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Press Release - Barack Obama's Changing Positions: Everyone's Been Listening To Him

July 08, 2008

ARLINGTON, VA -- Today, McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds issued the following statement concerning Barack Obama's statement that those accusing him of changing positions "haven't apparently been listening to me":

"Since becoming his party's presumptive nominee, Barack Obama has changed numerous positions and will continue to change his stances as he puts politics ahead of principle. From growing our economy to securing our nation, Barack Obama has proven his rhetoric to be nothing but empty words and broken pledges that are at odds with his left wing partisan record. Barack Obama is wrong: everyone's been listening and still nobody knows what Barack Obama truly believes."

Today, Barack Obama Said That Those Accusing Him Of Changing His Position "Haven't Apparently Been Listening To Me." "Asked by a voter about accusations of flip-flopping, Democrat Barack Obama dismissed the notion Tuesday that he has been shifting stances on Iraq, guns and the death penalty to break with his party's liberal wing and court a wider swath of voters. 'The people who say this haven't apparently been listening to me,' the likely Democratic presidential nominee said in response to a question at a town-hall style event." (Liz Sidoti, "Obama Denies Shifting To Reach Political Center," The Associated Press, 7/8/08)

CHANGE #1: Despite Pledging To Withdraw American Troops From Iraq Immediately, Barack Obama Now Says He Would "Refine" His Policy After Listening To The Commanders On The Ground

In July 2008, Barack Obama Said He Will Continue To "Refine" His Iraq Policy. Obama: "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...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." (Jeff Zeleny, "Obama: Open to 'Refine' Iraq Withdrawal Timeline," The New York Times' "The Caucus" Blog,, 7/3/08)

In The Primaries, Barack Obama Committed To Withdrawing Troops From Iraq Regardless Of The Advice He Received From Commanders On The Ground. ABC's Charles 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?" Obama: "Because the commander-in-chief sets the mission, Charlie. That's not the role of the generals. ... Now, I will always listen to our commanders on the ground with respect to tactics, once I've given them a new mission, that we are going to proceed deliberately, in an orderly fashion, out of Iraq, and we are going to have our combat troops out. We will not have permanent bases there. Once I have provided that mission, 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." (Sen. Barack Obama, Democrat Presidential Candidate Debate, Philadelphia, PA, 4/16/08)

CHANGE #2: Despite Pledging To Accept Public Financing, Barack Obama Has Reversed His Position And Opted Out Of The System

Barack Obama Has Declined Public Financing In The General Election, Calling It A "Broken System." "In a web video emailed to supporters, Obama asks his supporters to help him 'declare our independence from a broken system.' Of course, it's not so much a broken system that explains why he's passing on the FEC's $80+million. He will easily raise more than he could ever get in public funding." (Jonathan Martin, "Obama Opts Out Of Public Financing," The Politico's "Jonathan Martin" Blog,, 6/19/08)

In Response To A Midwest Democracy Network Questionnaire, Barack Obama Said He Would Accept Public Funding In The General Election. Question: "If you are nominated for President in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?" Obama: "Yes. 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." (Sen. Barack Obama, "Presidential Candidate Questionnaire," Midwest Democracy Network,, 11/27/07)

CHANGE #3: Barack Obama Is Backtracking On His Support For Unilaterally Renegotiating NAFTA

During The Primaries, Barack Obama Pledged To Unilaterally Renegotiate NAFTA. NBC'S TIM RUSSERT: "A simple question. Will you as president say to Canada and Mexico, this [NAFTA] has not worked for us, we are out?" OBAMA: "I will make sure that we renegotiate in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about, and I think actually Senator Clinton's answer on this one is right. 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." (Sen. Barack Obama, MSNBC Democrat Presidential Debate, Cleveland, OH, 2/26/08)

In The General Election, Barack Obama Now Says His Words Were "Overheated And Amplified." "In an interview with Fortune to be featured in the magazine's upcoming issue, the presumptive Democratic nominee backed off his harshest attacks on the free trade agreement and indicated he didn't want to unilaterally reopen negotiations on NAFTA. 'Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified,' he conceded, after I reminded him that he had called NAFTA 'devastating' and 'a big mistake,' despite nonpartisan studies concluding that the trade zone has had a mild, positive effect on the U.S. economy." (Nina Easton, "Obama: NAFTA Not So Bad After All," Fortune, 6/18/08)

CHANGE #4: Barack Obama Is Considering Reducing Corporate Taxes Despite Having Called Corporate Tax Cuts "The Exact Wrong Prescription For America"

The Wall Street Journal Reported That Barack Obama Would Consider Lowering Corporate Taxes. "Sen. Obama's nod to lowering corporate taxes comes as Republicans have been attacking him for proposals that would raise the cost of doing business, such as his pledge to raise the tax rate on capital gains, and his vow to increase the top income-tax rates, which are often used by small, unincorporated enterprises. He didn't say how deeply he would cut the rate, but said it could be trimmed in return for reducing corporate tax breaks, simplifying the tax system." (Bob Davis and Amy Chozick, "Obama Plans Spending Boost, Possible Cut In Business Tax," The Wall Street Journal, 6/17/08)

Just Last Month, Barack Obama Called Corporate Tax Cuts "The Exact Wrong Prescription For America." OBAMA: "And his proposals, which are essentially $300 billion worth of corporate tax cuts ... I think is the exact wrong prescription for America." (NBC's "Meet The Press," 5/4/08)

CHANGE #5: Barack Obama Has Changed Positions On The D.C. Handgun Ban

In June 2008, Barack Obama Said He Thought The D.C. Handgun Ban Was Unconstitutional. Obama: "It looks to me that the D.C. handgun ban overshot the runway. That it went beyond constitutional limits." (Bloomberg's "Taking Stock," 6/26/08)

Obama Campaign: "Obama Believes The D.C. Handgun Law Is Constitutional." "[T]he campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said that he '...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.'" (James Oliphant and Michael J. Higgins, "Court To Hear Gun Case," Chicago Tribune, 11/20/07)

During An Interview, Barack Obama Acknowledged His Support For The D.C. Gun Ban. Questioner Leon Harris: "One other issue that's of great importance here in the district as well is gun control. You said in Idaho recently - I'm quoting here - 'I have no intention of taking away folks' guns,' but you support the D.C. handgun ban." Obama: "Right." (Leon Harris and Sen. Barack Obama, Forum Sponsored By ABC And Politico.Com, Washington, DC, 2/12/08)

CHANGE #6: Barack Obama Has Shifted From Opposing Welfare Reform To Celebrating Welfare Reform In A Television Ad

In His Newest Television Ad, Barack Obama Touts His Role In Slashing Welfare Rolls, But Leaves Out That He Was Against The 1996 Federal Legislation That Enacted Welfare Reform. "Barack Obama aligned himself with welfare reform on Monday, launching a television ad which touts the way the overhaul 'slashed the rolls by 80 percent.' Obama leaves out, however, that he was against the 1996 federal legislation which precipitated the caseload reduction." (Teddy Davis and Gregory Wallace, "Obama Shifts On Welfare Reform," ABC News' "Political Radar" Blog,, Posted 7/1/08)

In 1997, Barack Obama Said He Would Have Probably Not Supported Federal Welfare Reform Legislation. "'I am not a defender of the status quo with respect to welfare,' Obama said on the floor of the Illinois state Senate on May 31, 1997. 'Having said that, I probably would not have supported the federal legislation, because I think it had some problems.'" (Teddy Davis and Gregory Wallace, "Obama Shifts On Welfare Reform," ABC News' "Political Radar" Blog,, Posted 7/1/08)

CHANGE #7: As A Presidential Candidate, Barack Obama Criticizes The Administration's Energy Policy Despite Having Voted For The 2005 Bush-Cheney Energy Bill

Barack Obama Attacks John McCain On Energy Policy, Saying He Will Be A "Third Bush Term." OBAMA: "Make no mistake, this is an area where John McCain is offering a third Bush term." (Thomas Fitzgerald, "Obama Knocks McCain, Says Primary Fight Not Hurting, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/1/08)

"Obama, Of Course, Voted For The 2005 Energy Bill, Which Passed The Senate Overwhelmingly 74-26." (Jake Tapper, "Who's Offering A 3rd Bush Term On Energy?" ABC News' "Political Punch" Blog,, 4/3/08)

"Someone Else Who Voted Against It? The Candidate Whom Obama Says Is Offering 'A Third Bush Term' On Energy Policy -- John McCain." (Jake Tapper, "Who's Offering A 3rd Bush Term On Energy?" ABC News' "Political Punch" Blog,, 4/3/08)

CHANGE #8: Barack Obama Has Shifted Positions On Nuclear Power

In September 2007, Barack Obama Said "I Don't Think That We Can Take Nuclear Power Off The Table". "I don't think that we can take nuclear power off the table. What we have to make sure of is that we have the capacity to store it properly and safely, and that we reduce whatever threats might come from terrorism." (Sen. Barack Obama, MSNBC Democrat Presidential Candidate Debate, Hanover, NH, 9/26/07)

In December 2007, Barack Obama Said "I Am Not A Nuclear Energy Proponent". "I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal. I am not a nuclear energy proponent." (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks At Town Hall Event, Newton, IA, 12/30/07)

CHANGE #9: Obama Adviser Said Obama Was Not Opposed To An Individual Health Care Mandate Despite His Opposition During The Primary

Campaign Adviser, Kavita Patel, Said That Obama "Is Not Opposed To The Idea" Of An Individual Mandate And That The Campaign Is In Touch With Former Clinton Health Care Advisers. "Asked if Obama would be seen as reversing himself if he were to endorse an individual mandate after clashing with Clinton on the issue, Patel dismissed the concern. 'He has not said he is opposed to it,' [Kavita] Patel told ABC News. 'He has voiced his disagreement with having that be a part of his health-care plan last year. But he is not opposed to the idea itself.' Patel added that the Obama campaign is in touch with former Clinton health-care advisers." (Teddy Davis, John Santucci and Gregory Wallace, "Obama Health Plan Could Go In Clinton's Direction," ABC News' "Political Radar" Blog,, 6/26/08)

Barack Obama Argued With Sen. Clinton Saying There Is "A Different Way" To Achieve Universal Care Rather Than Imposing An Individual Mandate. Obama: "We've got a philosophical difference which we've debated repeatedly, and that is that Senator Clinton believes the only way to achieve universal health care is to force everybody to purchase it, and my belief is the reason that people don't have it is not because they don't want it, but because they can't afford it." (Barack Obama, CNN/Univision Democrat Presidential Debate, Austin, TX, 2/21/08)

CHANGE #10: During The Primaries, Barack Obama Pledged To Filibuster Any Bill Which Contained Immunity For Telecommunications Companies Involved In Electronic Surveillance, But Now Backs A Compromise Bill

In October 2007, The Obama Campaign Pledged He Would Filibuster "Any Bill That Includes Retroactive Immunity For Telecommunications Companies." Obama Spokesman Bill Burton: "To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies." (Greg Sargent, "Obama Camp Says It: He'll Support Filibuster Of Any Bill Containing Telecom Immunity," Talking Points Memo's "Election Central" Blog,, 10/24/07)

Barack Obama Now Supports A Bill Reauthorizing Electronic Surveillance That Grants Immunity To Telecommunications Companies. Obama: "Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue. It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives and the liberty of the American people." (Ben Smith, "Obama Backs FISA Compromise," The Politico's "Ben Smith" Blog,, 6/20/08)

CHANGE #11: Barack Obama Disagreed With The Supreme Court Decision Striking Down The Use Of The Death Penalty For A Convicted Child Rapist Although In The Past He Opposed The Death Penalty

When Asked About Today's Supreme Court Decision Striking Down The Use Of The Death Penalty For A Child Rapist, Barack Obama Stated That He Disagreed With The Decision. Reporter: "Senator, what's your reaction to the Supreme Court's decision today striking down the death penalty for a child rapist?" Obama: "I disagree with the decision. I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances, for the most egregious of crimes. I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime. And if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances, the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that that does not violate our constitution. Now, I think it's -- you know, had the Supreme Court said we want to constrain the ability of the states to do this to make sure that it's done in a careful and appropriate way, that would have been one thi ng. But it basically had a blanket prohibition and I disagreed with that decision." (Sen. Barack Obama, Press Conference, Chicago, IL, 6/25/08)

Running For The Illinois State Senate In 1996, Barack Obama Opposed The Death Penalty. Question: "Do you support capital punishment?" Obama's Answer: "No." (Independent Voters Of Illinois Independent Precinct Organization 1996 General Candidate Questionnaire, Barack Obama Responses, 9/9/96)

CHANGE #12: Barack Obama Has Backtracked From His Earlier Commitment To Meet With The Leaders Of State Sponsors Of Terror "Without Precondition"

At A July 2007 Debate, Barack Obama Announced He Would Personally Meet With Leaders Of Iran, North Korea, Syria And Other Hostile Nations "Without Precondition." QUESTION: "[W]ould 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?"... OBAMA: "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." (CNN/YouTube Democrat Presidential Candidate Debate, Charleston, SC, 7/23/07)

The Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi:"On foreign policy, Obama went from stating that he would meet, without preconditions, with the president of Iran, to saying he would meet 'with the appropriate Iranian leaders at a time and place of my choosing - if and only if - it can advance the interests of the United States.'" (Joan Vennochi, Op-Ed, "Obama And McCain Flip-Flop, Flip-Flop," The Boston Globe, 6/22/08)

CHANGE #13: After Saying Jerusalem Should Be "Undivided," Barack Obama Has Since Backtracked

At The Annual AIPAC Policy Conference, Barack Obama Says Clearly That Jerusalem Should Be The "Undivided" Capital Of Israel. Obama: "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks At The Annual AIPAC Policy Conference, Arlington, VA, 6/4/08)

One Day After The AIPAC Conference, Barack Obama Said The Future Of Jerusalem Would Have To Be Negotiated By Israel And The Palestinians. CNN's Candy Crowley:"I want to ask you about something you said in AIPAC yesterday. You said that Jerusalem must remain undivided. Do Palestinians have no claim to Jerusalem in the future?" Obama: "Well, obviously, it's going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues."(CNN's "The Situation Room," 6/5/08)

CHANGE #14: As A Presidential Candidate, Barack Obama Has Backed Away From His Earlier Support For Normalized Relations With Cuba And Ending The Embargo

Barack Obama: "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." (Beth Reinhard, "It's Got A Good Beat And You Can Dance To It," The Miami Herald's "Naked Politics" Blog, 8/25/07)

"In January 2004, Obama Said It Was Time 'To End The Embargo With Cuba' Because It Had 'Utterly Failed In The Effort To Overthrow Castro.'" ("Top Obama Flip-Flops," The Washington Post, 2/25/08)

Barack Obama: "I think it's time for us to end the embargo with Cuba." (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks At Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, 1/20/04)

CHANGE #15: Barack Obama Is Against The California Ballot Measure Banning Gay Marriage Despite His Assertion That Marriage Is Between A Man And A Woman

Barack Obama Came Out Against A California Ballot Measure That Would Ban Same-Sex Marriage. "Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who previously said the issue of gay marriage should be left up to each state, has announced his opposition to a California ballot measure that would ban same-sex marriages. In a letter to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club read Sunday at the group's annual Pride Breakfast in San Francisco, the Illinois senator said he supports extending 'fully equal rights and benefits to same-sex couples under both state and federal law.'" (Aurelio Rojas, "Obama Rejects Proposed California Gay Marriage Ban," Sacramento Bee, 7/1/08)

"Obama Had Previously Said He Opposes Same-Sex Marriage But That Each State Should Make Its Own Decision." (Aurelio Rojas, "Obama Rejects Proposed California Gay Marriage Ban," Sacramento Bee, 7/1/08)

CHANGE #16: Barack Obama Says That "Mental Distress" Should Not Be Reason For A Late Term Abortion Which Contradicts His Past Extreme Pro-Abortion Views

Barack Obama: Mental Distress Should Not Be A Reason For A Late Term Abortion. "I have repeatedly said that I think it's entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don't think that 'mental distress' qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term." (Sen. Barack Obama Interview, Relevant Magazine, 7/1/08)

Barack Obama Appears To Have Backed Away "From His Long-Stated Positions On Abortion." "In a recent interview, Obama appears to back away from his long-stated positions on abortion (and a proposed federal abortion rights law he had co-sponsored), repudiate 35 years of accepted Supreme Court rulings on the issue and embrace a view on abortion restrictions that has been expressed on the Court only by Justices Thomas and Scalia." (Jan Crawford Greenburg, "Obama: Sounding Like Thomas And Scalia?", 7/4/08)

CHANGE #17: Barack Obama Said He Would Debate "Anywhere, Anytime" But Has Rejected Joint Town Hall Meetings

Barack Obama Says He Would Debate John McCain "Anywhere, Anytime." OBAMA: "I am happy to have a debate with John McCain and George Bush about foreign policy. If John McCain wants to meet me anywhere, anytime, to have a debate about our respective policies in Iraq, Iran, the Middle East or around the world, that is a conversation I am happy to have. Because I believe that there is no separation between John McCain and George Bush when it comes to our Middle East policy and I think their policy has failed." (Barack Obama, Media Availability, Watertown, SD, 5/16/08)

However, Barack Obama Has Rejected Joint Town Hall Meetings. "Avoiding town hall meetings and rejecting public campaign financing may be predictable strategies for minimizing one of McCain's greatest strengths and exploiting one of his key weaknesses. But they pull Obama down into the cynical political calculations he pledged to rise above." (Editorial, "Obama's Big Words Ring Hollow," St. Petersburg Times, 6/20/08)

John McCain, Press Release - Barack Obama's Changing Positions: Everyone's Been Listening To Him Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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