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Then Again

Barack Obama is now “puzzled” by the firestorm set off by his remarks on Thursday suggesting he was revising his Iraq policy. ABC reports:

He continued, “The tactics of how we ensure our troops are safe as we pull out, how we execute the withdrawal. Those are things that are all based on facts and conditions, and you know I’m not somebody who, unlike George Bush, is willing to ignore facts on the basis of my preconceived notions. I want to pay attention to what’s happening on the ground.” Sen. Obama — who plans a trip to Iraq this month — took issue with reporters who “finely calibrated” his statements, and specific words, on his Iraq War plan. “I wasn’t saying anything that I hadn’t said before,” Obama said. “I don’t think in anyway it is inconsistent with prior statements and doesn’t change my strategic view that this war has to end and that I am going to end it as president,” he repeated again.

The McCain camp is a bit flummoxed –and you can hardly blame them, or anyone else, for being confused.

If Obama’s Thursday comments are consistent with his prior pronouncements are we then to assume he really isn’t taking into account an entirely different set of facts on the ground and changing policy accordingly? At least this version doesn’t sound much like he has rethought the success of the surge and recognizes the need to push through to a positive outcome. Rather, it sounds more like: ” Okay, I may shift the speed of my withdrawal plans.” Or then again, maybe the New York Times scared him and he’s just afraid to tell us what he told the Iraqi foreign minister.

It is very hard to do two diametrically opposed things simultaneously: convince the voters he’s not changed his Iraq stance and actually change course because his prior position is untenable and out of touch with new realities. So what we get is a muddled mess of conflicting comments. This most recent incarnation may calm his netroot base (i.e. never admit error and persist in a policy based on withdrawal and not success), but it throws into doubt what, if anything, he really means to do differently.

It is not clear at all what he’s up to at this point and the appearance that he is nervously tacking with the political winds only increases with every equivocal statement. You wish someone would grab him by the lapel and tell him, “Say what you mean, Senator!” As we traipse after him on his meandering journey to discover what he really intends to do, each day we will find out how much more he is willing to reveal and if he is finally going to spit out a new policy. Not exactly a profile in courage. Definitely not the New Politics.



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