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Still Leaving

By Matthew Yglesias on December 2, 2008 at 5:19 pm

"Still Leaving"

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I’ve been amazed by the amount of crowing I’ve read since Election Day about Barack Obama backing off his pledge to withdraw from Iraq. I follow the news pretty closely, so I know Obama never said that. And yet, all kinds of people kept acting like he’d said it. Spencer Ackerman rounds some up:

Chances are, not a whole lot, since they can’t seem to comprehend the idea. Here’s Max Boot on the implications of Gates’ reappointment:

This all but puts an end to the 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq…

And here’s Mara Liasson, the token liberal commentator on Fox News:

16 months has gone out the window, I think we can say that.

But hey, guess what, it turns out that presidents don’t take orders from cabinet secretaries. Rather, they pick subordinates who are willing to carry out their policies. Thus, yesterday Obama reiterated that “16 months is the right time frame” and today Gates said he supports Obama’s position and that Obama “framed” the issue “just right”:

The reality, obviously, is that the SOFA and the security agreement have made 2007-vintage disagreements about timeframes for withdrawal essentially irrelevant. Between an American government that wants to set an end to our involvement in Iraq and an Iraqi government that wants to set an end to our involvement in Iraq, it really does become a question of hammering out the logistics and framing the politics. The strategic debate about the wisdom of things like John McCain’s plans for a hundred years of occupation is over.

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