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September 1, 2010
Obama's lawyerly evasions on Iraq
Rick Richman notes that Barack Obama used a lawyer like locution to obscure his own history regarding the Iraq War:
Barack Obama used a lawyer-like locution last night to avoid acknowledging the courage of his predecessor in initiating the surge that won the Iraq War:It's well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush's support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it.The key words were "from its outset." His locution focused on his opposition to the war, while faintly praising Bush as a well-intentioned patriot. But while Obama opposed the war "at" its outset, he did not always oppose it thereafter.
I am going to expand a bit on Rick's blog.
Obama shifted his positions on the war depending on how the war and his campaign for the Presidency were going. He hid this history -- a bad habit of his when it comes to his own personal history (he did not attend any of those awful sermons delivered by Jeremiah Wright; he did not know Bill Ayers background; he never "worked" for ACORN-but did volunteer to teach them how to register voters; one could go on and on).
True, he opposed the Iraq War before a left-wing crowd in Chicago back in 2002 -- not exactly a profile in courage given his audience and given that he had to consult with others whether this was the right political move.
But then he changed his tune when the war seemed to be going well and was popular, as Peter Wehner noted in a Commentary column back in 2008:
Almost as soon as the war began in March 2003, Obama had second thoughts about his opposition to it. Watching the dramatic footage of the toppling of Saddam's statue in Baghdad, and then the President's speech aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, "I began to suspect," he would write later in his autobiographical The Audacity of Hope (2006), "that I might have been wrong." And these second thoughts seem to have stayed with him throughout the entire first phase of the occupation following our initial combat victory. As he told the Chicago Tribune in July 2004, "There's not that much difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage."
and then came more shifting:
And so, in September 2004, in the heat of his campaign for the U.S. Senate, Obama said (according to an AP report) that even though Bush had "bungled his handling of the war," simply pulling out of Iraq "would make things worse." Therefore, he himself would be willing to send more soldiers to Iraq if it is part of a strategy that the President and military leaders believe will stabilize the country and eventually allow America to withdraw."If that strategy made sense and would lead ultimately to the pullout of U.S. troops but in the short term required additional troop strength to protect those who are already on the ground, then that's something I would support," said Obama.In November, having won election to the U.S. Senate, Obama once again confirmed his determination to stay the course in Iraq in an interview with PBS's Charlie Rose. "Once we go in, then we're committed," he said, adding:[O]nce the decision was made, then we've got to do everything we can to stabilize the country, to make it successful, because we'll have too much at stake in the Middle East. And that's the position that I continue to take.
But then as the conditions worsened before the surge turned the course of the war, he started being more forthright in his opposition to the war:
But as conditions in Iraq worsened over the course of 2006 and polls registered lower and lower levels of support for the President and the war-and as he himself was nearing a decision to run for the presidency-Obama's position shifted again, markedly so.On October 22, 2006, Obama proclaimed the urgent necessity for "all the leadership in Washington to execute a serious change of course in Iraq." That change was decidedly not in the direction of stepping up our war effort by sending additional troops-a shift advocated by some conservative critics of administration policy and at that point being seriously considered by the White House and the Pentagon. Quite the contrary: the change Obama had in mind was to initiate, as quickly as possible, a "phased withdrawal" from Iraq. There was to be no more talk from him about leaving a "stabilized" situation. Nor, for Obama, was the issue debatable.
So Obama opposed the war in 2002 when he was just a state senator and his opposition would matter little to his political future. Then he constantly shifted his position based on poll numbers and how well the war was proceeding. His claim to have opposed the war at the outset was correct but his manipulation of language to obscure the truth was classic Obama.