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Does Robert Gibbs Really Speak For Obama On Iraq?

Posted By Chris Queen On August 31, 2010 @ 5:00 pm In NewsReal Blog | No Comments

There’s so much hype around about President Obama being a great communicator. The mainstream media has crowed about it a lot, and the teleprompter tells us so. So, if we’re to believe that Obama is such a silver-tongued orator, we should question why the White House hired someone like Robert Gibbs to serve as press secretary.

Gibbs is prone to sticking his foot in his mouth, and he’s been rude to both reporters and Capitol Hill staffers. Notably, he’s been known to not answer questions, instead issuing non-answers or brushing the questions off. So it’s fascinating that an administration that loves to tout itself as transparent and that is led by Mr. “Let Me Be Clear” himself would allow someone like Gibbs to speak for it.

While the world waits on pins and needles for the president’s speech tonight on Iraq, Gibbs appeared on various news shows this morning to (supposedly) preview the speech. During all of these appearances, a fascinating question popped up repeatedly: will Obama credit the troop surge ordered by President Bush in 2007 with helping to stabilize Iraq? Anchors reminded Gibbs of then-Senator Obama’s opposition to the surge.

Gibbs repeatedly tried to turn Obama’s lack of support for the surge around, trying to state over and over that Obama believed that the surge would increase security in Iraq. But he also repeatedly tried to downplay the surge, instead giving most of the credit for the newly stable Iraq to Sunni leaders who decided they didn’t want to fight alongside terrorists anymore. Witness this exchange:

George Stephanopoulos: …the President did oppose the surge.

Gibbs: The President did oppose the surge, George, but understand this: while the surge did provide some increased security in Iraq, what happened was a political transformation took [place] a long time after those troops were put into Iraq. There was a Sunni awakening, where Sunni tribesmen decided they did not want to fight with but against al Qaeda.

Stephanopoulos: But does credit also go to the surge? Does the President now believe that President Bush made the right decision to order that surge in troops in Iraq?

Gibbs: Again, George, I think the President has always stated, always believed that our security would be, that adding 30,000 troops would improve the security, but obviously the leaders in Iraq had to make some political accommodations to move that country forward.

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