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Was Obama’s Heart in his “Weird” Libya Speech?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 3:30 am - March 29, 2011.
Filed under: Obama Watch,War On Terror

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.

And via Stephen Green, the “Ten missing elements from Obama’s speech.”



  1. With Iraq: Bush had help from the UK, Spain, Italy, japan, Poland and well over 30 other nations. Oh yeah, France sat it out; they were too busy pocketing bribes from Saddam (the Oil For Food scandal).

    With Libya, Obama had help from a far smaller coalition – but France was enthusiastic.

    One must conclude that in practice, when Obama talks about “not acting alone”, he means “not acting without France.”

    Scene: A typical White House morning. Obama heads into the bathroom. MICHELLE: Barry you showering alone today? BARACK: No honey, I’ve got France.

    The question has come up, is Libya a war for oil? Ummm… Well first of all, we’re not supposed to call it a war. It’s a “kinetic military action”. Second, doesn’t look like it has anything to do with our interests, but it could conceivably be a war kinetic military action to secure France their oil.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 29, 2011 @ 5:26 am - March 29, 2011

  2. Ann Althouse noticed ”the implicit disrespect for George Bush:”

    I didn’t watch it, but my partner noticed the implicit disrespect for our troops.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — March 29, 2011 @ 6:02 am - March 29, 2011

  3. Barry-O’s concept of leadership is increasingly shown to be the practice of waiting in the middle of the crowd until seeing which way the mob is moving, pushing to the front and then yelling “Follow me!”.

    Comment by Bill G. — March 29, 2011 @ 7:41 am - March 29, 2011

  4. President Obama did not give any mission statement in the speech; therefore, to me, it is a failure on Obama’s part. Libya will get worse for the Obama Administration as well. Obama said NOTHING for 30 minutes.

    I don’t consider preventing genocide to be a credible mission statement given Libya is not a direct or indirect threat to America.

    The Middle East is melting down because Obama is a fundamentally weak person & is not leader. President George W. Bush would not even be in this position in the first place.

    Oh, Obama’s attacking of President Bush on Iraq was rich & even he failed to see the irony in his statement. He’s a fool.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — March 29, 2011 @ 9:05 am - March 29, 2011

  5. A spot of Obama Derangement Syndrome? What a surprise.

    Comment by Auntie Dogma — March 29, 2011 @ 9:10 am - March 29, 2011

  6. Anti-Dogma, this is rich coming from you. Pot meet kettle.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — March 29, 2011 @ 9:24 am - March 29, 2011

  7. Auntie Dogma jumps out and types something ignorant…runs back into her hovel believing she has unleashed something profound – sort of like her Leader’s speech last night about the “unwar” “war” in Libya – the “Kinetic Military Action.” Your Leader’s tongue has a permanent split that makes the statement “White Man speak with forked tongue” look like a razor nick – I have come to expect more words with substantially less “meaning” from you and your Leaders. Keep up the good work in providing verbal fertilizer across the media spectrum.

    Comment by Killiteten — March 29, 2011 @ 10:38 am - March 29, 2011

  8. Palin nails it:

    He did not articulate what our purpose was [in attacking Qaddafi], except some inconsistent humanitarian effort… [but then] why not Darfur? Why not North Korea? What are we going to do about Syria? All these other areas where I guess America could intervene with our power and our resources, to help humanity. He did not make the case for this intervention. U.S. interests have got to be met if we are going to intervene. And “U.S. interests” can’t just mean validating some kind of post-American theory of intervention, wherein, we wait for the Arab League and the United Nations to tell us ‘thumbs up, America you can go now and act’… and [we] wait for the French to lead us.
    U.S. interests are: Qaddafi’s got to go. Killing him or capturing, he’s got to go, because he’s going to seek revenge on the United States of America. That will be his M.O from here on out, and he will sponsor terrorism unless he’s gone.

    She’s right. When you step on a snake in its hole, you better kill it. By attacking Qaddafi (who thought he had a deal with us after 2003: no more Libyan terrorism or nuclear program, in exchange for us leaving him alone) but NOT committing to finish him off, Obama only makes him feel betrayed, and America is LESS SAFE because of it. Thanks, liberals!

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 29, 2011 @ 11:34 am - March 29, 2011

  9. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton shows little interest in, and no understanding of, U.S. law or the Constitution:

    The War Powers Resolution[, wherein Congress partially delegates its exclusive war-making authority to the President,] requires there to be [from Congress] “(1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces” before a President can send US military forces into a new conflict.

    …no President has ever had the nerve to challenge it. Moreover, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton ran for the presidency in 2007-8 by challenging George Bush’s record on military adventurism, and now-VP Joe Biden specifically campaigned on the promise to impeach Bush in his final year in office if he violated it.

    [So] Tapper asked Clinton, “Why [did the administration] not go to Congress [for approval]?”

    “Well, we would welcome congressional support,” the Secretary said, “but I don’t think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama was speaking of several years ago.”

    “I think that this had a limited timeframe, a very clearly defined mission which we are in the process of fulfilling,” Clinton said.

    Clinton said, in effect, that the President can disregard Congress and the WPR when he or she is following a higher (in Clinton’s mind) authority: the U.N. But that is not the law. Her view is contrary to the Constitution.

    Leave it to left-liberals to prattle falsely for years about an “illegal war” and then, when in power, to *actually* give us one.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 29, 2011 @ 11:45 am - March 29, 2011

  10. If in times of war a president has to speak in nuance to explain what he’s done — than he really doesn’t know what we’re doing or even how we got there.

    Obama was jockeying for position during last night’s speech; a speech that was 9 days late in coming, it was clearly designed for domestic political consumption. Because when it was over, each of us walked away knowing very little else except for now the Obama doctrine can be summed up in 3 words, “2012 or Bust”.

    Comment by Spartann — March 29, 2011 @ 12:33 pm - March 29, 2011

  11. At what point do the Joint Chiefs approach senior Democratic Senators and tell them that the CIC is no longer fit to command?

    Just askin….

    Comment by Bruce (GayPatriot) — March 29, 2011 @ 3:08 pm - March 29, 2011

  12. Jim Geraghty of National Review’s The Campaign Spot has Obama’s speech boiled down to one word: “present.”

    Obama hurt himself with his awful speech. He’s politically walking wounded.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — March 29, 2011 @ 3:49 pm - March 29, 2011

  13. What, no lefties here to defend their Dear Leader?

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 29, 2011 @ 5:52 pm - March 29, 2011

  14. ILC, what’s to defend? On one hand, Obama is going into “kinetic military action” which is war to the rest of us on Earth, but, on the other hand, Obama insist on preventing genocide. The Lefties have nothing to defend since Obama is going to war with Libya like Bush went to war with Iraq with a loose parallel comparison.

    Most of the Lefties are beside themselves at this point. They will eventually get some talking points, but not now.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — March 29, 2011 @ 6:57 pm - March 29, 2011

  15. When you step on a snake in its hole, you better kill it.

    …and very few mongooses, however wise and old they may be, care to follow a cobra into its hole. It was dark in the hole; and Rikki-tikki never knew when it might open out and give Nagaina room to turn and strike at him. –Rudyard Kipling

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — March 29, 2011 @ 10:27 pm - March 29, 2011

  16. #15: OMG, TGC, you just gave me the f-ing chills. My brother and I watched those Rikki-Tikki-Tavi animated specials when we were kids and the raspy, whispering voices of those evil cobras STILL gives me the willies.

    Comment by Sean A — March 30, 2011 @ 2:11 am - March 30, 2011

  17. Nagaina especially.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — March 30, 2011 @ 2:38 am - March 30, 2011

  18. Yes, she was a nasty piece of work, and it’s no coincidence that in my ensuing childhood nightmares, if a cobra was after me, it was ALWAYS female.

    Comment by Sean A — March 30, 2011 @ 4:11 am - March 30, 2011

  19. I downloaded some Kipling onto my phone last night. It was the first time I’d read Rikki-tikki since I was 10(?). I thought it was interesting that the cartoon didn’t deviate from the story much at all. A few sentences were dropped and Darzee’s “death song” was added.

    I need to read more Kipling and, being a boy who was raised in Mississippi, I need to read Faulkner and Welty. Somehow, that wasn’t required reading when I was in school. I think Faulkner is if you go to Ole Miss.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — March 30, 2011 @ 10:12 am - March 30, 2011

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