“Acting President” Obama is back from his overseas tour and focusing on domestic policy. But Iraq’s still dominating a lot of the media.

How Obama became Acting President. Reflecting on the warm reception Barack Obama received from European heads of state — and the public — on his overseas trip, the New York Times points out Obama received a welcome more befitting a president than a Senator and presidential candidate. How, the article acts, did he take up the role of acting president?

“The sitting president, a lame duck despised by voters and shunned by his own party’s candidates, now has all the gravitas of Mr. Cellophane in Chicago. The opening for a successor arrived prematurely, and the vacuum had been waiting to be filled. What was most striking about the Obama speech in Berlin was not anything he said so much as the alternative reality it fostered: many American children have never before seen huge crowds turn out abroad to wave American flags instead of burn them.” — NYT

Obama’s lessons from Berlin. Newsweek ran the transcript of an interview with Barack Obama towards the end of his European trip. Interestingly, when asked whether he’d learned anything on the trip which had led him to review or rethink any policies, Obama said Afghanistan:

Our success in Afghanistan is going to be deeply dependent not just on getting more troops there, which we need, but also some sustained high-level engagement with Pakistan—something that I discussed before but I think is significantly more urgent than even I had imagined. Basically there doesn’t appear to be any pressure at all being placed on Al Qaeda, on these training camps, these safe havens, in the FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas].

The interview also covered Obama’s strategy on Iraq, and National Review Online picked up on Obama’s response to Obama’s statement that the number of troops needed to remain in Iraq after withdrawal of the troops was “conditions-based”, prompting NRO to ask:

So if the size of the final U.S. force needed in Iraq is conditions-based, and the timing of their stay in Iraq is conditions-based, and it is ‘hard to anticipate where we may be six months from now,’ why is Obama’s current withdrawal timetable seemingly set in stone?  What about it is not conditions-based?  And if it’s hard to see six months into the future, is it easier to see sixteen months ahead?” — NRO

The Protein Wisdom blog wrote: “Colin Kahl, the day-to-day coordinator of the Obama campaign’s working group on Iraq, thinks the size of that force may be between 60,000-80,000 troops — which will not look like much of a withdrawal to most of his primary base. Perhaps the next interviewer will ask the follow-up Newsweek missed, i.e., how to reconcile a near-impossible withdrawal timetable with an entirely conditions-based residual force. But I would not bet on it.” — Protein Wisdom

The Iraq issue. The candidates have been debating the success of George W. Bush’s “Surge” on Iraq in attempts to either justify continuing along that route (McCain) or to justify a withdrawal (Obama). Commentary suggests the debate over what a victory in Iraq looks like need to consider that there have been three wars in Iraq since 2003: “the U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party regime, the civil war between Sunni and Shia militias, and the insurgencies against government and international forces waged by a constellation of guerrilla and terrorist groups.”

“If attacks against the Iraqi government and multinational forces drop off to zero or near zero, it ought to go without saying that the insurgent groups will have lost and the counterinsurgents will have won.” — Commentary

The Polls. Barack Obama’s held a modest lead in the polls for a while, and Rasmussen Reports polling indicates a “modest bounce” since his Berlin speech on Thursday. However, he’s hovering on around 46% and hasn’t expanded his lead beyond where it was a couple of weeks ago. Can he crack 50%? “That would be significant both in the context of this campaign and historically. Since Abraham Lincoln was elected as the first Republican President in 1860, the only Democrats to win the White House with a majority of the popular vote have been Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter.” — Rasmussen Reports [via Trevor Cook]

Obama on the economy. Back from his nine day overseas tour, Obama has quickly moved to address issues back home. First up will be tonight’s meeting on the US economy. Attendees will include former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Bloomberg quoted Obama as saying he wants to work on a plan on how to “strengthen the housing and financial markets and to talk more about long-term economic strategies.” — Bloomberg

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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