March 21, 2007— -- In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said that his votes to fund the war in Iraq do not contradict his opposition to the war.
"Once we were in, we were going to have some responsibility to try to make it work as best we can," the presidential candidate said. "More importantly, you make sure the troops are supported. I don't think there's any contradiction there whatsoever. We should not get in; once we were in, we had to make the best of a bad situation."
There isn't necessarily a contradiction in this position; other opponents of the war vote to fund the troops so as to ensure they're as safe as possible. But there certainly seems a contradiction between this view of war funding and Obama's view just a few years ago, after the war in Iraq had been raging for more than six months.
In video obtained by ABC News of a Winnetka, Ill., Democratic event from Sunday, Nov. 16, 2003, then-state senator Obama told a cheering crowd that it was wrong to vote to fund the war.
"Just this week, when I was asked, would I have voted for the $87 billion dollars, I said 'No,'" Obama said to applause as he referred to a bill to fund troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I said no unequivocally because, at a certain point, we have to say 'No' to George Bush," Obama said. "If we keep on getting steamrolled, we are not going to stand a chance."
Obama's campaign says that he opposed the $87 billion war supplement because a portion of the funds were to be directed toward reconstruction of Iraq, which he feared would be distributed inappropriately.
"He was against this $20 billion in no-bid contracts that was forced into the bill for reconstruction for the country of Iraq with no accountability," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.
In a questionnaire he completed for the liberal group Council for a Livable World and in a 2003 press release he issued as a state senator, Obama suggested the Congress delay the $87 billion in funding "until the president provides a specific plan and timetable for ending the U.S. occupation, justifies each and every dollar to ensure it is not going to reward Bush political friends and contributors, and provides 'investment in our own schools, health care, economic development and job creation that is at least comparable' to what is going to Iraq."
But at the time, Obama's public statements suggested he opposed voting for the supplement as a way of opposing the president's overall strategy in Iraq, and not just the reconstruction funds.
Obama told the Chicago Sun Times in November 2003 that he opposed the funding because it "enables the Bush administration to continue on a flawed policy without being accountable to the American people."
And in that Council for a Livable World questionnaire he completed while a Senate candidate in September 2003, Obama wrote that he wanted to delay approving the additional funds until President Bush provided a timetable for withdrawal, although the Obama campaign notes that he also wrote he was concerned about the reconstruction money going to political friends of the White House.
The Clinton campaign has aggressively tried to point out or poke holes in how consistent Obama's anti-war stance has been.
Earlier this week at a forum at Harvard University, Clinton pollster Mark Penn said, ''When they got to the Senate, Sen. Obama's votes were exactly the same [as Clinton's votes].
Members of the Clinton campaign -- most notably former President Clinton -- have also tried to fuzz the record as to whether Obama would have hypothetically voted against the war had he been in the Senate in October 2002, though Obama's public comments at the time on the subject are consistently opposed to the war.
Regardless of the reason for his initial opposition to funding the war, since taking office two years ago, Obama has voted four times for a war appropriations bill, which together add up to more than $300 billion.
On the Ed Shultz radio show earlier this month, Obama said, "There's a possibility, given how obstinate this administration is" that attempts to cut off funding would result in Bush deciding to "play chicken, and say, 'You know what, I'm going to leave these folks here and you guys do whatever you want.'"
Obama continued to explain to the liberal talk show host, "And then suddenly we've got a situation where these folks, they don't have body armor, they don't have the kinds of equipment that they need to have a shot of coming home in one piece. You're already seeing deployments of National Guard units that have not been adequately trained, that's been acknowledged by the armed forces, and, so, it's a real concern."