Gov. Bill Richardson on Obama and Iraq

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The Bourbon Room interviewed New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson late Wednesday on Barack Obama's comments on Iraq.  I apologize for the late turn-around on this transcript, but on-air work load interfered. As many will remember, Richardson adopted the hardest line on swift troop withdrawals from Iraq. Richardson called for the removal of all U.S. forces by the end of this year, not the 2009 horizon Obama frequently repeated on the campaign trail. Richardson's an enthusiastic Obama supporter now and, of course, that endorsement drew the wrath of many in Hillary Clinton's camp, most memorably James Carville. Carville compared Richardson, who endorsed Obama just before Easter, to Judas Iscariot.

Here is the full transcript of my telephone interview with Richardson. The Bourbon Room is indebted to Fox's Dominque Pastre for re-trying this transcript. I wanted everyone to see this interview to add to the debate on Obama's Iraq comments.

Enjoy and Happy Fourth of July.

Q: Did you detect any reversal or change in Obama's policy on Iraq?

Richardson: Irecall in the Democratic debates and this is exactly what senator Obama said. It would take approximately 16 months. He wants to withdraw the troops securely and safely, combat forces. But he always said that he would listen to his military commanders on the ground. And he's going to Iraq. He's going to meet with our military there, he's going to talk to our troops and he's going to look at his policy. Not in terms of changing it but refinement also means diplomatic options -- finding ways to get Iraq to have some kind of political reconciliation, the three groups, division of oil revenues, sharing power. No, this is not a walk-back. This is exactly what he's said and it shows a responsible potential commander in chief saying he's going to listen to his military and saying he's going to talk to the troops on the ground. 

Q: How do today's comments square with his promise to end the war in Iraq in 2009?

Richardson: He always said on the average he wanted to take 1-2 combat brigades out a month, that it would take approximately 16 months for this to happen -- safely and securely. And the issue of, I think that he wants to refine his policy is look -- our commanders there in Iraq, our troops, there may some different alternatives that are part of a future diplomatic effort. He's, he's not changing his policy. Refine means make it better. But I think he has been the candidate who wants to end the war. He won the Democratic nomination by being consistent, by being the candidate that has been consistent in his opposition to the war and trying to find a diplomatic solution. But ending the war in 16 months.

Q: Is he signaling he may walk-back his committment to remove 1 to 2 combat brigades a month by linking the pace of those withdrawals to security on the ground and the safety of troops?

Richardson: The reality is that the senator's military advisers in the United States and many other military and diplomatic and political observers that advise them believe that we can do this safely and securely in 16 months. You know, not every military person has to have one view. The senator is going to listen to our military, to our, to the people on the ground, to our troops and come up with refinements to his policy. Not change. We can make it better. He's not walking back, but reaffirming his policy to listen to best military and strategic advise he can get being in Iraq.

Q: Do you think Obama's remarks will generate any frustration within the Democratic party?

Richardson: I believe this is being drummed up by the opposition, by senator John McCain, by Republicans saying it's a shift in policy. It isn't. I think those that voted for Sen. Obama, his core supporters, many like myself believe very strongly that he wants to end the war he wants to do it as rapidly as possible. He wants to do it as safely and securely as possible and then pursue diplomacy -- something that we haven't pursed before in the region. You know, find some sort of date and agreement where the three Iraqi groups set up a political reconciliation, take over their security, share oil revenues, share power -- which they've been unable to do. That's what he's going to learn on the ground. See perhaps some options that will give us a strong diplomatic effort to end this war too.

Q: Do you think in anyway he's creating room to maneuver on troop withdrawals or policy in Iraq?

Richardson: What he was very clear in saying is that he's going to listen to his military commanders on the ground,  the brave men and women that are out there that who are every day dealing with this issue. And, he is gonna look at his policy, continuous policy. But if these individuals have some good, strong advice he's going to listen to it. You want to listen to your people. That's why he's going. It's not a change in policy.