COMMENTS: Obama Refines his Iraq Refinement

Early in the day, Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama announced his intention to refine his policy towards the Iraq War. Late in the day he called a press conference to refine his promise to refine his policy, insisting that his intention to withdraw combat forces according to a 16-month schedule stands firm. NBC led with Obama's sort of flip-flop, which was Story of the Day. Heading into the holiday weekend both NBC, with Lester Holt, and CBS, with Harry Smith, had a substitute anchor. ABC and CBS chose natural disaster over election politics for its lead, starting with the evacuation of Big Sur in coastal California in the face of wind-whipped forest fires.

On the campaign trail, both NBC's Lee Cowan and CBS' Dean Reynolds parsed Obama's words about Iraq. On ABC, George Stephanopoulos, anchor of This Week opined that troops-out was one issue on which Obama cannot afford to equivocate. John McCain's Republican campaign issued a sarcastic message, congratulating Obama on "seeing the light" about the need to maintain a US military presence in Iraq, which CBS' Chip Reid reported in a brief stand-up. ABC's John Berman put Obama's statement in the context of several recent policy modulations and centrist sentiments, a trend that NBC's Cowan covered on Wednesday. NBC, which has tended to cover McCain more closely than the other two newscasts all year (94 min v ABC 51, CBS 57), had Kelly O'Donnell file from Mexico City where the Republican completed a brief Latin American to showcase his foreign credentials and policies on immigration, free trade and the War on Drugs.


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