When I followed the 2008 campaign on the television monitors at my gym, I had the sense the then-junior Senator from Illinois would go far. Barack Obama came across well on TV. And in today’s politics, that type of presence puts a candidate head and shoulders above the rest.
If you judged the president’s remarks last night on Libya not by his words, but by his appearance on television, well then, his speech on Libya last night was a failure. I watched it while at the gym. He seemed uncomfortable with this address, as if it were an unfortunate obligation of his profession, something that he had to do, but wanted to get over with it as quickly as possible. His heart did not seem in it.
Glenn Reynolds who did see it offers a similar evaluation, “Eerily like a Bush speech, but without the conviction.” While it may have sounded like a Bush speech, Ann Althouse noticed “the implicit disrespect for George Bush:”
In this effort, the United States has not acted alone….
“When”, the diva asked, “did we act alone? Is he trying to make us misremember what Bush did?” Not quite misremember, but instead remind us of the liberal talking point on Iraq, that W was a cowboy who went it alone when the facts (for those of us who remember them correctly) tell a much different story.
John Hinderaker also found the incumbent sniping at his predecessor by making a contrast which “made little sense“. John offered the consensus view of speech’s conservative critics, that the president couldn’t “resist hedging his bets. Thus, tonight’s speech included a little bit of everything.”
In her excellent analysis of the speech, Jennifer Rubin notes that while Obama’s sentence, “the ability of our people to reach their potential, to make wise choices with our resources, to enlarge the prosperity that serves as a wellspring of our power, and to live the values that we hold so dear”, represents “the perfect encapsulation of Bush’s freedom agenda“, the incumbent “can’t bring himself to embrace the view of those conservatives, you know the ones who pushed to liberate Iraq.”
Victor Davis Hanson offers the best summation of the critiques I read:
President Obama just gave a weird speech. Part George W. Bush, part trademark Obama — filled with his characteristic split-the-difference, straw-man (“some say, others say”), false-choice tropes.
Since I didn’t watch the speech, I can best comment on his appearance during the address. When I read it, I found the prose largely flat and, well, boring. Perhaps it sounded better to those who heard it. But, given what I saw, I wouldn’t bet on it.