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Mission Accomplished? White House Touts Iraq, BP, Auto Industry Successes

5 years ago
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President Barack Obama wasn't exactly making a tailhook landing on an aircraft carrier and unfurling a "Mission Accomplished" banner, but the White House took aggressive steps this week to show the American public that it has achieved some very hard-won successes.

On three major issues -- U.S. military engagement in the Middle East, the BP oil spill disaster, and the American economy -- the administration has finally gained some positive momentum after what has felt like a protracted period of Nothing Good Ever Happens. For a White House and Democratic Congress badly in need of ammo in the run-up to the November elections, it couldn't have come at a better time.

While President George W. Bush donned a green flight suit and white helmet in May 2003 to trumpet that "major combat operations in Iraq [had] ended," he turned out to be (at least) seven years early on the call. On Monday, President Obama -- in a standard-issue black suit -- took his turn at the podium, proclaiming to an audience of disabled veterans in Atlanta, "I made it clear that by August 31st, 2010, America's combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing -- as promised and on schedule."

By the end of the month, 50,000 non-combat troops will still be in the country, with a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces expected by the end of 2011. The words "mission accomplished" were nowhere to be heard -- in fact, the president reiterated that "the hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq" -- but the message was clear. "As we mark the end of America's combat mission in Iraq," Obama said, "a grateful America must pay tribute to all who served there." Was that a humble way of saying almost the same thing? You betcha.

On Wednesday, the White House rounded up the Disaster Dream Team -- retired Adm. Thad Allen, climate and energy czarina Carol Browner, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Jane Lubchenco -- to deliver the good news that concerned citizens around the world had been waiting for since April 20: the effort to plug the BP oil well appeared to be working. And the even better news: It looked as if 75 percent of the oil in the Gulf of Mexico had been captured, dispersed, burned, dissolved, evaporated or otherwise annihilated.

The White House, scarred by earlier failed efforts to cap the well that spewed an estimated 4.9 million barrels of crude into the Gulf, shied away from a "Bon Voyage, Oil!" cake, but even the normally stoic Allen conceded, "It's a consequential day." Both he and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs went on to say that the work was not yet done -- or, in Allen-speak, there will be "a continuum of activities" in the days ahead. "We're not leaving the area," Gibbs said. But when pressed, he too conceded that the latest update was "very good news."

If the administration was cautiously optimistic about the BP spill, then it was forcefully celebratory over the state of the American auto industry. On Thursday, Obama visited a Ford Motor Co. plant in Chicago -- his second visit to a U.S. car maker in the last week -- to claim success for the federal government's bailout of the industry. When he took office, Obama pointed out, "Two of the Big Three automakers -- GM and Chrysler -- were on the brink of liquidation. If that had happened, more than 1 million jobs could have been lost, and that would have been a devastating blow to the entire economy." But, he continued, "I refused to walk away from this industry and American jobs. I put my faith in the American worker."

And the result? In the president's words: "All three U.S. automakers are now operating at a profit. That's the first time it's happened in six years. America's automakers have added 55,000 jobs since last June. That's the best job growth in more than 10 years in this industry." If the goal was to rescue an industry that the "just say no crowd" would have left for dead over a year ago, then it had been met. "The industry isn't just on the way back," Obama said triumphantly, "it's on the way to being number one again."

Of course, the president and his advisers have good reason not to utter the words "mission accomplished." In Iraq, serious questions remain as to the stability of the country in the wake of a U.S. withdrawal, and the ability of the Iraqi government to provide its citizens with even the most basic services.

With BP, 25 percent of the oil is still out there -- four to five times the amount of the Exxon Valdez spill. Concerns remain about the effect of widespread use of chemical dispersants, and questions about when local fishermen can return to work and when the offshore drilling moratorium will end are as yet unanswered.

And while the U.S. automotive sector looks brighter than it has in a while, economic growth on the whole is sluggish at best. July jobs numbers, released Friday, showed only anemic growth, with an unemployment rate stuck at 9.5 percent.

Still, the phrase "Mission Still Ongoing but Looking More and More Like It Might Get Accomplished" doesn't really have the same ring to it, does it? Team O is wisely choosing to avoid that pratfall. The path to recovery remains long and winding -- and if the administration can manage to drum up some goodwill along the way, they'll take it.

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This is a joke right?

August 22 2010 at 9:30 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

It will take the economy several years to turn around and aside from creating an environment conducive to business, there is little that can be done to improve it other than time. That is the real focus. Obama and the Democrats have many accomplishments despite how the GOP smear machine along with talk radio have declared him a failure from the beginning. The results of the upcoming midterm elections will be dependent on which side can convince those with open minds of their opinion.

August 21 2010 at 10:49 AM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply

I'll admit this does seem like a republican/conservative/Tea Party nightmare; Healthcare reform, financial reform, credit card reform, withdrawl of troops from Iraq, the turning of the economy, TARP, auto industry back to the real deal, each and every crisis from BP to the beer summit contained corraled and fixed all done in less than twenty months. Done with a lackluster congress and a conservative backlash of invented outrage that has as much substance as wind in the meadow. The real question is who do the conservatives have to counter such accomplishments?

August 19 2010 at 3:48 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply

Wake up, nothing is getting better. We will just get to pay the government taxes, and more taxes next year. If your working you just as well give up because you will not have the same money you have this year and you will not even beable to put food on the table or a roof over your head. So get yourself out of debt quickly and don't get suckered into all those fake low interest home loans out there. When freddie mac and fannie mae get all the people in debted to them they will then start the foreclosures and the government will have free housing for all their friends. Mark my words and become debt free and don't buy anything you can't pay for with in 30 days.

August 18 2010 at 6:50 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply

The most successful Congress in decades, Detroit is booming, yet no one knows about it. Obama can't do this all alone. The Democratic leadership is doing a miserable job of getting their message out. All they know how to do is offend the base that supports them, while the Repubs grovel before theirs. For god sake, BRING BACK HOWARD DEAN !

August 14 2010 at 2:20 PM Report abuse -15 rate up rate down Reply

There is no MISSION ACCOMPLISHED here on any item. We still in Iraq, BP is still lying to the people and the US Government and the only good thing is GM getting out of a hole. We are not and will not win in Iraq. We will withdraw with a draw.

August 12 2010 at 7:56 PM Report abuse +11 rate up rate down Reply
george mack

Oh please if this president was doing anything for this country he wouldnt have to campaign everyday. His actions should speak louder than he does. His actions have produced nothing but spending. He has done nothing but dampen the hopes of the people who voted for him. His votes came from a majority of people looking for handouts. Change! Give me a break!

August 12 2010 at 4:09 PM Report abuse +29 rate up rate down Reply

Once again, I am shocked at the degree of hostility and ill-will towards the President. Maybe it is a reaction to the derision that was directed at President Bush by the left. Both groups were wrong and both give aid and comfort to our enemies. Give President Obama credit for what he has accomplished in the face of very difficult circumstances not of his making. Disagree if you must but cut the invectives.

August 12 2010 at 8:55 AM Report abuse -29 rate up rate down Reply

President OBAMA has done more for the USA and its citizens than any leader to date other than FDR. OBAMA has saved this country from catastrophe

August 10 2010 at 8:11 PM Report abuse -38 rate up rate down Reply

no successe, he took care of wallstreet,banks, auto industry, and all his backdoor confirmations .not much trikle down affect to average citizen, it has not been about the people for years, its all about, blue chips,oil,greed of our elected officials and what they get out of it-meanwhile you and i get just enough to make them feel good about themselves . so the poor get poorer, the middle class is feeling more like there is bo middle class, and the rich -well what do they have to worry about

August 10 2010 at 11:26 AM Report abuse +14 rate up rate down Reply

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