Campaigns/Elections

Obama's Memory Hole

|

Los Angeles Times' blogger Andrew Malcolm writes:

When President Bush ordered the surge in January, 2007, [Sen. Barack] Obama said, "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse,"  a position he maintained throughout 2007. This year he acknowledged progress, but maintained his position that political progress was lacking.

Tuesday, while Obama gave a speech on foreign policy, the New York Daily News was first to notice the removal of parts of Obama's campaign site listing the Iraq troop surge as part of "The Problem." An Obama spokeswoman said it was just part of an "update" to "reflect changes in current events," as our colleague Frank James notes in the Swamp. The update includes a new section on the rise of al-Qaeda violence in Afghanistan.

More, including a video comparing older Obama statements with newer ones by his spokesman, here. Malcolm concludes that this sort of thing is "a reminder of how carefully voters must listen during these last four campaign months." Which is good advice, regardless of the candidate and the issue at hand.

Advertisement

NEXT: McCain on School Choice

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. BARACK OBAMA yesterday accused President Bush and Sen. John McCain of rigidity on Iraq: “They said we couldn’t leave when violence was up, they say we can’t leave when violence is down.” Mr. Obama then confirmed his own foolish consistency. Early last year, when the war was at its peak, the Democratic candidate proposed a timetable for withdrawing all U.S. combat forces in slightly more than a year. Yesterday, with bloodshed at its lowest level since the war began, Mr. Obama endorsed the same plan. After hinting earlier this month that he might “refine” his Iraq strategy after visiting the country and listening to commanders, Mr. Obama appears to have decided that sticking to his arbitrary, 16-month timetable is more important than adjusting to the dramatic changes in Iraq.

    WaPo

  2. wow – you can somehow make sticking with your plan and changing your plan both sound like a bad ideas

  3. So joe, it is better that Obama is an idiot as opposed to a flip-flopper? Your lefty radicals are going to cost you the election.

  4. james Ard —

    If no matter what a person does, he is in your eyes wrong, why should anyone take your criteria seriously?

    If Obama said stay the course you’d call him an idiot, and if he changed his mind you’d call him a flip-flopper. The nooks and crannies of your mind are just shockingly perverse.

  5. L, when your original position is untenable, there is no other option but to change your mind. People with good judgement, as Obama claims to be one, don’t stick to a position that was premature and proven to be wrong.

  6. We won’t be able to judge what Obama will do until, and if, he becomes President. Since I won’t be voting for either parasite, I don’t really care who wins. But this speculation is pointless at this time.

    Obama has shown willingness to change his position (FISA). Those who support him (for other than partisan reasons) shouldn’t be too trusting of him doing what he says. Where’s that filibuster?

  7. We won’t be able to judge what Obama will do until, and if, he becomes President

    Agreed. I think we’re more able to judge what McCain will do, but that doesn’t make me any more comfortable. It’s sorta a question of choosing the evil you know or the evil you don’t know, and I will likely not be choosing either.

  8. James Ard —

    I wholeheartedly agree. But I don’t call such the pejorative “flip-flopping”. It is merely “changing your mind”. “Flip-flopping” implies a very caddy wantonness to the act, a cavalier abrogation of duty and a weakness of character.

    To call one the other just perpetuates an idiotic meme that was birthed out of Karl Rove’s diseased snatch and has infected the body politic with the ridiculous notion that to change one’s mind is the highest crime imaginable.

  9. [Sen. Barack] Obama said, “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.”

    Likewise 95% of the commenters at H&R. Here’s your very own chance to flip-flop, boys and girls. Or at least admit, finally, that your dire predictions were wrong. Fess up.

  10. I don’t like the crying flip-flopper tactics either. Rove used them, but I’m sure he didn’t invent them.

  11. I don’t think anyone minds someone changing his mind after more facts, or events, require it. I don’t think many of us hold the same ideas we did at 15 years old. What libertarians do object to is someone not having the courage to say, “You know, I now see that Obama/Clinton/McCain/Paul was right about that and I applaud his vision.” It is the pretending that your current stance is the same as your previous stance that drives many libertarians up the wall.

  12. Ever since 2004, both “flip-flopping” and “swift boating” have been defined downwards. Some day, we’ll look back kindly on Karl Rove for raising the standard of political discourse by creating a situation in which these terms actually described the sketchy tactics that they embodied.

  13. Quick changing the subject, folks.

    He flip-flopped, then denied it.

  14. Abdul –

    Wha?

  15. Ahoy! My personal troll has arrived!

  16. The surge played a very small role in the reduction in violence. al-Sadr’s ceasefire, the paying of insurgents to stop fighting us, and the turning of the Sunni insurgency against al Qaeda were all more important. The first two aren’t going to last, and there’s no reason to believe that the Sunni insurgents aren’t going to turn back on us once they’re done with al Qaeda. And the political situation is as intractable as always. The surge is only viewed as a success because it was superficially correlated to the events that really caused a reduction of violence.

  17. It doesn’t matter whether the surge improves things or not. Staying in Iraq one more minute is unjustifiable.

  18. What makes Obama look stupid is the fact that he never really had any objections to the fundamental principle behind the Iraq Invasion. For Obama, it’s all about how “well” the operation is going, and since it’s going better now, he looks dumb. This contrasts with Ron Paul, who has always based his objections on the operation itself, not the relative “success” as defined by the establishment. Non-interventionist libertarians recognize that “success” could wind up being far more damaging in the long run than failure. That’s what separates us from Obama and many others on the left, and what makes us the only anti-war faction that doesn’t have to worry about having egg on our faces. Our fundamental objection is strategic, not tactical.

    And I wholeheartedly agree Obama’s change of opinion here doesn’t really constitute a flip flop. For that to have been the case he would have had to have been opposed to the war in principle, which he’s never really pretended to be. The FISA thing is more of a flip flop in my mind because what little I had listened to him, it did seem like he was holding himself up as somebody who cared about civil liberties.

  19. Waterhouse, The surge symbolized our committment to seeing the job through. If you don’t believe those other events were somewhat influenced by the surge, you’re nuts.

  20. I tend to agree with Abdul. IIRC, “flip-flop” used to align far more closely with “changing your mind”. It’s since become more refined to reflect the nastier sentiment of “changing your mind regularly without regard to critical thought”. This makes it an even more loaded term than it used to be.

    And I think I see James Ard’s point. This post has two different liberal perspectives of Obama, one of someone who is changing their mind/flip-flop/whatever, and one of someone who is rigid in their thinking and blind to the need to change their mind. Seeing that both perspectives are originating from the left, it’s almost like the left is trying to lose this race.

  21. It is the pretending that your current stance is the same as your previous stance that drives many libertarians up the wall.

    If you substitute “people who pay attention” for “libertarians”, you’d have yourself a truly excellent sentence.

  22. L, when your original position is untenable, there is no other option but to change your mind.

    So, James, still talking about what a great idea it was to invade Iraq, take out those WMDs, uncover all the bin Laden connections, and produce a wave of democratic reform that’s going to sweep the Middle East in 2005?

    Idiot indeed.

  23. Barack Obama on the Surge, March 19, 2008:

    The Surge: A Tactical Success, But a Strategic Failure: The surge succeeded in reducing violence since the
    record levels of late 2006. Attacks have leveled off or risen slightly in the early part of 2008. The goal of the
    troop surge was to create space for Iraq’s political leaders to reach agreement to end Iraq’s civil war. Since the
    surge began, more than 900 American troops have died, but the Iraqi government has not stepped up. The Iraqi
    government has not met its most important goals including figuring out what to do with Iraq’s oil resources and
    providing basic public services. General David Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, himself said
    that no one “feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation.”
    A New Strategy Needed: At great cost, heroic American troops have found the right tactics to contain
    violence, but we still have the wrong strategy.

    It’s good that he’s finally gotten around to updating his web page to reflect the argument he’s been making for six months, but I’m not sure it’s worth a blog post.

  24. Waterhouse,

    Let’s not forget the completion of the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad’s neighborhoods, under our noses during the height of the Surge.

  25. I am consistently amazed by people’s flat-out denial of the surge. Did it work? It’s hard to say, but it might have. I’m actually very afraid that it did, and will become the justification for more war. “We succeeded!” will be a powerful argument (if it is true).

    But right now, it is entirely possible that it did in fact have an effect, and we have people like Waterhouse furiously spinning anything possible to explain how it didn’t.

    The surge may have worked to a certain extent, folks, and if it did, we are going to have an even more difficult time making the anti-war case. Denial doesn’t help.

  26. joe, all along I was for the war because eventually we are going to have to do something about Saudi’s. And we can’t do that without other suppliers of oil. And since your party won’t let us drill here, it may as well be the oil of a brutal dictator that has been a thorn in our side for a decade.

  27. Well, that certainly worked.

    $4.65 last time I bought gas.

  28. James, your reasoning is sound, but your party stubbornly refuses to admit that this was a war for oil. Barring that, how are Republicans going to continue to justify this war to the American public?

  29. I’ll give you this, James: there actually is a House of Saud, we actually do have a problem with them, we actually are dependent on Middle Eastern oil.

    That puts you head and shoulders ahead of most of the people I see arguing for this war.

  30. Well, that certainly worked.

    $4.65 last time I bought gas.

    Way to think long term joe.

  31. Just because the surge shifted focus away from Afghanistan and Pakistan and let those areas get out of control doesn’t mean that it didn’t reduce violence in Iraq.

  32. It appears Obama’s real problem with the surge is not that he “flip-flopped,” but that his initial assessment that the Surge would make sectarian violence worse turned out to be wrong. This calls his national security judgment into question. One of the few criticisms that stick to Obama is that he has no real experience upon which to make judgment calls.

    I’m not sure how much the public will care. George Bush turned out to be right on the issue of the Surge, but wrong on so much else that it really didn’t redeem his image.

  33. The WOT is sooooooo yesterday. The real issue is how the oil companies and the speculators, (both housing and oil,) are in cahoots to destroy the economy for their own personal gains.

  34. You know things are going bad for Obama when the Washington Post bitch-slaps him.

    Even liberals are awakening to the fact he’s no messiah — just another lame politician, who’ll give us more of the same.

  35. Patreaus is the one who looks the best right now. The only clear military success related to the surge came in Anbar, and that was a case of the commanders on the ground diverting troops away from their intended missions in order to take advantage of an opportunity that was wholly unrelated to the Surge plan.

    While that success was happening, the ethnic cleansing in Baghdad (which was the intended targer of the surge, a.k.a the Baghdad Security Plan) continued unabated, to completion.

    Which, in turn, sharply reduced AQI’s ability to carry out terrorists attacks in Baghdad. It’s ironic, a strategy of foresaking Anbar to concentrate troops on securing Baghdad couldn’t secure Baghdad, but diverting efforts away from that mission to go back to Anbar had the effect of making Baghdad safer.

  36. Colin wrote: “Even liberals are awakening to the fact he’s no messiah — just another lame politician, who’ll give us more of the same.”

    More of the same is better than John “Let’s start wars with Iran AND North Korea” McCain.

  37. “George Bush turned out to be right on the issue of the Surge, but wrong on so much else that it really didn’t redeem his image.”

    So true. It’s like losing $1,000 on your first Vegas bet, then bragging that you later won $10 on the quarter slots. Gee, Obama was right on the $1,000 bet, but he would have skipped the slot machine. Even though Obama has $1990 more in his pocket, we say he has poor judgment than the guy with $10 in his pocket.

  38. Er, “which” up thar refers to running the foreign jihadists out of Anbar. Not to running Sunnis out of (most of) Baghdad.

  39. It appears Obama’s real problem with the surge is not that he “flip-flopped,” but that his initial assessment that the Surge would make sectarian violence worse turned out to be wrong. This calls his national security judgment into question. One of the few criticisms that stick to Obama is that he has no real experience upon which to make judgment calls.

    I’m not sure how much the public will care. George Bush turned out to be right on the issue of the Surge, but wrong on so much else that it really didn’t redeem his image.

    Your example aptly demonstrates only that nobody could have predicted what would happen when we implemented the surge, as the biggest fucking foreign policy idiot in office in fifty years got it right, and many experienced analysts got it wrong.

  40. There are liberals at the Washington Post?

    Uh, yeah, the WaPo taking a hawkinsh line on Iraq and berating the Democrat sure is notable.

    Why, I’ll bet Even the Liberal New Republic thinks that Obama is too eager to get out of Iraq.

  41. Isn’t the main reason attacks have abated for now that the US is directly buying off insurgents?
    Who will, I’m sure, buy teddy bears and choc chip cookies from those funds?

    Strategic error? What strategy, exactly, is there in the first place?

  42. looks like ol’ man McCain wins this round… at least with him you know what you’re getting: open-ended military intervention/occupation wherever we decide the “war on terror” needs to be “fought” at any given time.

    Team O neglected to mention that he wants to withdraw troops from Iraq… in order to redeploy them in Afghanistan. All in order to keep fighting those same endless “missions” in the perpetual “war on terror”.

    This time the joke’s on you anti-war Obama voters. Sucks, don’t it.

    ha.

  43. As I’ve said before, its a good thing for Democrats Obama is more charismatic than John Kerry. Because if he wasn’t, he’d be toast with his double talk.

  44. brotherben –
    where have you been, man?
    The issue is no longer about the housing and oil speculators, but about the oil executives themselves intentionally charging us too much for oil!

    (It’s available on Youtube, but I can’t link to it b/c Youtube is blocked for me)

  45. To me the problem with the surge and the war is the cost. That’s my money. And yours. I don’t feel any safer after they’ve pitched so much of it down a hole. If they were going to take it from me they could at least have spent it on better DVD’s at my local library (block grant)…

  46. Coming right out and saying the war is for oil would be foolhardy. Our Saudi friends aren’t deaf, and if you think $140 a barrel is bad, imagine what it would be if the Saudi’s stopped pumping.

  47. The one McCain ad I’ve seen in my area promises to “make CEO’s accountable.”

  48. To me the problem with the surge and the war is the cost.

    Well, duh. But there are also American soldiers and marines dying, for who knows how long. I want them out of there.

  49. “looks like ol’ man McCain wins this round… at least with him you know what you’re getting: open-ended military intervention/occupation wherever we decide the “war on terror” needs to be “fought” at any given time.”

    Well, he seems insistent on getting us into Iran. That’s enough for me to vote against him.

  50. This time the joke’s on you anti-war Obama voters. Sucks, don’t it.

    Actually, anti-war voters who don’t think we should be in Afghanistan, either, raised quite a stink during the Democratic primary, and plastered Obama for all of his talk about sending troops to Afghanistan.

    But looking at the Kucinich, Gravel, and Paul crossover vote, there don’t seem to be very many of those voters.

  51. Epi
    Tru dat.

  52. John Kerry was just about the worst democratic nominee that the dems could have picked in ’04. Pick someone articulate who can make Bush look like the “I go with my gut” fool he is.

  53. Epi
    My point was that whether the surge is a success or not matters little to one whose problem with the war is its cost in US lives and $

  54. That hurts MNG, Library DVD labels are one of my highest margin products.

  55. Joe by saying he will bcmb Pakistan while at the same time promising to sit down and talk with the President of Iran, Obama was weasely enough to attract both peaceniks and Clintonite centrists.

  56. Kerry demonstrated how clueless Dem primary voters are about Red America. They thought “hey this guy fought in a war, with a gun, that’ll win them over” and they ignored the facts about his shenanigans when he came home from Nam (which totally undercut any cred he got for combat), his liberal voting record and the fact that he represents a state which is not in step with many other states.

    Now in 08 they have picked a black guy with an Islamic name and no experience thinking that no one in this country would hold that against him…Riiiight.

  57. James
    If I have to watch The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen one more time…

  58. I think the Democrats hate being in the White House…

  59. My point was that whether the surge is a success or not matters little to one whose problem with the war is its cost in US lives and $

    Yeah, but there are a lot of people out there who will agree with the surge, and the war in general, if it is a “success”, whatever that gets defined as.

    There are tons of people who think our participation in WWI was good, solely because our side “won” a Pyrrhic victory.

  60. Obama’s Memory Hole

    The perfect space for a mind fuck.

  61. voters who don’t think we should be in Afghanistan, either, raised quite a stink during the Democratic primary

    there’ll be a whole lot more of these people once the body-count starts going up there too…

  62. I wonder about that, svf.

    During the period that support for the Iraq War tanked, two things happened: our casualties went way up, and the motivations for most 2003 hawks’ support for the war (WMDs and al Qaeda connections) were disproven.

    So, was it about Americans being “impatient” and unwilling to endure casualties, or was it about them no longer believing in the mission?

    Because Americans are still very much in favor of the mission in Afghanistan – defeating the Taliban and beating up al Qaeda central.

  63. James, you are a fool if you think this war is a result of the administration trying to save us from high oil prices.

    If it was their goal then they are bigger idiots than you because look…Iraq is still producing less than before the invasion.

    Have you not read the circa 2000 Cheney and Bush quotes were they talk about allthe reasons we needed oil prices to be HIGHER?!?

    “Let us rid ourselves of the fiction that low oil prices are somehow good for the United States,” Mr. Cheney, who is now vice president, said shortly after introducing the legislation.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/06/politics/06CHEN.html?ex=1396584000&en=7edcc32708d09716&ei=5007&partner=USERLAND

    your a sucker James

  64. Americans are still very much in favor of the mission in Afghanistan – defeating the Taliban and beating up al Qaeda central.

    … so we “surge” in Afghanistan and “stabilize” things a bit… Taliban/Qaeda resurfaces in Iraq… we withdraw from Afghan and re-“surge” in Iraq…

    later, rinse, repeat… add a little Pakistan and Iran for good measure.

    wonderful.

  65. svf,

    Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan offer two very different situations for al Qaeda. There is a large body of Afghans and Pakistanis who are allied with and support the “Afghan Arabs,” and there has been for decades now. As opposed to Iraq, where there was only a small window when our invasion led some Iraqis to welcome foreign jihadists linked to al Qaeda, and now that window has closed, and even the Iraqi Sunnis have turned against them. Not to mention, Iraq has always (except for now, under our occupation) had a very strong central government that kept control of its territory, while Afghanistan has never had that. Iraq has never been a welcoming place for bands of foreigners looking to set up shot, while Afghanistan has always been just that.

    So I don’t think it would play out as you describe.

  66. Do people here still dispute the fact that we were supporting the Taliban with more than 43 million in aid in 2001?

  67. Come on, give the guy a break. Anyone traveling through 57 states is bound to forget what he’s been saying over and over for years.

    Iraq was a strategic masterstroke. It simultaneously removed a virulent, brutal, terrorist-sponsoring, mass-murdering, WMD-using regime sitting on trillions in oil, drew AQ into a war that it not only could not win but utterly discredited itself trying, allowed us to build a 500,000-strong security force of Muslims who are fighting not only Al Qaeda but also Shia extremists, and established a friendly liberal democracy in the heart of the old Caliphate (already, there are mutterings from Arabs that Israel and Iraq are the only true democracies in the region, a concession nearly inconceivable).

    Meanwhile, even as AQ was attrited and discredited, our own forces’ perfected a counterinsurgency doctrine that can be exported to Afghanistan. We have Anbar sheiks — Iraqis — who are volunteering to help us implement this in Afghanistan.

  68. Coming right out and saying the war is for oil would be foolhardy. Our Saudi friends aren’t deaf, and if you think $140 a barrel is bad, imagine what it would be if the Saudi’s stopped pumping.

    Never happen. Pushers need addicts to stay in business. China and India don’t have enough bling (at least for a couple more decades).

  69. We have Anbar sheiks — Iraqis — who are volunteering to help us implement this in Afghanistan.

    Which, of course, is only natural. They have just as much reason to hate AQ as we do, now.

  70. Iraq was a strategic masterstroke.

    And all for the low, low price of $19.95!

  71. PURPLE FINGERS!

  72. HOPE AND CHANGE!

    ALSO, AMNESIA!

  73. That flood of terrorists into Iraq – the one we swore wasn’t going to happen – was part of the plan all along. It’s severely weakened al Qaeda, and that’s why they haven’t been able to recover in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

  74. How do we know it was the “surge” that decreased the secretarian violence and not something else? Maybe the violence was going to decrease anyway because the Iraqi’s were sick of it. Maybe the millions of dollars we are paying to put former insurgents on our payroll have decreased the violence. I see no definite cause and effect between “surge” and “decreased violence”, and given everything this administration told us that turned out to either be wrong or a deliberately untrue, I am inclined not to believe them if/when they way the “surge” has resulted in less violence. Furthermore, how does this all translate into “success” or “winning the war”? I see us no closer to any clearly defined goal.

  75. Alan, why do you hate our great Commander-in-Chief Daddy in his sexy flight suit?

    oh, yummy! Freedom Fries!

  76. TallDave, July 16: Meanwhile, even as AQ was attrited and discredited, our own forces’ perfected a counterinsurgency doctrine that can be exported to Afghanistan.

    This is the first time he has ever made this argument. And in some sort of bizarre coincidence, John McCain made the following argument for the first time yesterday, in response to Barack Obama’s call to send more troops to Afghanistan:

    It is precisely the success of the surge in Iraq that shows us the way to succeed in Afghanistan. It is by applying the tried and true principles of counter-insurgency used in the surge — which Senator Obama opposed — that we will win in Afghanistan…What we need in Afghanistan is exactly what Gen. Petraeus brought to Iraq: a nationwide civil-military campaign plan that is focused on providing security for the population…The good news is that our soldiers have begun to apply the lessons of Iraq to Afghanistan — especially in eastern Afghanistan, where U.S. forces are concentrated.

  77. Its not a bizarre coincidence that TallDave repeats pro-war talking points. I expect it.

  78. Oh yeah, exporting our counterinsurgency strategies from Iraq to Afghanistan will be a roaring success. Also, Shanghai is identical to Iowa.

    And I don’t think that the surge was a total failure. It stands to reason that adding 20,000 soldiers would improve the security situation a little bit. But the reduction in violence that we’ve seen is too large to be attributed to that relatively small troop increase, especially when surrounded by a multitude of outside variables.

  79. “Iraq was a strategic masterstroke.”

    Such a masterstroke that cut down the lives of over 4000 young American soldiers in the prime of their lives, permanently crippled physically and mentally tens of thousands more, killed over 100,000 more innocent Iraqi civilians, cost over 3 trillion dollars, has us on the verge of a major recession, has driven the price of oil to $140 and gasoline to over $4 a gallon. On top of all that, the end of the war is nowhere in sight. Such a resounding success!!

  80. “Iraq was a strategic masterstroke.”

    I believe that was “satire”.

    See also: New Yorker cover.

  81. “I believe that was “satire”.”

    I don’t think so considering it was Tall Dave that posted it.

  82. I don’t think so considering it was Tall Dave that posted it.

    if he was serious, then that’s even funnier….

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.