Harris on 'This Week': Giving Bush Credit for Iraq Too Much for Obama to Swallow
Christiane Amanpour on Sunday asked a rather surprising question of her "This Week" panel concerning President Obama's speech earlier in the week about the troop draw down in Iraq:
Do you think everybody is taking a lot of credit but not giving credit where credit is due?
Obviously, "everybody" in this instance meant the current White House resident who chose not to give credit to former President George W. Bush for the success in Iraq or to even mention "the surge" in his address.
After former Bush speechwriter now Washington Post contributor Michael Gerson said, "I didn't find the speech to be a particularly generous speech...he's attempting to take credit for something that he opposed," some truly shocking statements were made by Amanpour and Politico's John Harris (video follows with transcript and commentary):
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: Before turning to domestic news, I want to start with Iraq, because we just heard from General Odierno we know that the draw down, President Obama makes a speech today reaffirming the draw down, rather this week. Do you think everybody is taking a lot of credit but not giving credit where credit is due?
MICHAEL GERSON, WASHINGTON POST: I didn't find the speech to be a particularly generous speech. I mean, this is really the implementation of the status of forces agreement that was agreed to in 2008 under the Bush administration. Barack Obama, people forget, actually voted against funding for the troops. He opposed the surge. He gave a speech without mentioning the surge or General Petraeus. I think that that's probably, you know, he's attempting to take credit for something that he opposed.
AMANPOUR: The surge, let's face it, has worked up until now. We can see that it's had a huge, huge impact on stability in Iraq, despite a spike of violence. Do you think that it would have been even politically expedient to actually praise the surge, because the future of Iraq is this president's future?
Imagine that. Amanpour actually said the surge has worked.
This wasn't the tune she was singing on September 10, 2007, just before Petraeus spoke to Congress about how this strategy was doing:
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in short, they're very worried, because they see, as, in fact, General Petraeus himself admits in an open letter to his own troops ahead of this report on Congress, that, yes, they are making some progress in some areas. He's said to his own troops, we have the ball and we're driving it down the field. But in short, we are a long way from our goal.
They are happy, of course, the change at the moment in the Anbar province, which used to be the most dangerous. But it's now much more safe because some of the sheikhs and would-be insurgents have switch sides and joined the U.S. against al Qaeda. But then they see at other parts of Iraq how sort of as the surge is squelching some activity in some parts of Iraq, it's sort of coming up and showing itself in other parts, the violence. So, around the world people are looking at that and wondering how this is going to proceed.
The British themselves, who are the main coalition partners of the United States, have withdrawn their troops from a high of 30,000 during the war and the immediate aftermath of the war to now less than 5,000, and they have withdrawn completely from the urban area they were responsible for, Basra in the south. And they are at an air base. And, of course, that's being carefully looked at as to see the effect of that and what that might mean for the future.
But in short, the rest of the world is exceptionally anxious. Leaders in the region do not think that there can be potentially any progress. They are very concerned about this administration. They feel that it's a lame-duck administration, and they are very concerned about the future of Iraq, because it has massive ripple effects in this whole region.
Now, almost three years later, all that anxiety was proven unwarranted.
Regardless, here's how Harris answered Amanpour's question:
JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO: Well, probably the more cynical thing to do, or sort of a more Machiavellian thing to do for President Obama, would have been to lavish credit on President Bush. I mean, one of the central parts of Obama's brand at least when he came into Washington was that he was a bridge builder and could sort of drain politics. He would have therefore sort of cut off the conservative critique that he's, which is out there, that he is leaving too soon, and looked gracious in doing so. I don't know, I think that may have been, that doesn't come naturally to him. It might have been a little too much to swallow.
Hmmm. So admitting he was wrong doesn't come naturally to Obama, nor does praising a former President whose strategy ended up being a huge success?
Those seem like significant character flaws for the most powerful man in the world, wouldn't you agree?
Even so, it sure was nice to see two members of the mainstream media admit that our current President was taking credit for something he didn't do especially given the other player involved.
Post facto opinion: This was a staggeringly boring "Roundtable."
As part of the change associated with bringing Amanpour in, the producers have decided to add some new faces to the panel discussion segment.
Viewers got a taste of this Sunday with all four guests being first-timers on the program...and it showed.
Complicating matters was the absence of George Will who is on vacation thereby leaving a segment lacking any sense of humor or irony.
Having been watching "This Week" since it first started decades ago always looking forward to the "Roundtable," this iteration was a tremendous disappointment.
For those interested, the Huffington Post has a slideshow of all the new faces we'll be seeing on the panel in coming weeks.
Let's hope it gets better.