Obama’s Surge Problem

Sep 7, 2008 9:51am

One particular part of Bill O’Reilly’s interview with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has been getting a great deal of attention: Obama’s new language that the surge of US troops in Iraq "succeed(ed) beyond our wildest dreams."

Here’s the full exchange: LINK O’REILLY: I think you were desperately wrong on the surge, and I think you should admit it to the nation that now we have defeated the terrorists in Iraq, and the Al Qaeda came there after we invaded, as you know. We defeated them.

OBAMA: Right.

O’REILLY: If we didn’t, they would have used it as a staging ground. We’ve also inhibited Iran from controlling the southern part of Iraq by the surge, which you did not support. So why won’t you say, "I was right in the beginning. I was wrong about that"?

OBAMA: If you listen to what I’ve said, and I’ll repeat it right here on this show, I think that there’s no doubt that the violence is down. I believe that that is a testimony to the troops that were sent and General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated, by the way, including President Bush and the other supporters. It has gone very well, partly because of the Anbar situation and the Sunni awakening, partly because of the Shia military. Look…

O’REILLY: But if it were up to you, there wouldn’t have been a surge.

OBAMA: Look…

O’REILLY: No, no, no, no.

OBAMA: No, no, no…

O’REILLY: If it were up to you, there wouldn’t have been a surge.

OBAMA: No, no, no.

O’REILLY: You and Joe Biden, no surge.

OBAMA: Hold on a second, Bill. If you look at the debate that was taking place, we had gone through five years of mismanagement of this war that I thought was disastrous. And the president wanted to double down and continue on an open-ended policy that did not create the kinds of pressure on the Iraqis to take responsibility and reconcile.

O’REILLY: But it worked. It worked. Come on.

OBAMA: Bill, what I’ve said is – I’ve already said it succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

O’REILLY: Why can’t you say, "I was right in the beginning, and I was wrong about the surge"?

OBAMA: Because there’s an underlying problem where what have we done. We have reduced the violence.

O’REILLY: Yes.

OBAMA: But the Iraqis still haven’t taken responsibility, and we still don’t have the kind of political reconciliation. We are still spending, Bill, $10 to $12 billion a month.

In Cedarburg, Wisc., on Friday, as ABC News’ Imtiyaz Delawala and Bret Hovell reported, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin took on Obama’s response.

"Just last night, Sen. Obama finally broke, and brought himself to admit what all the rest of us have known for quite some time, and that’s, thanks to the skill and valor of our troops, the surge in Iraq has succeeded," Palin said. "I guess when you turn out to be profoundly wrong on a vital national security issue, maybe it’s comforting to pretend that everyone was wrong, too. But I remember it a little differently. It seems to me there was one leader in Washington who did predict success, who refused to call retreat, and risked his own career for the sake of the surge and victory in Iraq, and ladies and gentlemen, that man is standing right next to me — Sen. John McCain."

The new Obama language and new McCain attack come as a new Democratic poll from Stan Greenberg et al indicates that the traditional advantage Republicans have with voters on national security issues has return.

Forty nine percent of those surveyed think Republicans were better on national security compared to 35% for Democrats. And 53% of those polled believe the surge has produced real positive results, 39% say it has failed.

- jpt

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