Politics & Policy

Obama in his own arms, &c.

(Pool Photo/Getty Images)

The president gave his big speech on ISIS an eon ago — on September 10. But I would still like to comment on it. And those comments won’t be positive, unsurprisingly. I just want to pick at some things.

Obama said, “This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.” Fine. But did Obama have to say “a core principle of my presidency”? Was it not a core principle of the presidency before his? Is it not a core principle of the United States?

My next note is actually a language note, not a pick-on-Obama note. (I hope you’re not disappointed.) Obama said we would “support Iraq’s efforts to stand up national-guard units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL’s control.”

The president says “ISIL,” not “ISIS,” but that is not my language point. About a thousand times during the George W. Bush presidency, I heard the verb “to stand up.” We were going to “stand up” this or that Iraqi or Afghan force, meaning, we were going to get them on their feet, so they could perform vital functions on their own.

Didn’t you hear Bush, Cheney, Rummy, and the rest say “stand up” about a thousand times? I don’t think I have heard it since that era. And here was President Obama, saying it.

Okay, back to my picking: Obama said, “In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people — a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost.”

I don’t believe that the regime in Syria ever had legitimacy. Just one party, the obnoxious Baath party, has ruled that country since 1963. Just one family, the Assads, has ruled the country since 1970 — for almost 45 years — with barely a breath of democracy.

Legitimacy my (backside).

Obama spoke of the “innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization,” i.e., ISIS. “This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.”

But we can. And we are. So why say otherwise? Aren’t those words simply a cheat?

Obama said, “Any time we take military action, there are risks involved — especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

To my ears, the phrase “I want the American people to understand” is a little condescending. Also, don’t you think Obama has said “I’m not Bush” enough in the last many years?

Toward the end of his speech, Obama turned to domestic affairs. And he said — get this — “Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades.”

The audacity the man has (and not the audacity of hope)! Yes, his sentence about energy is true. But it’s true despite the fact that he and his party have worked night and day to prevent the energy independence that we’re nearing. They are a sworn enemy of oil and natural gas, a sector in which America has experienced a “renaissance,” as Harold Hamm says.

(He is the leading oilman in the country, or one of them. He is the thirteenth and last child of cotton sharecroppers in Oklahoma.)

So, I am done with my picks at Obama’s speech of September 10. Let me turn to picking on his radio address of September 13.

Still talking about ISIS, or ISIL, as he would have it, Obama said, “To meet a threat like this, we have to be smart. We have to use our power wisely. And we have to avoid the mistakes of the past. American military power is unmatched, but this can’t be America’s fight alone.”

Here, he is still insulting his predecessor, needlessly. And arrogantly. I think the last word I would apply to Obama foreign policy is “smart,” to say nothing of “wise.” Also, did not the previous president form big coalitions in Iraq and Afghanistan? Come on.

Obama said, “The best way to defeat a group like ISIL isn’t by sending large numbers of American combat forces to wage a ground war in the heart of the Middle East.”

I think that statement is false. I think the best way to dislodge ISIS is, indeed, to send large numbers of combat forces to wage a ground war. That does not mean we should, of course.

Obama continued, “What’s needed now is a targeted, relentless counterterrorism campaign against ISIL that combines American air power, contributions from allies and partners, and more support to forces that are fighting these terrorists on the ground. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Well, that’s what we are willing to do, and it is possibly all we should do. But that does not mean it’s the best way to oust ISIS. I believe the following: that, at many levels of life, including the personal, we tell ourselves that what we’re willing to do is, in fact, the best thing to do. There is a lot of self-persuasion in this (and self-deception as well).

In his radio address, Obama said, “Because we’re leading the right way, more nations are joining our coalition.” Oh, get over yourself, Obama. You’ll die in your own arms. Has there ever been someone more self-adoring or self-praising?

One more Obama speech: the radio address of September 20. “Because we’re leading the right way, more nations are joining our coalition.” At least the man is consistent.

‐Donald Trump is a mixed bag, for some of us. Sometimes he is charmingly roguish, sometimes he is other things. But I love what he tweeted at President Obama a couple of weeks ago.

Obama was in New York on Labor Day weekend, and wanted to play golf — on the Saturday morning. When he does this, the course has to shut down, essentially. And plenty of people want to play golf on the Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend, oddly enough. The courses contacted by the White House told the president no.

One of those courses — at least one! — was owned by Trump — who tweeted, “If Obama resigns from office NOW, thereby doing a great service to the country — I will give him free lifetime golf at any one of my courses!”

There is something very American in that response to a president. I like the spirit of it. Makes me grin.

(To read a news article about this matter, go here.)

By the way, I would love to peg it up with the Donald. With Obama too, for that matter. But I think with W. and Rush especially . . .

‐A vignette from Central Park: I pass a gaggle of young women, and one is saying, “I was watching Jersey Shore, and my dad came in and thought I was watching porn!” They break into giggles.

‐A vignette from the streets: A young woman bearing a clipboard — I think she’s one of those Soros-paid activists — stops me, or tries to stop me, and says, “Are you a nice person?” I touch her arm and say, “Dear one, I am so nice, but I’m late,” and as I’m rushing forward, she calls out, “There’s no point in being early-late!”

I think about that for a while. Interesting.

‐Another vignette from the streets: I suddenly hear someone bellow, “Nebraska sucks!” Wha . . .? Then I remember: I’m wearing a Nebraska cap, purchased on a reporting trip to that state earlier this year.

Why are people such louts?

‐I have another cap, purchased on another reporting trip. It’s from Rolla, Mo. And it says, “Missouri S&T Engineering.” That is practically the definition of “all hat and no cattle”: my wearing an engineering cap.

‐A little language? I was reading the British press and encountered a phrase unfamiliar to me: mustard keen. To be mustard keen on something. To like something a lot. To be enthusiastic about it.

Good one.

‐A little sports? Serena Williams has won her third U.S. Open in a row. Honestly, she must be one of the best female athletes ever. And one of the best athletes ever.

Right? And has there ever been a more proficient pair of siblings in sports? I am open to nominations. I can’t think of a more proficient pair offhand, and I am thinking of many pairs, across the sports: from the Niekros to the Wadkinses. Maybe I’m blanking.

Maybe the Espositos? But they weren’t more accomplished than the Williamses, right? Less so?

‐How about some music? For my “New York Chronicle,” published in the current New Criterion, go here. And for a trio of posts at The New Cri.’s blog, go here, here, and here.

And now, if you will excuse me, I am going to watch the Tigers play the Royals (on television, not in person, unfortunately). I’m pretty nervous.

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