Live blogging Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan

8:00 We’re watching the NBC feed.  Note that by speaking from West Point, he’s likely to have a receptive audience (at least superficially)!  No one is likely to yell, “You lie!”

Will he reference his predecessor in describing the country’s reaction to 9-11?

Nope.  It’s all about Congress.  And NATO.  And the UN.  No President Bush yet.  Pretty shocking how radioactive the Bush name seems to be to Obama…

Indeed, he’s going to portray this as a reversal of the Bush emphasis on Iraq and neglect of Afghanistan – smart politics that reverts back to his campaign strategy that allowed him to appear for change but also strong against terrorism.

Here’s a shot against Cheney.

And here’s the controversial part: laying out a timetable for beginning withdrawal.  Note, however, that it’s really not that risky to say troop withdrawals will begin in 18 months – that’s a pretty fuzzy guideline.

He’s really walking a tight line here by both defending himself against attacks from the Left by stressing that Afghanistan is the breeding ground of extremists, but also arguing that he’s not Bush; that this campaign is directed against real threats, not trumped up ones as in Iraq.

Hmmm… I think he’s describing a “coalition of the willing”! Best reports so far indicate that these additional troops may, if the US is lucky, number 1,000.

And here comes the performance measures, echoing the “benchmarks” used to chart progress in Iraq.

and the third leg of the strategy: partnering with Pakistan.  We’ll see what the Pakistanis say about this…

a “civilian” surge?  Interesting way to avoid linking back to the Bush surge!

The Vietnam syndrome is still strong….

Here’s the defense of the time table for withdrawal….this is the sop to the Left.

Hillary must be taking a bit of pleasure in seeing her more hawkish views prevailing….

And how will he pay for it?  Punts that one to Congress!

It’s hard work!

Boy, how many times have we heard Bush give an almost identical speech, but with the word Iraq substituted for Afghanistan.  The irony can’t be lost on the Democratic Left…

Did he renew alliances and forge new relationships?  I guess Hillary is not going to get any credit on that score!

He will close GITMO – now the Left is really getting riled!  Talk is cheap…

Time for the rhetorical flourish at the end…

cue music…..

He does good rhetorical flourish.  Is  this only the second applause line of the speech?  Speaks to the solemn topic….

For just once I wish someone, when citing the “people”, would mention someone different.  Why not cite “the bankers” and the “insurance agents” and the “used car salesmen” that made this country great?  It’s always teachers and military personnel.  Let’s show some love for the little people…

And once more into the breach of bipartisanship.  He’ll be no more successful this time than on the previous 30 times he pushed for bipartisanship.  The irony, of course, is that he’s more likely to be opposed by his own Left Wing, not Republicans.

This is an awfully long rhetorical flourish….

hard to find fault with this speech primarily because he played it very straight, and most of the substance had already been leaked.  The failure to cite Bush is probably the most conspicuous omission.

The real issue here is whether the surge will work within the stated timetable and if it doesn’t, what then?  Does he stick to the timetable?  Note that the decision to begin withdrawing, or not, takes place in the runup to the 2012 presidential election.

Let’s see what the talking heads have to say….

McCain: surge good, exit date bad.

Richard Haas (Council of Foreign Relations):  blah, blah, blah…

David Gregory:  Ditto.

Cue Biggest Loser…..

I’ll be on tomorrow with an update on the polling reaction and punditocracy.

One comment

  1. I’m curious for Congress’ reaction to the troop surge. It costs about $1 million per soldier per year for troops in Iraq/Afghanistan. Meanwhile Congress is trying to pass health care reform/cap-and-trade legislation/Bush tax cuts are set to expire in a year/and we’re in a massive recession.

    National security/defense typically is not negotiable even when it comes to fiscal matters because, politically speaking, it is typically seen as weak. So how does Congress react? Do they push to move the debate on funding sooner so they don’t get tagged with it as bad during midterms?

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