'We're Gonna Try This Again'

Whatever happened to "absolute clarity"?

Barack Obama struggled Thursday in two separate news conferences to explain his plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

Obama said in the first of two Fargo, N.D., media availabilities that he will "continue to refine" his plan to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq in 16 months when he travels to the war-torn country later this month to meet with American military commanders.

"I've always said that the pace of withdrawal would be dictated by the safety and security of our troops and the need to maintain stability. That assessment has not changed," said Obama. "And when I go to Iraq and have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I'm sure I'll have more information and will continue to refine my policies."

Obama's openness to adjust his 16-month withdrawal plan was somewhat at odds with the stance he took during a recent ABC News debate. At the time, Obama seemed to stand by his campaign manager's unambiguous pledge to have troops out of Iraq in 16 months "at the most."

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters on March 7 that Obama has been "crystal clear with the American people that if and when he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in -- as he said, the time frame would be about 16 months at the most where you withdraw troops. There should be no confusion about that with absolute clarity."

At the April 16 debate in Philadelphia, ABC News' Charlie Gibson asked Obama about his campaign manager's unambiguous pledge.

Obama seemed to stand by Plouffe's words, saying, "the commander-in-chief sets the mission, Charlie."

Later in the same answer, the Illinois Democrat gave himself some wiggle room "with respect to tactics."

"[I]f they come to me and want to adjust tactics," said Obama, referring to U.S. commanders in Iraq, "then I will certainly take their recommendations into consideration."

But he still asserted that he would be the one providing commanders with what he calls "the mission."

Obama's comments on refining his Iraq policies are also at odds with the Iraq plan that he currently has on his campaign website.

Under a "Bringing Our Troops Home" header, Obama's website says: "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."

When asked at his hastily arranged second press conference about the website's claim, Obama said, "I have to say that there is nothing that that website says that contradicts what I've said here. I will bring this war to close; I think it is important for us to do strategically."

Obama insisted that his position on Iraq had not changed and said that suggestions to the contrary had come from the McCain campaign.

"I guess I'm just puzzled," said Obama when asked how he would explain his position over the next four months if he had struggled to do so over a few hours on Thursday.

"I think what's happened," he continued, "is that the McCain campaign primed the pump with the press to suggest that somehow we were changing our policy when we hadn't. And that just hasn't been the case. I've given no indication of a change in policy. I haven't suggested that we're moving in a different direction."

For more, turn to: "Obama Struggles to Explain Iraq Stance"

The kicker:

"God bless her, she said yes."

--Florida Gov. Charlie Crist on Carole Rome accepting his engagement proposal

Friday, July 4

On the campaign front. . .

BARACK OBAMA

-- 8:00 am ET: Attends Freedom Fest Independence Day parade with family in Butte, MT.

-- Following parade, participates in picnic with family and public.

At the White House. . .

PRESIDENT BUSH

-- 9:45 am ET: Participates in a tour of Monticello, Charlottesville, VA.

-- 10:05 am: Participates in Monticello's 46th Annual Independence Day celebration and naturalization ceremony.

Saturday, July 5

On the campaign front. . .

BARACK OBAMA

-- 8:00 am ET: Attends an event in St Louis, MO.

Sunday, July 6

At the White House. . .

PRESIDENT BUSH -- 2:30 am ET: Participates in meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan, Tokyo, Japan.

-- 3:50 am ET: Participates in a joint press availability with the Prime Minister of Japan.

-- 6:00 am ET: Participates in a social dinner with Mrs. Bush, the Prime Minister of Japan, and Mrs. Fukuda.

Monday, July 7

At the White House. . .

PRESIDENT BUSH

-- 10:30 pm ET (Sunday): Participates in meeting with the President of Russia, Tokyo, Japan.

-- 11:30 pm ET (Sunday): Participates in a G8 working Lunch with Africa outreach representatives.

-- 1:05 am ET: Participates in a photo opportunity with Africa outreach representatives.

-- 1:30 am ET: Participates in a G8 working Lunch with Africa outreach representatives.

-- 6:15 am ET: Attends entertainment with Mrs. Bush.

-- 6:35 am ET: Participates in dinner with G8 leaders and spouses.

POLITICAL NEWS STORIES ON ABCNEWS.COM

ABC News' Sunlen Miller, Teddy Davis, and Gregory Wallace: Obama Struggles to Explain Iraq Stance LINK

ABC News' Jan Crawford Greenburg, Howard L. Rosenberg and Dennis Powell: Closing Gitmo: Timing is Everything LINK

ABC News' David Wright: McCain Talks Drugs, Trade in Colombia LINK

ABC News' Jan Crawford Greenburg: Detainees to be freed in the U.S.? LINK

ABC News' Jonathan Karl: Pentagon Warns Against Israeli Attack on Iran LINK

ABC News' Jonathan Karl: Marines Extended in Afghanistan as Violence Rises LINK

ABC News' Rick Klein: McCain's New Message Machine -- Maybe Not 'Till Monday? LINK

ABC News' Rick Klein: Obama's Iraq Quagmire LINK

ABC News' Mark Mooney: Campaign Report Card for Obama and McCain LINK

ABC News' Rick Klein: Obama: Servicing Service LINK

ABC News' Jan Crawford Greenburg: Bush to Close Guantanamo? LINK

ABC News' Bret Hovell: Jeb Bush to Join McCain in Mexico City LINK

ABC News' Rick Klein: McCain 3.0 LINK

ABC News' Sunlen Miller: Obama Fist Bump Refusal? Not So Fast... LINK

POLITICAL VIDEO ON ABCNEWS.COM Obama to 'Refine' Iraq Withdrawal Plan?
Obama: Iraq trip could shift strategy to bring troops home in 16 months. LINK

McCain Travels Abroad
McCain travels to South America, facing questions about his Vietnam service. LINK

The Bottom Line on the '08 Race
George Stephanopoulos discusses a shake-up in the presidential race. LINK

Gitmo: Determining Prison Camp's Future
Bush is expected to decide whether the notorious prison should remain open. LINK