I’m still deciding as to whether or not to watch the President’s scheduled address to the nation tonight on the issue of the end to combat operations in Iraq. My hesitation revolves around the fact that I just can’t get over/move beyond how this President – both as a Senator and as a candidate for President, and our Vice President – both as a Senator and as a candidate for President, repeatedly denigrated the mission in Iraq, declared the war “lost,” adamantly opposed the surge even after knowing about its successes, essentially said our troops lives had been “wasted” for a lie, and insinuated time and time again that the Commander in Chief was “opposed to the rule of law” when it came to aggressive interrogation techniques.
Not only that, but I anticipate that the President will do what he did in his Saturday radio address, which is give himself and his administration the lion’s share of credit when it comes to talking about how things turned around in Iraq. It wasn’t exactly shocking to see him do that, considering both he and Biden before have credited the success of the surge in Iraq to … Democrats, but still, it rankles.
The WH spin machine has been out in full force in advance of the President’s big speech. Front and center, of course, has been WH spox Robert Fibbs, who did what he did best today when asked what everyone’s been asking about whether Obama would give President Bush – who he called earlier today – any credit for the implementation of the surge in Iraq (below photo added by me):
House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs refused Monday to say whether Obama’s speech would give credit to the former president for his decision to send a surge of U.S. troops to Iraq. The surge is widely acknowledged to have contributed to a decrease in violence in the country.
Gibbs said there was a “whole host of factors” that contributed to the increased security situation, and said Obama “always believed” security would improve by increasing the number of troops. Obama opposed the surge strategy as a senator.
Um, no. Flashback to July 2008:
Some quotes from around that same time:
Obama Said That We Cannot “Through Putting In More Troops Or Maintaining The Presence That We Have, Expect That Somehow The Situation Is Going To Improve.” Obama: “Given the deteriorating situation, it is clear at this point that we cannot, through putting in more troops or maintaining the presence that we have, expect that somehow the situation is going to improve, and we have to do something significant to break the pattern that we’ve been in right now.” (NBC’s “Meet The Press,” 10/22/06)
· Obama Said He Saw No Evidence That Surge In Troops “Is Going To Make A Significant Dent In The Sectarian Violence That’s Taking Place There.” “But I did not see anything in the speech or anything in the run-up to the speech that provides evidence that an additional 15,000 to 20,000 more U.S. troops is going to make a significant dent in the sectarian violence that’s taking place there.” (CNN’s “Larry King Live,” 1/10/07)
· Obama Said The Surge Would Actually Worsen Sectarian Violence In Iraq. Obama: “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse. I think it takes pressure off the Iraqis to arrive at the sort of political accommodation that every observer believes is the ultimate solution to the problems we face there. So I am going to actively oppose the president’s proposal. … I think he is wrong, and I think the American people believe he’s wrong.” (MSNBC’s “Response To The President’s Speech On Iraq,” 1/10/07)
Even As The Surge Was Underway, Barack Obama Said It Had Not Worked In Iraq. Obama: “Well, actually, I think there was a very serious debate, and it’s based on some fundamental differences. I think reasonable people can differ on this issue because there are no good options in Iraq. We should not have gone. At this point we have bad options and worse options. But we are facing a choice. My assessment is that the surge has not worked and we will not see a different report eight weeks from now.” (NBC’s “The Today Show,” 7/18/07)
Let me be clear: Robert Fibbs’ assertion that President Obama ‘“always believed” security in Iraq would improve by increasing the number of troops’ is a flat.out.lie.
The bottom line is that it’s our troops who deserve more credit than anyone else. The President will likely go to great lengths tonight to prove to the nation that he as a Democrat has nothing but respect and admiration for the troops under his command, but also deserving of praise – even though it would be reluctant – would be for his predecessor, who remained steadfast during the darkest days of the Iraq war when even members of his own party were having second thoughts about us being there. But don’t hold your breath for much, if any, credit to be given to President Bush. This administration enjoys too much the tactic of blaming him for everything that goes wrong. Anything that actually goes right? Well, Bush had nothing to do with that.
Update – 6:09 PM: From CNN:
Washington (CNN) –In his Oval Office address on Iraq Tuesday night, President Obama is planning to ignore Republican suggestions that he acknowledge a personal mistake and give credit to former President George W. Bush for executing the 2007 surge of troops over the objections of Obama and other Democratic senators at the time, according to two senior administration officials familiar with the speech.
Senior administration officials say the President wants his Iraq address to be more forward-looking and thus is not planning to spend any time in the 15-20 minute speech looking backward on the divisive 2007 Congressional debate over whether Bush should surge more troops into Iraq.
Ignoring a replay of that 2007 debate could be political advantageous for Obama given the fact that top Republicans like House Minority Leader John Boehner early blasted the President for opposing the surge.
“One lawmaker rejected the idea that the surge would reduce violence in Iraq, saying – and again I’m quoting – ‘in fact, I think it will do the reverse,'” the Ohio Republican said in reference to Obama during a speech to the American Legion convention in Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a speech suggesting Bush deserves more credit for reaching this milestone.
“You might recall that the surge wasn’t very popular when it was announced,” said the Republican from Kentucky. “You might also recall that one of its biggest critics was the current president. So it makes it easier to talk about fulfilling a campaign promise to wind down our operations in Iraq when the previous administration signs the security agreement with Iraq to end our overall presence there.”
Asked about the Republican attacks on Obama, one senior administration official said flatly: “Who cares?”
This official explained the President is more interested in focusing on acknowledging the combat mission is coming to an end and thanking U.S. troops for their hard work to “show the world America has the determination to finish the job” after a long conflict.