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What ‘President Obama’ Would Do On FISA, Iraq Pull-Out

What Obama’s top campaign spokesman told me last week…

A President Barack Obama would support some kind of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act program with oversight by Congress.  And Obama is still firmly committed to a pull-out of U.S. troops from Iraq in sixteen months.  However, his sole “escape clause” from that exit strategy is “guidance and advice of commanders on the ground.”

That’s what Obama’s top campaign spokesman told me last week.  At a breakfast for more than forty Washington reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, top Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs was fielding questions centered mostly on the certain Democratic presidential nominee’s decision to opt out of public financing in the fall.  (If elected over John McCain, Obama would be the first President since Richard Nixon to win the White House solely on private campaign dollars).  But Gibbs also took my questions on FISA and the Iraq pullout his candidate has long called for.

“The senator has been quite forceful on the need for a robust surveillance effort,” Gibbs told me, after I pointed out to him that Obama voted against the bipartisan Rockefeller-Bond surveillance legislation last year. “ He has talked repeatedly about making sure somebody watches the watchers.  I don’t think you should necessarily trust an Obama Administration anymore than you should trust a Bush Administration or a McCain Administration.  He believes that it could be done through the FISA court, that somebody watches the watchers.  But I don’t think that there’s any doubt that you have to have a robust surveillance program that meets the technological demands of the 21st Century.”  (Gibbs did not elaborate on whether a FISA court should be a special judicial panel dealing exclusively with surveillance or whether it would be in the hands of federal judges).

On Iraq, Gibbs said, “Obviously, Senator Obama will seek the advice and guidance of commanders on the ground in Iraq.  But his belief is that we have asked so much of our men and women, so much of our military apparatus, so much of their families, and that unless or until we give the Iraqis a signal that we won’t be there for 100 years, that we’re not going to set up permanent bases, that the type of political reconciliation that was the original intent of the surge isn’t going to take place and  isn’t going to take place in any robust way.

“Unless or until you send a firm signal that we are not going to be there forever, it is going to be incapable for the parties to come together to seek political reconciliation to govern their own country.”

So, I asked Gibbs, “there are no circumstances” under which a “President Obama” would not withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in sixteen months?

“No,”  he replied, voicing the “escape clause” for Obama, “I said originally that he’s going to listen to commanders on the ground, obviously.”

But, Gibbs quickly underscored, “He believes that, as commander-in-chief,  he has to set a new mission.  He has said often that we have to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in.  We can’t do this precipitously and he believes what we have set up is not a precipitous withdrawal.”

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Written By

John Gizzi has come to be known as â??the man who knows everyone in Washingtonâ? and, indeed, many of those who hold elected positions and in party leadership roles throughout the United States. With his daily access to the White House as a correspondent, Mr. Gizzi offers readers the inside scoop on whatâ??s going on in the nationâ??s capital. He is the author of a number of popular Human Events features, such as â??Gizzi on Politicsâ? and spotlights of key political races around the country. Gizzi also is the host of â??Gizziâ??s America,â? video interviews that appear on HumanEvents.com. Gizzi got his start at Human Events in 1979 after graduating from Fairfield University in Connecticut and then working for the Travis County (Tex.) Tax Assessor. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Fox News Channel, C-SPAN, America's Voice,The Jim Bohannon Show, Fox 5, WUSA 9, America's Radio News Network and is also a frequent contributor to the BBC -- and has appeared on France24 TV and German Radio. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, past member of the St. Matthew's Cathedral's Parish Council, and secretary of the West End Friends of the Library. He is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. John Gizzi is also a credentialed correspondent at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He has questioned two IMF managing directors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine LaGarde, and has become friends with international correspondents worldwide. Johnâ??s email is JGizzi@EaglePub.Com

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