He said he didn't misspeak in his comments earlier in the week and suggested the media and critics read unintended significance into the remarks.
"I was surprised by how finely calibrated every single word was measured," Obama said. "I wasn't saying anything that I hadn't said before."
Obama has always said his promise to end the war would require consultations with military commanders and, possibly, flexibility.
GIBSON: And, Senator Obama, your campaign manager, David Plouffe, said, “When he is” — this is talking about you — “When he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in 16 months at the most. There should be no confusion about that.”
So you’d give the same rock-hard pledge, that no matter what the military commanders said, you would give the order to bring them home?
OBAMA: Because the commander-in-chief sets the mission, Charlie.
That’s not the role of the generals.
And one of the things that’s been interesting about the president’s approach lately has been to say, “Well, I’m just taking cues from General Petraeus.”
Well, the president sets the mission. The general and our troops carry out that mission. And, unfortunately, we have had a bad mission set by our civilian leadership, which our military has performed brilliantly. But it is time for us to set a strategy that is going to make the American people safer.
Now, I will always listen to our commanders on the ground with respect to tactics, once I’ve given them a new mission, that we are going to proceed deliberately, in an orderly fashion, out of Iraq, and we are going to have our combat troops out. We will not have permanent bases there.
Once I have provided that mission, if they come to me and want to adjust tactics, then I will certainly take their recommendations into consideration. But, ultimately, the buck stops with me as the commander-in-chief.