President Obama’s speech from the oval office, only the second of his presidency, was surprisingly limp. With three momentous subjects to cover – Iraq, Afghanistan, and the U.S. economy – Obama struggled to say anything new or interesting. It isn’t just that the soaring rhetoric of 2008 has disappeared; Obama is now affirmatively boring.
In “turning the page” on Iraq, the Great Speechifier could find no words with which to give meaning to our epic struggle there. Let’s give Obama the benefit of the doubt and assume this is because he thinks the struggle had no meaning, except as it related to domestic politics in the U.S. But then why give a speech about it?
Perhaps the idea was to signal our resolve going forward. The best he could do on this front was to say that after our troops leave at the end of 2011, we’ll still have diplomats, aid workers, and advisors on the scene. But we have diplomats, aid workers, and advisors all over the world; what if Iraq needs more than that, given all of its challenges? If Obama signaled anything in this speech, it was his lack of interest in Iraq’s past (Saddam who?), present, and future.
Despite the fact that Afghanistan has become Obama’s war in a way Iraq never did, the president displayed no great interest in, or true sense of commitment to, that action either. In ten short months, Obama once again pledged, we will begin pulling out of Afghanistan too. These words can only comfort our terrorist enemies and cause sleepness nights for anyone in Afghanistan who has ever supported us.
When it came to the economy, Obama had nothing new to offer. So instead, he provided America with a pep talk, exhorting us to “honor” our troops by “coming together” with a great sense of urgency to “restore our economy.”
Presumably, this means rallying around Obama’s unpopular domestic agenda. In any case, Americans are unlikely to be impressed by a president whose answer to our economic woes sounds something like “hug a soldier and hope that some of his grit rubs off.”