Update: The anticipated overreaction is happening, but it seems to be most flagrant in the MSM. As a result, Barack Obama has given another press conference, and has issued an email confirming that he has, in fact, been very consistent. Some reaction from the blogosphere has been added after original post.
A question: Why would the MSM be spinning this up so baldly?
For months now, I’ve been writing that Obama was not the hard-core liberal the far left wanted (and the far-right hoped for). This was true on nearly everything from NAFTA to the death penalty, and it’s only on FISA that I’ve been surprised.
As the general election campaign has gotten underway, and various issues have become more fleshed out, there have been gasps of horror from various corners. Imagine (I’ve thought and discussed) what will happen when Obama’s carefully nuanced Iraq position finally moved into the light. Here it comes:
FARGO, N.D. – Senator Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot sustain a long-term military presence in Iraq, but added that he would be open to “refine my policies” about a timeline for withdrawing troops after meeting with American military commanders during a trip to Iraq later this month.
Mr. Obama, whose popularity in the Democratic primary was built upon a sharp opposition to the war and an often-touted 16-month gradual timetable for removing combat troops, dismissed suggestions that he was changing positions in the wake of reductions in violence in Iraq and a general election fight with Senator John McCain.
“I’ve always said that the pace of withdrawal would be dictated by the safety and security of our troops and the need to maintain stability. That assessment has not changed,” he said. “And when I go to Iraq and 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.”
It’s true. He’s said this all along, and as I wrote earlier today, he’s also said that he’d listen to commanders on the ground.
But I’m absolutely sure that a large portion of his supporters weren’t listening. So what will they do with this, I wonder? Will it blow up as big as FISA has? I hope not, but there’s certain to be an uproar.
For me, though, bringing some light to this subject is a relief. I’ve wondered when he’d start to clarify for those many folks who’ve not read past the headlines and soundbites.
FWIW, I agree completely with his approach, and I always have. Had I thought Obama was going to completely ignore current conditions in Iraq when he took office; that he would simply start pulling troops in complete disregard for their safety, or the safety of the Iraqis, I would not have been able to support him.
That would have been incredibly irresponsible, perhaps even criminally so. More than that, though, it would have indicated a rigid mind, and there’s nothing I want less in a president.
But I never thought Obama suffered from rigidity, or even ideological purity.
Once folks who missed the nuance recover from the shock of a responsible approach to withdrawing from Iraq, I hope they’ll agree with me.
And I hope they recover before November.
* * * * *
Some reactions from various parts of the blogosphere:
Greg Sargent at TPM Election Central writes that the news organizations are “getting it wrong”, and says:
All Obama is doing here is defusing the GOP argument that he’d withdraw recklessly and preserving flexibility for himself as commander in chief. These journalistic errors are matters of nuance. But nuance is hugely important here.
AllahPundit at HotAir agrees that Obama’s consistently left some wiggle room. However:
I’m not going to rub his face in it. The important thing is to make the right decision and he’s nearer to that now than he’s ever been. Yeah, it’s almost certainly for cynical political reasons, but so long as the progress continues and public opinion improves, those cynical political reasons will continue to steer him right.
Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics:
This may not be a flip-flop by the technical definition of the term, but it certainly is a substantial walk back on perhaps the defining issue of the election that will draw fire from both the right and the left.
I suspect the ruckus is just getting going. Many more opinions at memeorandum, here.