Russert misleadingly cropped Obama comment to claim he wasn't "firmly wedded against the war"

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Interviewing Barack Obama on Meet the Press, Tim Russert read a quote he attributed to Obama to suggest that he has "not been a leader against the [Iraq] war": "In July of 2004, Barack Obama: 'I'm not privy to Senate intelligence reports. ... What would I have done? I don't know,' in terms of how you would have voted on the war." Russert did not quote the very next sentence of Obama's statement, which was, "What I know is that from my vantage point the case was not made" for authorizing the war.

During his November 11 Meet the Press interview with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (IL) on NBC's Meet the Press, host Tim Russert asserted that "critics will say you've not been a leader against the war," and then read a quote he attributed to Obama: "In July of 2004, Barack Obama: 'I'm not privy to Senate intelligence reports. ... What would I have done? I don't know,' in terms of how you would have voted on the war." After quoting two other Obama statements on the war, Russert concluded: "It doesn't seem that you were firmly wedded against the war and that you left some wiggle room that, if you were in the Senate, you may have voted for it." However, in citing Obama's comment "What would I have done? I don't know," Russert did not quote the very next sentence of Obama's statement, which was, "What I know is that from my vantage point the case [for authorizing the war] was not made."

Obama made his comment in an interview reported by The New York Times in a July 27, 2004, article: "I'm not privy to Senate intelligence reports. ... 'What would I have done? I don't know. What I know is that from my vantage point the case was not made.'' The Times also reported that Obama "declined to criticize Senators [John] Kerry [D-MA] and [John] Edwards [D-NC] for voting to authorize the war, although he said he would not have done the same based on the information he had at the time":

In a recent interview, he declined to criticize Senators Kerry and Edwards for voting to authorize the war, although he said he would not have done the same based on the information he had at the time.

''But, I'm not privy to Senate intelligence reports,'' Mr. Obama said. ''What would I have done? I don't know. What I know is that from my vantage point the case was not made.''

But Mr. Obama said he did fault Democratic leaders for failing to ask enough tough questions of the Bush administration to force it to prove its case for war. ''What I don't think was appropriate was the degree to which Congress gave the president a pass on this,'' he said.

Further, in a July 24, 2004, interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, Obama said that while he "didn't have the information that was available to senators," he would have voted against the Iraq war authorization:

BLITZER: Had you been in the Senate when they had a vote on whether to give the president the authority to go to war, how would you have voted?

OBAMA: You know, I didn't have the information that was available to senators. I know that, as somebody who was thinking about a U.S. Senate race, I think it was a mistake, and I think I would have voted no.

BLITZER: You would have voted no at the time?

OBAMA: That's correct.

BLITZER: Kerry, of course, and Edwards both voted yes.

OBAMA: But keep in mind, I think this is a tough question and a tough call. What I do think is that if you're going to make these tough calls, you have to do so in a transparent way, in an honest way, talk to the American people, trust their judgment.

From the November 11 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: You were not in the Senate in October of 2002. You did give a speech opposing the war. But Senator Clinton's campaign will say since you've been a senator, there's been no difference in your records. And other critics will say you've not been a leader against the war, and they point to this. In July of 2004, Barack Obama: "I'm not privy to Senate intelligence reports. ... What would I have done? I don't know," in terms of how you would have voted on the war. And then this. "There's not much of a difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage." That was July of '04. And then this: "I think that there is room for disagreement in that initial decision" to vote for authorization of the war. It doesn't seem that you were firmly wedded against the war and that you left some wiggle room that, if you were in the Senate, you may have voted for it.

OBAMA: Now, Tim, that first quote was made with an interview with a guy named Tim Russert on Meet the Press during the convention when we had a nominee for the presidency and a vice president, both of whom had voted for the war, so it probably was the wrong time for me to be making a strong case against our party's nominees' decisions when it came to Iraq. Look, I was opposed to this war in 2002, 2003, '4, '5, '6, and '7. What I was very clear about, even in 2002 in my original opposition, was once we were in, we were going to have to make some decisions to see how we could stabilize the situation and act responsibly. And that's what I did through 2004, '5, and '6, try to see, can we create a workable government in Iraq? Can we make sure that we're minimizing the humanitarian costs in Iraq? Can we make sure that our troops are safe in Iraq? And that's what I have done. Finally, in 2006-2007, we started to see that even after an election, George Bush continued to want to pursue a course that didn't withdraw troops from Iraq but actually doubled down and initiated the surge. And at that stage, I said very clearly, not only have we not seen improvements, but we're actually worsening potentially a situation there. And since that time, I've been absolutely clear in terms of the approach I would take. I would end this war and I would have our troops out within 16 months.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
NBC
Person
Tim Russert
Show/Publication
Meet the Press
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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