Apparently Obama was for a firm timetable for Iraqi withdrawals before he was against it, and then for it.
This gets tricky, but stay with me - Samantha Power, "an unpaid foreign policy adviser and Harvard professor to the Obama campaign", is resigning because of recently published remarks in which she called Hillary Clinton a "monster". There is no place for talk like that in Obama land.
However, before her monster got her down, Ms. Power told the BBC that Obama intended to preserve some flexibility in setting a timeline for withdrawing from Iraq:
The host, Stephen Sackur, challenged her:"So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out in 16 months isn't a commitment isn't it?"
"You can’t make a commitment in March 2008 about what circumstances will be like in January of 2009," she said. "He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator. He will rely upon a plan – an operational plan – that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground to whom he doesn’t have daily access now, as a result of not being the president. So to think – it would be the height of ideology to sort of say, 'Well, I said it, therefore I’m going to impose it on whatever reality greets me.'"
One might say, well, no kidding - haven't reasonable people always assumed that any of the candidates would assess the reality of January 2009 before implementing a plan in Iraq? One might have thought so, but in response to the Powers comments Obama's press flack said something quite different, as reported by the Political Radar at ABC News:
On a conference call with reporters earlier Friday Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Obama has been "crystal clear with the American people that if and when he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in - as he said, the time frame would be about 16 months at the most where you withdraw troops. There should be no confusion about that with absolute clarity."
Obama doubled down in a stump speech a bit later:
Senator Obama told a crowd in Casper, Wyoming that he doesn’t want people to be confused by his time frame for withdrawing troops from Iraq, he said, by Clinton’s interpretation of his former aide's comment to BBC.
"I was opposed to this war in 2002. If it has been up to me we would have never been in this war. It was because of George Bush with an assist from Hillary Clinton and John McCain that we entered into this war," Obama said Friday.
"A war that should have never been authorized, a war that should have never been waged. I've been against it 2002, 2003, 2004, 5, 6, 7, 8. And I will bring this war to an end in 2009. So don't be confused. Don't be confused when Senator Clinton is not even willing to acknowledge that she voted for war. She said she voted for diplomacy despite the title that said authorization to use US arms forces in Iraq. I don't want to play politics on this issue because she doesn't have standing to question my position on this issue," Obama said.
Well, now, I am confused, since last month Obama was telling CBS News the same thing Ms. Powers was telling the BBC:
"At a time when American casualties are down, at a time when the violence is down, particularly affecting the Iraqi population, is that the right time to try and set time tables for withdrawing all American troops? I mean you talked about…the end of 2009," Kroft remarked.
"Yeah, absolutely. I think now is precisely the time. I think that it is very important for us to send a clear signal to the Iraqis that we are not gonna be here permanently. We're not gonna set up permanent bases. That they are going to have to resolve their differences and get their country functioning," Obama said.
"And you pull out according to that time table, regardless of the situation? Even if there’s serious sectarian violence?" Kroft asked.
"No, I always reserve as commander in chief, the right to assess the situation," Obama replied.
This nuance did not go unremarked - here are the Captain, Jim Geraghty, and Reason. And folks who make it to the bottom of today's Radar story will see that they note the CBS News story but with a bum link.
This is good news for the Confederate Yankee, who was worried that Obama would pay no attention to either reality or his generals and advisers and simply commence withdrawals in 2009. You see, a month ago, Obama left himself some reasonable wiggle room - this gives us some reason to hope he will do so again, perhaps after his base is placated and the nomination secured. And isn't his campaign all about hope?
MORE: From Protein Wisdom:
"Both campaigns are tactically retreating to declarations of unconditional surrender. For now. Tomorrow is another day."
DO BEAR IN MIND: Pulling our troops out does not end the war, it only ends our involvement. Or is the war in Darfur over?
AS PREDICTED: Obama pays price for pandering, not pivoting prior to Pennsylvania.