Oval Office Addresses Before War Are Not ‘Passé’

by Jim Geraghty

President Obama and his advisers sometimes act as if they completely reinvented modern politics, and everything that came before them is outdated and lame. Their tone sometimes emulates a rebellious teenager rolling his eyes at his father. A good recent example:

Passé: (adjective) past one’s prime, outmoded, behind the times.

It was once utterly unthinkable for a president to launch military action without addressing the country. It was also once unthinkable for a president to sit down with the ladies of The View, or to slow-jam the news with Jimmy Fallon, or go to a campaign event the day after a terror attack kills a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, or . . . well, you get the idea.

Obama’s election in 2008 did not restart history at Year Zero. It did not rewrite the dynamics between American public opinion and military action, and it did not the transform the relationship between the American people and their leaders. It did not represent a referendum renouncing all preceding presidential actions and traditions.

Declaring presidential addresses to the public before military action “passé” is not sophisticated, or cutting-edge, or shrewd. It is stupid. And one of the reasons the president is in the mess that he’s in on Syria is that he has stupid people around him telling him stupid things, like that he doesn’t need to address the country in a venue appropriately serious for this kind of life-and-death decision — not shoehorned into a joint appearance with the Swedish prime minister, or outsourced to the secretaries of state and defense, or with a quick statement in the Rose Garden on the Saturday afternoon of Labor Day Weekend

NBC News’ First Read:

We can report that momentum is growing for President Obama to address the nation in a primetime speech.

The Hill:

On Wednesday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said an Oval Office address by the president was a necessary step before U.S. involvement in a foreign civil war, and predicted Obama would make the address “later this week.”

Gee, I guess primetime addresses aren’t so passé after all.

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