First, Rachel Maddow:
Eugene Robinson (Dead trees):
President Obama’s Oval Office speech was good, but the iconography was great.
In his address marking the effective end of the Iraq War, Obama used the setting well. The flags behind him, the family pictures on either side, the flag pin in his lapel, the red tie, white shirt and blue suit... it all projected patriotism and authority.
One thing that worked in the speech was his drawing a straight line between the vast monetary cost of the war and the economic slough of despond in which we're mired. One thing that didn't work was his assertion that with the end of combat in Iraq, we were turning a page. We're still at war, and Obama said that now more resources are available for Afghanistan.
Politicos will be universally dissatisfied. Liberals will say he gave George W. Bush too much credit; conservatives, not enough. But I think he did himself and his party some good tonight. He was generous enough to Bush, resolute in his intentions and obviously sincere in his praise of the troops. He wore the presidency with an accessory that Americans expect and appreciate: gravitas.
Adam Server (bit of whining):
Conversely, while conservatives are busy angrily denouncing the president for not giving more credit to Bush for implementing the surge -- by which they mean not acknowledging that conservatives were right -- that wouldn't have been appropriate either. This speech was about the commitment of those who actually served, not the better part of valor displayed by those who sat in front of their keyboards and hammered out empirical or ideological arguments for or against the war.
That's not to say that the speech was devoid of politics. Obama's style of politics is to pretend he's above politics, and this speech fits that mold. But the biggest reason not to rehash the argument over going to war in Iraq is that he won it already. It's part of why he's president. Obama doesn't need to convince the American people that the war in Iraq was a mistake, because a majority of Americans already believe that. Conservatives want to reargue the war from 2007 onward, but treating the Iraq war as though it began with the surge is a bit like running over someone on the street, backing up over the body a few times, and then demanding a special merit badge for finally deciding to call 911. And as I wrote yesterday, this still isn't really over.
The most disappointing part of the speech was that the president failed to acknowledge the suffering of the Iraqi people as a result of the war. Doing so would not have diminished his tribute towards American servicemembers, but it would have been a helpful reminder that treating the rest of the world like a game of RISK has real human consequences. Unlike the president's refusal to reargue the war, his failure to acknowledge the suffering of Iraqi civilians -- more than an estimated 100,000 of whom died as a result -- is an inexcusable omission.
Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson:
And Eugene again, this time on Video: