On Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer stated that Sen. Barack Obama "seemed to have a slightly different take" on withdrawing troops from Iraq in July 3 remarks, as compared with a speech he made on March 19. But Schieffer omitted Obama's statement in the March 19 speech that he would set Iraq policy in consultation with military commanders.
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During the July 6 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer aired March 19 remarks by Sen. Barack Obama regarding a timeline for withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq and stated, "But last week, he seemed to have a slightly different take." Schieffer then aired video of Obama stating on July 3: "When I go to Iraq and I have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I'm sure I'll have more information and will continue to refine my policies." But Schieffer omitted Obama's statement in the same March 19 speech that he would set Iraq policy in consultation with military commanders:
OBAMA: Let me be clear: Ending this war is not going to be easy. There will be dangers involved -- just as there would be dangers involved with staying indefinitely. We will have to make tactical adjustments, listening to our commanders on the ground, to ensure that our interests in a stable Iraq are met and to make sure that our troops are secure.
Schieffer also falsely suggested that Obama's pledge to listen to commanders on the ground came only after Sen. John McCain "has been telling him he ought to do" it. But again, as Media Matters for America has noted, and as Schieffer ignored in the March 19 speech, Obama has spoken of the need to listen to commanders on the ground on numerous occasions since 2007.
From Obama's March 19 speech:
OBAMA: So when I am commander-in-chief, I will set a new goal on Day One: I will end this war. Not because politics compels it. Not because our troops cannot bear the burden -- as heavy as it is. But because it is the right thing to do for our national security, and it will ultimately make us safer.
In order to end this war responsibly, I will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. We can responsibly remove one to two combat brigades each month. If we start with the number of brigades we have in Iraq today, we can remove all of them in 16 months. After this redeployment, we will leave enough troops in Iraq to guard our embassy and our diplomats, and a counterterrorism force to strike Al Qaeda if it forms a base that the Iraqis cannot destroy. What I propose, and what I've been proposing for many months, is not and never has been a precipitous drawdown. It is instead a detailed and prudent plan that will end a war nearly seven years after it started.
My plan to end this war will finally put pressure on Iraq's leaders to take responsibility for their future. Because we've learned that when we tell Iraq's leaders that we'll stay as long as it takes, they take as long as they want. We need to send a different message. We will help Iraq reach a meaningful accord on national reconciliation. We will engage with every country in the region -- and the U.N. -- to support the stability and territorial integrity of Iraq. And we will launch a major humanitarian initiative to support Iraq's refugees and its people. But Iraqis must take responsibility for their country. It is precisely this kind of approach -- an approach that puts the onus on the Iraqis and that relies on more than just military power -- that is needed to stabilize Iraq.
Let me be clear: Ending this war is not going to be easy. There will be dangers involved -- just as there would be dangers involved with staying indefinitely. We will have to make tactical adjustments, listening to our commanders on the ground, to ensure that our interests in a stable Iraq are met and to make sure that our troops are secure.
From the July 6 edition of CBS' Face the Nation:
SCHIEFFER: Senator Obama's been saying he'll begin an immediate withdrawal of the American forces in Iraq once he becomes president. If he does -- here's the way he put it back in March:
OBAMA [video clip]: In order to end this war responsibly, I will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. We can responsibly remove one to two combat brigades each month. If we start with the number of brigades we have in Iraq today, we can remove all of them in 16 months.
SCHIEFFER: But last week, he seemed to have a slightly different take. Here's what he said last week:
OBAMA [video clip]: When I go to Iraq and I have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I'm sure I'll have more information and will continue to refine my policies.
SCHIEFFER: So is this a change in policy? Some in the McCain campaign go so far as to say it is a flip-flop. Senator Kerry, explain for us.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): Well, the Republicans and John McCain specifically are trying desperately to get away from the reality of John McCain's position, which is that he has a plan for staying in Iraq and Barack Obama has a plan for getting out of Iraq. Barack Obama has a plan for ending the war, John McCain has a plan for continuing the war. And he has said so very clearly dozens and dozens of times. What the McCain campaign is trying to do is take the normal statement of anybody smart enough to be president of the United States and ready to be president, who says he'll refine -- may refine tactically what you might decide to do over the course of that withdrawal and how you protect American troops and how you, in fact, get the Iraqi army to stand up faster. But it is no change whatsoever in his fundamental determination to end the war.
John McCain, on the other hand, has proven that he's been wrong about every judgment he's made about the war. Wrong about the Iraqis paying for the reconstruction, wrong about whether or not the oil would pay for it, wrong about Sunni and Shia violence through the years, wrong about the willingness of the Iraqis to stand up for themselves, wrong even about his own judgment about timelines, et cetera, which he's now changed.
SCHIEFFER: All right, so let's let --
KERRY: So they're just -- they're -- Bob, the bottom line is, they're trying very hard to make an issue where there really isn't one and where the contrast could not be more forceful.
SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, let's go to Senator Graham here, because Senator, what Barack Obama is saying here -- he's saying he's going to listen to the commanders on the ground -- that is exactly what Senator McCain has been telling him he ought to do. But instead of saying, "That's a good thing you've done there, Senator," the people in your campaign are now saying, "This is some kind of a flip-flop. Here he goes shifting his position again." Why has the campaign come down so hard on him about this?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Well, I hope he will go to Iraq and listen to the commanders and evaluate the progress. He hasn't been since January 2006. And I guess what disturbs most of us here is that during the primary season, he was as hard over as you could be about leaving Iraq, ending the war now.