He opens the door a bit in Fargo today:

"[W]hen I go to Iraq and have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I’m sure I’ll have more information and will continue to refine my policies....”

“My 16-month timeline, if you examine everything that I’ve said, was always premised on making sure that our troops were safe,” he said. “I said that based on the information that we had received from our commanders that one to two brigades a month could be pulled out safely, from a logistical perspective. My guiding approach continues to be that we’ve got to make sure that our troops are safe and that Iraq is stable.”

He added, “I’m going to continue to gather information to find out whether those conditions still hold.”

Not sure what to make of this: If Obama is laying the groundwork for a more gradual withdrawal, the safety of the troops wouldn't seem to be best emphasis. If anything withdrawal has presumably become easier as the insurgency has tapered off, not harder.

Also curious is the line Obama throws in about a "stable" Iraq. Correct me if I'm wrong but I immersed myself in Obama's Iraq plan for a recent story and don't recall him making withdrawal contingent on stability. If he really means this, it strikes me as a pretty significant new principle.

P.S. Why the heck is he in Fargo anyway? And who can come up with the best William H. Macy joke in comments?

--Michael Crowley