Cheers from Obama's base, as I sit astonished at how ready Obama was to change the subject when things got awkward.
I've since looked it up online, and on CNN found that Obama complained about his remarks being taken out of context, and yes, he had acknowledged that al Qaeda is in Iraq.
This is a little better, but only a little. The problem becomes: why did Obama ever treat al Qaeda's presence as a hypothetical in the first place? This wasn't a minor slip in the debate, this is how Obama's website presents things as well. This is his official position on Iraq:
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.Once again, al Qaeda is treated in the hypothetical. Yet when pressed, Obama makes things definite. The CNN article quotes him as saying "I've said we should continue to strike al Qaeda targets." So why ever speak hypothetically in the first place? Why say "if"?
The obvious answer is that he doesn't want people to pay attention to the fact that he wants to stay in Iraq. Staying in Iraq vs. withdrawing is something he can rally people around, staying with a big force vs. staying with a small force isn't as good a talking point. This also explains the bold red herring about the initial invasion: it only serves to distract attention away from Obama's actual position. One more sign Obama is long on rhetoric and short on substance.