Apparently all of the criticism Obama has received for his ever-changing Iraq policy and post-9/11 comments have forced him to “clarify” in a speech today.
In the recent New Yorker article (that has gotten so little attention as a result of the magazine’s controversial cover), Obama is quoted as saying the following only days after the 9/11 attacks:
Even as I hope for some measure of peace and comfort to the bereaved families, I must also hope that we as a nation draw some measure of wisdom from this tragedy. Certain immediate lessons are clear, and we must act upon those lessons decisively. We need to step up security at our airports. We must reexamine the effectiveness of our intelligence networks. And we must be resolute in identifying the perpetrators of these heinous acts and dismantling their organizations of destruction.
We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.
We will have to make sure, despite our rage, that any U.S. military action takes into account the lives of innocent civilians abroad. We will have to be unwavering in opposing bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle Eastern descent. Finally, we will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes and prospects of embittered children across the globe—children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and within our own shores.
Despite the fact that the actual article has received relatively little attention, obviously Obama gets the implication of these statements because, just today, he delivered a speech where he discussed the tragedy of 9/11 and essentially what he would have done post-9/11 (I would quote him but the speech literally just happened so I don’t have a transcript yet). His comments today were significantly different from those made only days after 9/11 and show that Obama has now been put on the defensive, forced to respond to even the liberal media who only recently touted him as the second coming. Which leads me to a side-note: the cover of The New Yorker.
The cover was intended to be a swipe at conservatives — not Obama himself. The New Yorker is a liberal magazine. The cartoon was supposed to show how ridiculous Republicans are for perpetuating this idea that Obama is a muslim and his wife is a radical. The problem with the whole thing is that it was Hillary’s campaign that perpetuated the muslim myth — not McCain. It is ironic that Obama is now fending off “attacks” from the left while claiming that it will be the Republicans that will question his faith and make people fear his name and his race. The McCain campaign has contorted itself to avoid playing the race card. I thought this opinion piece in (of all places) the L.A. Times explained this pretty well. (HERE)
Obama has also had to clarify his position on Iraq because despite being “quite clear” about his position, even the media who spent over 4 hours discussing his policy with Obama didn’t understand his position. He recently struggled to explain how his upcoming trip to Iraq might “refine” his promise to end the war within 16 months. On his website, Obama suggests that he will “immediately” begin the withdrawal of troops to have them home by the end of next year. He only recently suggested that he would not jeopardize Iraq security in pursuit of a timetable: “I have always said that I will listen to commanders on the ground. 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.” At his second press conference following statements from his campaign that he might “refine” his Iraq policy, he said: “If it turned out, for example, that we had to, in certain months, slow the pace (of withdrawal) because of the safety of American troops … of course we would take that into account.”
Then today, in yet another effort to clarify his position, he stated unequivocally that he would have all combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months of taking office. So which is it? 16 months or will it be dictated by the conditions on the ground? The two positions aren’t diametrically opposed but they aren’t consistent.
Another side-note: why has Obama’s campaign deleted references on his website to the failure of the surge? Perhaps because it has succeeded? Convenient since Obama vehemently opposed the surge but is now using it to justify his 16 month timetable.