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Gibbs defends Biden claim that Iraq is a great Obama achievement, though both men opposed it

February 12, 2010 |  5:48 am

Democrat vice president Joe Biden with Larry King on CNN 2-10-10

Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked during the daily White House briefing Thursday about VP Joe Biden's strange statement the previous night that the Iraq war was one of the young Obama administration "great achievements."

First reported here on The Ticket early Thursday, the oft-gaffe-prone Biden went on Larry King's CNN show and said:

I am very optimistic about -- about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration. You're going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You're going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government. 

The statement claiming credit for the ultimately favorable outcome in Iraq was striking to many. This is because:

a) Obama had opposed the war from the beginning,

b) both Obama and Biden opposed the U.S. troop surge of 2007 by President George W. Bush widely credited with producing the relative peace and stability to enable a U.S. exit,

c) both Obama and Biden predicted incorrectly that the troop surge would actually worsen sectarian strife there. Watch this Obama video interview from MSNBC in 2007:

d) Biden even proposed partitioning the country into separate areas, and

e) the status of forces agreement with Iraq that established the ongoing U.S. troop withdrawal was negotiated by the preceding Republican administration long before Obama took the oath of office twice.

Other than that, however, the Obama-Biden team would seem to deserve all the credit. Perhaps former Vice President Dick Cheney will have something to say about his successor's claim during an appearance this Sunday morning on ABC's "This Week."

Gibbs showed no sign of giving another "There-Goes-old-Joe" shoulder shrug about Biden, who's in Washington state today for a Democratic fundraiser before taking the president's place at the Olympic Games opening ceremonies in Vancouver tonight.

Indeed, Gibbs claimed....

... that then Sen. Obama's outspoken and firm opposition actually helped cause the allied victory.

Here's the full exchange from the White House transcript:

Q Robert, the Vice President last night said that Iraq could end up being one of the President's great achievements. Given that the Vice President was in favor of a partial partition of the country and the President opposed the surge that helped stabilize it, how is that one of the President's great achievements?

MR. GIBBS: Well, putting what was broken back together and getting our troops home, which we intend to do in August of this year.Obama press secretary robert Gibbs

Q  But the Status of Forces Agreement to bring troops home was signed before the President took office.

MR. GIBBS: Something that -- something that I think the political pressure that the President, as a then-candidate, helped to bring about.

Look, I think that we will long debate Iraq. We will long debate whether at a very important moment in our efforts to root out terrorism particularly in Afghanistan and on that border region with Pakistan, whether we took our eye off the ball. 

I think historians will debate that long after we're gone. I think they will come likely to the conclusion that no single event took our eye off of what needed to be done in order to -- in order to occupy a country that, until we got there, didn’t have a single member of al Qaeda.

So, look, obviously -- look, the Vice President has been deeply involved in fixing the political process there so that elections can be held and so that our troops can come home as scheduled this summer.

Judging by the hundreds of comments on our Ticket item Thursday, most readers disagree with Biden and Gibbs. What's your call on this?

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Lorenzo Bevilaqua / CNN; Alex Wong / Getty Images (Gibbs).

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