Obama’s Iraq Speech

President Obama addressed the nation last night.  He spent the first eight minutes or so talking solely about Iraq, before including the current conflict in Afghanistan.  He then talked about the economy, including how we “spent a trillion dollar on war.”  What he did not mention was how he spent a trillion on a stupid stimulus program that didn’t do much.  He also mentioned veterans’ care and other issues that make a President look good.

The speech was boring and lifeless, including such platitudes as:

We must jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil. We must unleash the innovation that allows new products to roll off our assembly lines, and nurture the ideas that spring from our entrepreneurs.

—and—

To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy.

—and—

As long as I am president, we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known, and do whatever it takes to serve our veterans as well as they have served us.

The above statements are meaningless.  Of course we want to give our kids the best education possible.  Of course we want to get off foreign oil.  Presidents have been saying both those things since the 1970s, and we’re still not any closer to achieving either of those goals.  Also, who doesn’t want to care for our veterans?  These parts of the speech were meant to find favor with everyone, but all politicians do it and I’m tired of it.  At least on the veterans thing he went into more detail, saying:

This is a sacred trust.That is why we have already made one of the largest increases in funding for veterans in decades. We are treating the signature wounds of today’s wars, post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, while providing the health care and benefits that all of our veterans have earned.

And we are funding a post-9/11 G.I. Bill that helps our veterans and their families pursue the dream of a college education. Just as the G.I. Bill helped those who fought World War II — including my grandfather — become the backbone of our middle class, so today’s servicemen and women must have the chance to apply their gifts to expand the American economy. Because part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it.

The speech was mostly about Iraq, so I’ll focus the rest of my criticism on that aspect of the speech.  He declared combat operations were over (without mentioning anything about how this was all predetermined by the Bush Administration’s Status of Forces agreement), yet he failed to mention that there are still 50,000 troops in Iraq, serving in an advisory role.  He did say that we’d be friends and partners with the Iraqi government, but he was still vague about what the U.S. role will be moving forward.

Obama mentioned that he spoke on the phone with Pres. Bush.

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.

This was a gracious move by the President, although some, including Karl Rove, think it wasn’t enough.

Overall, the speech gets a B from me.  It served its purpose, but did little to change anyone’s mind about anything.

For video of the speech and a full transcript, click here.

Here are some other people’s reactions to the speech:

Senator John McCain

“What he should have said: ‘I opposed the surge. I was wrong. I made a mistake and George W. Bush deserves credit for doing something that was very unpopular at the time,'” McCain told Fox News.  Source:  Fox News

Senator John Cornyn

“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.”

Source:  Fox News

Jonah Goldberg

“I don’t expect an ‘I was wrong’ from an Oval Office address (though it would be nice — as it would have been from Bush more than once, too). But Obama’s lawyerly avoidance of reality makes him seem petty and raises the suspicion that he can’t think straight about these issues. That is dangerous.”

Source:  National Review Online

Bill Kristol

“In sum, the president seemed to me to go about as far as an anti-Iraq war president could go in praising the war effort.”

“And, on the whole, not a bad speech by the president.”

Source:  Weekly Standard

Erick Erickson

Wait. What? So he gave a few platitudes on Iraq and turned this into a speech on the economy? And mentions “dependence on foreign oil”?

Source:  twitter

Marc Ambinder

Narrative is a Beltway term. Story is not. Obama is telling a story here: one of the reasons why we are in this predicament is because we’ve spent nearly a trillion dollars fighting a war he did not need to. He wants to use this moment to try and anchor people’s perceptions about the economy in a history that stretches beyond the near-collapse of the stock market and the bailouts and the stimulus package….As a matter of argument, the President is linking his economic program to the sacrifices made by the troops. They deserve a better country, he is saying.

Source:  The Atlantic


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