A confidante of Tom Pawlenty told me succinctly: “It was a speech designed to cater to and encourage rising isolationism in this country. The references to nation building in this country clearly indicate that. The president is playing with fire here.”
Mitt Romney’s campaign released this statement: “We all want our troops to come home as soon as possible, but we shouldn’t adhere to an arbitrary timetable on the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan. This decision should not be based on politics or economics. America’s brave men and women in uniform have fought to achieve significant progress in Afghanistan, some having paid the ultimate price. I look forward to hearing the testimony of our military commanders in the days ahead.” A little outrage and a straight-forward condemnation of the speech would have been more appropriate.
We are about to see who is serious about victory — yes, victory is the aim, not setting the speed record for retreat — and who is not. The president, as Bob Woodward put it, has been a reluctant commander in chief. Tonight he proved to be an irresponsible one.
“It is time for nation building here at home,” Obama said. “Hearing that line, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) must have been smiling broadly,” Jennifer writes. But at the Tatler, Bryan Preston certainly isn’t:
I was mostly (albeit ambivalently) with him until this line:
“We must focus on nation building here at home.”
Huh? The preceding lines had been about “investing” in infrastructure and so forth, which is obvious code for spending even more.
Sorry, Mr. President, but I’m inclined to take the check book out of your hands at the first opportunity. You have shown that you can’t be trusted to handle the nation’s finances responsibly. Call it “nation building” if you want, though I consider that an insult to the generations who have built the nation and bequeathed it to us. Call it anything, but it adds up to more irresponsible spending. So, no.
Glenn Reynolds quips, “Well, coming after two years of nation-wrecking, it would be a nice change. Though I’m afraid Obama will do for America what he’s done for Afghanistan — massive corruption and no rule of law. Come to think of it, maybe it was the other way around . . . .”
As a former Member of the Order of the British Empire once said, War is Over If You Want It. It all depends on which war — or both — you want to see concluded next year.
Flashback to 2009: “I, I, I’m always, you know, worried about using the word ‘victory,’ because, uh, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing, ahh, a surrender to MacArthur,” Obama told ABC News in July of 2009:
Curiously, almost exactly one year earlier, as a presidential candidate who had just wrapped up the Democratic primaries and was about to pivot his rhetoric from his far left base to play better to the center, Obama had a different take on the war:
Obama says Afghanistan ‘a war that we have to win’
By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer
July 15, 2008
WASHINGTON – Contending that the U.S. is not pursuing a sound strategy for keeping Americans safe, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Tuesday that fighting al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan would be his top priority after ending the war in Iraq.
“This is a war that we have to win,” Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery at the International Trade Center in Washington…
Of course, all campaign promises by Barack Obama come with expiration dates, as Jim Geraghty likes to say.
Update: Andrew Malcolm of the L.A. Times adds that Obama’s speech is “Draining a political mess of his own making:”
He built his initial national political persona on opposition to Bush’s Iraq war because, the former U.S. senator argued, it distracted America from the far more important conflict against Al Qaeda, the Taliban and terrorism in Afghanistan, which was the haven for Al Qaeda’s 9/11 training.
Bush’s Iraq surge worked, however, enabling Obama to proclaim victory and transfer those troops. This, in turn, enabled Vice President Joe Biden, the candidate who wanted to slice Iraq into three parts, to go on cable TV and with no sense of irony call Iraq one of Obama’s “great achievements.”
That left the Afghanistan war, 10 years old this fall, where Al Qaeda forces were making gains against the invisible central government. When Obama became commander-in-chief, the United States had 32,000 troops there. Today it has 100,000.
Since 2001, 1,632 Americans have died there, 696 of them (43%) during the 882 days of Obama’s presidency.
(Via Ann Althouse.)
Update: Lindsey Graham to Wolf Blitzer: “Petraeus loses, Biden wins.”
That should make Moveon.org and the New York Times rather happy.
Bill Kristol asks, “Why the Summer of 2012? …Because, one has to conclude, Election Day is November 6, 2012.”