The Conversation: Obama on Iraq

Politico White House Editor Craig Gordon previews the president's speech.

Aug. 31, 2010— -- In a primetime address from the Oval Office tonight, President Obama will tell the nation that the United States has officially ended combat operations in Iraq.

Ahead of the president's speech, ABC's David Muir spoke with Politico's White House editor Craig Gordon about what Obama will say and the tough political realities the president faces.

"He needs to basically tell people, 'Look, the mission is over, wrapping up, coming to completion,' without overselling the notion that the U.S. presence there is going to come to an end," said Gordon. "There's still going to be 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. At any given moment, they could find themselves in harm's way."

Some also question how Obama will deal with the issue of the surge, the troop increase initiated by President Bush that's credited with much of the success in Iraq.

"People remember that Barack Obama opposed the surge. Joe Biden opposed the surge. And now, essentially, the end of the mission is coming, I think most fair-minded military analysts would say, in part because of the surge," Gordon said. "You could imagine that Obama would find a way to say that the surge helped, but I don't think you're going to hear him spend a lot of time dwelling on that."

At the same, time, the administration is struggling to convince the American people that it's focused on the nation's economic issues. A speech on Iraq comes at a politically perilous time for the president.

"The Economy is the number one, two, three, four and five issue on people's minds right now, and the president, I think, has gotten himself in a little bit of trouble by not talking about it as much, Gordon said."

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