President Obama’s Sunday night speech was about three-quarters of what the cynics and his critics expected. The lone bits of good news were the president’s belated acknowledgement that the Fort Hood shooting was terrorism – not “workplace violence” – and that he didn’t announce any new executive orders dealing with gun control.
For starters, the optics of this speech were very strange – why stand in front of the desk in the Oval Office? Did he get poked or get makeup in his left eye right before he went on air? He seemed to be squinting. The only other time the president addressed the country on Sunday night, he announced the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. One expected something new, groundbreaking, or different. Instead, he offered the same proposals and same arguments.
At this point in his presidency, Obama speaks with only one tone, the slightly exasperated and sometimes not-merely-slightly exasperated “adult in the room” who constantly has to correct his fellow Americans, who are always flying off the handle, calling for options that “aren’t who we are,” betraying our values, and so on. He’s always so disappointed in us.
At certain points, Obama sounded as if he was speaking to children. “The threat is real, but we will overcome it.” “We will not defeat it with tough talk, abandoning our values, or giving in to fear.” “We will prevail by being strong and smart.”
He made yet another pitch for barring anyone on the no-fly list or terror watch list from purchasing firearms. He simply ignored any of the objections, whether it’s the lack of due process or judicial review, the arbitrary, foggy nature of how someone gets on the list, or the fact that 280,000 people with no recognized terrorist group affiliation are on the list.
He ominously declared, “this is a matter of national security.” Yet for some reason, all of those people on the no-fly list and the terror watch list who allegedly represent a national-security threat aren’t being arrested. Earlier today Rep. Stephen Lynch (D., Mass.) disclosed that a congressional investigation recently found that at least 72 people working at the Department of Homeland Security also “were on the terrorist watch list.”
You know who wasn’t on the no-fly list? The San Bernardino shooters. Nor was the Fort Hood shooter. Nor the Boston bombers. Nor the Chattanooga shooter. In other words, no perpetrator of any major attack on American soil was on the no-fly list.
Yet Obama seemed to think this complete non sequitor would dispel the national anxiety about his administration’s soporific response to the rise of ISIS and the first attack it inspired on American soil.