President Barack Obama's formal announcement of the end of American combat in Iraq is "welcome news," but it was the "determination and will" of former President George W. Bush that made it happen, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.
McConnell, R-Ky., told several hundred at a Commerce Lexington luncheon Tuesday the military surge late in the Bush administration, which Obama criticized at the time, ultimately made it possible to remove troops from Iraq.
"It sure makes things easier when you reject your own campaign rhetoric about how the surge — the Petraeus plan — shouldn't happen and wouldn't work," McConnell said. "It makes it easier to talk about fulfilling a campaign promise to wind down our operations in Iraq when the previous administration signs the security agreement with Iraq to end our overall presence there."
"You might recall that the surge wasn't very popular when it was announced. You might also recall that one of its biggest critics was the current president," he said.
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McConnell agreed with remarks by Obama that "much hard work remains in Iraq."
On other subjects during his speech at Lexington's Hyatt Regency, McConnell said:
■ Republicans expect much success at the polls in November. "If the elections were tomorrow, we'd have a good day," he said.
With Obama, Americans "are seized by buyer's remorse," he said.
■ He does not want Obama to fail. "I want him to change," he said.
McConnell said he would not be surprised if after the November elections Obama has "an epiphany" and works more closely with Republicans.
■ The so-called "cap-and-trade" legislation dealing with carbon emissions from coal is dead in the U.S. Senate. McConnell noted he is for carbon reductions but thinks that can be accomplished through clean-coal technology, nuclear energy and hybrid cars.
Before his speech, McConnell declined to discuss with reporters a possible announcement on Wednesday of state Senate President David Williams' decision to run for governor.
Asked if Williams, R-Burkesville, would make a good governor, McConnell said, "I'm a big fan of David Williams. I think he has been the most consequential Republican in Frankfort in Kentucky's history."