Sioux City Journal: Obama says he's always opposed the war
By Charlotte Eby
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told reporters Wednesday he has been against the Iraq war from the start, countering questions from the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton in recent days about the sincerity of his opposition.
On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Obama said he didn't know what would be gained from the parsing of his position of the war.
"I think that my position on the war has been consistent. It has been unequivocal, and that's the only presentation that I've made during the course of this campaign," Obama said.
Obama denied that his support in the Senate for funding the war undermines the idea he is a longtime opponent, arguing troops had to be adequately protected.
"I've always been clear and consistent on the notion that we should not get in there, that once we were in there, then we had to make the best of a bad situation," Obama said.
Obama has called for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq beginning on May 1, with a goal of having troops out by the end of March 2008.
His early campaign rallies have brought their biggest applause when he talks about a war "that should have never been authorized."
Obama was not yet a member of the Senate when the vote was taken in 2002 authorizing force in Iraq, but he said Wednesday he would have voted against it.
"I am certain that I would have voted to oppose this war," Obama said. He said intelligence showing Saddam Hussein did not, in fact, have weapons of mass destruction was available at the time the vote was taken.
"There was a lot of ambiguity in the case that the (Bush) administration was making," Obama said, noting that dissenting voices in the intelligence community had been widely reported in the media.
Obama was careful not to directly criticize Clinton or Sen. John Edwards, both of whom voted in favor of the resolution authorizing force in Iraq and are his top rivals in the Democratic presidential primary.
"I prefer not to, you know, state it in the negative. I'm, I think, making an affirmative statement about my judgment when it came to this critical issue," Obama said.
Obama on Wednesday also pointed to his 2002 speech at an anti-war rally in Chicago, which he said has turned out to be a "fairly accurate assessment of the consequences of invading."
According to a speech text provided by the campaign, Obama outlined the dangers of military action in Iraq.
"That's what I'm opposed to," he said at the time. "A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics."
Clinton spokesman Mark Daley declined to directly respond to Obama's claim he has been unequivocal on the war.
"Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama have had the same voting record in Congress on Iraq, and they are united in the need to bring an end to the war," Daley said. "As Democrats, our shared beliefs are much greater than our differences."
State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, said it remains to be seen whether Iowa caucus-goers will hold it against Clinton and Edwards for their votes authorizing the use of force.
"I'm interested in who's got the best plan to get us out of Iraq, and bring our soldiers and troops home n get them out of harm's way," said Bolkcom, who is undecided whom he will support in the Iowa caucuses.