Live From the Oval Office: Incoherent, Grudging, and Disgraceful

Incoherent: The president argued that the war had represented a worthwhile cause, asserting that “We have persevered…because of a belief…that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization.” Moments later, however, the president insisted that the war had instead been mistaken: “We have spent a trillion dollars at war…This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits.” The president wants to have it both ways, associating himself with the victory we achieved in Iraq while distancing himself from the costs. As argument, this is incoherent. But of course it isn’t argument. It’s cheap manipulation.

Grudging: “The Americans who have served in Iraq,” the president accurately stated, “completed every mission they were given…They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people; trained Iraqi Security Forces; and took out terrorist leaders….Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny….” In other words, we won. Why? Because in 2007, when many, including then senators Obama and Clinton, insisted that the United States should simply withdraw from Iraq, leaving behind a nation reduced to chaos, George W. Bush instead insisted on a new strategy, the surge. Let me repeat that. We won because President Bush insisted on the surge.

Did President Obama extend the courtesy to his predecessor of saying as much? He most certainly did not.

“It’s well known,” President Obama said, “that [President Bush]…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.” Support, love, commitment. President Obama could bring himself to credit President Bush with nothing more than mere well-intentioned haplessness. How shabby. How tawdry.

Disgraceful: After having added $1 trillion to the deficit since taking office, President Obama suggested that somehow the $1 trillion the nation has spent in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade “short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits.” Take just a moment to do the math—something of which our chief executive apparently believes most Americans incapable. The cost of the war against radical Islam has averaged $100 billion a year—which comes to one-eighth the size of the President’s stimulus bill, or one-thirtieth of the average federal budget over the same ten years. I have my reservations about the president’s economic advisors, but they know—he knows—that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with our economic woes. He was intentionally attempting to mislead us.

“And so at this moment,” the President continued, “as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those [economic] challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.” At this moment? Why now, exactly? Because until today the war in Iraq so thoroughly consumed his energies? Obviously not. Just look at the energy the man displayed in ramming through ObamaCare. Or is it because the president only now realizes the political trouble he has created for himself? Because only now does he understand that he must make a show of addressing our economic troubles or suffer repudiation in November?

To ask the question is to answer it—and to recognize that tonight the President of United States used what should have been a straightforward, big-hearted celebration of a remarkable feat of American force and diplomacy to pursue instead his own narrow and, it must be said, increasingly desperate, political ends.

Related Conversations

ROBINSON > It Was Worth It, Wasn’t It?

ELLIS > Obama’s Iraq Fatigue

POULOS > Dismissive, Abrasive, Limp

HANSON > Yes, the War’s Still Justified: Part I / Part II