Opinion: On Iraq, Obama’s GOP critics take the political low road


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If withdrawing troops from Iraq required the same level of support as raising taxes in California (which, as we all know, is virtually impossible to do), would U.S. soldiers be coming home soon, as President Obama announced Friday?


According to a CNN poll conducted earlier this year, nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose the war in Iraq, and other surveys (also available on the list) have produced similar results. Before the economy tanked in late 2008, the quagmire had already made President George W. Bush one of the least popular commanders in chief in history; it’s the real reason we ended up with an Obama presidency.


So when Obama (finally) makes good on his wildly popular campaign promise, the Republicans pointedly criticize him. Naturally.

Mitt Romney:

President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.

Rick Perry:

I’m deeply concerned that President Obama is putting political expediency ahead of sound military and security judgment by announcing an end to troop-level negotiations and a withdrawal from Iraq by year’s end. The president was slow to engage the Iraqis, and there’s little evidence today’s decision is based on advice from military commanders.America’s commitment to the future of Iraq is important to U.S. national security interests and should not be influenced by politics. Despite the great achievements of the U.S. military and the Iraqi people, there remain real threats to our shared interests, especially from Iran.The United States must remain a firm and steadfast ally for Iraq, maintaining an ongoing diplomatic, economic and military-to-military partnership with this emerging democratic ally in the Middle East

Herman Cain hasn’t issued a statement, but he offered these unscripted remarks on the campaign trail:


Whether or not it’s the right thing to do, I would consult with the commanders. The thing that I wouldn’t do that the president is doing, is telling the enemy how many troops you gonna bring out and when you gonna bring ‘em out.I believe that our time there was worth it, but I would not have announced this big drawdown, tell the enemy so now they’re going to basically position themselves.

Ron Paul, the GOP dove and surely the one you’ve been waiting for, still found something not to like: The withdrawal doesn’t go far enough. He said: ‘I bet the embassy doesn’t close down.’

Yes, I know, the Republicans need to appeal to a conservative, virulently anti-anything-Obama-does voter base to survive past the primaries; after that they can tweak their message for broader appeal. But there’s something especially insincere about their attacks. Romney bemoans the lack of an ‘orderly transition,’ whatever that means. Perry says there’s ‘little evidence’ the president’s decision is based on advice from military commanders. Both accused Obama of political pandering (that’s rich) and cite the Iranian bogeyman. Cain riffs on tipping off the enemy.

In other words, it’s not that Obama is withdrawing U.S. forces, it’s the way he’s doing it. What they all avoid saying (Paul, bless his heart, doesn’t count here) is what they really mean: I would have kept Americans in Iraq longer. Such explicit, honest words would have been wildly unpopular, but criticizing the president isn’t.

And it’s Obama who is guided by political calculation?


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-- Paul Thornton