Kurtz misrepresented Obama's 2004 remark on Iraq war stance

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

On Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz claimed that in a 2004 Chicago Tribune article, Sen. Barack Obama "said there wasn't much difference between his position and George Bush's position on the [Iraq] war." But Kurtz left out three key words from Obama's quote in the Tribune -- "at this stage" -- as well as the context of the remarks, both of which indicate that Obama was discussing how best to stabilize Iraq from mid-2004 onward, not claiming agreement with Bush on the war itself.

On the January 13 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, host and Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz claimed that in a 2004 Chicago Tribune article, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) "said there wasn't much difference between his position and George Bush's position on the [Iraq] war." But Kurtz left out three key words from Obama's quote in the Tribune -- "at this stage" -- as well as the context of his remarks provided in the Tribune article, both of which indicate that Obama was discussing how best to stabilize Iraq from mid-2004 onward. Obama was not, as Kurtz suggested, asserting agreement with Bush on the war itself. The July 27, 2004, Tribune article quoted Obama as saying: "There's not that much difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage" [emphasis added]. The article went on to note that Obama "opposed the Iraq invasion before the war. But he now believes U.S. forces must remain to stabilize the war-ravaged nation -- a policy not dissimilar to the current approach of the Bush administration."

From the July 27, 2004, Chicago Tribune article:

Barack Obama, who will deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, said Monday that he believes the Iraq war will be the deciding factor in the presidential contest, but that he does not think there is a great difference "on paper" between presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and President Bush on the issue.

Instead, Obama, the U.S. Senate candidate from Illinois, said he believes the Bush administration has lost too much credibility in the world community to administer the policies necessary to stabilize Iraq.

"On Iraq, on paper, there's not as much difference, I think, between the Bush administration and a Kerry administration as there would have been a year ago," Obama said during a luncheon meeting with editors and reporters of Tribune newspapers. "There's not that much difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage. The difference, in my mind, is who's in a position to execute."

[...]

Obama, a state senator from Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, opposed the Iraq invasion before the war. But he now believes U.S. forces must remain to stabilize the war-ravaged nation -- a policy not dissimilar to the current approach of the Bush administration.

The problem, Obama said, is the low regard for Bush in the international community.

"How do you stabilize a country that is made up of three different religious and in some cases ethnic groups, with minimal loss of life and minimum burden to the taxpayers?" Obama said. "I am skeptical that the Bush administration, given baggage from the past three years, not just on Iraq. ... I don't see them having the credibility to be able to execute. I mean, you have to have a new administration to execute what the Bush administration acknowledges has to happen."

From the January 13 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: So, does Clinton have a point about the Obama coverage?

Joining us now to talk about the media and the campaign, and pundits behaving badly, in Springfield, Massachusetts, Rachel Maddow, who hosts The Rachel Maddow Show on Air America Radio. And in Seattle, Michael Medved, host of The Michael Medved Show on the Salem Radio Network.

Michael Medved, what about Bill Clinton's point that the press hasn't really scrutinized Obama's record on Iraq or, some would say, on much of anything else?

MEDVED: Well, I think that's probably a valid point, because Obama has been such an, quote, "exotic new face," fresh. And I remember when Joe Biden said that he was clean and articulate. People don't really know what to make of him entirely, and then there was that whole rock star factor that you were talking about before.

But frankly, I truly don't know if the Clinton campaign should welcome the idea of going back and looking at people's positions on the war in the past, because however ambiguous Obama's position has been -- and it has been -- it was not in favor of the war as Hillary Clinton's was. So, if you're going to argue about who was against the war first and how much were they against the war, this is something that actually hurts Democrats, both Obama and Clinton.

KURTZ: Just to provide some context, Rachel Maddow, the former president referring to two interviews that Obama gave in 2004. One, he told The New York Times he didn't think the case for war had been made, but he didn't know how he would have voted had he had access to classified information at the time, because he was not in the United States Senate. And one with the Chicago Tribune which he said there wasn't much difference between his position and George Bush's position on the war.

Now, the press has covered this a bit, but, you know, about 1,000th of the attention devoted to Hillary choking up.

MADDOW: It's true, they haven't covered this as much. But also consider the context that I think Barack Obama's appeal, certainly his bipartisan appeal, his sort of general election appeal that he's been making, is not necessarily fundamentally about his record. I mean, he hasn't been in public office that long. He's not necessarily running on his record.

He's running on -- trying to make the case that he represents a clean break from the politics of the past. That's the contrast that he's tried to set up, in terms of his campaign: that he's not Hillary Clinton, that he doesn't represent the past, he doesn't represent the battles of the '90s. And so, because he hasn't necessarily been running so much on his record, I think that in part explains why that hasn't been the grounds on which he's been covered.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Howard Kurtz, Michael Medved
Show/Publication
Reliable Sources
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.