Obama 'puzzled' by Iraq comment frenzy

July 5, 2008 6:12:06 PM PDT
ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports: Sen. Barack Obama told reporters he was "puzzled" by the press coverage he received on Thursday when he held two separate press conferences to explain his plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

On Thursday in Fargo, N.D,, Obama told reporters in a morning press conference that he will "continue to refine" his plan to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq in 16 months.

Reporters immediately jumped on the comments that showed that Obama's expressed openness to adjust his long-held 16-month withdrawal plans was at odds with the stance that he took during the primary campaign.

At his second hastily called press availability Thursday, Sen. Obama insinuated that the McCain campaign had primed the press and were to blame for the interpretation of his position.

En route to a speech in St Louis today, the Senator told reporters on his plane that the news cycle his comments caused was perplexing.

"I was a little puzzled by the frenzy that I set off by what I thought was a pretty innocuous statement, which is that I am absolutely committed to ending the war," he said.

Obama reiterated his commitment to his withdraw plan again. "I will call my joint chiefs of staff and give them an assignment and that is to end the war," he said. "I think what's important is to understand the difference between strategy and tactics. I have always believed that our invasion of Iraq was a strategic blunder."

He continued, "The tactics of how we ensure our troops are safe as we pull out, how we execute the withdrawal. Those are things that are all based on facts and conditions, and you know I'm not somebody who, unlike George Bush, is willing to ignore facts on the basis of my preconceived notions. I want to pay attention to what's happening on the ground."

Sen. Obama -- who plans a trip to Iraq this month -- took issue with reporters who "finely calibrated" his statements, and specific words, on his Iraq War plan. "I wasn't saying anything that I hadn't said before," Obama said.

"I don't think in anyway it is inconsistent with prior statements and doesn't change my strategic view that this war has to end and that I am going to end it as president," he repeated again.