Commentary magazine seizes on his renewed call to start withdrawing, which is fair enough. The left has spent the last year mocking hawks for using both bad news and good news as justification for keeping troop levels high. Can’t fault Abe Greenwald for rubbing the Messiah’s face in the fact that he’s playing the same game in reverse, or that this amounts to a de facto admission that he was too pessimistic about the surge. But look closer:

Obama, who secured the Democratic party nomination earlier this month and will run in November against Republican John McCain, said he spoke about improved security conditions in Iraq during a telephone conversation with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari.

“I emphasized to him how encouraged I was by the reductions in violence in Iraq but also insisted that it is important for us to begin the process of withdrawing U.S. troops, making it clear that we have no interest in permanent bases in Iraq,” Obama told reporters at the airport in Flint, where he had just arrived for an event on the economy…

Obama says he would begin a pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq shortly after taking office. His plan calls for the removal of one or two brigades a month which would allow a pullout of combat troops to be completed within 16 months.

The first-term Illinois senator said he told Zebari that if he wins the White House, “an Obama administration will make sure that we continue with the progress that’s been made in Iraq, that we won’t act precipitously.”

What’s that mean? He’s not going to modify his withdrawal plan in the heat of the campaign so this is as close as we’re going to get to a sign that he might be open to revisiting his timetable. Don’t forget, before she got booted from the campaign, Samantha Power all but admitted that we weren’t going to be out in 16 months, regardless of what Obama’s stump speech might say. Or do I have it backwards, and this is just the lip service he’s paying to centrists who might be taking a second look at the war while he crafts a “declare victory and go home” strategy?

His would-be NSA revealed himself today as a member of the Winnie the Pooh school of foreign policy, whereby “if it is causing you too much pain, try something else.” Exit question: If it stops causing you much pain, is it safe to stick with it?

Update: Via Ace, I guess when even the AP is grudgingly admitting that conditions have improved, Team Barry can’t very well go on playing dumb.

Signs are emerging that Iraq has reached a turning point. Violence is down, armed extremists are in disarray, government confidence is rising and sectarian communities are gearing up for a battle at the polls rather than slaughter in the streets.

Those positive signs are attracting little attention in the United States, where the war-weary public is focused on the American presidential contest and skeptical of talk of success after so many years of unfounded optimism by the war’s supporters…

A new sense of confidence has emerged after recent Iraqi-run military operations against Sunni extremists, including al-Qaida, in the northern city of Mosul and against Shiite militiamen in Basra and Baghdad.

When does NBC declare that civil war is, at least, in a ceasefire?