A case for Fargo North, Decoder

In “Buyer’s remorse?” John Hinderaker asked whether antiwar Democrats would be disappointed by Obama’s modulation of his previously staunch position in favor of retreat and defeat. John’s question was prompted by Obama’s statement at an airport press conference in Fargo yesterday:

“My 16-month timeline, if you examine everything that I’ve said, was always premised on making sure that our troops were safe. I said that based on the information that we had received from our commanders that one to two brigades a month could be pulled out safely, from a logistical perspective. My guiding approach continues to be that we’ve got to make sure that our troops are safe and that Iraq is stable. I’m going to continue to gather information to find out whether those conditions still hold.”

Later that day in Fargo, however, Obama called an impromptu press conference to reiterate his staunch retreat and defeat antiwar position:

“Let me be as clear as I can be. I intend to end this war,” he said. “On my first day in office, I will bring the Joint Chiefs of Staff in and I will give them a new mission, and that is to end this war responsibly, deliberately but decisively. And I have seen no information that contradicts the notion that we can bring our troops out safely at a pace of one to two brigades a month. And again, that pace translates into having our combat troops out in 16 months’ time.”

The New York Times covers Obama’s comments in Fargo yesterday here, the Los Angeles Times here.

What is to be said? This is another instance of the phenomenon that I tried to describe in “Opportunism knocks, part 3.” It would be a mistake to take Obama’s articulation of his antiwar position seriously in roughly the same sense that it would be to take his modulation of his antiwar position seriously.

One can observe the deliberation and calculation that Obama devotes to the formulation of his position on any given issue at any given time without being able to deduce his real view, if he has one. The story of his life nevertheless tells us that he is a dedicated, if opportunistic, man of the left. D.H. Lawrence’s literary lesson can be put to good use here: Trust the tale, not the teller.

JOHN adds: I’m not sure whether it qualifies as buyer’s remorse, but the New York Times is certainly up in arms about Obama’s new-found moderation. Charles Krauthammer, meanwhile, finds that he had underestimated Obama’s capacity for opportunism. Like me, he expects Obama’s stated position on Iraq soon to be indistinguishable from John McCain’s.

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