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Last Updated July 3, 2008

Below is a list of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s “publicly reported” gaffes, misstatements and downright stupidity. (I put publicly reported in quotes because it’s not like the mainstream media have reported these widely. In many cases the media do not even realize the anointed one has made a gaffe until bloggers point them out.) We all make mistakes, but imagine if John McCain, George Bush (either of them) or Ronald Reagan had said any of these things.

The comments are broken down into four categories:

  • Gaffes: Obviously false, or easily disprovable statements. These are the Dan Quayle “potatoe” comments that would mar the record of any conservative.
  • Telling Faux Pas: These are statements that, perhaps debatable, arguably reveal some unpleasant (in my opinion) truth about Obama. E.g. “Have you seen the price of arugala in Whole Foods?”
  • Revisionist History: These are statements that are provably false, but made intentionally to cast him in a positive light or to make connections for political reasons. (Mitt Romeny’s “My father marched with MLK.”)
  • Self-Conflicting Policies: These are conflicting statements of policy or contradictory assertions made by Obama and/or his advisers. (John Kerry’s “I was for the war funding before I was against it.” Or, put another way, care of “friend” Joe Biden, Obama “has learned a hell of a lot.“)

Got another gaffe or faux pas from Obama? or post a comment!


Actual Statement Context and Notes

A Breathalyzer For Every Asthmatic!

“Everybody knows that it makes no sense that you send a kid to the emergency room for a treatable illness like asthma, they end up taking up a hospital bed. It costs–when–if you–they just gave–you gave him treatment early, and they got some treatment, and a breathalyzer, or an inhalator–not a breathalyzer. I haven’t had much sleep in the last 48 hours.”
(June 5, 2008)

I’m sure he’ll catch up on his sleep once he’s in office.

And a Rainbow Pony in Every Garage!

“[T]his was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.”
(June 3, 2008)

So many issues, I don’t know where to start (and these were prepared remarks!)

  1. Is there anything he won’t promise? Heal the sick, feed the hungry, part the seas, end suffering in our time!
  2. The sick have been receiving care for a long time in America, and the jobless have often found jobs.
  3. If America is a great nation, why, exactly, do we need to remake it?
  4. Finally, did he get George Lucas’s permission to use that last, best hope for the Galaxy line? Help me Obama-Wan Kenobi!

Movies aren’t real?!?

Referring to the famous scene (filmed in 1959) with Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint set on Mt. Rushmore, Obama asked “How did they get up there in the first place?”
(May 30, 2008)

The immediate response from ranger Wesley Jensen was “They didn’t. It was a movie set.”

My Uncle at Auschwitz

“I had a uncle who was one of the, um, who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz, and liberate the concentration camps.”
(May 26, 2008)

Again, multipled problems:

  1. Auschwitz, the most notorious Nazi concentration camp, was in Poland and was liberated by the Soviet’s Red Army in 1945. American troops never got past Berlin.
  2. Obama doesn’t have an uncle, much less one that served in World War II. His mother and father were only children.
  3. Obama did, however, have a great uncle who was in the U.S. Army division that liberated the Buchenwald Camps in Germany.

I See Dead People!

“On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes — and I see many of them in the audience here today — our sense of patriotism is particularly strong.”
(May 26, 2008)

We are assured that the entire New Mexico audience was alive and well.

Please Don’t Take My Sunshine Away!

“How’s it going, Sunshine? Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you everybody. It’s good to be in Sunshine!”
(May 24, 2008)

Obama was in Sunrise, Florida. [Insert tongue in cheek] There is no Sunshine in Florida.

Bush Created Chavez?

“Since the Bush Administration launched a misguided war in Iraq, its policy in the Americas has been negligent toward our friends, ineffective with our adversaries, disinterested in the challenges that matter in peoples’ lives, and incapable of advancing our interests in the region. No wonder, then, that demagogues like Hugo Chavez have stepped into this vacuum.”
(May 23, 2008)

Hugo Chavez became president of Venezuela on February 2, 1999, while Bill Clinton was in office. George Bush took office on January 20, 2001. Facts are stubborn things.

Iran Just Wants a Hug!

“Iran is stronger now than when George Bush took office. And the fact that we have not talked to them means that they have been developing nuclear weapons, funding Hamas, funding Hezbollah.”
(May 21, 2008)

“Oh, Obama, you had me at ‘hello.’” Really? That’s why they do it? Silly me, I though it was global domination and deranged sense of missionary Islam. This whole time, all they wanted was to talk?

I never heard of that project I funded

“Here’s something that you will rarely hear from a politician, and that is that I’m not familiar with the Hanford, uuuuhh, site, so I don’t know exactly what’s going on there. (Applause.) Now, having said that, I promise you I’ll learn about it by the time I leave here on the ride back to the airport.”
(May 19, 2008)

Mentioning the Hanford nuclear waste site to an environmentalist is like mentioning the Eli Manning to a Patriots fan. Not a good place for the “green” candidate to have a gap in his knowledge. Not only that, but Obama had previously voted on a bill that involved Hanford.

Iran doesn’t pose a threat to us!

“Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union did.”
(May 18, 2008)

As I’ve pointed out, this is like saying the Enola Gay posed no threat to the Hiroshima police force. It was that pesky device in its belly. This comment could debatably be listed under either faux pas or policy conflicts, below. The very next day, Obama tried to say he had always said Iran was a “grave threat.” Of course, Dan Quayle also always spelled potato without an “e”.

Sioux What?

“Thank you Sioux City.”
(May 16, 2008)

Sioux City is in Iowa. Obama was actually in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

My Old Kentucky Home

“Sen. Clinton, I think, is much better known, coming from a nearby state of Arkansas. So it’s not surprising that she would have an advantage in some of those states in the middle.”
(May 16, 2008)”

Illinois is not only closer, it borders Kentucky. Arkansas does not.


Reporter: “Senator Obama, what are you going to do to help American autoworkers?”
Obama: “Hold on one second there, sweetie.”
(May 14, 2008)

Obama later called the female reporter to apologize, saying he has a bad habit of calling people “sweetie.” Obama then says: “I mean no disrespect, so I am duly chastened on that front.”This was the second time in a little over a month he had done so. In April, he called a Pennsylvania factory worker “sweetie.”

Ay Poppy

“We need agricultural specialists in Afghanistan, people who can help them develop other crops than heroin poppies, because the drug trade in Afghanistan is what is driving and financing these terrorist networks. So we need agricultural specialists. But if we are sending them to Baghdad, they’re not in Afghanistan.”
(May 13, 2008).

  1. There isn’t much call for agricultural specialists in Iraq. Most of the technical support involves Iraq’s primary resource, oil.
  2. Afghans do not need help learning how to plant wheat crops. They plant poppies because poppies are more durable, more profitable and wheat and other food crops cannot be brought to market as easily.

More water for the oil!

“We only have a certain number of [Arabic translators] and if they are all in Iraq, then its harder for us to use them in Afghanistan.”
(May 13, 2008).

Arabic is not spoken in Afghanistan. The official languages are Pashto and Dari. On the border with Pakistan, where the vast majority of the conflict is occurring, Pashto is the primary language. In addition, the military prefers to use locals as translators, rather than hiring outsiders who would speak with a different dialect.

57 States

“Over the last 15 months, we’ve traveled to every corner of the United States. I’ve now been in 57 states? I think one left to go.”
(May 9, 2008).

When the audience laughed at the gaffe, he dug deeper: “Alaska and Hawaii, I wasn’t allowed to visit, I really wanted to, but my staff would not justify it.”

New Calendar, New Math

In late April, while campaigning in North Carolina, Obama referred to the month as “March” and noted that there were “nine months to November.”
(April 28, 2008).

It then being almost May, November was 6 months away (7 months if it had actually been late March).

My racist granny: typical white person

“The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn’t. But she is a typical white person who, uh, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know there’s a reaction that’s been been bred into our experiences that don’t go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way and that’s just the nature of race in our society.”
(March 19, 2008)

First, can you imagine Hillary Clinton or John McCain referring to someone as a “typical Black person?”. Second, this is what Obama actually said, the day before, about his grandmother: she is “a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”

Even Biden got this one right

At Tom Harkin’s Iowa Steak Fry (September 18, 2007)

At least it’s not like he’s stomping on the flag like his friend and proud terrorist William Ayers.

Invade Pakistan

“There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again . . . If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”
(August 1, 2007).

Pakistan is a nuclear power, and teetering on the brink of becoming the first Islamic government with control of a nuclear weapon. Is it a good idea to invade their country for any reason?

No Nukes–no wait, scratch that

“I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance, involving civilians. Let me scratch that. There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.”
(August 13, 2007).

Can we mention nukes in dealing with terrorists? Yes we can! Can you imagine a U.S. President saying, “Mr. Prime Minister, the United States cannot abide these transgressions–wait, scratch that–”

I Support the Troops That Kill Civilians

“We’ve got to get the job done there, and that requires us to have enough troops so that we are not just air raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure there.”
(August 13, 2007).

Keep in mind that one of Obama’s limited roles in the Senate is the chair of the subcommittee on the war in Afghanistan. If the U.S. military were slaughtering civilians in Afghanistan, wouldn’t that be front page news and the topic of a congressional investigation?

President of Canada?

“I would immediately call the president of Mexico, the president of Canada, to try to amend NAFTA, because I think that we can get labor agreements in that agreement right now.”
(August 6, 2007)

Canada is, and has been for centuries, a parliamentary democracy. The head of state in Canada is the prime minister.

10,000 People Died?

“In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died — an entire town destroyed.”
(May 9, 2007).

The actual death toll was 12 people. To put this in context, the entire death toll from Hurricane Katrina in the entire state of Louisiana was 964. The deadliest tornado in U.S. history killed 689 people, and that was in 1925.

Simple Mac Ad Pretty Extraordinary

“But it’s not something that we had anything to do with or were aware of and that frankly, given what it looks like, we don’t have the technical capacity to create something like that. It’s pretty extraordinary.”
(March 22, 2007)

The ad, released on You Tube, was made at home by an Obama staffer (apparently without the campaign’s knowledge) on an off-the-shelf Mac home computer. “I made the ad on a Sunday afternoon in my apartment using my personal equipment (a Mac and some software), uploaded it to YouTube, and sent links around to blogs.”

Telling Faux Pas

Actual Statement Summary, Context and Notes

Wait, Whose Money is It?

“[T]he man who rails against government spending wants to spend $1.2 billion on a tax break for Exxon Mobil.”
(June 9, 2008)

I debated whether to include this, as most Dems wouldn’t see this as a faux pas. Conservatives, however, would argue that you don’t “spend” money on tax breaks. It’s not the government’s money until it’s taxed. The comment made the list because it also shows that Obama cannot or does not distinguish between spending and cutting taxes.

Global Warming: The Global Test

“We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK.”
(May 16, 2008)

This belies two problems with Obama: (1) he thinks we should care what other countries think about our consumption (perhaps the U.N. should ration oil-I’m sure we’d get our fair share) and (2) he thinks the government can and should tell you what to drive, what to eat and how to set your thermostat.

Blue Collar Folks

“And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
(April 11, 2008)

Obama was trying to explain why Pennsylvanians were not fawning over him.

The United Nations

“I want to go before the United Nations and say, ‘America’s back. And we’re back ready to lead by our example, so we’re going to work with you, not only on terrorism and nuclear proliferation, but we’re going to work with you on climate change.’”
(August 13, 2007)

Firstly, when did the U.S. ever leave the U.N.? The U.S. contributes about 1/4 of the U.N. budget and, whenever there is a crisis, is the first and most generous donor of money, food and resources. Secondly, the phrasing belies a view that the U.N. is a counterweight to the U.S.


“Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?”
(July 27, 2007)

Obama was speaking to lettuce farmers in Iowa where (i) there are no Whole Foods and (ii) they don’t grow arugula. This also betrays a liberal elitism, a charge Obama faces again and again. Whole Foods is a very upscale food chain, catering to yuppies, vegans and the very kind of people who don’t live in Iowa. In addition, arugula is not exactly a blue-collar type of lettuce.

Military Response to Terror Attacks

Brian Williams: “Senator Obama, if, God forbid a thousand times, while we were gathered here tonight, we learned that two American cities have been hit simultaneously by terrorists and we further learned, beyond the shadow of a doubt it had been the work of Al Qaida, how would you change the U.S. military stance overseas as a result?”

Obama: “Well, the first thing we’d have to do is make sure that we’ve got an effective emergency response, something that this administration failed to do when we had a hurricane in New Orleans. And I think that we have to review how we operate in the event of not only a natural disaster, but also a terrorist attack.

The second thing is to make sure that we’ve got good intelligence, a., to find out that we don’t have other threats and attacks potentially out there, and b., to find out, do we have any intelligence on who might have carried it out so that we can take potentially some action to dismantle that network.

But what we can’t do is then alienate the world community based on faulty intelligence, based on bluster and bombast. Instead, the next thing we would have to do, in addition to talking to the American people, is making sure that we are talking to the international community.

Because as already been stated, we’re not going to defeat terrorists on our own. We’ve got to strengthen our intelligence relationships with them, and they’ve got to feel a stake in our security by recognizing that we have mutual security interests at stake.”
(April 27, 2007)

“…and the fifty-third thing I would do, after writing that sternly worded letter, is put those responsible on an FBI watch list and make sure we cut off funding to their organizations–unless, of course, they had some humanitarian relief function. But at no point would I use the military in any way to retaliate against those responsible.”

Revisionist History

Actual Statement Context and Notes

Nazi’s Had Habeus Corpus Rights

“[T]hat principle of habeas corpus, that a state can’t just hold you for any reason without charging you and without giving you any kind of due process — that’s the essence of who we are. I mean, you remember during the Nuremberg trials, part of what made us different was even after these Nazis had performed atrocities that no one had ever seen before, we still gave them a day in court and that taught the entire world about who we are but also the basic principles of rule of law. Now the Supreme Court upheld that principle yesterday.”
(June 14, 2008)

Obama, the “Constitutional scholar”, was discussing Boumediene v. Bush, where the Supreme Court overturned the military tribunals for terrorists at Guantanamo ( (as created by Congress and the President).  The Court ruled that terrorists have a right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts (a right never before given to non-U.S. citizens being held outside the U.S.–the very reason why terrorists are kept off shore).

So why is this so bad?  The Nuremberg Trials were military tribunals.  Nazi’s never had their day in court. In fact, applying the Court’s logic in Boumediene would mean that Goebbel and all his Nazi pals would have been allowed to challenge their detention in the U.S.

Kennedy Tore Down the Berlin Wall.

“And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying we’re going to wipe you off the planet. And ultimately that direct engagement led to a series of measures that helped prevent nuclear war, and over time allowed the kind of opening that brought down the Berlin Wall.”
(May 18, 2008)

There are two ways to view this (i) Kennedy meeting with Khrushchev (the man who actually said “We will bury you” to the U.S. at the U.N.) or (ii) later, Reagan meeting with Gorbachev ended the cold war and brought down the Berlin Wall. Either comment is a ridiculous mischaracterization of history.

First, Kennedy himself said Khrushchev got the better of him in Vienna, and the Berlin Wall was a direct result of Kennedy’s disastrous face-to-face with Khrushchev (as was the Cuban missile crisis and our involvement in Vietnam).

Second, Reagan only met with Gorbachev after there were, oh, what’s the word, preconditions met by the Soviets. Chiefly among them was regime change. Reagan refused to meet with Khrushchev’s successor, Leonid Brezhnev (as well as two of his successors). The pairing of the two meetings (Obama mentions them earlier, along with Nixon/Mao) illustrates the point: Kennedy met without preconditions or a pre-determined agenda and disaster resulted. Reagan and Nixon allowed back-door diplomacy to develop, preconditions to be conveyed and met, and only then held face-to-face meetings.

Kennedy Got the Better of Khrushchev.

“When Kennedy met with Khrushchev, we were on the brink of nuclear war.”
(May 16, 2008)

Not quite. Kennedy met with Khrushchev in June, 1961. The Berlin Wall (which began construction two months after they met) didn’t exist and the Cuban missile crisis (October, 1962) was over a year in the future. To the contrary, the United States was at Defcon 4 (normal defense posture with heightened national security measures) during Kennedy’s entire term until the Cuban missile crisis, when the state was elevated to Defcon 2 for SAC. That is the brink of nuclear war, and that is the difference between cause and effect.

He Was Three When Selma Happened

“There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. So they [Barack Obama's parents] got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born. So don’t tell me I don’t have a claim on Selma, Alabama. Don’t tell me I’m not coming home to Selma, Alabama.”
(March 4, 2007).

“Bloody Sunday,” the march in Selma, Alabama, occurred March 7, 1965. Barack Obama Jr. was born three and a half years earlier, on August 4, 1961.

Did I mention Kennedy yet?

“What happened in Selma, Alabama [1965] and Birmingham [1963] also stirred the conscience of the nation. It worried folks in the White House who said, “You know, we’re battling Communism. How are we going to win hearts and minds all across the world? If right here in our own country, John, we’re not observing the ideals set fort in our Constitution, we might be accused of being hypocrites.” So the Kennedy’s decided we’re going to do an air lift. We’re going to go to Africa and start bringing young Africans over to this country and give them scholarships to study so they can learn what a wonderful country America is. This young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country.”
(March 4, 2007)

So many problems:

  1. Barack Obama senior came to the United States from Kenya in 1959 (at the age of 23), well before Birmingham, Selma, or Kennedy was in the White House.
  2. The Airlift Africa program (scholarships for Kenyan nationals to study in the U.S.) was created by Kenyan Tom Mboya in 1950.
  3. JFK did not become president until 1961.
  4. The airlifts were funded by private citizens (including the Kennedy Foundation, but starting in 1960), not the U.S. government.

Policy Shifts

Actual Statements Comments and Notes

Gun Control

September 10, 1996 Response to a state senate questionnaire:
Do you support state legislation to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of hand guns?

November 20, 2007
Obama campaign spokesperson: “[Obama] believes that we can recognize and respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and the right of local communities to enact common sense laws to combat violence and save lives. Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.”

February 12, 2008
Washington D.C. ABC affiliate reporter Leon Harris: “One other issue that is of great importance to the people of the district here, is gun control. You said in Idaho here, recently, that “I have no intention of taking away folks’ guns.” But you support the D.C. handgun ban–
Obama: “Right.”[starts at 4:48]

Leon Harris: “–and you’ve said that it’s constitutional.”

Obama: “Right.”

Leon Harris: “How do you reconcile those two positions?”

Obama: “Because I think we have two conflicting traditions in this country. I think it’s important for us to recognize that we’ve got a tradition of handgun ownership and gun ownership generally. And a lot of people – law-abiding citizens use if for hunting, for sportsmanship, and for protecting their families. We also have a violence on the streets that is the result of illegal handgun usage. And so I think there is nothing wrong with a community saying we are going to take those illegal handguns off the streets, we are going to trace more effectively, how these guns are ending up on the streets, to unscrupulous gun dealers, who often times are selling to straw purchasers. And cracking down on the various loopholes that exist in terms of background checks for children, the mentally ill. Those are all approaches that I think the average gun owner would actually support. The problem is, that we’ve got a position, often times by the NRA that says any regulation whatsoever is the camel’s nose under the tent. And that, I think, is not where the American people are at. We can have reasonable, thoughtful gun control measure that I think respect the Second Amendment and people’s traditions.”

March 3, 2008
Obama’s aides said he “never saw or approved” the 1996 questionnaire, which had his handwriting on it.

June 26, 2008 (day of the Supreme Court Ruling)
Campaign spokesman Bill Burton: “That statement [that 'Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.'] was obviously an inartful attempt to explain the Senator’s consistent position,”

June 26, 2008
“I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures. The Supreme Court has now endorsed that view, and while it ruled that the D.C. gun ban went too far, Justice Scalia himself acknowledged that this right is not absolute and subject to reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe.”

The Leon Harris interview is particularly telling as non of the justifications Obama mentions have anything to do with the D.C. gun ban. It bans all guns in the district other than law enforcement officers. If you own a gun, you have to keep it inoperable in your home. Even the NRA doesn’t think guns should be given to criminals or the mentally ill.

It’s also telling that the campaign disavowed the only clear statement on the D.C. gun ban. “Inartful” must be a synonym for “unambiguous.”

Is it just me, or would Obama’s statement have been just as validly ambiguous if the Supreme Court decided the other way?


August 8, 2007
Moderator Keith [Uber]MANN: . . . As we continue, scrap NAFTA, Senator Obama, or fix it?
OBAMA: “I would immediately call the president of Mexico, the president of Canada [sic], to try to amend NAFTA, because I think that we can get labor agreements in that agreement right now.”

February 17, 2008
“Now I didn’t just start criticizing unfair trade deals like NAFTA because I was running for President.”

February 26, 2008
“I think that it is inaccurate for Senator Clinton to say that she’s always opposed NAFTA. In her campaign for Senate, she said that NAFTA, on balance, had been good for New York and good for America. I disagree with that. . . .And if you travel through Youngstown and you travel through communities in my home state of Illinois, you will see entire cities that have been devastated as a consequence of trade agreements that were not adequately structured to make sure that U.S. workers had a fair deal.”

February 26, 2008
“I will make sure that we renegotiate, in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about. . . .I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced. And that is not what has been happening so far.”

February 27, 2008
Canadian Television reports that “within the last month, a top staff member for Obama’s campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA, according to Canadian sources. The staff member reassured Wilson that the criticisms would only be campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value.”

March 3, 2008
Later it is learned that a Canadian government memo describes a senior Obama economic advisor as telling Chicago consular officials in Chicago that Obama’s protectionist rhetoric “is more reflective of political maneuvering than policy.” The Obama campaign denied these rumors and reaffirmed its commitment to renegotiate NAFTA.

June 18, 2008
“I’m not a big believer in doing things unilaterally. . . .I’m a big believer in opening up a dialogue and figuring out how we can make this work for all people. . . . Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified. . . .Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don’t exempt myself.”

I would immediately and unilaterally renegotiate NAFTA. No I wouldn’t. Look, sometimes politicians let rhetoric get heated (note the passive voice). I’m just a typical politician. But I am for Change™!

Campaign Finance

November 2007 (Midwest Democracy Network Questionnaire Response)
“I have been a long-time advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests. I introduced public financing legislation in the Illinois State Senate, and am the only 2008 candidate to have sponsored Senator Russ Feingold’s (D-WI) bill to reform the presidential public financing system. In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.”

February 26, 2008
“I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that works for everybody.”

June 19, 2008
“The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system.”

He was for it before he was against it.

Jerusalem Divided

June 4, 2008:
“Let me be clear. Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper – but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”

June 6, 2008:
“Well, obviously, it’s going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues. And Jerusalem will be part of those negotiations.”

June 17, 2008(Daniel Kurtzer, senior Middle East adviser to Obama)
Obama had “a picture in his mind of Jerusalem before 1967 with barbed wires and minefields and demilitarized zones….So he used a word to represent what he did not want to see again, and then realized afterwards that that word is a code word in the Middle East.”

Jerusalem shall remain undivided. [Whispers from Hamas]. Jerusalem may need to be divided.
Kurtzer’s explanation is remarkable for two reasons: (1) if you’re trying to say your candidate is not flip-flopping, calling him naiive is not all that better and (2) isn’t this the same Obama who feigns ignorance over what William Ayers was doing two years later, when Obama was 8? Selective amnesia, I’m guessing.

Meeting with Preconditions

(Date unknown-present, Obama website):
Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions.

July 24, 2007:
Question: “Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?”

Answer: “I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.”

July 24, 2007 (Obama chief strategist, David Axelrod):
“What he meant was, as a government, he’d be willing and eager to initiate those kinds of talks, just as during the Cold War there were low-level discussions and mid-level discussions between us and the Soviet Union and so on. So he was not promising summits with all of those leaders.”

October 22 2007:
“I don’t think it would be appropriate for us to engage in full-scale diplomatic discussions without some progress or some indication of good faith on the part of the Iranians. I do think the U.S. needs to send a signal to Iran that if they change their behavior that they have avenues available to them for improved international relations.”

October 15, 2007:
Harry Smith: “You said, ‘I will talk to so and so and Hugo Chavez and etc., etc.’”
Obama: “Exactly, and without preconditions.”

April, 2008:
“So as a matter of principle, I will talk to any head of state after sufficient preparation in order to lay out what our interests are and to listen to them, but not to concede on the issues that are in our long term national security interest.”

May 10, 2008 (Obama foreign policy adviser Susan Rice):
“But nobody said he would initiate contacts at the presidential level; that requires due preparation and advance work.”

May 15, 2008 (Obama communications director Robert Gibbs):
“Let’s not confuse precondition with preparation. Obviously these meetings would be full of preparation. But we’re not going to sit down and engage Iran, unless or until they give up their nuclear weapons program.”

May 19, 2008 (Obama campaign adviser Tom Daschle):
“I don’t know that Barack is willing to say without equivocation that there are no conditions whatsoever. I think I’ve heard him say that obviously there are certain conditions that would have to be addressed.”

May 27, 2008:
“I’ve said that with sufficient preparation I would be happy to meet leaders from other sovereign states including countries like Iran or North Korea or Venezuela.”

June 4, 2008:
“Contrary to the claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with our adversaries just for the sake of talking. But as president of the United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leaders at a time and place of my choosing if and only if it can advance the interest of the United States. That is my position. I want to be absolutely clear.”

Meet with our enemies, without precondition? Yes! Yes. It’s done all the time. Maybe. In certain situations. No. I never said that. This is a distraction.

Reverend Wright

January 21, 2007:
“He’s much more of a sounding board for me to make sure that I am speaking as truthfully about what I believe as possible”

February 24, 2008:
Wright is “an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don’t agree with.”

March 18, 2008:
“I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. These people are a part of me.”

March 28, 2008:
“Had the reverend not retired, and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people [he never has]… then I wouldn’t have felt comfortable staying there.”

April 30, 2008:
“I am outraged by the comments that were made….They offend me, they rightly offend all Americans, and they should be denounced. And that’s what I’m doing very clearly and unequivocally here today. At a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that’s enough. That’s a show of disrespect to me. It’s — it is also, I think, an insult to what we’ve been trying to do in this campaign.”

May 31, 2008:
Upon leaving the church: “It’s clear that now that I am a candidate for president, every time something is said in the church by anyone associated with Trinity, including guest pastors, the remarks will be imputed to me, even if they totally conflict with my long-held views, statements and principles.”

Despite Obama’s claim, Reverend Wright never admitted any wrongdoing nor has he apologized for his remarks in any way.

The Cuban Embargo

January 20, 2004:
“I think it’s time for us to end the embargo with Cuba…The Cuban embargo has failed to provide the sorts of rising standards of living and has squeezed the innocents in Cuba, and utterly failed in the effort to overthrow Castro…so it’s time for us to acknowledge that that particular policy has failed.”

August 25, 2007:
“As president, I’ll maintain the embargo – it’s an important inducement for change because we know that Castro’s death will not guarantee freedom.”

May 23, 2008:
“I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice: if you take significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations. That’s the way to bring about real change in Cuba – through strong, smart and principled diplomacy.”

The Cuban embargo has utterly failed, and that’s why I fully support the Cuban embargo

We Had to Meet with Him In Order to Isolate Him

May 22, 2008:
“One of the obvious high priorities in my talks with President Hugo Chavez would be the fermentation of anti-American sentiment in Latin America, his support of (Marxist narco-terrorists) FARC in Colombia, and other issues he would want to talk about. It is important to understand that ignoring these countries has not led to improved behavior on their part and it has not served our national security interests.”

May 23, 2008:
“And we will shine a light on any support for the FARC that comes from neighboring governments. This behavior must be exposed to international condemnation, regional isolation, and – if need be – strong sanctions. It must not stand.”

I want to talk to Chavez about his support for FARC. We should isolate anyone who supports FARC.

Flag Pins

October 4, 2007:
“You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq War, that became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest.”

April 16, 2008 (A month after Wright and a week before Pennsylvania):
“I have never said that I don’t wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins.”

May 14, 2008:
“I haven’t been making such a big deal about it. Others have. Sometimes I wear it, sometimes I don’t.”

Flag pins are a substitute for patriotism; I won’t wear them. I never said I won’t wear them.

Timetables in Iraq

(Date unknown-present, Obama website):
“Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.”

June 21, 2006:
“A hard and fast, arbitrary deadline for withdrawal offers our commanders in the field and our diplomats in the region insufficient flexibility.”

July 23, 2007:
“[W]e have to begin a phased withdrawal; have our combat troops out by March 31st of next year; and initiate the kind of diplomatic surge that is necessary in these surrounding regions to make sure that everybody is carrying their weight. And that is what I will do on day one, as president of the United States, if we have not done it in the intervening months.”

March 7, 2008 (Obama senior foreign policy adviser Samantha Power):
“You can’t make a commitment in March 2008 about what circumstances will be like in January of 2009. He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator. He will rely upon a plan – an operational plan – that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground to whom he doesn’t have daily access now, as a result of not being the president. So to think – it would be the height of ideology to sort of say, ‘Well, I said it, therefore I’m going to impose it on whatever reality greets me.’ It’s a best-case scenario.”

April 16, 2008:
Charlie Gibson: “And, Senator Obama, your campaign manager, David Plouffe, said, ‘When he is’ — this is talking about you — ‘When he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in 16 months at the most. There should be no confusion about that.’ So you’d give the same rock-hard pledge, that no matter what the military commanders said, you would give the order to bring them home?”

“If they come to me and want to adjust tactics, then I will certainly take their recommendations into consideration. But ultimately, the buck stops with me as the commander in chief.”

Timetables are a bad idea. But I will get us out of Iraq immediately. But that’s subject to change.

What’s in a (Middle) Name?

October 17, 2007:
Tavis Smiley: They would look at the U.S. differently [if you were president] for what reason or reasons?Obama: “Well, I think if you’ve got a guy named ‘Barack Hussein Obama,’ that’s a pretty good contrast to ‘George W. Bush,’ to start with.”

February 28, 2008 (Michelle Obama):
“They threw in the obvious, ultimate fear bomb….When all else fails, be afraid of his name, and what that could stand for, because it’s different.”

I’m proud of my name! You’re using my name to scare people!

I’m (Not) Going to Run for President

November 4, 2004:
Calling it as “a silly question,” Obama said “he would resist any overtures to run for president or vice president before the end of his six-year term as a U.S. senator,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported. “I was elected yesterday. I have never set foot in the U.S. Senate. I’ve never worked in Washington. And the notion that somehow I’m immediately going to start running for higher office just doesn’t make sense. So look, I can unequivocally say I will not be running for national office in four years, and my entire focus is making sure that I’m the best possible senator on behalf of the people of Illinois.”October 22, 2006:
Tim Russert: When we talked back in November of ‘04, after your election, I said, “There’s been enormous speculation about your political future. Will you serve your full six-year term as a United States senator from Illinois?” Obama: “Absolutely.”

SEN. OBAMA: I will serve out my full six-year term. You know, Tim, if you get asked enough, sooner or later you get weary and you start looking for new ways of saying things, but my thinking has not changed.

MR. RUSSERT: But, but—so you will not run for president or vice president in 2008?

SEN. OBAMA: I will not.

January 17, 2007:
“I will be filing papers today to create a presidential exploratory committee.”

February 10, 2007:
“I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States.”

I am not running! Quit asking! I’m not. Okay, I am.
The point is that he so adamantly and clearly protested his desire not to run. Politicians change their minds all the time, but the good ones leave wiggle room.

Got another gaffe or faux pas from Obama? or post a comment!

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