Obama: I’m willing to “refine my policies” on Iraq; Update: “Quagmire,” says ABC; Update: Why now? Update: Obama clarifies, “I intend to end this war”

posted at 4:09 pm on July 3, 2008 by Allahpundit

At long last, the ultimate flip-flop is at hand.

“I’ve always said that the pace of withdrawal would be dictated by the safety and security of our troops and the need to maintain stability. That assessment has not changed,” he said. “And when I go to Iraq and have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I’m sure I’ll have more information and will continue to refine my policies.”…

“My 16-month timeline, if you examine everything that I’ve said, was always premised on making sure that our troops were safe,” he said. “I said that based on the information that we had received from our commanders that one to two brigades a month could be pulled out safely, from a logistical perspective. My guiding approach continues to be that we’ve got to make sure that our troops are safe and that Iraq is stable.”

He added, “I’m going to continue to gather information to find out whether those conditions still hold.”

I’m not going to rub his face in it. The important thing is to make the right decision and he’s nearer to that now than he’s ever been. Yeah, it’s almost certainly for cynical political reasons, but so long as the progress continues and public opinion improves, those cynical political reasons will continue to steer him right. It’s true, too, what Axelrod said earlier about Obama having consistently left himself some wiggle room on Iraq: As far back as last July he was using the line about being as careful getting out as we were careless getting in, and even his awful proposal from January 2007 to have all combat troops out by March 31, 2008 called for temporarily suspending the withdrawal if the Iraqi government met all 13 of Bush’s benchmarks. None of which is to say that he wasn’t completely wrong about the surge or that he’s not light years less confidence-inspiring than McCain is on this issue, but I don’t want to punish good behavior, especially when so few of the people on his side are even willing to entertain the notion of rethinking our commitment in light of the security gains.

The one truly new and startling element of what he said here is the boldfaced part about Iraqi stability, which I can’t remember ever factoring heavily into his rhetoric. Neither can Michael Crowley of TNR, who’s evidently been researching Obama’s Iraq plan in some detail for an upcoming article. The importance of stability did pop up in last year’s speech on Iraq in Iowa, but mainly in the context of negotiations with Iran and other other countries around it. The strongest language I can find in the speech about using troops to maintain stability comes in an aside about withdrawing from more secure areas before we withdraw from less secure ones. Exit question: How’s he going to explain this to the nutroots?

Update: Heart-ache at DU. “ARE YOU KIDDING???”

Update: The heart-ache spreads. ABC says it’s a game-changer:

His comments Wednesday, saying that he will “continue to refine” his plan to withdraw combat troops from Iraq inside of 16 months, seems likely to leave the campaign on the defensive on this issue for days or weeks…

There will be only one relevant question now out of Obama’s trip now: Do you stand by your plan? Obama is unlikely to give a direct, yes-or-no answer — and that’s where Sen. John McCain and his allies can and will pounce…

Obama’s migration to the political center has been well-documented, and is already a frame McCain is building around his candidacy. But Iraq — this is qualitatively different, an issue that lives on a higher plane, since opposing the war was the rationale for his candidacy in the first place.

They also point to the statement on withdrawal at Obama’s website, which sounds considerably less nuanced than what he said today.

Update: Why would he say this now? What does he gain from it politically? Iraq’s receded as an issue vis-a-vis the economy. The latest poll shows 64% want the next president to withdraw most troops within a few months of taking office, a three percent increase since March. Scroll down at the link to the last poll taken before that and you’ll find 56% want troops out in the next year or two regardless of what it would mean for Iraq’s stability. That is to say, Obama’s now theoretically to the right of most of the public. Why?

Conceivably he’s worried that the progress will continue for the next few months and popular opinion will start to move significantly shortly before Election Day, in which case he’ll be caught flat-footed if he doesn’t get out in front of it. Also conceivably, he figures he’s got McCain beat on enough other issues that he might as well neutralize this one by mimicking him. It’s not like the left is going to stay home and throw away universal health care; most of them, I suspect, will simply shrug this off as a political gambit to be abandoned once Obama’s elected. But like I said last week, it’s hard to see things in Iraq improving so dramatically and public opinion shifting so dynamically that Obama would actually suffer for his dovishness at the polls. If he sticks to his withdrawal line, realistically the worst that can happen is the issue becomes a wash. In which case, why would he do this? Could the Messiah actually be having a genuine change of opinion based on the facts or does election-year demonization not allow that possibility? And if it is genuine, then, er, why doesn’t he just keep it to himself until after Election Day?

Update: A climbdown — or is it?

In a second, quickly-scheduled press availability, the Senator insists his position on Iraq has not changed.

“I intend to end this war… That position has not changed. I have not equivocated on that position. I am not searching for maneuvering room with respect to that position.”

Though he also says:

“I have always reserved the right to do what’s best for America’s national interest… I would be a poor commander-in-chief if I didn’t take facts on the ground into account.”

Update: More clarification: “I have seen no information that contradicts the notion that we can bring out troops out safely at a pace of one to two brigades per month… This is the same position that I had four months ago.”

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Obama: I’m willing to “refine my policies” on Iraq;

Means he is will to flip flop like a fish out of water.

Update: “Quagmire,” says ABC;

Only a librel would give a dam what ABC thinks about anything.

Obama clarifies, “I intend to end this war”

Means, “Eventually, when we have won the war, however long that takes, I guess.”

leanright on July 4, 2008 at 10:32 AM

Obama may be moving to the center on a bunch of things, evn on Iraq, but he just swung back left on same-sex marriage and he won’t pivot on the judges because he can’t. Those are still pretty big issues McCain can use as contrast, if his campaign gets its act together.

In addition, Obama has continued to react to the experience argument by claiming his “judgment” is better. Seems to me he undercuts that whole argument by abandoning his position on Iraq. McCain showed even better judgment by calling for the surge and demanding a strategy that would actually win the war. Obama can’t run away from all his statements that the surge would not work. At least, unless McCain lets him run away from it.

My big fear is that Republicans are going to let themselves get bogged down in a stupid campaign about Obama’s middle name and his birth certificate and whether Larry Sinclair is telling the truth. This is what we did with Bill Clinton and we lost two elections.

rockmom on July 4, 2008 at 10:44 AM

My big fear is that Republicans are going to let themselves get bogged down in a stupid campaign about Obama’s middle name and his birth certificate and whether Larry Sinclair is telling the truth.

rockmom on July 4, 2008 at 10:44 AM

Amen sister! (The thread comments at HA show just how true a statement that is)

Limerick on July 4, 2008 at 10:51 AM

I intend to end this war.” -thus spake Obama.

As if wars were ended by intent and not superior power and will.

This guy speaks the language of the juvenile mind.

And has won their support.

I intend for there to be more rain next year” makes as much sense.

profitsbeard on July 4, 2008 at 11:19 AM

Ok then. Which State is Mr. Racist/Marxist Obama and his America Hating Wife in today…#56 or #57?

And how will it help his kids?

God Bless America and God Save Us if this clown is elected!

old trooper on July 4, 2008 at 12:12 PM

“I intend for there to be more rain next year” makes as much sense.

profitsbeard on July 4, 2008 at 11:19 AM

How about, “I intend to make the planet cooler”?

a capella on July 4, 2008 at 12:30 PM

“I’m willing to say whatever I need to inorder to get elected… then I’ll do whatever the h*ll I want…” -Obama

CynicalOptimist on July 4, 2008 at 12:32 PM

I think the whole election may have been lost this week. Obama was flipping and flopping and flailing, the nutroots went crazy, Wesley Clark was making an ass of himself….and McCain went off to Colombia and Mexico.

rockmom on July 4, 2008 at 12:46 PM

We had Clinton all figured out before he won but he bamboozled the public into voting for him. I don’t think BHO has his appeal. The more he is scrutinized the worse things will get for him.

Mojave Mark on July 4, 2008 at 12:58 PM

rockmom on July 4, 2008 at 12:46 PM

McCain suffers from collegial disease. Presenting his occupation as a holy priesthood allows him the freedom to do only as he pleases. In that respect, he is similar to certain journalists. If he can stay on the high road without being too critical of Obama, it reinforces the image of the Senate as a place where only royalty roam. Leo Durocher had a saying for how that generally works out.

a capella on July 4, 2008 at 1:06 PM

a capella – I’m afraid you’re right. McCain reminds me of George H.W. Bush. Bush Sr. spent 8 years as vice president believing he should have been president and not Reagan. He thought his qualifications were so superior that he didn’t even need to try to define his opponents – Reagan in 1980 and Clinton in 1992. Only because of Lee Atwater did he manage to win in 1988. And once he got elected, he immediately ran away from everything that made Reagan successful, because he never believed in all that stuff in the first place. He thought his superior judgment was all he needed.

I’m hoping Steve Schmidt can do for McCain what Atwater did, but it may be too late already. And even if he manages to pull this off and win, I’ll be under no illusion that he will do anything remotely conservative unless it’s already something he has decided is correct, according to his own compass.

rockmom on July 4, 2008 at 1:16 PM

Obama is the most unqualified candidate for the US Presidency, ever.

McCain is merely the most unqualified candidate of the last 50 years or so.

This election makes my head hurt and my heart ache.

trigon on July 4, 2008 at 1:16 PM

Here’s where he gets into trouble. Say he comes around on Iraq now. It’s only because there’s a lull in the fighting. Hopefully it’s long term but that only works if we are the strong horse with those people. If I was Iran and Al Qaeda and any other defense that sorry excuse for a ME confederacy can muster, I would go balls out killing as many GI’s as possible because I know Obama will not stand up to the people who will ramp back up screaming to get out. So he’ll get a lot of guys killed AND cause our humiliating retreat from Iraq. That’s a political problem no politician can escape from.

pc on July 4, 2008 at 2:22 PM

He is, quite simply, fatally flawed. Bush II and our soldiers made it so. They were fighting against American liberals as much as the overseas enemies.

pc on July 4, 2008 at 2:24 PM

Obama will say and do anything to get elected. In other words, he’s a democrat.

Rational Thought on July 4, 2008 at 4:24 PM

Right Rational,
Almost all elected in 06 ran to the right with the exception of the war (surrender), but when they got power they govern from the far left Judges, energy, spending, taxation as their leaders demand.
The American people need to wake up. they are being lied to big time and the payday may be extremely painful when the truth becomes evident.

dhunter on July 4, 2008 at 6:15 PM

Bush Obama lied and people died voted for him

custer on July 4, 2008 at 11:38 PM


Indeed we do need to wake up. I was at a bbq yesterday and had to actually explain to some Christian friends why they shouldn’t vote for BHO. It was like talking to the hosts of Entertainment Tonight or something. Some people are invincibly ignorant.

Mojave Mark on July 5, 2008 at 11:25 AM

He’ll end this war by giving Iraq to Iran.

BHO is a rich, liberal, marxist who hates the nation that allowed him to get to where he’s at……in short he’s a MORON.

Bubba Redneck on July 5, 2008 at 3:26 PM

Obama: I’m willing to “refine my policies” on Iraq; Update: “Quagmire,” says ABC; Update: Why now? Update: Obama clarifies, “I intend to end this war”

“Quagmire,” says ABC = Still smoking stale pot.

Obama clarifies = Suffering from Bong damage!

byteshredder on July 7, 2008 at 12:19 PM