WASHINGTON -- Democratic White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama was pressed on why, when he was running for the Senate in 2003, he opposed extra funding for the Iraq war, yet voted for supplemental spending bills bankrolling the war once in office, in an interview broadcast Sunday.
Obama also declined on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos to say what he would do if confronted with a war-funding measure that did not include a timeline for withdrawal.
That's because Obama's short- term strategy is to mount a campaign-within-a-campaign to try to find enough GOP senators to get the 67 votes needed to override President Bush's veto of an Iraq war funding bill with mandated timelines sending soldiers home.
Getting a Senate supermajority is very much a long shot. On the House side, Democrats would also need Republican defections to override a veto.
In recent appearances in Louisiana, Iowa and Missouri, Obama has taken swings at Republican senators from those states for not supporting the bill Bush recently vetoed with war funding plus timelines for getting troops out of Iraq.
War spending, and Obama's record, came up in the ABC interview, taped Friday in Des Moines, Iowa, because the Democratic-controlled Congress is searching for a compromise to commit Bush to winding down the war while still supplying money for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Trying again, the House on Thursday passed a measure 221-205 providing money only until August and with no firm target dates for getting soldiers out of Iraq. That vote, mostly along party lines, showed House Republicans are not yet ready to break ranks.
Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leaders are searching for an alternative because, they say, the House approach will not win Senate approval, much less stand down the veto Bush has promised.
When it comes to Iraq war spending, Obama faces a more complex and vastly higher-stakes situation in 2007 running for president than he did in 2003 running for an Illinois Senate seat.
Obama told Stephanopoulos it was "political suicide" for him to be against the Iraq war in 2003. However, antiwar sentiment in Illinois was higher than in the rest of the country. In the March 2004 Illinois primary, Obama was helped by being the only antiwar contender.
Against this backdrop, Obama said while running for the Senate that he would not, if in the Senate, vote for an $87 billion supplemental appropriation to bankroll the war and Iraqi reconstruction. Once in the Senate, Obama voted for all of the Iraq war funding bills.
Obama told Stephanopoulos he opposed the $87 billion because "I was trying to establish a principle at that time," and the $87 billion legislation included wasteful spending.
Some antiwar Democrats have been voting for war appropriations these last few years because they have wanted to be supportive of U.S. troops and send them the supplies they needed.
Obama, once in the Senate, became one of them.
To read the entire interview, click to blog entry below this one.blog at blogs.