Barack "Makes One Thing Perfectly Clear"

Senator Obama’s deliberate equivocations on Iraq with Richard Nixon’s notorious “secret plan to end the war” when he won the presidency in 1968, at the height of the Vietnam era.

In both cases, the candidates for the party out of power wanted to exploit the unpopular nature of an ongoing conflict without committing themselves to any specific policy for terminating or continuing the war.

Stephens points out that the chair of Obama’s “Working Group” on Iraq has even written a paper anticipating a semi-permanent contingent of 60,000 to 80,000 American soldiers as an “overwatch force” after Obama has “withdrawn” all combat troops, as he’s repeatedly promised. The big question, of course, is how you define combat troops.

But beyond the similarity to Nixon in his slippery handling of the issue of the war, there’s another haunting resemblance with the late leader that Democrats loved to deride as “Tricky Dick.”

Nixon became famous – notorious, really --- for beginning his most earnest, sweaty-jowled statements with the laughable phrase, “Let me make one thing perfectly clear.”

This silly verbal tic alerted listeners that what followed wasn’t clear – or honest – at all. It served as a warning to expect obfuscation, not clarity.


On July 3rd, after telling reporters he’d be open to “refining” his Iraq position based on conversation with generals, he called his second press conference of the day (in Fargo, North Dakota) to try to correct the impression of waffling. “We're going to try this again,” he said. “Apparently I wasn't clear enough this morning on my position with respect to the war in Iraq."

Then came the wonderful Nixonism, delivered in the same solemn, rumbling baritone favored on such occasions by the late President:

“Let me be as clear as I can be,” growled the candidate, and then proceeded to provide further confusion and dodging. Not even his most ardent admirers could take much encouragement from this dismal performance – complete with at least two more declarations about making his position “clear” and “completely clear.”

Well, Barack has made one thing perfectly clear: he’s not yet ready to disclose his “secret plan to end the war.”.