The verdict is in. Not only did Barack Obama fail miserably in his speech from West Point Military Academy, but he looked angry and peevish in doing so. It was kinda like a comic delivering flat, predictable punch lines before a tough audience who wanted, but didn't expect, much more than they got.
In Obama's case, he had actually delivered his pseudo punch lines much earlier, when he renamed the War on Terror, "The Overseas Contingency Operation," and when he stuck it to Gen. McChrystal by dithering as American troops died. His other punch lines included sticking it to heroic Navy SEALs after their extraordinary service in capturing a wanted terrorist, and telling Congress not to get involved in the Malik Nidal Hasan terrorist murders at Fort Hood (which is the advice he should have followed before he ended up supplying beer and snacks as a mea culpa after recklessly insulting the Cambridge Police Department), having his Justice Department give legal standing in our courts to enemy combatants (so terrorists worldwide would understand what a just system of jurisprudence we have, "cough-cough"), and curtseying to foreign potentates.
Receiving no applause for those punch lines, he fell back upon his oft-used narcissistic view of himself, which allowed him to believe he could just show up at West Point, teleprompter in tow, pivot his head side to side, and the cadets would be impressed. Well, he did, but they weren't. As a matter of fact, I don't think anyone but the "Towel-e-bon" in "Pock-e-ston" were impressed – and they were only impressed by a display of weakness unwitnessed in their culture.
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The cadets at West Point are warriors, and you don't send the presidential equivalent of "Shirley Temple" there unless it's for a USO show. "Shirley"'s performance that night more resembled a street-level narcissist trying to impersonate a competent presidential figure, while using the cadets and their setting as props.
Obama may have had a lot of goodwill and backing coming into office – but he is about to find out just how rough inside-the-Beltway politics can be when weakness is observed. And for the record, I don't think he has the backbone to endure what's coming down the pike, or Constitution Avenue, if you will. Both President Bush and President Clinton were able to endure the proverbial heat in the kitchen, but this person, I predict, will be unable to – but I digress.
Obama had an opportunity to deliver a lights-out stage performance, but once again he came up short. He had an opportunity to deliver a speech that, even if void of strategic content (which it was), could have been delivered with conviction (which it wasn't). Charles Krauthammer used words like "strange, defensive, hedging and uncertainty compounding uncertainty" in describing Obama's speech.
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Referencing my earlier comments about his speech, anyone who has done public speaking – even if only to their Sunday-school class – knows when they are not getting through to their audience. Obama's glaring stares and repeated pursing of lips were evidence that he, too, knew he was tanking. As was noted that evening, "the looks on the faces of the cadets said all that needed to be said."
I'm sure the cadets didn't need the L.A. Times to tell them that. Of the 4,582 words used in the speech – al-Qaida was used 22 times, Taliban was used 12 times, but the word "victory" was not used even once as the reason our military men and women are risking injury and death. However, there was no shortage of his favorite Obamacism – "I" – which he used 44 times.
For all the muddled confusion of the speech, the line that most disturbed me was: "I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force, and always consider the long-term consequences of our actions."
There is a lot I could say pursuant to that single line, but none of it fit for public consumption – so, I will defer to those of Brit Hume: "America is not what's wrong with the world, and a strong America, assertive in foreign policy, showing its strength, is good for the world, and it has a lot better effect on allies and enemies alike – than what we are seeing now, [i.e.] this policy of almost determined weakness on the part of Obama. Now look, that decision … mentioned with the missile-defense system in Europe, is militarily defensible – but it looked to all the world, [just] as it must have looked to the Kremlin, that it was capitulation, and these kinds of things add up over time. The president may think [that] because they think that the people love him and he's a big rock star and a nice guy – and he's all respectful and bows from the waist – that's all going to end up producing some results. It hasn't produced any, and I have to predict it will not produce any" ("Fox News Sunday"; Nov. 22, 2009).
I predict Brit is right.