Both financial papers’ editorial boards made astute observations about the President’s posture and the war’s meaning, one before and one after he spoke last night.
The Wall Street Journal had this to say after the speech (bold is mine):
Oval Office Ambivalence
Obama’s address focused too much on the costs of the Iraq war and not enough on what U.S. troops achieved.
President Obama has often struck us as an ambivalent Commander in Chief, and last night’s 19-minute Oval Office address will do little to change that perception—especially abroad, where an American President’s determination is most carefully parsed.
In announcing the end of “our combat mission” in Iraq, the President sounded the right notes of gratitude to our troops, a continuing “commitment to Iraq’s future,” and even a salute to President George W. Bush, albeit to his predecessor’s patriotism rather than to his most significant achievement, which was persevering as a war leader until our goals were reached.
But to our mind—and we suspect to the foreign ear—he also focused too much on the “huge price” and burdens of the last seven years, rather than on what our troops accomplished, or on the strategic opportunities that their sacrifice now allows. He gave short shrift to Iraq as a potential democratic example in the autocratic Middle East, or as an ally against Iran’s regional ambitions. Nor did he say whether, or even how, our ultimate success in Iraq had informed his own decision to surge troops to Afghanistan.
The problem, of course, is that saluting Bush’s perseverance would require acknowledgment that his courageous 2007 decision to pursue the “surge” strategy when almost everyone in Washington was screaming for withdrawal was correct, worked as David Petraeus predicted, and led to victory. Obama strongly opposed that strategy, even saying, as AP accurately paraphrased (HT Gateway Pundit), “that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn’t a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.”
Virtually every other Democrat in congressional leadership at the time bitterly opposed the surge strategy, no matter how much Robert Gibbs, the President’s other peeps, and the DNC try to otherwise spin it. It’s on tape, and it’s irrefutable. You guys don’t get to play the “we were all really Cold Warriors” (no you weren’t) game this time.
Investors Business Daily weighed in shortly before the speech with commentary on the cost, financial and otherwise. Then it made what seemed to be a strange turn into discussion of the war’s cost vs. the stimulus:
It might have seemed odd to hit on domestic economic policy before what one would have expected to be an entirely foreign policy-oriented speech, but the folks at IBD were prescient enough to know that this president can’t stay outside of his far-left “progressive” comfort zone for more than about 15 minutes. Sure enough, he didn’t last night, moving into the economy by roughly the 20th paragraph of 28. In doing so, he comes across as less than serious about achieving legitimate success in foreign policy that advances the interest of America and the cause of freedom. In that sense, he’s coming across as he really is.