GOP Leaders Quick to Credit Bush Strategy for Victory in Iraq

By Fred Lucas | August 31, 2010 | 6:53 PM EDT

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) speaks on jobs and the economy at the City Club of Cleveland, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

( – Two years after President George W. Bush left office, many Democrats have continued to criticize him for the economy, and  many Republicans have had little to say about Bush -- until Tuesday. With President Obama about to announce the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq, the GOP was quick to credit President Bush for the success of the Iraq war and the drawdown of troops there.
Hours before President Barack Obama delivered a prime-time speech on the troop withdrawal and transition in Iraq, Republican leaders reminded voters that Democrats had taken a defeatist tack prior to the success of Bush’s 20,000-troop surge in 2007 and had criticized the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by Bush,  which set the timetable for the current withdrawal and transition.
On Tuesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) credited President Obama for following the lead set by his predecessor, but he also noted that Obama’ was a leading critic of Bush's surge strategy.
“I want to thank President Obama for setting aside his past political rhetoric and recognizing the importance of the surge and the diplomatic agreement signed by President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki,” Boehner said in what was billed as a major national security speech delivered to the American Legion in Milwaukee, Wis.
Boehner continued, “Some leaders who opposed, criticized, and fought tooth-and-nail to stop the surge strategy now proudly claim credit for the results.”
The House minority leader referenced comments by Democrats, including Obama, who in the past had declared the surge would not work.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, “The president always believed that you would change part of the security situation by vastly increasing the number of troops.”
However, on MSNBC on Jan. 10, 2007, then-Sen. Obama said, “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.”
On Sept. 9, 2007, then-Sen. Joe Biden said, “This [Bush] administration’s policy and the surge are a failure.”
“I believe this war is lost,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said at an April 19, 2007 press conference.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on May 9, 2007, “The Democrats are saying to the president, this is not the way to go. It has failed over and over.”
In January 2008, after Bush’s State of the Union speech, candidate Obama said, “Tonight we heard President Bush say that the surge in Iraq is working, when we know that’s just not true.”
Also, in February 2008, Pelosi said, “The purpose of the surge was to create a secure time for the government of Iraq to make the political change to bring reconciliation to Iraq. They have not done that.”
Obama and Biden – both seeking the Democratic presidential nomination at the time – voted on May 16, 2007 to block federal funds form paying for the war. Obama voted for another such amendment that Sept. 20, while Biden did not vote. Biden, however, voted for another such amendment on Oct. 3 of that year, in which Obama was not present to vote.
In his speech on Tuesday, Boehner stressed the importance of victory in Iraq.
“When General Petraeus embarked on the surge strategy in January 2007, it was widely viewed as our last chance to save Iraq from spiraling into an irreversible descent toward chaos,” Boehner said. “The consequences of failure then, as now, were severe.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expressed similar views in Lexington, Ky., on Tuesday, reminding voters that Bush pushed the surge and the Status of Forces Agreement, which set the timetable for U.S. troops to exit Iraq.
“You might recall that the surge wasn’t very popular when it was announced. You might also recall that one of its biggest critics was the current president,” McConnell said. “One of his colleagues said the war was already a lost cause, implying, of course, that any further efforts on the part of our troops would be in vain.
“By adopting the Bush administration’s plan for winding down the war and transitioning security responsibilities to the Iraqi military over time the president has enabled us and the Iraqis to build on the gains our troops have made,” McConnell said.
“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,” he added.
“It sure makes things easier when you reject your own campaign rhetoric about how the surge – the Petraeus plan – shouldn’t happen and wouldn’t work,” said McConnell.