Obama regularly blames Bush for his problems, describing the still staggering economy as if it was still somehow being steered by Bush from his new home in Dallas, or perhaps by Cheney from his hospital bed.
But, when he speaks today in Atlanta about the Iraq war effort and his intent to end combat operations by August 31, will he credit the Bush policies that he has done little more than tweak in order to get to this point?
The White House has released excerpts from the speech, none of which contain any mention of Bush. I doubt he’ll say anything positive about his predecessor (UPDATE: He didn’t).
Bush, after failing miserably by resisting pleas from the likes of John McCain to play to win in Iraq, finally in January 2007 announced the “surge” that led to the victory Obama has tended to since assuming office.
I listened at the White House for years as Bush declared that he was merely following the advice of his generals, who he said were best suited to judge the matter and who were telling him they had enough troops to do the job, even as the situation fell to pieces.
This was an exercise in poor leadership and passing the buck. If Lincoln had relied on his generals before Grant, I would be COMMUTING TO WORK IN WASHINGTON EACH DAY FROM THE CONFEDERACY.
Bush’s claims to be just following their advice also begged the question of whether the generals were being signaled, “don’t ask for troops,” and then merely complying with Bush’s perceived preferences.
But Bush got quite brave in early 2007 and announced the surge, amid searing criticism from Democrats and dismissals from Sen. Barack Obama, who in April 2007 called for an end to the policy.
The idea that the situation in Iraq is improving is simply not credible, and it’s not reflective of the facts on the ground. The hard truth is, there’s no military solution to this war. Our troops have done all that they have been asked and more, but no amount of American soldiers are gonna solve the political differences that lie in the heart of the sectarian conflict. Extending the surge is just going to put more men and women in the crossfire of a civil war.
Today Obama will trumpet the surge’s success and claim it as his own. Here’s a little of what he plans to say.
As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31, 2010 America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing – as promised, on schedule.
Well, not as originally promised – and scheduled – during the presidential campaign. Obama then vowed to remove all combat troops from Iraq in 16 months, saying the few remaining “will perform the limited missions of protecting our diplomats and carrying out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.”
So, Obama has indeed done a credible job on Iraq. He has ignored his own campaign pledge, kept the military team Bush assembled in place in the arena – particularly Gen. David Petraeus – and generally steered the war pretty well.
But in his remarks today, he will either omit or minimize Bush, and he will also forget about his administration’s own diplomatic failure to broker an end to the country’s current political stalemate.
The continuing inability of Iraqis to form a government has caused a spike in violence. Obama knows this, and here’s how he’ll finesse it.
Today – even as terrorists try to derail Iraq’s progress – because of the sacrifices of our troops and their Iraqi partners, violence in Iraq continues to be near the lowest it’s been in years.
This is a little too much. According to today’s Wall Street Journal:
July saw the biggest surge in war-related deaths in Iraq in more than two years, according to official figures released over the weekend, with 535 deaths, most involving Iraqi civilians. The toll is the highest since May 2008, when 563 died.
Well, I guess one could nevertheless say violence is at the lowest level in years. It just depends what year you pick.