generals on the ground? Isn't that the correct method of governing? Why did the majority of reporters interpret "refining Iraq policy" as meaning "changing Iraq policy"?

    I am getting uncomfortable with the AP reporter especially. I wonder, if these reporters who are following Barack were to take a spelling bee round with the 13 year old current spelling bee winner, who do you think will win? I wouldn't put my money with those journalists.

    July 5, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  21. Monica for Obama in Indiana

    Is the media on the plane and around Obama payed by the Republicans? It seems, they never write anything positive about Obama and act like mccain's mouth is a prayerbook.

    What's up with this?

    Please post!

    July 5, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  22. c

    July 5th, 2008 6:28 pm ET
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    July 5, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  23. james

    Duh. Was it a slow news day of something CNN?

    July 5, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  24. Fistjab

    SHAME ON MEDIA for spining this out of nothing.


    July 5, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  25. Tina

    Obama has consistantly stated that he would be as careful getting out of Iraq as Bush was careless getting into Iraq. He has not changed his position. Of course he has to look closely at the situation on the ground in order to determine the quickest and most efficient way to get out in a responsible way that would be in America's best interest. He has been stating this same position since the start of the campaign. This is not a change at all. A leader should be able to refine his tactics in order to achieve the desired goal and that is what he is doing. He does not want permanent bases in Iraq and he is not looking for an American occupation of Iraq for 100 years like John Mccain. If he has to refine his tactics to achieve the best outcome then so be it, as long as the goal is getting us out of there as soon as possible.

    Obama '08

    July 5, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
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