After the Speech: Obama’s Commitment to Victory Questioned

By Susan Jones | September 1, 2010 | 6:43 AM EDT

President Barack Obama delivers a prime-time televised address from the Oval Office marking the the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

( – President Obama’s prime-time speech to the nation announcing the end of combat operations in Iraq is getting generally poor reviews from Republicans and conservatives, not only for what Obama said, but for what he did not say.
By injecting the economy – a domestic issue – into a major speech on the end of combat in Iraq, Obama signaled where his real interests lie, one analyst said. One Republican questioned Obama’s comments on Afghanistan. And several Republicans objected to Obama not giving President Bush his fair share of credit for the successful Iraq surge strategy.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that Obama’s speech “showed a real lack of generosity of spirit” for failing to give credit to President George W. Bush, who pressed ahead with the troop surge, which made the end of combat operations possible.
Obama mentioned Bush only briefly in his speech: “This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush.  It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. “
According to McCain, what Obama should have said was, “I opposed the surge. I was wrong, I made a mistake, and George W. Bush deserves credit for doing something that was very, very unpopular at the time.” Instead, Obama merely said that President Bush loves the troops. “Really?” McCain said.
“The part that really disturbs me the most,” McCain continued – I’m not surprised that he wouldn’t give George Bush credit; that’s just in the DNA of the individual, apparently. But when he (Obama) said [about Afghanistan] -- our withdrawal will be conditions-based, and then contradicted that by saying, we will begin to withdraw in the middle of 2011 – that’s an ambiguity… that could cause us to fail.”
McCain said it’s up to the president to press for victory in any war the U.S. undertakes:  “It takes the president of the United States to say, unequivocally, that we’re going to win, and then we’re going to withdraw. Just like we were able to do in Iraq with the success of the surge – which he unalterably opposed and now seems to be taking credit for.”
President Obama “didn’t give credit where credit is due,” Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) told Sean Hannity Tuesday night. “I thought this speech was wanting – I thought it lacked a gratitude toward his predecessor,” Pence said.
Obama said that he and President George W. Bush disagreed about the war. “Well,” said Pence, “the American people know they didn’t just disagree about the war – they disagreed about the surge.”
Sen. John Cornyn issued a statement Tuesday night saying Obama was right to honor the troops who rescued Iraq. “But it’s puzzling to listen to this White House try to take credit for the results of the strategy he and Vice President Biden adamantly opposed from the start,” Cornyn said.
“Our success in Iraq has everything to do with the hard work of our men and women in uniform, the Iraqi people, and President Bush’s resolve. It has nothing to do with President Obama’s campaign promise to carry out the previous administration’s plan for returning U.S. troops from Iraq,” Cornyn added.
A number of observers noticed that the word “victory” appeared only once in Obama’s speech – at the very end. And it’s not clear what Obama was talking about when he said, “In an age without surrender ceremonies, we must earn victory through the success of our partners and the strength of our own nation.”
Conservative commentator Charles Krauthamer said for him, the “oddest” part of the speech came when Obama “tacked on the economic pep talk.” Instead of discussing his vision of America’s role in the world, Obama made it clear where his real interests lie.
By injecting the economy into a major war speech, Obama “really shows that his heart is not in these missions abroad, but is in changing America at home. And I’m not sure how heartening that’s going to be for our allies who are with us in difficult arenas around the world,” Krauthammer said on Fox News.
Premature speech, senator says

“President Obama was wrong to be against the war in the first place, he was incorrect about the surge, and he still fails to recognize the strategic importance of the United States being in Iraq,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). “Looking back, we see that President Bush made the right decision, and thanks to the hard work of our soldiers, security in Iraq was restored.”
Inhofe said not only was Obama wrong on Iraq then – he’s wrong today as well:
“While the United States still has 50,000 combat troops in harm’s way in Iraq, it is misleading for the commander-in-chief to declare combat operations over simply to tout a fulfilled campaign promise. With Iraqi Security Forces being increasingly targeted and with a still-to-be-formed Iraqi government, it is premature for President Obama to make this speech from the Oval Office. We must continue to be committed to the people of Iraq as we continue forward as strategic partners.”
Inhofe also said President Obama must dedicate more resources to the war in Afghanistan  “in order to reach the kind of security stability that we have achieved in Iraq.”