President Obama may be on the right course as he winds down the war in Iraq, the Republican leaders of the House and the Senate said today, but only because former President Bush created the conditions for success there.
Mr. Obama is set tofrom the Oval Office tonight to mark the end of combat operations in Iraq and address the United States' continued presence there.
Ahead of the president's address, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner both delivered their own speeches in which they gave the president backhanded compliments for bringing U.S. combat troops home for Iraq. In the same breath, they castigated Mr. Obama for decrying President Bush's troop "surge" and warned against prematurely ending operations there.
"Some leaders who opposed, criticized, and fought tooth-and-nail to stop the surge strategy now proudly claim credit for the results," Boehner said today at the American Legion National Convention in Milwaukee, in a clear jab at the president. Boehner's office yesterday released athat also criticizes Mr. Obama and other Democratic leaders for opposing the surge.
Boehner added, however, that he wanted to "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."
Meanwhile, at the Commerce Lexington Public Policy Luncheon in Lexington, Kentucky today, McConnell said that Mr. Obama will deliver "welcome news" tonight when he declares the end of combat operations in Iraq. However, he said, it was "another president [who] had the determination and the will to carry out the plan that made tonight's announcement possible."
He added, "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."Mr. Obama has acknowledged that the surge succeeded, though his administration has . White House press secretary Robert Gibbs yesterday pointed to the Sunni Awakening and political progress in Iraq for helping to bring the country to its current point. He stressed that the war would never have happened had Mr. Obama been president when it began and said it took the U.S. focus off the war in Afghanistan, which most Americans believe is not going well.
Nevertheless, McConnell said today that the troops are succeeding where many in Washington thought they would fail. He added that the situation in Iraq requires continued careful management.
"This President could very well find himself negotiating a new security agreement next year," McConnell said.
Indeed, the political situation remains unstable in Iraq, and violence there continues.
Boehner similarly said today that the United States cannot turn its back now on its partners in Iraq. The nation's success remains strategically important to the United States, he said, because it serves as a bulwark against extremist forces in the region as well as an inspiration for other moderate governments and reformers.
"Over the past several months, we've often heard about ending the war in Iraq, but not much about winning the war in Iraq," he said. "Victory in Iraq was the only option in 2007 - and it is the only option now."
Boehner also said it's not possible to support U.S. troops without supporting their mission.
"Our troops in harm's way should never have to doubt Congress's commitment to supporting their mission," he said. "When asked to provide our troops in harm's way with the resources they need, we should do so without delay."
Funding for U.S. troops has been used for political leverage at times, such as last winter, when RepublicansMore Coverage: in order to delay the health care debate.