The Daily Rundown | August 31, 2010
>>> tonight, president obama will formally declare an end to u.s. combat operations in iraq . i spoke to white house press secretary robert gibbs earlier this morning from the white house briefing room. you guys have said you're not going to say mission accomplished tonight. of course, former president bush never said those words either but all fanfare of landing on an aircraft carrier created that impression. do you run the same risk here with a visit to the troops, vice president biden in iraq ?
>> look. i don't think there's any doubts that, savannah, there will be violence in iraq after the president speaks but what today marks is the transition from our role in combat to that of assisting and overseeing and helping the iraqis with counterterrorism. we'll no longer be in the lead. the iraqi security forces that have been trained by the brave men and women in our military will be responsible for security in iraq . again, those that want to foment violence in iraq will continue to do so. it is important to understand the level of violence as the president was told among the lowest ever record the in the seven and a half years of that conflict. so, there's a transition moment and i think it's an important moment to mark.
>> you are not people come away with the impression the work there is done, that is victory lap ?
>> no. the president's not taking a victory lap . the president made a commitment in the campaign, reiterated that commitment by outlining a timeline in which we would remove our combat forces and allows us to strengthen our forces and i think in all honesty making a bet in iraq in 2003 , we decided not to go into afghanistan. we're paying the price for that as a country right now but there are also some critical things we have to do to rebuild our country here at home and that's also what the president will talk about tonight and that's what the focus of this administration is on.
>> the president, we all know, did not support the war in iraq initially. he'll thank the troops tonight. will he tell them their sacrifice and their mission was worth it?
>> well, i don't think any commander in chief is ever going to tell the men and women in our military that their sacrifice wasn't worth it. they should be proud of what they have done in iraq . they should be proud of their service to our country. i know that the president specifically will mention the speech he's in awe of their sacrifice sitting down with troops at ft. bliss today and sitting with troops that from that fort that saw some of the heaviest action at the very beginning of iraq . people that served two, three and four tours in iraq and i think we can all be thankful for the men and women who put their lives on the line each day to keep us safe. there's almost 4,500 men and women that made that trip to iraq that won't be coming home and paid the ultimate sacrifice. i don't think this president or any president would tell the mother of somebody who'd lost a son or a daughter there that it -- their sacrifice wasn't worth it.
>> will he tell the troops they won?
>> look. i think that the war we're fighting now in iraq or afghanistan not going to have surrender ceremonies like we are used to seeing where treaty is signed at the end of a battleship floating at sea. as i said, violence will continue in iraq . there's some important work that has to be done and the vice president as you mentioned is there to assist in the government formation because a government has to be formed in order to continue the progress that's been made and more importantly, the president's going to mark today that the future and the history of the iraqis will now be written solely by the iraqi people and i think that's what's important.
>> talk about the surge for a minute. the president opposed it and said there's no question security gains came from it. why not give credit tonight to the surge, to that decision? this administration is not shy about blaming the bush administration . why not give credit where the president feels credit is due?
>> again, i think the president will credit security gains were made, but understand that the point of our mission in iraq from 2003 on was to get shia, sunni and kurd away from sectarian violence to work together. we would never have solved iraq only militarily. only by ensuring that shia, sunni and kurd could live and work together in charting a future that's important for iraq --
>> wasn't the surge's purpose to give that political space to the government?
>> again, it was and there's no doubt that the security situation improved. i think it took -- it took an awfully long time, savannah, to get us to a point where the political accommodation was made but, you know, if we are going to do some of the political arguments i think it is important as you hear republicans like john boehner talk about the surge, i'd be interested to know whether he thinks that the president -- does the president support -- does he support the president's decision to pull the 90,000-plus troops out of harm's way in iraq and to if kus on rebuilding here in america? he didn't in the campaign and we'll see what he has to say about whether or not he supports the commander in chief's decision on that today.
>> quick one on the economy. is there zero discussion inside this building of stimulus?
>> there is a discussion of ideas to be targeted to continue to spur us toward recovery. and continue to create an environment where businesses are hiring. first and foremost and we talked about this yesterday, the president did, too. we know there are small businesses holding up hiring decisions, adding workers into this economy, waiting to see whether the senate is going to provide necessary and needed small business help. the president yesterday asked republicans to step aside from blocking that assistance to small business and we hope when they come back they'll do so.
>> over and above the measure the president is pushing hard on?
>> the president and his team are continuing to look at ideas to create an environment for continued recovery. maybe that's additional tax cuts for businesses that employ individuals. maybe there is some things that we can do to rebuild our economy and rebuild our infrastructure that will put people back to work. all of those are ideas that the president is working through right now with his economic team.
>> really quickly, apparently there's a redecoration of the oval office . will we see a new oval office tonight? can you give us a preview?
>> you will see a very modest redecoration of the oval office . each president puts his stamp on the office. i will say for your viewers and for everyone tonight, this was none of the modest changes done inside the oval office were done at any taxpayer expense. much like they have been done by previous president ice all right. i guess we'll see it tonight. i suppose you didn't consult on the decorating?
>> i think the president will skip asking me advice on decorating his office.
>> all right. robert gibbs , white house press secretary thank you for your time.
>> thanks for having me.
>> stay with msnbc for live coverage of the president's oval office address starting 8:00 eastern