In an Oval Office speech to the nation, President Barack Obama officially declared an end to US combat operations in Iraq Tuesday. The speech's praise for President George W. Bush quickly drew outrage from MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.
In 2002 while Obama was an Illinois state senator, he was one of the few elected officials to attend an anti-war rally in Federal Plaza. "An anti-war, anti-Bush speech would make him even more appealing to Democrats who were feeling distraught and powerless over the country’s race to war and were still angry about the 2000 presidential election," wrote NBC Chicago's Edward McClelland.
But eight years later, Obama found himself praising the president that started the war in his Oval Office speech.
I’m mindful that the Iraq war has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it’s time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I’ve said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hopes for Iraqis’ future.
The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences, and to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead.
"I think we shouldn't get past how remarkable it is how much the proponents of the Iraq war are getting off easy here," Maddow said to MSNBC's Keith Olbermann immediately following the speech.
"And to to have in this speech, as combat operations are ending, to have, as you point out Keith, the president not only not addressing the circumstances in which he we went to war, but these kind words for President Bush, describing his commitment to our security, despite the recklessness with which President Bush discarded that national security in favor of this war of choice, which only diminished our security, and is responsible probably for the Afghanistan war still going on today, for the depths of people who have died in Afghanistan after the time, after which that war would have ended had we not gone to Iraq, not to mention all of the people who died in Iraq," Maddow continued.
"To talk about him having a demonstrated commitment to our security, having started this war on the terms on which he started it, -- I mean, it's beyond restraint from President Obama and anyone in the pro-Iraq war, pro-Bush camp who doesn't feel like they've been given the greatest political present they never deserved was not listening to this speech," she concluded.
But on another network, hosts complained that Obama didn't praise Bush enough.
"Here's the debate," announced Fox News' Gretchen Carlson Wednesday. "Did President Obama thank President Bush for the Surge and for bringing Iraq to its current state?"
"He tipped his hat," replied guest host Eric Bolling. "I don't know if he outright thanked him."