White House pressures GOP leaders for stance on troop withdrawal

The White House sought on Tuesday to put the pressure on top Republicans to say whether they support the withdrawal of 90,000 troops this month from Iraq.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs questioned GOP leaders — in particular, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — to say where they stand on the change in mission in Iraq that resulted in the withdrawal of tens of thousands of U.S. troops from the country.

"I think what the American people would like to know with Congressman Boehner is: Do you support the withdrawing of 90,000 troops that the president is marking today?" Gibbs said Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

The pressure on the GOP comes as President Obama is set to deliver his second Oval Office address this evening to mark the change in mission, pivoting from a combat mission to a training and peacekeeping posture.

Boehner and other Republicans have jabbed at Obama for not having supported the surge undertaken by his predecessor, President George W. Bush, while Obama was still a senator and presidential candidate. To that end, Boehner will deliver a speech at the American Legion on Tuesday afternoon criticizing Obama and other Democrats over their previous handling of the war in Iraq.

“Some leaders who opposed, criticized and fought tooth-and-nail to stop the surge strategy now proudly claim credit for the results,” Boehner will say, according to excerpts published by The New York Times.

Taking to the talk-show circuit Tuesday morning, Gibbs said that the president had been a supporter of pursuing troop increases to help secure Iraq, but not without pairing it with a type of diplomatic surge, a strategy Gibbs said ultimately would prove successful.

"The president did oppose the surge," he said. "But while the surge did provide some increased security in Iraq, what happened was a political transformation a long time after the troops were sent to Iraq."

Gibbs did again say that Obama is likely to call Bush, probably later Tuesday morning, though the press secretary was more coy over whether the former GOP president, whose record on other issues has been under attack by Obama and Democrats during these elections, would receive credit in the president's address.

Instead, Gibbs turned the pressure to congressional GOP leaders.

"I think it's going to be interesting to hear from Republican leaders on where they stand on the decision to bring 90,000 troops home from Iraq," the press secretary said on MSNBC.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will have kind words for the winding-down of the Iraq war during a speech in Lexington on Tuesday, but will credit the Bush administration for those successes.

“By adopting the Bush administration's plan for winding down the war and transitioning security responsibilities to the Iraqi military over time, the president has enabled us and the Iraqis to build on the gains our troops have made," McConnell will tell the Commerce Lexington Public Policy Luncheon. "Thankfully, we can say today that our troops, the surge and the Petraeus plan all succeeded where many in Washington thought they would fail.”

Updated 7:56 a.m.