Live From the Oval Office: Incoherent, Grudging, and Disgraceful

Incoherent: The president argued that the war had represented a worthwhile cause, asserting that “We have persevered…because of a belief…that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization.” Moments later, however, the president insisted that the war had instead been mistaken: “We have spent a trillion dollars at war…This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits.” The president wants to have it both ways, associating himself with the victory we achieved in Iraq while distancing himself from the costs. As argument, this is incoherent. But of course it isn’t argument. It’s cheap manipulation.

Grudging: “The Americans who have served in Iraq,” the president accurately stated, “completed every mission they were given…They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people; trained Iraqi Security Forces; and took out terrorist leaders….Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny….” In other words, we won. Why? Because in 2007, when many, including then senators Obama and Clinton, insisted that the United States should simply withdraw from Iraq, leaving behind a nation reduced to chaos, George W. Bush instead insisted on a new strategy, the surge. Let me repeat that. We won because President Bush insisted on the surge.

Did President Obama extend the courtesy to his predecessor of saying as much? He most certainly did not.

“It’s well known,” President Obama said, “that [President Bush]…and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.” Support, love, commitment. President Obama could bring himself to credit President Bush with nothing more than mere well-intentioned haplessness. How shabby. How tawdry.

Disgraceful: After having added $1 trillion to the deficit since taking office, President Obama suggested that somehow the $1 trillion the nation has spent in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade “short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits.” Take just a moment to do the math—something of which our chief executive apparently believes most Americans incapable. The cost of the war against radical Islam has averaged $100 billion a year—which comes to one-eighth the size of the President’s stimulus bill, or one-thirtieth of the average federal budget over the same ten years. I have my reservations about the president’s economic advisors, but they know—he knows—that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with our economic woes. He was intentionally attempting to mislead us.

“And so at this moment,” the President continued, “as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those [economic] challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.” At this moment? Why now, exactly? Because until today the war in Iraq so thoroughly consumed his energies? Obviously not. Just look at the energy the man displayed in ramming through ObamaCare. Or is it because the president only now realizes the political trouble he has created for himself? Because only now does he understand that he must make a show of addressing our economic troubles or suffer repudiation in November?

To ask the question is to answer it—and to recognize that tonight the President of United States used what should have been a straightforward, big-hearted celebration of a remarkable feat of American force and diplomacy to pursue instead his own narrow and, it must be said, increasingly desperate, political ends.

Related Conversations

ROBINSON > It Was Worth It, Wasn’t It?

ELLIS > Obama’s Iraq Fatigue

POULOS > Dismissive, Abrasive, Limp

HANSON > Yes, the War’s Still Justified: Part I / Part II

  1. Matthew Gilley
    EJHill: I’m with Mr. Sajak. It was better to have been watching baseball tonight. Especially if you’re watching Aroldis Chapman hit 103 on the gun and helping the Reds to a 7-game lead over St. Louis. · Aug 31 at 9:29pm

    As if I weren’t already down in the dumps enough, EJHill pops up and throws the Reds in my face. The only good thing about the NL Central race getting out of hand is that my beloved Cards can exact some appropriate retribution against Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen this weekend when they show up at Busch Stadium. I advise both of them not to dig in at the plate and make sure the helmet is secure.

    Back on topic, I was mercifully too young to recall the Carter presidency. Will anyone who does comment on whether this is all starting to feel familiar? We’re getting on towards winter – is it just me, or is anyone else half expecting the president to show up any day in a Mr. Rogers cardigan?

  2. Scott R

    Matthew, re the Carter presidency: This “need to act with common purpose” to solve our economic problems immediately brought to mind Carter’s admonishment that Americans “refuse to participate” in inflation, or some such, as if the nature of a smoothly running economy is unified, cooperative action, and the nature of a poorly running economy is Americans’ misbehavior, or intransigence, or not “getting with the program.”

    It’s our fault his policies aren’t working.

  3. Dave Carter
    C
    Jimmie Bise Jr: What in the name of Sam Hill was all this “laser-like focus on jobs” twaddle I’ve heard coming from the White House for the past nine months? What was the Stimulus Bill?

    What it was, Jimmie, was a mugging, pure and simple.

    Jimmie Bise Jr: What was he doing with all my money before now?

    Taking over car companies, making political pay-offs to unions and friends, bathing the landscape in a sea of bright orange American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signs, constructing a massive health care labryinth, and going on vacation. Hope and change, Jimmie, hope and change.

  4. Kenneth

    Despicable speech.

    But no one listens to him anymore.

  5. Peter Robinson
    C

    Lord, Kenneth, do I hope you’re right.

  6. Yetwave

    Turning into the Offal Office with every other utterance

  7. Scott R

    The incredible shrinking president, literally even: he actually looks physically smaller.

  8. Kenneth
    Scott Reusser: The incredible shrinking president, literally even: he actually looks physically smaller. · Aug 31 at 8:17pm

    Especially when he’s riding that girl-bike.

  9. Mel Foil

    Either Barack Obama is the most tone-deaf President of all, or he’s only tone-deaf because he’s the most narcissistic President. One or the other.

  10. G.A. Dean
    Matthew Gilley

    Back on topic, I was mercifully too young to recall the Carter presidency. Will anyone who does comment on whether this is all starting to feel familiar? · Sep 1 at 4:38am

    I had the good sense to skip the speech yesterday, so I cannot comment on that, but I am, sadly, old enough to remember the Carter years, and the answer to Matthew’s question is “yes, and no”. Flat and dull speeches were certainly a feature of the Carter term, along with a tendancy to lecture the public, but there is an important difference.

    In the ’70′s the people were feeling depressed and it took a political leader, Reagan, to lift us out of our “malaise”. This time the people are much more in the lead, and are pulling the leadership along. A good thing, since there doesn’t seem to be a Reagan out there to rally us.

  11. Scott R

    “We must tackle those [economic] challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform..”????

    Or maybe the butcher and baker could just act in their own self-interest… Nah. That would never work.

  12. Pat Sajak
    C

    Peter: Thank you for allowing me to watch the Dodger game. Far less predictable than the speech.

  13. Jimmie Bise Jr

    Let me see if I have this right. Now we’re going to focus on the economy? Now we’re going to focus on creating jobs? Now?

    What in the name of Sam Hill was all this “laser-like focus on jobs” twaddle I’ve heard coming from the White House for the past nine months? What was the Stimulus Bill? What was he doing with all my money before now?

    Gah…this President has all the speech-making ability of a drunken parrot. Actually, I’d prefer the parrot, because at least you can teach it a few new phrases to squawk.

  14. Jimmie Bise Jr

    “As long as I am President, we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known, and do whatever it takes to serve our veterans as well as they have served us. This is a sacred trust. That is why we have already made one of the largest increases in funding for veterans in decades. We are treating the signature wounds of today’s wars post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, while providing the health care and benefits that all of our veterans have earned. And we are funding a post-9/11 GI Bill that helps our veterans and their families pursue the dream of a college education. Just as the GI Bill helped those who fought World War II- including my grandfather- become the backbone of our middle class, so today’s servicemen and women must have the chance to apply their gifts to expand the American economy. Because part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it.”

    Did you notice that none of this had to do with our fighting force at all? It’s all about infantilizing our brave soldiers. Every last bit.

  15. EJHill

    Cross-posted from the “live” blog: Think back to what he promised in the campaign – heal the planet, stop the ocean’s rise, heal the sick, make everybody love one another – then think what he actually gets to do. He’s gobsmacked. Everybody and everything was supposed to just make way for him and didn’t. How dare they! Now’s he’s bored with it.

    I’m with Mr. Sajak. It was better to have been watching baseball tonight. Especially if you’re watching Aroldis Chapman hit 103 on the gun and helping the Reds to a 7-game lead over St. Louis.

  16. Peter Robinson
    C

    The Dodgers, Pat? The Dodgers? Visit San Francisco. Let me take you to see the Giants. Be healed.

  17. tabula rasa
    Peter Robinson: Incoherent: The president argued that the war had represented a worthwhile cause, . . . Moments later, however, the president insisted that the war had instead been mistaken . . . The president wants to have it both ways, associating himself with the victory we achieved in Iraq while distancing himself from the costs. As argument, this is incoherent. But of course it isn’t argument. It’s cheap manipulation.

    Compare Obama’s inevitable equivocations with any of Churchill’s speeches. You’ll never hear Obama say anything like “[W]hat is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.”

    Obama cannot make a statement without qualifying it. And heaven forbid that he would use the word “victory.”

    Great leaders state the simple truth and let it stand.

  18. Nathaniel Wright
    Scott Reusser: “We must tackle those [economic] challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform.”

    Translation:

    Let me be clear…

    Government stimulus couldn’t get us out of this recession.

    I quit.

    Now you folks get off your couches and do it. You’re not working hard enough unless you are working as hard as those in our Armed Forces.

  19. Nathaniel Wright
    Peter Robinson: The Dodgers, Pat? The Dodgers? Visit San Francisco. Let me take you to see the Giants. Be healed. · Aug 31 at 9:38pm

    Peter. You are a scholar and a gentleman. Sadly, your spiritedness is focused on supporting a non-virtuous team. Come to Southern California where we bleed blue and our team plays virtuously and without Pandas and Poseys.

  20. sulla

    I agree with everything you said, Peter.

    I don’t know if November will puncture the President’s ego balloon, or if anything can. He seems immune to public opinion.

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In