All day today, Republicans from John Boehner to Sarah Palin have gone on a prebuttal campaign with the intent of criticizing President Obama for taking credit for the end of the Iraq war. The problem is that Obama’s actual speech gave George W. Bush and the troops credit, and by doing so, he outsmarted Palin and the GOP.
Early on, Obama referenced George W. Bush and the history of the Iraq invasion, “From this desk, seven and a half years ago, President Bush announced the beginning of military operations in Iraq. Much has changed since that night. A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency. Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart. Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded. Our relations abroad were strained. Our unity at home was tested.”
Obama gave credit to the troops, “These are the rough waters encountered during the course of one of America’s longest wars. Yet there has been one constant amidst those shifting tides. At every turn, America’s men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve. As Commander-in-Chief, I am proud of their service. Like all Americans, I am awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their families.”
He continued, “The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given. They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people. Together with Iraqis and coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future. They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people; trained Iraqi Security Forces; and took out terrorist leaders. Because of our troops and civilians -and because of the resilience of the Iraqi people – Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny, even though many challenges remain.”
After noting that he has kept his campaign promise to get combat troops out of Iraq, Obama praised Bush’s patriotism and affection for the troops, and repeated his call for unity, “As we do, I am mindful that the Iraq War has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it is time to turn the page. 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 could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.”
Obama talked about doing right by the veterans of Iraq in Afghanistan, “Part of that responsibility is making sure that we honor our commitments to those who have served our country with such valor. 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. 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 GI Bill that helps our veterans and their families pursue the dream of a college education. Just as the GI 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 President concluded by calling the troops the steel in the American ship of state, “In an age without surrender ceremonies, we must earn victory through the success of our partners and the strength of our own nation. Every American who serves joins an unbroken line of heroes that stretches from Lexington to Gettysburg; from Iwo Jima to Inchon; from Khe Sanh to Kandahar – Americans who have fought to see that the lives of our children are better than our own. Our troops are the steel in our ship of state. And though our nation may be travelling through rough waters, they give us confidence that our course is true, and that beyond the pre-dawn darkness, better days lie ahead.”
Compare what Obama actually said with what Sarah Palin assumed that he would say on her Facebook page, “Later today, President Obama will speak to the American people about Iraq. No doubt he will laud the “end of major combat operations” by the date he randomly selected some 18 months ago. His press secretary Robert Gibbs also gave us a glimpse of what else he might say, telling the Today Show this morning that “What is certainly not up for question is that President Obama, then-candidate Obama, said that adding those 20,000 troops into Iraq would, indeed, improve the security situation, and it did.”
Palin assumed that Obama would be taking a victory lap tonight, but she could not have been more wrong, she assumed that Obama would be dishonest and not give Bush or the troops credit. Palin assumed that Obama would behave like, well, Sarah Palin, “The more honest you are about the past, the more likely it is you will gain the support of the American people for your Iraq policy in the future. We need to be able to trust the White House war strategy, as our children’s future depends on it. Being honest with us tonight is a good starting point in building trust.”
By launching a preemptive strike against Obama’s speech tonight, Republicans left themselves wide open to be made fools of, which is exactly what the president did. Did Sarah Palin or John Boehner speak to George W. Bush today and give him credit for his contributions? Nope. In stunning contrast to Obama’s actual speech, Palin spent most of her Facebook post attacking the president instead of thanking the troops.
The Republicans thought that they could shape the message by speaking first, which might have been a great plan, if they would have delivered the correct message. Instead, we got another edition of Republicans guessing and getting it totally wrong. The GOP is so deep into their Obama hate that they have lost all touch with reality. Obama did not take credit for anything, except keeping a campaign promise. Instead of a “mission accomplished” victory lap, Barack Obama attempted to provide closure to the long and divisive political conflict over the Iraq invasion. Obama spoke as the nation’s leader, while Sarah Palin brought more sour grapes.