Political Animal


October 22, 2011 8:00 AM GOP candidates decry Iraq withdrawal

By Steve Benen

Given the larger political circumstances, it stands to reason that the Republican presidential candidates will simply oppose, reflexively, every decision President Obama makes. Right or wrong, popular or unpopular, the GOP field knows whatever the president is for, they’re against.

But there have to be limits to this knee-jerk style of politics. The field’s reaction to the end of the war in Iraq, for example, was completely tone deaf.

Despite their inability to agree on the economy or much else, Republican presidential candidates spoke with one voice in reaction to President Obama’s announcement of a full U.S. withdrawal from Iraq this year.

They were against it.

It was an “astonishing failure” that risked all the gains made “through the blood and sacrifice” of thousands of Americans, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he was “deeply concerned” that Obama had put “political expediency ahead of sound military and security judgment.” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) cited it as another example of the president’s foreign policy weakness, and Jon Huntsman, Obama’s former ambassador to China, called it a “mistake.”

Herman Cain let stand his assessment of last weekend, in which he announced that withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan were “a dumb thing to do.”

They didn’t necessarily all agree on why they were outraged by the news, only that bringing U.S. troops from Iraq is just awful.

Keep in mind, the entire field’s combined experience in these areas is practically non-existent — Mitt Romney’s background shipping American jobs overseas doesn’t count as experience in international affairs — and when they try to talk about foreign policy, these candidates generally just end up embarrassing themselves.

But let’s remember exactly what these candidates were saying yesterday: they want at least some U.S. troops to stay in Iraq indefinitely. This disastrous, costly war began nearly nine years ago, but nearly all of the Republican presidential candidates still aren’t in any rush to end the U.S. mission.

As the nation’s attention has largely shifted to domestic concerns, there’s been far less polling on the public’s attitudes on U.S. policy in Iraq. The most recent data, however, shows that most Americans simply do not support the war.

The American mainstream will very likely consider yesterday’s announcement a terrific development. That the Republican presidential field doesn’t care is rather amazing.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • trnc on October 22, 2011 8:11 AM:

    Steve, you left out the best part. The agreement was made with Iraq during the Bush administration.

    "On November 27, 2008, the Iraqi Parliament ratified a Status of Forces Agreement with the United States, establishing that U.S. combat forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and all U.S. forces will be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011"

  • c u n d gulag on October 22, 2011 8:13 AM:

    It was an “astonishing failure” that risked all the gains made “through the blood and sacrifice” of thousands of Americans, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said.

    None of them, unsurprisingly, named Romney - whose 5 son's contributions to the war effort were to stay home and save the military the bullets the other troops would have used to "frag" them with.

    As for the rest of the Republican candidates, your experience with watching John Wayne movies, and playing RISK while smoking doob's in College don't qualify you as military experts.

    And putting your GI Joes, or JAG Barbie's in Ms. Bachmann' case, back on the shelf like your Mommy asked you to, don't count as troop maneuvers.

    Pavlov could have saved himself the price of dog food and treats.
    These assholes react just a reflexively as Fido.

  • pol on October 22, 2011 8:17 AM:

    Hmm, with less spending in Iraq, what effect will this have on the deficit? Gee, could this possibly be something that will, at least, stabilize the deficit? We can't have that now, can we???

  • T-Rex on October 22, 2011 8:22 AM:

    I know that a lot of liberals who have attacked Obama from the left are particularly disappointed in his hawkish foreign policies. So I hope they remember this when they decide whether or not to sit out the next election.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on October 22, 2011 8:24 AM:

    We republicans create our own reality.

    Then we repeat our "reality" over and over again.

    Then we have the media, which we own, either tell the Amerikan Sheeple that the republican reality is the real reality or confuse the hell out of the Sheeple so that they cannot discern which reality is the real reality.

    Then we have our billionares spend millions convincing the Amerikan Sheeple that up is down and down is up and that the only way that government will work is if it is given entirely to republicans to rule the way that we, the wealthy funding wing of the party, want! Oil is good, coal is great, and tax cuts for millionares and billionares create jobs.

    In our reality, everything that Obama does with foreign policy is wrong. But then again, in our reality, everything that Obama does with domestic policy is wrong. Even when he usually follows what have historically been republican policies.

  • bdop4 on October 22, 2011 9:00 AM:

    Fine. Let's re-litigate the Iraq War. I WELCOME THE DEBATE.

    Which party made the decision to go there in the first place based on "evidence" that at best was ineptly analyzed and at worst fraudulently produced?

    How many lives were lost? How many b(tr)illions were wasted?

    Do these people really want to go there?!

  • bdop4 on October 22, 2011 9:09 AM:

    Another question to ask these complete-fucking-idiots:

    Bush cut the deal for the withdrawal date. THEY WANTED US OUT.

    What would you have done to keep us there? Start bombing the Iraqi population?

    Somebody needs to start aggressively hammering these people. There once was a time when journalists would be asking these questions.

  • berttheclock on October 22, 2011 9:18 AM:

    Excellent discussion of this on Chris Haye's Saturday morning show on MSNBC. Richard Engel attributed much of this to the years following the Viet Nam War, where RepuGs complained that we had cut and run. He, also, said, at least Romney's statement, was a good political decision, because if a civil war does break out, they can use the comment as a "Told You So".

  • hells littlest angel on October 22, 2011 9:27 AM:

    Please give credit where credit is due:

    “Mitt Romney’s foreign policy experience is limited to his work as a finance executive shipping American jobs overseas.” - Obama administration Press Secretary Ben LaBolt

    That's a damned good line, especially coming from the White House.

  • SW on October 22, 2011 9:37 AM:

    They won't get any traction at all with this except with the mouth breathers. Sure they will try to make hay over it now during primary season when the mouth breathers rule. But in the general? Please. You are going to tell the American people that the man who killed bin Laden made us less safe by ending the war in Iraq? Get a clue nit wits. It will never sell.

  • berttheclock on October 22, 2011 9:44 AM:

    @cundgulag, as much as I abhor Cain, he did serve as an ballistics officer for the US Navy while attending Purdue for his Masters. Yes, this was from '68 to '71, when, I have been told there was some sort of dustoff far far away from Indiana. However, for some reason, he has never been able to fine tune his personal tracking system and, does go go off course repeatedly.

    The various comments from the RepuGs are nothing more than the typcial "Demos only know how to cut and run" and will kept in the vault in case our pull out doesn't go well.

  • kevo on October 22, 2011 9:46 AM:

    It takes an idiot to speak gibberish on stage, in front of greatly numbered audiences - particularly if he, or she in the case of MB, keeps doing it over and over and over and over and over!

    The question of the early 21st century will be whether the American electorate will fall for such gibberish as their motivation to go to the polls in 2012.

    I am doing everything I am able, given my circumstances, to educate my loved ones, neighbors and acquaintances about the importance of not getting fooled again in the next election cycle.

    Pass it along! -Kevo

  • bubba on October 22, 2011 11:09 AM:

    As I said yesterday, most of the comments from the repubs on this are simply their combined attempt to get ahead of the curve to rub the blame/fault/whatever for the most likely slide by Iraq towards Iran and a less democratic, more religious type government upon BHO/Dem's garments. The issue is really not whether the troops were brought home 4 years ago, 1 year ago, now or 15 years from now. It is one of positioning blame. Glad to see BHO use this opportunity, regardless of the reason why, to do the right thing and bring the troops home.

  • Stephen Stralka on October 22, 2011 11:56 AM:

    Surely getting the hell out of Iraq will save us a bunch of money, too. Aren't these people supposed to care about the deficit?

  • Gretchen on October 22, 2011 2:51 PM:

    I hope Obama remembers the line about Romney's foreign policy experiece for the debates.

  • Bob/SoCal on October 22, 2011 4:37 PM:

    What kind crap will the Repubs come up with to convince the 40,000 or so returning troops to vote Teapublican in 2012? Their successful plan to keep as many unemployed as possible?..or their economic machinations designed to keep the money in the hands of their campaign contributors, rather than putting some in the hands of the 99% who would use it to pay bills, buy food and clothing or maybe a new car?...or maybe their patriotic approach to raising the debt limit, where those deployed in Iraq possibly could have gone without pay while Repubs continued to collect their high salaries and benefits even while campaigning for support from their Tea Party backers. It's time for a change from 30+ years "me first" political parties. Lets pay them at the end of the year, based on their work output.

  • Anonymous on October 22, 2011 4:50 PM:

    "bdop4 on October 22, 2011 9:09 AM:"

    Unfortunately, we have no real journalists anymore. The rich, the corporations, the Surpreme Court and the tealiban have made sure of that.

    crapcha....ibid. edsculi....who is Ed Sculi?

  • BP on October 22, 2011 6:32 PM:

    "Keep in mind, the entire field’s combined experience in these areas is practically non-existent..."

    Yeah, except for the freakin US Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman. Stop being so biased. Get your facts right.

  • Joel on October 22, 2011 6:48 PM:

    I don't know why these articles consistently ignore Ron Paul. He's been the lone Republican candidate against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for years, and is certainly not decrying the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, now. Quite the contrary, I would think.

  • Saul on October 23, 2011 3:54 AM:

    I agree with Joel. I like how Ron Paul isn't even mentioned.

  • Damian on October 23, 2011 6:51 AM:

    Again leaving out Ron Paul. You know, the guy who just won the Ohio straw poll.

    You know, the one for bringing home all troops and closing the 900 bases outside of our country.

    Bet he had some positive things to say.

  • Phil on October 23, 2011 1:31 PM:

    Sadly, yet again, Ron Paul isn't even mentioned. Guess it would prevent them from painting the illusion that all republicans are against bringing the troops home.