Initial Thoughts to President Obama’s Speech Regarding Syria, Made After Hearing the Speech Only Once And Without Taking Notes or Referring To A Transcript Or Doing Any Kind of Follow-Up Research and Staying Far Away From Google
That was a little literary experiment I will call: Disclaimer By Way of Title.
On to the goods:
When a President addresses the nation, it is generally in response to happenings of great importance. These can be after Natural Disasters, where the President can act as a spokesman/figurehead for the Government as a whole. Or these can be in response to foreign attacks against the United States, where the President fulfills his role as Commander in Chief of the U.S. military and announces his plan for retaliatory action.
On Tuesday night, President Obama’s address was preceded by neither of those scenarios.
That is, perhaps, one reason behind the palpable oddness and uncomfortable nature of his remarks. Another big factor was certainly the fluid and constantly changing nature of the situation itself. It seemed like it was a few different speeches cobbled together. Or, perhaps more correctly, it was a few different drafts of the same speech – each one reacting to a different new development – that were somewhat inelegantly pieced together.
I saw at least three quite distinct drafts and there were likely more as well. For simplicity, I will call them Drafts A, B, and C. There was a little bit of interweaving, but, they largely followed one after the other. The theme of each draft can be described as: Draft A = The Case for War, Draft B = Pressuring Congress, and Draft C = Save Face.
As the President began his speech, his speechwriters seemed to be employing certain key words and phrases that would probably have been more comfortable coming out of George W. Bush’s mouth. Or, that may not be quite correct. President Bush didn’t often speak to the legal authority of the president to wage war in certain circumstances. More often, he spoke broadly about principles. At his best, this was inspiring. At his worst, they seemed more like platitudes. BUT… his administration often spoke to the legal justifications of Presidential initiated military action.
Obama tried appealing to principles and also used the common Leftist rhetorical device of using the emotional appeal, but he also seemed to be channeling his inner John Yoo and making some of the same arguments the Bush Administration made. I believe Draft A was written for the purpose of announcing an imminent military strike.
There was a time, about a week ago, when there was serious discussion about Congress simply refusing to vote and placing the responsibility for these strikes back in the hands of the President. I am assuming that this is around the time they began Draft A.
When he was using the language of national security, I was absolutely convinced he was about to announce that the attacks were about to commence. Instead, he slid into Draft B. This draft was much more naturally Obama. In echoes of his confident (if not quite what one would call true) assertion that he is not responsible for setting the ‘Red Line’, President Obama tried to lay the onus of military action against Syria upon Congress.
If we are being overly kind, we could say that President Obama is the world’s foremost delegator. If one were to aim nearer to accurate, one would instead say that our current president is more like a Blamer-in-Chief.
Economic slump when he took office?
It’s Bush’s fault.
Non-existent economic recovery nearly six years later?
It must still be Bush’s fault… and we’ll add in Republicans in general.
Such seems to be the pattern in everything for this president. Sadly, our first (at least if you ask his 2008 supporters/cult members) “Post-Partisan” President seems – by far – to be the most political and partisan individual to hold that office in long memory.
Draft B from last night’s Syria speech was laying the groundwork for Obama returning to form and blaming any possible bad result on Congress.
Sometime in-between the composition of Draft B and last night, Vladimir Putin began cementing his legacy as a near James Bond-ian Super Villain. He’s not a cartoonish World Domination type of foe… but he is definitely a Geo-political Evil Genius.
As the United States, under the Obama Administration, was busy saber-rattling (while at the same time wringing their hands – quite a feat! Welcome to Obama’s foreign policy) Russia (Russia!) swept in with a (fairy tale) proposal to avoid military conflict. No serious-minded person takes Russia’s initial suggestion as something that is workable. But it forced America to back off on the threats a bit.
This new situation was addressed in Draft C, which also highlighted another common Obama characteristic. While, as noted above, nothing bad that happens is ever Obama’s fault, the converse seems also to be true.
Anything good that happens is all because of President Barack Obama. His hubris and arrogance are reaching near Greek-mythological levels (his Ionic Column-adorned stage for his 2008 coronation certainly don’t help the situation).
President Obama made the bold (and likely inaccurate) claim that he told Congress to postpone the vote because of the peaceful solution proposal being floated. He then threw caution and humility to the wind and suggested that Russia’s proposal was a direct result of his own threats against Syria. In other words, he is taking credit for Russia and Syria creating a possible solution that doesn’t involve the U.S. attacking another country. Well played, Mr. Obama (?)
Other than the main (and convoluted) throughline from Draft A to B to C, there are a couple other notable things to (briefly) mention.
President Obama brought up a few specific questions he says he has heard from either members of Congress or your average, letter-writing Joe Schmoe. He recited the questions, said they deserved and answer – and then proceeded to not answer them with anything approaching coherence or credibility. His answers were remarkable in their sheer twisting of truths and misleading nature.
But I think the answer that chilled me most was when he (non-)answered the question about unintended consequences (and the prospect of the conflict spreading beyond Syria if we were to attack).
First – and this might just be a rhetorical nit-picky thing, but – my feeling is that when you are making lists in a speech, you generally want to go in order of importance/relationship/etc. In his listing of nearby allies, he mentioned Turkey first and Israel dead last. Granted, Turkey shares a larger border with Syria… but, I am just accustomed to Presidents mentioning Israel first when speaking about Middle Eastern allies.
The truly frightening part, however, was when the president gave a little smirk as he remarked that – in essence – Israel could take care of itself [if it were attacked in response to the U.S. attacking Syria].
The message to Israel… under this president, you are on your own.
Overall, it was an unconvincing speech. To my ears, he did not make a solid case for either attacking or even for waiting. My impression is that the president could not care less about what is going on in Syria, but has been backed into a corner by his own posturing and has also been out-maneuvered by Putin at every turn. President Obama is not a happy man. Nor should he be.
Whatever the best solution for resolving this complex mess in Syria is, we did not hear it last night.
Here’s hoping we get some clear thinking and well-thought out plans and strategy before it is too late.