He can’t be serious

Jennifer Rubin catches Barack Obama in what looks like a serious misstatement about his telephone conversation with Iraqi foreign minister Hoshay Zebari. According to Obama, Zebari didn’t raise the issue of Obama’s troop withdrawal plans. But Zebari’s account, as presented by the Washington Post, paints a different picture: “My message. . .was very clear. . . . Really, we are making progress. I hope any actions you will take will not endanger this progress.” Moreover, according to Zebari, Obama responded by assuring him that a Democratic administration “will not take any irresponsible, reckless, sudden decisions or action to endanger your gains, your achievements, your stability or security.” Obama added that “whatever decision he will reach will be made through close consultation with the Iraqi government and U.S. military commanders in the field.”

Zebari is clearly more credible than Obama on this, and not just because Obama is running for office. Obama and his surrogates have been playing this kind of double-game (reckless statements for consumption by his base followed by reassurances to foreign leaders) all year. Think, for example, of the assurances his campaign provided Canada regarding NAFTA. Even on the issue of Iraq, Samantha Power (before her dismissal) was trimming Obama’s position on immediate withdrawal. And, as Rubin points out, Obama recently told the Washington Post that that after all the pain and sacrifices of the past five years, “we are just turning the corner in Iraq” and a precipitous withdrawal “would create a huge vacuum and undo all the gains and achievements,” causing the enemies of the United States to “celebrate.”

It’s no accident that Obama lacks credibility when he talks about Iraq. He’s loath to advocate his official substantive position — prompt withdrawal — to serious, informed individuals, but much of his usual audience is neither serious nor informed.

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