Mark Halperin's Take: Obama's Iraq Speech — Not Very Satisfying

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Jewel Samad / AFP / Getty Images

President Obama is scheduled to address the nation on Aug. 31, 2010, to speak about the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq

In a way, the Iraq war made Barack Obama President of the United States. The two people he bested to win the White House in 2008--Hillary Clinton and John McCain--both had more national-security experience than he did, but they endorsed George W. Bush's war of choice, while Obama opposed it from the beginning. Candidate Obama was a popular politician promising to end an unpopular war. That as much as anything else transformed him into the Commander in Chief.

Now Obama, a far less popular figure than he was only two years ago, has fulfilled a chief campaign pledge. In his second Oval Office address, he announced the end of major U.S. combat operations in Iraq. And consistent with his promise to be "as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in," he went about the process in a cautious and considered way--putting pressure on the Iraqi government to organize and build up its own security capability, working closely with the Pentagon to improve conditions on the ground while executing the transition out, leaving behind 50,000 troops to help maintain Iraq's stability and charging Vice President Biden with riding herd over the whole process.

But his speech felt neither satisfying nor particularly momentous. Americans long ago decided the U.S. has too many needs at home to bear the costs and burdens of the war in Iraq. And today most people are too distracted by the terrible economy to celebrate the conflict's end.

Obama also used the speech to squeeze in some words about the economy. But on that score, the linkage seemed awkward. He argued that the Iraq "milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment." It was a fuzzy, feel-good sentiment for a country that, these days, is feeling anything but good.